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Ep. 133 Are Conferences Worth It?

by | Smart AF Show

Conferences Worth It

Are Conferences Worth It?

Professional conferences and conventions can be costly and time-consuming, so should small business owners and solopreneurs even waste their time with them?

On this episode, Torie Mathis and her cohost Sean talk about the good, the bad, and the ugly when it comes to conferences and Sean’s experience this past week at the NAAM event for Miles Through Time Automotive Museum. And how he came home a big winner.

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SAF 133

[00:00:00] Torie: We do marketing. So let’s hope that we weren’t getting lines, but that’s awesome that you got some recognition from the Tesla world record cause that thing wasn’t easy. 

[00:00:08] Sean: That was gnarly and that we probably should have never taken on. 

[00:00:12] Torie: But during the middle of a pandemic

Hey, what’s up is Torie Mathis, your host. And I am here with the one and only Sean Mathis, founder of Miles Through Time Automotive Museum. 

[00:00:27] Sean: I’m back. 

[00:00:29] Torie: Just got back from you were gone for like two weeks. Sean was gone a long time. 

[00:00:35] Sean: Yeah, I think I’ve only been in our bed five days this month or something, at least that’s what it feels like.

It’s been a while came back and slept in the bed one night left again, came back one night, left again at crazy shine, a rockstar without making money. 

[00:00:51] Torie: Like you were on tour. Sean went to Florida and judged a car show. Well, before that you did, you went to Michigan to the Henry Ford museum to pick up a turntable, and then you went to Indiana.

Where’d you go for? 

[00:01:06] Sean: Yeah, Indiana. 

[00:01:07] Torie: Indiana to pick up a 62 Lincoln convertible a car. Yes. Oh, the reason I couldn’t remember what it was cause it’s not in the museum yet. It is still being worked on. And then he left for Florida to judge a car show and then left for Kentucky to go to a conference and then it was our son’s 13th birthday and we went on a trip like it’s crazy. So, Sean, like I said, went to a conference this last time and you said it was a fantastic experience. 

[00:01:38] Sean: That was pretty cool. I haven’t gone to a whole lot of conferences in my career because I was never into a whole lot of high level management type stuff. So I never really had a whole lot of opportunities. But then, you know, we, we got to go to the conference that we went to. Yeah. But five years ago now the first one. 

[00:01:58] Torie: The first one. Yeah. So we have gone several years in a row to a conference that is for business coaches and it is multi day and it is actually always in another, well, not always in another country cause we did do it in Vegas one time. But the first time we went to the Dominican Republic, we’ve been to Mexico twice and we’ve been to Vegas. So now, so you been to four for those. 

[00:02:22] Sean: That’s the only conference I have really, to base anything off of. 

[00:02:26] Torie: And yet I went to Jack Canfield, we went to Jack Canfield that was kind of a conference. Yeah. I mean, I, that you’ve been to this one, though.

[00:02:36] Sean: It was it was Nam. It was a National Automotive Association of Museums. And I had found them initially when I was trying to research what to do in 2017 and enjoined as a starting somewhere, you know, a good base. They should be able to help me. Didn’t get a whole lot out of it for the first three years or so.

[00:02:58] Torie: Not the conference. 

[00:02:58] Sean: This is just out of, just out of the organization. And a lot of that was my fault because I’m, I’m doing everything and therefore doing nothing. Right. But so this is that, that was 2017 so we’re now four years later. And this was my very first opportunity to actually go in and really dive into what the conference was all about.

[00:03:20] Torie: It’s like, like I said, all those things that Sean was doing, for finally being the time for you to go, it was like the busiest I’ve ever. I am so happy that you still stuck with it. 

[00:03:30] Sean: And when th the first one was actually, my first opportunity was last year in 2021, but we all know how that went. So, yeah, it got canceled completely. So this was my first one. And it was awesome. 

[00:03:42] Torie: So I want to say something that I did notice about yours is that I have been to a lot of conferences and they are always like at hotels or some type of arena type place. They are not on like location, but yours was different. This wasn’t at like a convention center.

[00:03:56] Sean: I actually talked to a few of them about that. That’s how it initially was right. Which is typical hotel banquet. Boring. Essentially. You’d never leave. Plus you’re, you’re, it’s, you’re not necessarily you’re, you’re kind of trapped there, but then on the other end of it, it’s very easy for you to not go, right.

Cause your room’s right there. You can easily slip away and oh, you mean not go to all the sessions and it, it, it happens. I mean, anybody that goes to conferences knows, you know, Hey, that person didn’t show back up after lunch or whatever, you know, they went and took a nap and, you know We were only getting Vegas.

