Exceeding Expectations

Here I was about to “discover” a new world at the Tribe Conference 2016.

I reflected on my expectations as I looked out the small aircraft window on a city I never visited. Nashville was now summoning within me startling affection and appreciation. But I never even stepped within the city proper during my five days there.

Rather, my experience revolved around a hipster hotel, a Chipotle, Kroeger’s and Walgreen’s, and two-and-a-half days in a refurbished factory as well as a coffee shop with an attitude called The Frothy Monkey.

But what took place inside The Factory, as well as a bit at the hipster hotel and The Frothy Monkey, convinced me to purchase a ticket to return a year from now.

I joined around 400 people at an event dubbed the Tribe Conference 2016. No, we don’t circle around chanting while dancing with feathers on our head. This tribe centers on the craft of writing in all of its genres and forms.

In fact, being at this conference was a real investment for my husband and me. When I learned about it last year (just about a week before it took place), I knew I couldn’t go. I just wasn’t ready. But I lifted up a silent prayer and listed attendance as one of my 2016 goals. And I got there

And, We’re There!

In its second year, Tribe Conference 2016 followed the structure of Jeff Goins’ popular Tribe Writer’s Course.

Who is Jeff Goins? (Well, I was asking that question too just over a year ago!)

He’s that guy up there in the Robin suit. You know, green tights.

But seriously. A writer, entrepreneur and sharp but normal guy from the cornfields of Illinois, Jeff has grown a following through showing up every day, doing the work and pressing forward. I like the fact that he’s both polished and not. Very real. And people have rallied behind him because they get that. And because he’s gotten the formula right. He knows it’s not all about himself.

Jeff leapt onto this year’s stage dressed as Robin, Batman’s sidekick. “When you build a tribe – a group of people who “follow” you – don’t try to be Batman. Come alongside people as Robin – the sidekick, the Boy Wonder – who makes Batman shine.”

And who is Batman? Well, they are the members of your tribe, the heroes in the journey. They are the ones you serve and help and encourage in their quest to be masters of their craft or pursuit.

Cut! Out comes Batman personified on the stage! It is, actually, Jeff’s four-year-old son, Aidan. Bulked up, and with that Batman voice, Aidan seemed to revel in the hero role. And he seemed to delight in his dad playing Robin.

Isn’t that the way it should be with those we lead? Humility and humor. These combined go a long way.

From Start to Art

But even with this clever start, the conference only got better, maintaining its electricity all the way through, even after the superpowers shed their costumes. At almost every turn, the experience lapped my expectations.

Following the Tribe Writer’s outline, Tribe Conference 2016 explored the following areas: (1) Honing Your Voice; (2) Establishing Your Platform; (3) Expanding Your Reach; and (4) Going Pro. Each speaker addressed one of these areas in depth.

Would you recognize the names of the speakers at this conference if I showed them to you? Perhaps not. A year+ ago, I wouldn’t have either. But since I joined Tribe Writers in August 2015 with the intention of building…something…, these people have emerged upon my radar. And, in so many ways, they’ve rocked my world. It is an amazing bunch.

Honing Your Voice

There’s Carlos Whittaker, a father of three with a remarkable story about how he and his family’s life changed through an unexpected moment. His passion is all about capturing the moments of life. And a global community has rallied around him to learn ways to live with more intention and zest, capturing the moments.

And then there’s Emily Freeman, a woman of deep character who challenged us to ask three questions: (1) What frustrates me? (2) What am I passionate about? And (3) Where do I see hope? Out of these three – the “Fire Triangle” – you get the fuel, heat and optimism to write with optimal impact.

After that we met Marion Roach Smith, respected author, former New York Times and National Public Radio commentator, and a devoted writer of memoir. She’s not only a veteran in the field, but Jeff’s personal writing coach. Her thrust? Write with intent! She inspired and gave us some nitty-gritty structural techniques to approach memoir. Good stuff!

