What You Can Learn from New Media Expo 2015

“To survive the future, we must go back to what has always worked in the past: caring, community and making people feel special.” Pat Flynn, New Media Expo 2015 Keynote Speech

14 million bees spilled on a highway in Washington in April, and the energy of those swarms is the closest thing I can think of to what it felt like when I walked into the New Media Expo (NMX) 2015.


Key influencers in the universe of blogs, vlogs, podcasts, and web videos set attendees abuzz with ideas and inspiration during the 4-day Expo. I’m going to break out the most surprising points from each session I attended, but first I want to tell you my 5 biggest takeaways from the whole Expo.

5 Top NMX Takeaways

  • Get the hell out of your office and attend at least one conference a year!
    • I’ve been working for the last few months to launch my business, and even though I have been following podcasts, taking online courses, and researching the changes in marketing like a madwoman, I still learned more in four days than I could have in four months on my own.
    • Why? Because a conference creates a positive feedback loop. I got more validation about what I’m doing than all my friends and relatives could ever give me! It was all the more valuable because it was coming from strangers—experts in their fields, newbies, tech geeks, and so forth. Everyone I talked to affirmed that my new business as an Online Course Producer is sorely needed. It could have gone the other way—that I learned it wasn’t needed, or needed tweaks.
    • The point is, I got out of my own head, shared what I was doing, and got feedback that I could use to adjust my business model. You better believe that despite the positive comments, I also gained perspective that has already led to changes. You gotta love a positive feedback loop—it’s a spoonful of sugar that makes the medicine go down.
    • Another attendee, Sheila Scarborough (@SheilaS, http://sheilascarborough.com) had the same experience. “Even NMX sessions where you ‘know everything’ have value. They validate your knowledge level and direction.”
    • Second, I learned what other people are doing in their fields, and it was like pouring water into a rusty well. It primed the pump, got the juices flowing, energized me in ways that just reading or listening to content just can’t do. There’s a reason I compared the Expo to 20 million bees—those attending are pushing themselves to the same extent, and it was genuinely inspiring.
    • Third, it’s darn difficult to network from the office in your basement, living room, or bedroom! And networking is an essential reason to attend any conference. See next point.
  • Networking is a verb, not a noun.
    • There’s a saying in help groups, “It works if you work it.” Same is true of networking. It takes action to make networking work.
    • Talk to everyone. EVERYONE! If they turn out to be dull, you can move on, but leave your card with them. You may gain a follower. In my case, I learned something from everyone I introduced myself to.
    • Listen to everyone. EVERYONE! Your networking is only as good as your genuine interest in what others are doing. Try to give something of value to everyone you talk to.
    • Ask smart questions. It gives you a chance to interact with the panelists. It gives you a chance to learn something tailored to your needs but also helps others who might benefit from the answer. Finally, it lets everyone at the session know who you are. You are there to meet people and to have people meet you!
    • Follow up! Your networking efforts are only as good as your follow up. Contact everyone whose card you shoved into your pocket, briefcase, or purse, even if their business doesn’t seem relevant to yours. If you can offer something of value to them, they will remember you and share your name.
  • The next two takeaways come from the same person—the remarkable Pat Flynn. (By the way, I am not the kind of person to call someone “remarkable” without darn good reason.)
    • Give your all to everything, and then give something beyond that.
      • When Pat Flynn started his Keynote speech with a movie, and then drove into the room in a DeLorean, everyone was blown away. Why wouldn’t they be? Pat didn’t say to himself, “I’m already successful, so I don’t have to work hard at this.” He said, “What can I do that gives 150% to the people who have put me in this place?” And then he gave 200%.
    • Remember that your customers are real people who got you where you are. Treat them as special, always.
      • At the after-party for the Keynote speech, Pat Flynn set up a separate section for his Facebook SPI Community. He was there, meeting everyone who walked in, asking us what we did. And he listened. It impressed the heck out of every single person who was there.
      • Will I remain loyal to Pat Flynn? You bet I will! I’d pick him over any other influencer to follow, because he is so genuinely caring about every person in his circle. More than anything he said in his Keynote, these two actions wowed me and were the best lessons.
    • “Marketing businesses today is about educating, helping, inspiring, and only then, selling.” Chris C. Ducker
      • There are umpteen billion bloggers and podcasters struggling for the same place in the marketing jungle that you want. To get heard, you’ve got to help people first and foremost.
      • Doing so has the positive impact of establishing yourself as an authority in your field, in addition to truly helping people.
      • This made me realize why the people and companies I’m still following on Twitter are the ones I’m learning from. The ones I drop instantly are the ones that continue to push their sales pitch on me without teaching me anything.

