This is a guest post from Brian Hostick, who recently attended #CPFC12, an event supported by FinCon.
What do you get when you bring together 80 Canadian PF writers – including some of the biggest names in the business?
You get the Canadian Personal Finance Conference 2012 held in Toronto just two weekends ago. The event was organized by Preet Banerjee of WhereDoesAllMyMoneyGo.com and Krystal Yee from GiveMeBackMyFiveBucks.com.
Did you know…technically, the first annual conference was actually just Preet and Krystal meeting beside a food truck in Vancouver in 2011.
Sessions at #CPFC12
We dove right into the weekend with a question and answer session with Frugal Trader of MillionDollarJourney.com. That’s his name – Frugal Trader. He’s been anonymous since day one and plans on keeping it that way (that’s why he’s not in any of the pictures here). After six very successful years in the business, the Trader was a wealth of information regarding monetization (something we’d almost all like to get out of our sites). In the end though, as Trader said, ‘Don’t sell on your blog. Provide useful information and value to your readers, and the monetization will happen.’We moved on to a very informative session from Glenn Cooke of LifeInsuranceCanada.com. Along with some great specific insurance facts, Glenn challenged us to be accountable for the information we provide on our blogs.
“Question your assumptions about the insurance information you’re using – then confirm your assumptions through research.”
Adam Mayers was next up. A former editor of the Toronto Star’s business section and currently founding editor of Moneyville.ca, Adam carried on the theme started by Frugal Trader earlier. Your readers will come back because they trust what you are saying. Design your site, and writing, so it says ‘reader’, and not ‘advertiser’.
Wrapping up the morning session was Tom Hamza of the Investor Education Fund. It was great to know that this arms length government agency (they’re funded by the settlements and fines from the Ontario Securities Commission) believes that PF bloggers are critical to helping Canadians address financial concerns.
Lessons from Kerry K. Taylor (Squawkfox.com)As we broke for lunch, my head was reeling with the morning’s information. It turns out we’d only just begun. The opening session of the afternoon turned out to be my favourite of the weekend. Kerry K. Taylor, of Squawkfox.com, gave a presentation (her first live one ever thanks to Preet) on increasing readership.
Again, Kerry joined the others in emphasizing it’s all about the writing. She challenged us to:
- be brave and do something nobody else does,
- add some smack to your subjects,
- but in the end make it personal so your readers can relate and take some action.
Not only does Kerry get well into the seven figures per year in readership, and take all her own pictures, she’s also found time to take part in three Ironman Canada Triathlons. Way too much energy for me!
More Day 1 Sessions at #CPFC12
It was then one of our hosts turn to enlighten us about media interviews. Media exposure drives readers to your blog. It makes you the expert. It also makes a majority of people break out in hives. Preet Banerjee knew what he was talking about. He’s done too many television appearances to mention. He is also the new host of ‘Million Dollar Neighbourhood‘ on the Oprah Winfrey Network in Canada. Media relations shouldn’t be as scary to the CPFC12 attendees after Preet’s advice.We then moved on to a slightly more technical subject – but one presented most interestingly – by Alyssa Richard, founder of RateHub.ca. Alyssa guided us through some strategies for SEO and maximizing traffic. I couldn’t get over the depth of Alyssa’s knowledge, and the success she’s achieved at such a young age. Made me feel old and wonder what I was doing at that stage of my life. Definitely not getting 100 thousand plus monthly visits to my website.
We finished off Saturday’s sessions with a panel discussion on balancing the blogging life with the rest of your life. The panel contained Mark Seed from MyOwnAdvisor.ca, our hostess Krystal Yee of GiveMeBackMyFiveBucks.com and, as Preet introduced, the man many consider ‘The Godfather’ of the Canadian PF blogging world – Ram Balakrishnan of CanadianCapitalist.com.
Some of the best discussions of the entire weekend took place during the panel sessions as people shared their experiences. Interesting that not one of the bloggers in attendance did this PF thing as a full-time job. Everyone had jobs/freelancing/lives outside of the blogger world. Great way to finish off day one.
After Hours at #CPFC12
Then the networking got serious. Thanks to our sponsor Philip Taylor, of ptmoney.com and FinCon fame, we gathered at a local watering hole where the discussions turned a little more animated. This is where I felt I learned the most about my fellow bloggers and their views on what we do and how we do it.
Day 2 at #CPFC12
After too short a sleep it was back to the conference for the last half day of sessions.
Tim Stobbs of Canadian Dream – Free at 45 presented an informative look at self-publishing for those interested in going from blog to book.
He was followed by Steve Zussino of GroceryAlerts.ca who helped us see how his site gets over 135,000 monthly visitors and over 21,000 email subscribers. Once again, even with all the strategies and tools, it comes down to the writing and the content. Although the tips from Steve will definitely help.The final panel session of the weekend was the best one, in my humble opinion. It contained:
- Vikram Barhat, content editor at Advisor.ca and professional journalist,
- Dan Bortolotti of CanadianCouchPotato.com and author of nine books, and
- Jonathan Chevreau, the editor of Moneysense.ca and author of the book Findependence Day.
They spoke about writing. They spoke about integrity and being able to back up what you write with facts. Stay interesting by staying relevant to the current day. It turned into a great discussion about writing style and the need to keep it simple for the reader. As Dan quoted from a past mentor, ‘There is nothing easier in life for a person than to stop reading.’
Closing Thoughts on #CPFC12
And that was it. We broke. (Is that a good word to use for a PF conference?!) We said our goodbyes, exchanged business cards with people we may have missed earlier, and then the trip home.
This conference was held just two weeks after FinCon – it’s American bigger cousin. I get the sense Canadian bloggers have a different perspective than our southern counterparts on what we do. While FinCon apparently had a number of sessions about making money from your blog, CPFC had one.We tend to tell more personal stories as opposed to trying to preach the financial gospel. We are a smaller community of bloggers so the chance to connect and support and help each other seems to be easier to continue. We know our readers are coming from a different place financially than Americans.
Sure, it’s been tough up here – but nowhere near the conditions in the U.S.. We aren’t necessarily better – but different. I do know I’m better, and my entire online presence is going to be better, as a result of attending CPFC12. Thanks Preet and Philip – you have re-invigorated this blogger and who knows where things might go from here.