Well done VidCon 2016, well done indeed. By all reports over 25,000 industry members, fans, press and most importantly creators flooded the halls of the Anaheim Convention Center last week for the largest event of its kind yet. For the fifth year in a row I was one of those individuals, although the category I seem to fit in gets blurrier and blurrier each year. Normally I’m most excited to hear the latest tips and trends at VidCon, but after the tragic events that unfolded in Orlando earlier this month, physical security was at the top of my list. Secondary to that was the well-being of the industry I have come to love; the industry we have all helped shape and grow over the years and whose voice always seems to get the loudest at the annual event.
As I texted with my wife prior to leaving VidCon, she was most appreciative of the physical security at VidCon this year. Kudos to Hank Green and the whole VidCon staff for addressing those concerns and truly making VidCon a safe place to exchange ideas. The increase in security never felt like an inconvenience and every person on the security staff that I came across was pleasant, yet firm, in doing their job.
As for the security of the industry itself, I felt a renewed sense of pride towards the creator community that calls VidCon home each year. This year, more than any other, I felt a bit more like an observant father rather than a kid playing around in the sandbox himself. Having transitioned from video creator to mostly a writer the past few years, I feel a certain responsibility to ensuring that the most important pieces of what makes being an Internet Creator are protected. We should strive to create a community that works together to not only make cool stuff, but make the world a better place while we do it. So, much like Susan Wojcicki had three C’s for her Industry Keynote speech (see video below), I also have three C’s for what makes the industry great and the lessons about those things I learned through VidCon in 2016.
VidCon 2016: Creating Conversations
In one of the first panels I attended, we were challenged to talk to one creator and one fan while we were at VidCon. I set out immediately and talked with Dan. If you saw the guy walking around with the giant Mohawk, that’s who I’m talking about. I think he ended the weekend with 42 people or so that touched his hair and asked him how in the world he did it. But when Dan spoke about his favorite VidCon memory to date, he immediately thought of the time when he met Alli Speed, said that he absolutely “geeked out”. For him, hanging out with his friends is always the best part and VidCon is “absolutely worth the price of admission”. This year being his second year at VidCon, Dan thought that not only did it feel safer this year, but that it was bigger and better than 2015. He said that he saw many more creators to meet, geek out with, and share memorable moments.
Next I spoke with Jessica from Gone to the Snow Dogs. Being longtime friends I thought I was cheating a bit interviewing her about VidCon, but as a first time attendee (who I have been hounding to attend for five years!) I really wanted to hear her opinions. She was expecting the con to be much crazier, but I attribute that to the amazing organization I saw at VidCon this year. The crowds moved quickly and purposefully and it really felt like bigger creators had a bit more freedom and protection as they moved about. For Jess, her favorite bit was “seeing longtime friends that we only see through the screen”. As a silver play button channel owner, she was most humbled by the looks and expressions on her fan’s faces, it “make it all worthwhile”. As a seasoned creator herself who has really honed in on the best practices in the space, she thought the best part about the creator track wasn’t necessarily the content, but the way it challenged her thinking and made her look at her process in new and interesting ways. Her top takeaway? Make sure you are always experimenting with variety in your content. Take a chance. Go with a ratio of 80% what has worked in the past and 20% of trying something new to keep things fresh and exciting for viewers.
VidCon 2016: Making Connections
The content in the panels is great, but if there is anything I’ve come to cherish, it’s the connections I make at each VidCon. Four years ago it was meeting the guys from ReelSEO who decided to take a chance on me and give me a voice with their audience. This year, one of the most meaningful connections I made was with Matt Shep. When I met him, he was an aspiring director. Or maybe he was a writer, actor, producer, I’m not sure he really knew which at the time. At under 150 subscribers he’s still trying to figure all of that out, but I can tell you he has the heart of a YouTuber more than any of those labels. I label him a YouTube not to pigeon-hole him but because he literally does it all and to make it in this industry as a video creator, you’ve got to wear as many hats as you can handle.
I mention Matt not because he’s a YouTuber at heart, but because the interactions he had this weekend helped him and changed him as a person. You see, he recently lost his brother, an artist, and felt compelled to come to VidCon to buoy his spirits and learn more about sharing his own story with the world, something his brother was never able to do. Through the creators Matt met at VidCon, he left (late Saturday night of course) determined to share his story and help not just make content, but make the world better through his own artistry.
VidCon 2016: Creation, Creation, Creation
It all comes back to “making cool stuff” as Jack Conte stated during the Creator Keynote. That’s what VidCon is ultimately all about. It helps connect creators with a massive group of like-minded individuals to help them learn to make better stuff, find the people to make it with and kindle that burning passion for creation that is essential to longevity in this profession. While every brand had a message to push, a tip to give or product to sell, I was most impressed by Hank’s news on Saturday that he has helped create the Internet Creators Guild. The guild’s primary purpose is to ensure that content creators get a voice and help shape the direction of creation going forward, the importance of which is immeasurable.
While I will certainly have more tips, interviews and tricks from this year’s VidCon, I’d like to leave you with this thought. Stay engaged in the conversation, build meaningful connections and use it all as a motivation to lead you forward creating something beautiful that does more than satisfy a quota or sell a product, make a difference in the lives of those you have the opportunity to touch.