[00:04:36] Torie: We seem to miss a lot because it was so easy. 

[00:04:39] Sean: So I was only four minutes away and we still got the nice hotel and all that kind of stuff. But we actually went to the Corvette museum, the national Corvette museum. And got to like be there and right off the bat, we toured the place and everything went by real quick. And then the next day we actually didn’t. 

[00:04:59] Torie: They have like a banquet hall set up there. 

[00:05:02] Sean: Yeah. It was a big banquet hall in there. It just, it didn’t, it wasn’t like just one speaker after another where you’re like, come on, it was really broken up. And then we went other places and know I got to a ton of people, I got to meet way more people or at least put faces to the emails that I’ve contacted.

[00:05:22] Torie: It was crazy cause you were texting me and I’m like, how are you driving? And texting me, he wasn’t driving. He was on a bus to another local. 

[00:05:31] Sean: Two other museums well, three other museums and a place to go eat dinner that night. So that was pretty cool. Yeah. We got a lunch and dinner every day that I was there. So it was, it was awesome now. And You know, from all this I’ve, I mean, the connections alone are huge. So this, this organization leading up to it, was it, it actually made it so that right after Miles Through Time became a 5 0 1 C3 nonprofit, we immediately got donated a car from the Peterson museum. That that car came in right after the 5 0 1 C3 came through the little go-cart.

And so at this conference, I met the guy from Peterson museum that coordinated, that whole thing. And I wound up talking to him and thanking him and telling him, Hey, this is where it’s at and all this kind of stuff. And he’s like, I got another one. You want it? And I’m like, oh yeah, I want it. So I’m waiting for the details on that one to come through. I’m talking to another guy, that’s actually the president of the organization and telling him about the Studebaker. And I had contacted the Studebaker museum about a car that we had gotten donated and telling him all that stuff. And he’s like, oh, I actually, I’ve got a guy that does replica electric Studebakers.

I’ll get your contact or give him your contact and get one of those down there. I was like, yeah. And then the whole going to Henry Ford museum to get the turntable that was because of this organization. So, I mean, the conference is, it was, I mean, it was huge to just expand this entire world that, you know, for so much of it, a lot of times it’s still just me, you know, and then Torie doing everything she does on the back end.

But ultimately so much of it falls, falls on my shoulders and I don’t know a whole lot of this stuff. So to be able to. Put faces to these people and be able to reach out to them. 

[00:07:21] Torie: But you were worried though, originally we talked about the whole organization as a whole, before that it was for bigger museums or museums that had benefactors or million multi-million dollar buildings and budgets. How did you feel as like a smaller guy being there? It’s still like that, but did you still feel like you got something out of it? Cause I know some people might be afraid to go to conferences cause they are the little guy. Do you think the little guy should still go? 

[00:07:48] Sean: Yes, because although not everything completely applies to you. Like there was like data collection and stuff that, you know, it’s beneficial. And maybe if I didn’t know any of that, like how digitized. Like, I know all that and it’s not really relevant to me. So that was kind of like, blah, blah. But you know, see, say it was Truet you know, that was there. He, it could have blown his mind and what it was capable, you know, we’re just, we’re not there as a museum just yet.

It doesn’t really pertain, but it was good information as far as knowing where the other museums are going, that are bigger because ultimately. We will get bigger. I mean, we were already so much bigger than what we were in 2017, so although it doesn’t necessarily apply right now, it did make it, you know, so I opened up my eyes to go, okay, well, you know, especially when I talked to talk to the guy from collection and in his story was damn near identical to mine Portland, Oregon, but it, I mean, it was his grandparents collection instead of just one car. And it was I mean, it was, there was so many. Similarities behind between them. He’s his collection is just massive compared to ours.

You know, I got one car, he got 300 and that was the other aspect of it. Yeah. So, and then the other aspect of it was that he has, he’s been doing it for years longer. I don’t remember exactly, but it’s been 15 years or something like that, but essentially it was, he’s gone to, so he’s gone to this conference every year, but one.

And so, and so he’s been growing as well, and now he’s at the, you know, where the collection data information was relevant to him. And so it was pretty neat to go, okay, well, I’m, you know, I’m a portion of what this guy is, you know, a decade ago, but you know, everything keeps going forward. So it was neat to just.

[00:09:48] Torie: You know, there were, there was people there that, that was their families collections that started it. There was people that just worked at museums and were there, you know, so there was a good mix of all of it. And, but, you know, ultimately they all had different angles of information that I could talk to.