The Most Surprising and Useful Points from the Sessions (in random order)

“Make Your Content Memorable with Visual Storytelling Strategies”

Ekaterina Walter @ekaterina

Key takeaway: If you’re not using visuals, you’re toast. IMG_20150416_104514090

  • The average adult attention span is between 2.8 and 8 seconds
  • 90% of the information transmitted to the brain is visual
  • Infographics grow traffic an average of 12% more than tweets without them
  • Pinterest accounts for 25% of retail referral traffic (over Google+, YouTube, LinkedIn—e.g., Sephora’s Pinterest followers spend 15x more than their Facebook fans, even though their Facebook fan base is much larger)
  • You get 2X the engagement w/visuals on Facebook; 90% higher engagement with timely visuals
  • Marketers using cartoons see newsletter open rate of 45% v. 5-8%
  • “Don’t just create marketing campaigns. Build tribes! Inspire Movements!”

“Marketing Yourself”

Jordan Harbinger @TheArtofCharm

Key takeaway: “Networking is a muscle; it only works when you use it”

  • The only reason anyone would do business with any of you is because of you—and the relationship with you. Your face is who they buy
  • The only thing that you have that is unique is your network, not your product
  • Your network is your business development army
  • If you’re not equally comfortable asking for help as you are giving it, you’re only working half the network opportunity
  • Networking is a muscle; it only works when you use it. It won’t grow if you don’t use it by connecting people to each other
  • Your value is connecting other people in your network to each other. They don’t need to be connected to you

“Why Content Creators Should Care about Virtual Reality”

ted schitowitz @virtualteds; cosmo schari @cosmoblosmo; tim street @1timstreet; michael kintner @mkintner

Key takeaway: Get out of your comfort zone and learn what else is going on in other areas. You never know how it might affect your thinking.

  • By 2020 VR could be >$20 billion industry
  • It’s a medium to tell different kinds of stories because it strips away borders and gives you an infinite space to work in. So the question is, “How can you change and improve your story if you used VR?”
  • It has enormous potential for health care and education
  • How do you create the sensation of really being in the environment you are creating? You fail, adapt, and move on. For example, the first prototype to create the sensation of swimming with sharks was eaten by a great white shark within minutes.
  • Think theatre, not cinema—VR is not about linear and cuts. It’s more about creating illusion that it’s really happening, and how to direct someone’s attention spatially.

“Monetizing Your Blog Using Affiliate Marketing”

Missy Ward @missyward; Shawn Collins @affiliatetip

Key takeaway: “One of the biggest mistakes new bloggers make is going after who pays the most. Look for small companies breaking into the space.”

  • 31% of consumers say blogs influence their buying decision
  • Review the products with personal and relevant details—anything that will connect you to the audience (e.g., does this diaper bag make my butt look big)

“Monetizing Your Web Video”

Moderator: Sandra Payne @spwrite; Mark Gray @rocketpictures; Tim Street @1timstreet; Brian Rodda @brianrodda; Tim Schmoyer @timschmoyer

Key takeaway: “No matter what you’re doing, sit in the audience’s shoes. Superserve the audience, why they came in, and what they want to know.”

  • You can’t monetize anything until you have a big enough audience
  • What you do boils down to your goals. Are you creating something you really want to be creating or just looking to make money? Whatever videos you make, they better be videos you want to make because of the resource investment
  • In videos, you want to either be first or best
  • There are three things that it takes to be successful on YouTube. “Persistence, narcissism, and persistence”
  • Chase your dreams. Don’t do work for work’s sake. “If I can chase my dreams, I’m willing to do it for free”

“Build a Content Marketing Strategy for Your Blog”

Cecily Kellogg @cecilyk

Key takeaway: “Content Goals + your Reader Personas + your Best Performing Posts = What to Blog.”

  • Create a content calendar. 70% should be what you know works. 20% should be where you want to move the audience to and where you want to go; 10% whatever you want to try, whatever you want to write
  • Don’t overschedule your content calendar, because you don’t want to put out something socially when there’s breaking news you should be aware of
  • Social isn’t just about promotion; it’s about conversation
  • Expand your audience by becoming a speaker, joining local organizations, attending local events, looking for other organizations to post on, join local social media clubs, attending local events. Get out and get known
  • Most people are skimming blogs; 4500 words are enough. Make it snackable. Use bullet points
  • Consider doing short videos, such as 2-minute videos with the phone (horizontal) doing product reviews, or quick tips that would be useful/quick engagement
  • Don’t make the mistake of imitating other people. Your material will fall flat unless it’s got personality

“0 to 10 million: Behind the Scenes of Building a High Traffic Blog”

Syed Balkhi @syedbalkhi

Key takeaway: Track everything with every possible tool, such as google analytics, and make changes accordingly

  • Over 70% of the people who leave your website will never come back to it
  • Make data-driven decisions. Test your opt-in forms in different spots and in different versions. Your website is valuable digital real estate
  • Test, Learn, Improve

“From Gym Rat to Global Fitness Expert: How I Built a Massive Fan Base and How You Can Too”

Ben Greenfield @bengreenfield

Key takeaway: “The cost of being wrong is less than the cost of doing nothing” (Seth Godin), so take massive action—don’t wait for it to be perfect.