Last in the Honing Your Voice session was Chris Marlow, founder of Help One Now. Chris challenged us to learn how to make our tribes love, to make the world more beautiful. He urged us to make sure we’re crystal clear on our WHY, to tell compelling stories, to be leaders who inspires action, and to create good work over and over again.

And, a special thing happened. Conference attendees (+ speakers + Jeff’s company) rallied and raised over $5000 to fund two classrooms in Haiti for a year. Beyond expectations. That’s immediate impact!

Establishing Your Platform

First in line for this session came Asha Dornfest, author and entrepreneur of the platform parenthacks.com. She emphasized it is the connection that turns a group of readers into a tribe. But, you must demonstrate your humanity, a commitment to honesty, and a heart of generosity in the process.

Next, Jeff invited Mike Berry to the stage. Mike is “one of us!” He and his wife, Kristen, are the founders of confessionsofanadoptiveparent.com. They’re well qualified as the parents of eight adoptive children! I appreciated Jeff having Mike up on the stage. Although their blog is very popular now, just two years ago they had just a few hundred subscribers. Mike proved highly relatable to those of us just starting.

Takeaways from Mike’s sharing? “You don’t realize how untrusting you are until you’re put in a position where you have to trust.” Game changers for him were to not be afraid (“Call fear out for what it is!”), be consistent, find a few voices to listen to (don’t get overwhelmed!), and be compelling by telling stories.

Onward we went! Up came Nathan Barry, founder of ConvertKit. He stepped up on the stage and I kind of felt like he might be my son. I mean, the guy’s only 26 years old who’s already made a great deal of impact for online businesses. Smart. He shared his “aha” moment with us: “People don’t teach because they’re experts; they are experts because they teach!” This led to his guiding principle, “Teach everything you know.”

On a side note, a conversation I had with Nathan Barry crystallized for me the direction I believe I need to go first with CultureWeave. It revolved around paring down (or niching down, as it’s often referred to in the industry) what our venture is all about, what product(s) it offers, etc. Although I’m still turning this one over in my mind, I think I’m much clearer about the direction CultureWeave needs to head.

Next Jeff Brown, a leading podcaster, took the stage. He set the bar high: “Why just be good when you can be extraordinary?” This was the question he asked himself, and the question we should ask ourselves every day. He asked us, “Do you have a clearly articulated worldview?” If so, he emphasized, you need to communicate it every time you speak or write. He also reminded all the bloggers and podcasters in the audience to remember they are always talking to one person. This is key!

After this, Jeff Goins changed it up with a panel to share their experiences building their platforms. Taking the stage were Grant Baldwin, McKel Hill, Dave Delaney and Pamela Wilson.

Grant runs The Speaker Lab and trains others how to develop themselves as excellent speakers and get gigs. He, too, was on the road speaking a lot. But he came to realize speaking does not scale well, so he switched to teaching. He suggested for us to find people who are a couple steps ahead of us and, if/when we connect with a speaker who gives us advice, we take it and it works, make sure to let them know afterwards.

McKel is passionate about food and health. She runs a blog and wrote a book called Nutrition Stripped. And she speaks from a place of experience, struggling with food-related health issues for a long time. She told how she was an introvert so would hide behind her recipes online for so long. But, if she were to do it again, she would have been more vulnerable from the get go.

Dave wrote the book on New Media Marketing. He shared that he failed every time he didn’t follow up after meeting someone new. Dave also emphasized the need to go deep with LinkedIn. He believes it’s an important part of the networking process. (And, on a personal note, he’s already followed up with me! Even after I put my foot in my mouth when first meeting him! Enough said. Again, beyond expectations.)

Finally, as VP of Educational Content of Copyblogger Media, Pamela helps people convey a more cohesive, lasting story. She also has her own business, Big Brand System and launched a podcast with Jeff Goins called Zero To Book. Pamela emphasized the value of serving the other person. She also told us, “If you think you’re not fascinating enough, turn it around with the question, ‘How can I serve others?’”