And I, I mean, you really, aren’t going to get that from anywhere else, other than some sort of conference like this. So I would highly recommend it. The downfall would be going to a conference where you’re in that hotel banquet, you know, and it’s just packed with speakers after speaker. And if they’re not good speakers or if it winds up being boring and then it’s easy for you to skip out and then it kind of puts a bad taste in your mouth.

But I would, I would say. Don’t give up on it and keep looking for conferences and, and keep going until you find one that’s killer. Well, the cool thing is, is that there’s a lot of different kinds. So this one, like for museums specifically the other one we talked about was for business coaches. I have been to, so we did go to the Jack Canfield one, which was an all day kind of like a training, kind of like a conference. Did, I don’t think he had other speakers though. 

[00:11:02] Sean: No, it was just him. And it was just like the day, wasn’t it? 

[00:11:04] Torie: Yeah. I think it was just, that was like a one day kind. It was more of a training than a conference. I’ve been to the Tony Robbins one and he had a lot of speakers there and that one was super cool.

However, it was very, very salesy. Like there was lots of speakers and like Gary Vaynerchuk was there and pit bull was there and Dean Graziano, I’m never sure how to pronounce his name. The Spanx lady was there, so there was lots of people there. Yeah. But Sarah Blakely but almost all of them, I think, except for pit bull and Sarah Blakely, they were all there Hocking stuff.

And it was like super pushy, salesy, salesy, salesy, that it was a little uncomfortable, a bit people were, I saw people tweeting and like posting on Facebook and stuff. They’re like, what the hell?

[00:11:44] Sean: I can see that though, because there’s a difference. So the conference that I went to. I pay to be a part of the organization I’m already there. Right? And so this conference is actually a perk as to what we’re doing. Same thing with the business conference. Although there’s some upsale stuff that are available selling stuff, but ultimately you’re already there, right? Where as some of these other ones, when pit bull and all that stuff here, you’re just paying a ticket to go there.

And their whole thing is to sell you. It doesn’t do it for me. 

[00:12:16] Torie: It was cool because I got to see a lot of people. I went to the gorilla marketing one when we were down in Florida one time and I got to see a couple people there. I only got to go to one day of it. It was a little bit salesy. So there are different conferences out there and some of them, yes, it’s going to be different speakers.

And at the end they’re going to sell. And some of them sell a little bit hard. I went, I’ve been to more as it ends. 

If you want to hear that person. Right. I mean, if that’s your opportunity to hear him speak, you might have to sit through some cell as these. 

I went to the California groundwater association. Cause my dad at the time was a member he has since become the president. Like he’s worked his way all the way through. And he is the president of the California groundwater association. Now I did go to that as an employee. And you would think like, I am not like I’ve always grown up with water well drilling, but it’s not something that I do on a daily basis.

I am not a geologist. I am not an actual well driller though I have shoveled my fair share of gravel. It was completely fascinating, like the geology of it. And some of the speakers that they had were just completely amazing. And we got to go have dinner at the you didn’t go in Reno at the car museum that’s there.

And it was weird that like full circle, like you have never been there. And I’m like, I went there during a conference. 

[00:13:31] Sean: And I’ve never been to that damn car museum. 

[00:13:33] Torie: That’s really crazy. Yeah. So that one was cool. We did actually get to go off site and see, we go to this one with the business coaches, and it’s really nice that we get to go somewhere, but it’s crazy that like it’s three days in a row. All of us. There’s no breakout sessions. There’s no, let’s all have dinner together. Maybe just like a little bit, but man, you could do some really cool, like team-building kind of like adventure tie. Like there’s so many things that were really, really could do that. I could see like going to something like that, that you’re really doing stuff together or going and visiting other places.

[00:14:05] Sean: Like I want to do one on day two. You know, we, we went to a history museum, so it wasn’t even cars. And then we went to the Ali center again, not cars. Very cool. And the bus was provided for us to all go as a group, but it was also like, you know, if you want to drive, go ahead and drive. And ultimately if you, you know, you don’t want to go, it’s not like you were going to get dinged or called out for something.

You’re just going to miss that, which is kind of stupid. I don’t know. Yeah. And then they had to van shuttles as well. Like the bus was not crowded whatsoever, so I’m not really sure why a cup, some of them chose to ride the, the van because the van was just like, they would have been crammed in the damn van and the bus was super, super sweet, like big ass bus.

I had a TV right in front of me. It wasn’t on, but it was nice. 