  • You can fix problems later—just get something out there ASAP
  • Create content constantly; he creates content 365 days a year
  • Take care of your f’ing brain. Being successful doesn’t mean you can be unhealthy
  • The days are gone when you could have someone land on your blog and stay there unless it’s big and bold. Go big or die out

“Marketing, Marketing, Marketing: How to Get Noticed Online”

Moderator: Sandra Payne @spwrite; Tim Schmoyer @timschmoyer; Adam Rymer @ NoRymeNoReason

Key takeaway: “You have to present your content in the way that works on that channel to make it easy to consume that value.”

  • Every digital channel has a unique fingerprint
  • We’re in the state of content development where it’s impossible to get started without having the marketing plan first
  • The future of blogging: it’s going to go more and more mobile, especially in other countries where mobile is more accessible than TV
  • People form communities around shared beliefs; the brands that are going to win are the ones who figure that out

“Taking Your Community Offline with Niche Conferences”

Moderator: Jason Falls @JasonFalls; Kelby Carr @typeamom; Mary Jo Manzaneres @MJManzaneres; Chris Ducker @chriscducker

Key takeaway: Spinning your community off into an event is a great opportunity for monetizing your knowledge.

  • You can’t beat the face-to-face connection of a conference
  • Start small. Eventually the ideas for the conferences will come from the potential attendees in terms of what they want

“Leveraging Your Strengths for Your Web TV Business”

Jennifer Selke @jennselke; Betsy Flanagan @betsyflanagan 

Key takeaway: Strengths give us energy. If we focus on them, it has the effect of giving us more time.

  • Research shows wellness goes up when people use their strengths
  • Ask yourself, “What’s my highest and best use for my strengths, and how do I find the best use for other people’s strengths?”
  • Often what kids get in trouble for at school is a window into their strengths
  • They recommend Strength Finder, a 20-30 minute online test created by Gallup
  • Try keeping an energy journal. At the end of the day, take 2 minutes and write what gave you energy; what did you do better than someone else. Job out or trade off the tasks that sucked you dry

“Influencer Marketing: Let’s Stop Making This Harder Than It Needs To Be”

Marcy Massura @marcymassura

Key takeaway: A like is not the same quality as a comment; work for the comment.

  • An influencer strategy lives as part of the holistic marketing program that will elevate awareness, increase share of voice, secure brand recognition, etc.
  • Authentic expressions trump passive impressions
  • Influence equals Audience Reach (# of followers across your entire digital footprint) x Brand Affinity (expertise and credibility) x Strength of Relationship with Followers (assessed by looking at engagement—amount of shares and comments)
  • Influence is fluid and always changing
  • Health is the biggest area coming up for influencers

“Beyond the Blog”

Gary Arndt @EverywhereTrip

Key takeaway: Know whether your offering is relatable or aspirational and adjust your site and blog accordingly.

  • It’s a myth that if you use a photo with a person in it, it will perform better on social media—it depends on whether the audience knows the people in the photos, as on Facebook
  • Research the top blog writers in other niches and test out lessons you learn from them
  • Don’t forget about traditional media like forbes.com, yahoo, aol.com, buzzfeed, thoughtcatalog—they’re all desperate for content
  • TV and radio local shows are desperate for content to put on their morning shows. Call them and say, “I’m an expert on this subject, is this something you’d like to talk about for 5-10 minutes”
  • The 3 most important things of blogging are Audience, Audience, Audience

“The New Media Show: State of Podcasting”

Rob Greenlee @robgreenlee; Todd Cochrane @geeknews; Robert Walch @podCast411

Key takeaway: If you’re not doing a podcast, you should be, because it’s a market that is continuing to grow.

  • In 2014, 15% of Americans 12+ (or 39 million) said they listen to podcasts
  • In 2015, 17% of Americans 12+ (or 46 million) say they listen to podcasts
  • There are 7 million new podcast listeners, with an average of 6 million unique downloads per episode
  • 71% are mobile listeners; 29% desktop listeners
  • Android users are down 1.33% (worldwide Androids are selling more than iPhones, so the biggest opportunity for growth in podcasts could be in Android users)

Pat Flynn’s Keynote theme was that “What you do now changes your story for the future. You can’t change the past but you can change what happens.” A conference like NMX is all about helping you change your future.

Please use the comments field to add anything I’ve missed. Please share this! And sign up so you can receive this weekly.

Tune in next week for Issue #4 of my ongoing Blog, covering Everything You Need to Know to Craft Outstanding Online Courses. Next Friday: “Save My Babies! Why Even Courses Need Sticky Introductions and How to Write Them.”

Thanks for reading!

Marcy McDonald in the viewfinder filming a course

Marcy McDonald filming on set

About Marcy McDonald

Online Course Producer


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