My Latest Experiment: Launching a Conference — Why I’m Scared & Doing It Anyway

Today, I’ve got an exciting announcement. On August 29-30, 2015, I’m going to host my first-ever conference, and I’d love to tell you it’s going to be amazing. But I have to be honest.

Photo Credit: The Open University (OU) via Compfight cc

I wish I could tell you this is going to be a success. I’d love to tell you it’ll sell out and that hundreds of people are going to show up. But the truth is I don’t know any of that. And there’s an important lesson in that.

Of course, I hope you’ll join us and that the thing won’t be a total flop, but honestly that’s not why I’m doing it. I’m doing this because the safe thing to do is not do it. And I believe the things worth doing in life are often the things that scare us the most.

So before I tell you all about the conference, I want to say something about doing scary things.

A life without risks is no life at all

Two years ago at a conference called World Domination Summit, I had a revelation. For three days, I ran into ordinary people who were living incredible. And they all had one thing in common: They were all taking risks.

Naturally, I began to wonder, “What’s something risky I’m doing?” I couldn’t think of anything. And that bothered me.

Now, mind you: I’m not a big risk-taker. I don’t go “all in” and bet everything on a single whim or idea. That’s often a recipe for disaster. But sometimes, I just play it too safe and miss out on the abundance that an adventurous life can bring.

So I had an idea. It was a simple idea, but one that felt risky, nonetheless. I wanted to start a conference. I had had this thought before, even been urged by my community to do it. But I just couldn’t pull the trigger. I was content to play it safe.

But when I finally gave myself permission to dream this dream, I got excited.

Lesson: Don’t wait for the perfect moment to pursue something you’ve been thinking about doing. Just get started.

Ideas without action are just dreams you eventually wake up from

That next year, I took some bigger risks. I went to Africa, taught a two-day course on email marketing for Creative Live, and started building a team for my business.

But still, I sat on the conference idea. I waited for the perfect moment, and it never came.

Eventually, I decided to just make a go of it, anyway.

Last November, I hosted a small workshop called the Tribe Intensive. It sold out a month before the event, and attendees loved it. I had a blast doing it and realized I enjoyed bringing people together to help them.

But what I really learned was I could do this. I could pull off an event, albeit a small one. That confidence led to a decision to follow through on this larger-scale conference idea.

So I met with my team to plan out the next six months of 2015, and we set aside some time to host a conference in Nashville.

Lesson: Big dreams don’t have to be all or nothing. Try to start small and learn as you go. Experience is the best teacher.

Everything worth doing is met with resistance

So we had a conference on the calendar. No budget. Very little experience. And no idea what this thing was going to be. But at least we had a date.

Then my book launch happened. And for four months, everything I did was centered around The Art of Work. I ate, slept, and breathed that thing. And in the haste of trying to launch the book right and deal with all kinds of unexpected issues with the launch (read more about that here), the conference got pushed back.

I stalled, wondering how I would possible pull something like this off. I worried I had missed my window of time, and we would just have to postpone until next year.

But I didn’t want to wait till next year.

So I called my friend Katie, who is a master at event planning and has helped me pull off several smaller-scaled events, like book launch parties and the workshop I mentioned. She asked how much time we had.

“Three months,” I told her. “Is that enough to plan an event?”

“It’s tight,” she said, “but doable.”

“Let’s do it,” I said.

And thus, the Tribe Conference was born.

Lesson: There’s never a ideal time to start something, but don’t be unrealistic with your dreams. Consult the experts, get the OK, and then move forward.

The only promise I’m going to make

Will it have this or that? The answer is maybe. It could have anything you want. Or nothing. Because we are still imagining what this thing could be. And instead of telling you we have it all figured out, I’m just going to be honest.

This is a work-in-progress, and you’re going to get to play a part of that progress.

I don’t want to convince you to come to the Tribe Conference. I want to invite you to participate in it. I want us to create something beautiful together.

We don’t need another social media extravaganza or another get-together where writers hear antiquated ways of getting published. You don’t need to see another hotel conference room or eat another stale bagel.

And the last thing you need is to listen to 20 forgettable keynotes you’ll barely remember the next day.

I don’t have anything wrong with events like that. We just don’t need another one of them. This will be different. And maybe because of that difference, it will fail. I don’t know.

But it will hopefully be unlike anything you have ever seen before. And if we do that, we will have succeeded. Because normal is boring. And doing something different is what gets me up in the morning.

That’s my only promise. And whatever I learn, whatever we do, I will be completely transparent about it. I’ll share it all here on my blog as it comes together. So if you want to see what it takes to pull off an event, stay tuned (be sure you’re signed up for email updates!).

Lesson: Don’t do what everyone else is doing. Do what excites you, and maybe others will come along, too.

Join us in August for the first Tribe Conference!

So if you’re intrigued, if you’re as curious as I am as to what this kind of conference could look like, and if you want to be part of something new and interesting, then I encourage you to come to the Tribe Conference.


For this week only, we’re offering a super early bird rate, which is the cheapest price it will ever be. We’re also offering a limited number of spots for this round of tickets, so they may go quickly.

If you’re still not sure what this is, here are some more details: The Tribe Conference is a two-day event (I’m calling it a marketing conference for non-marketers) packed full with inspiring speakers and practical content.

You’ll hear from guest speakers like Joshua Becker, Joe Bunting, Ally Vesterfelt, Whitney English, Tim Grahl, me, and maybe some more surprise guests!

The conference will be held at The Factory in Franklin, TN. We’ve arranged for a special discounted room rate at the Aloft Hotel. To make room reservations call 877-462-5638 and request the Tribe Conference block. Or click here to make your reservation online.

Register for the Tribe Conference Today.