[00:15:03] Torie: Yeah. I’ve been to a couple of conferences too. As a vendor I’ve been to the real estate, I’m a real estate convention. And when we were doing some marketing there, I was able to go in for a couple of speakers there that were really good. But man, it was just, it was in Hilton head, which is one of my favorite places in the world.

However, it was. And it was multiple days and it was hotel and it was in the in the hotel little banquet room. 

[00:15:27] Sean: I think I’d get bored like that. Like I would, I would try to find myself easily going. 

[00:15:32] Torie: Usually if it’s like a year, the doer you’re the business owner, you’re the one that’s out doing stuff. Like you’re not used to like sitting in one room, like you’re in school. Like that’s not. 

[00:15:41] Sean: And I don’t want to get up and jump and sing and all that bull crap. But at the same time, I do want it to be lively and engaging. Not. Sitting there. I mean, it’s, it shouldn’t be that hard. I think, I think some of these places just get complacent. Like it’s easier to just throw a PowerPoint up there and then read through the damn thing. But nobody wants to sit through that. Even the presenter that does that knows they wouldn’t like that, but it’s easy. 

Yeah. Yeah. 

[00:16:09] Torie: Yeah. Well, some places they want your PowerPoint. Like you have to kind of give them a PowerPoint. So like I said, I’ve been some speakers and I’ve been vendor and you kind of got to go with whatever they set up for. Could you see yourself like speaking or like doing some, cause you talked about us doing a presentation, maybe a social media thing. Do you see like in the future that that could be possible?

[00:16:29] Sean: Yeah, absolutely. 

[00:16:31] Torie: So that’d be really cool. 

[00:16:33] Sean: That’d be you and not me. 

[00:16:36] Torie: You do such a good job. I like, I like pushing you out there. Cause you, you, you do a lot, even though you don’t feel like you’re completely qualified for it. That’s what people have to do. You got to get out there and just like push yourself past your comfort zone.

You got to get your person, like whoever that is to give you those nudges. That even going to the convention, like, I’m glad I didn’t go with you. I wasn’t able to go kids are here. There’s no one to watch him. They had school stuff and events and like, it just, it wasn’t possible that I was going to go. And I think it’s good that you went because otherwise it would be like you and me, you know, and I think it’s good that you do it and did it.

[00:17:11] Sean: The other cool thing about the conference was that they have this thing called dynamic awards. And so that makes it a little bit more unique and neat. And the respect that you can possibly wasn’t something, right. Everybody likes to win some. So I had actually submitted to win four different awards.

You could submit them and you could submit two into multiple categories. Now only really. Two categories worth of stuff. So one was for the ones we, we hope it was a for an event. So we got it for the Tesla the world record last December. So I got the whole cool award for that. And then got it for email sequence which is for the Miles Through Time email sequence, which we have dripped out using Kartra and. What was it like 10 different emails or something over the course of a few weeks. Yeah. 

[00:18:03] Torie: We’ve talked about you building that up and everything. So that is no. 

[00:18:07] Sean: So those two were first place. And then I got the second place for both those categories as well, both pertaining to the automotive museum guide that we for the email newsletter.

[00:18:17] Torie: And then what’s the other one. I can’t remember. I can’t remember either. I’ll have to look that it wasn’t event. It was digital something I don’t remember, but whatever it was like it, we do marketing. So let’s hope that we weren’t getting lines, but that’s awesome that you got some recognition from the Tesla world record.

Cause that thing wasn’t easy. 

[00:18:42] Sean: We probably should never taken on, but during the middle of a pandemic, woo, that was fun. That’s right. Go big or go home next year. So last year it was supposed to be in Naples, Florida at the ribs Institute last year. It was supposed to last year. So that was going to be the first one I was going to go, which was in conjunction with the world conference museum, whatever it’s called.

Next year. It will be there and Naples, Florida at the residence Institute. And it’ll be the big one with the whole world thing, but it’s the world thing. What is that? It’s like NAM but worldwide. So it’s not Nam, but it’s something else. World conference. I don’t remember what it’s called. It doesn’t matter.

Not really. But I’m looking forward to going to, to Naples plus see everybody, plus it’s exciting to think of what. How different things will be between now and then, especially if it’s everything that’s already going on, that we, we know of big changes. So that’s awesome. I just got to get you to go down to Florida with me, who wants to babysit the kids.

[00:19:42] Torie: We need a babysitter.

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hi im torie
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Hi! I'm Torie!

Torie Mathis HeadshotI help entrepreneurs (like you) use digital marketing to get more clients + to make more money. And I make it easy! 

You don’t need crazy tech skills, buckets of cash, or dedicated staff to market your business. You don’t even need a lot of time.

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