What’s something risky you’ve attempted recently, and what did you learn? Share in the comments.

40 thoughts on “My Latest Experiment: Launching a Conference — Why I’m Scared & Doing It Anyway

  1. I wrote and launched an online blog-writing course and coaching business with zero advertising budget. It meant taking time away from full-time freelancing, which in turn meant less income for a few months.
    Worth it? So far. Despite the lack of advertising funds the course *is* selling. Not an overnight sensation, alas, but not doing so badly, either. I’ve also picked up a few coaching clients.
    What I’ve learned is that I’m not just a writer — I can inspire other people to write well, too. That’s been very gratifying.

  2. This is the year of conferences for me.. risky.. hmm On a whim applied for a dream job that if all works out could make my computer to the conference a whole lot shorter.. learning if I give up control and rely on trust amazing thinsurance happen. .

  3. I’m so excited about this Jeff! Seriously considering flying all the way from Thailand to meet fellow Tribe Writers and risk takers in person.

  4. As sales pitches go, that was a pretty good one. I’m sure attendees will learn a lot about marketing at the Tribe Conference–I’d consider going if it weren’t for the half a continent between here and Tennessee. And, if it does fall flat, well, a failed conference is just a successful vacation.

    More importantly, you’ll know what to do differently next time. Good luck Jeff!

  5. If the conference is 1/10th of the Tribe Intensive weekend, you’ll have a blockbuster. The Aloft is a great hotel and the town of Franklin rocks. I miss the Frothy Monkey coffee shop. Congratulations, Jeff. I’m in Costa Rica with my family in August. Otherwise, I’d seriously consider a repeat trip!

  6. I signed up this morning, Jeff! I’m inspired on several levels. “Risk” is a theme in the book I’m writing, “Up for AIR: Awareness, Intentionality and Risk.” I’m eager to learn and grow. I’ve been listening religiously to your podcasts each week! Thanks for the impact you’re making. I brag about you being my 30 yr old mentor! I’ve learned gobs already. Keep up the good work!

  7. Jeff, you asked, “What’s something risky you’ve attempted recently, and what did you learn?” Well, I’m in the midst of attempting something. I’m learning that the finished version of this is not exactly what I thought it would be when I first had that flash of inspiration. I’m also learning that I had to take steps in the direction of that flash in order to know what changes to make along the way. It is scary, but I’m also doing what you’re doing—I’m doing it anyway. https://OnTheGo.FM

  8. Hai Jeff , nice to hear from you once more. Unfortunately i live in Germany and will not be able to attend the conference, Could you please let me know per email on what was spoken about ?, i am a fan of all your write ups, they are inspiring and i encourage you to Keep the good work. ” Risk ” is a part of life ! and i can imagine a life without a risk. I am indeed very eager to Meeting you someday, because i am absolutely sure that my calling is to be a writer.

  9. Hi Jeff, although I can’t be at the conference, I wish you all the best. As an ex-events planner, I know that 3 months is tight but it can be done – PLUS, more importantly, running events is a lot about positivity. Just having a positive mindset can move a great number of obstacles, so you and your team will be just fine! I’ve just discovered your blog and I’m so glad I did – I feel like I can breathe again. I was starting to get stressed about my blog (that I was just doing for fun), so you’ve brought me back to that excited, passionate feeling again. Thanks! I also want to run a workshop sometime soon but I am really scared about doing it – so your post was very inspiring for me. We just gotta do it, right?! I look forward to hearing how it all goes. Good luck (and have fun) 🙂

  10. I’m overly excited about this conference, and I’m planning to attend. But I do want to make sure before I sign up that this conference is ok for a person to attend that doesn’t really have a platform yet? I’m in the preparation stage at the moment, and I’m absolutely loving what I’m learning from you and Michael Hyatt. But I’m young, and pretty inexperienced so it all seems too good to be true at the moment. Anyhow, given that do you think this conference is for me? or should I just keep learning stuff online and try for next year?

    Oh, and I HAVE to say, I just finished reading “The Art of Work” and I can’t say how much it impacted and inspired me! It was such a blessing! Thank you for your sacrifice:)

  11. Hi Jeff, ‘marketing conference for non-marketers’ – that’ll be me. Planning on attending. I’m in the beginning phase of several things. Sounds like an excellent networking opportunity. Thanks.

  12. Hi Jeff, been wanting to meet you. I’m a local attorney and can walk to the factory from my house. Trying to decide which tickets to purchase. Leaning towards the premium ticket. Who will be attending the diner and mastermind?

    1. Great question. I think the premium is well worth the price. This is the sort of thing that I would normally charge $1000 for, so if you’re leaning in that direction, you’ll love it. Just be aware that seats are limited, and they’re going fast.

      Regarding the dinner, it’ll be me and some of the speakers. That will be like a VIP reception where you can get access to us. Same thing with the mastermind, but that will be more about helping you apply what you learned at Tribe and take it to the next level.

      Hope to see you there, Brian!

  13. Hey Jeff, really trying to see if I can make it to the conference. Budget may be a constricting factor. In regards to risky behavior, I am in the process of writing my first eBook. Turns out, like others have mentioned, it’s not quite what I had set out to do and it is turning out to be mostly about my life… that makes it scary to me because nobody thinks the general public will care about their life! Definitely praying that there are people out there who will care. I have no platform and a teeny tiny list… hoping this book will put me on the map somewhere.

  14. I wish you the best of luck! Am hosting my own conference that very weekend, in Sweden, and I can relate to all the fear and excitement. It is the second year I’m running it and I can have twice as many people this time 🙂

  15. Hi Jeff. It seems the conference and your interests concentrate on writers. I am a fine artist therefore feel out of the mainstream in this context. Loved your book “The Art of Work”!!

Comments are closed.