Expanding Your Reach

Up on stage jumped Michael Port. Magnetic and compelling, Michael is a true pro at public speaking and stage craft. He shared from his 50 Tips to Wow Your Audience & Win Praise Every Time (paraphrased). By taping cards with cues under 50 audience seats, anticipation and interaction not only jolted the after lunch crowd, but permanently branded his presentation on our collective memories. Brilliant!


Ray Edwards, copywriter extraordinaire, stepped up next. Ray is one of the veterans of the craft, but he’s also a man of profound character. I had the fortune of speaking with him briefly the day before and his very present demeanor caught me a bit off guard. In a good way. This man is the real deal.

And here is the gem from Ray’s talk:



Weaving her way throughout the conference was the utterly unique Marsha Shandur. Really, words fail. Dubbed the “Anti-Awkwardness Coordinator,” she laced an enviable mixture of humor, humility and confidence, with a pinch of awkwardness, into the entire time. Her #1 rule: Keep showing up! And she did. And she earned her way onto the Tribe Conference 2016 stage. Again and again! (She must’ve been really good!)

Going Pro

First we had Tim Grahl and Shawn Coyne. Shawn is the veteran of a 25-year book-publishing career. He’s worked with some of the best. Now, he’s on his own quest to help others learn the skill set of story structure and form through his StoryGrid website, blog and podcast. He’s all about helping people overcome the battle inside themselves to create good work. He focuses on the craft.

“To leave this earth without sharing our story is a tragedy.” These words of Shawn encapsulate the reason why I was there. He nailed it.

Tim, an accomplished marketer working with top-level writers, teaches strategy and techniques to help others launch books. But he’s now become a student of Shawn’s. He’s learning how to craft his first novel. This is scary territory. His vulnerability on stage impressed and encouraged me.

Jeff left two of the heaviest hitters for the end. And boy, did they deliver! I had not known about Carrie Wilkerson before she came on stage in her high heals but then shed them. She’s known as The Barefoot Executive, and she is a toughie. Wow! Carrie blew my expectations right out of the water. Completely different from the pictures of her which made her look soft, sweet and demure.

But she gave us what we needed to hear: What we have to offer is of value! Shout it from the rooftops! She kicked us in the butt. Get the right Perspective (we should ask for money if we deliver value), get Permission from the people in our tribe (don’t be a transformation hoarder; we have the responsibility to share), and engage in Pursuit (create content, promote and pursue profitability). She also urged us to be a progressionist not a perfectionist. Good words.

Chris Ducker bounced up on the stage as our final speaker. He’s a serial entrepreneur and just a really cool Brit. He also lives in the Philippines with his lovely wife, Erz. That’s a country I’ve visited four times and it holds a special place in my heart.

Takeaways from Chris’ time on stage for me include “An original is better than a copy,” “If you don’t make money you can’t continue doing what you’re doing,” “You can leverage the 24/7 selling power of the internet,” “Entrepreneurs are nothing more than problem solvers,” “Serve well, solve problems and your stuff will sell,” and always, always be a person selling to other people.

Wrapping up Tribe Conference 2016

I’m so glad I signed up for the Premium package when I chose to attend Tribe Conference 2016. The rationale for this revolved around the cross-country journey I was taking, envisioning how I’d be disappointed in not gaining as much as I could. No disappointment. Expectations exceeded time and time again.

For me, both the opening Premium reception and the final session with other Premium members and Jeff was worth the extra $200+, hands down. With some push, I was able to connect with several influencers are the opening reception. I swallowed my fear and went up to them. I even proceeded to put my foot in my mouth twice, but survived it.

That final session was two-and-a-half hours long, but worth its weight in gold. Because Jeff led our group in analyzing what problems we’re coming against, and then threw us into Mastermind groups to carry out a practice for producing action. I’m connected with three others for progress, encouragement and accountability. I can already see the value of this process and the people I’m connected with, just a few days after returning home.

Is the Tribe Conference worth it? Absolutely. I needed this booster shot. Community is sharpening, energy is flowing. I can already see how next year (and I’ve got my ticket in hand) I will be so much further along than I am now. And so will all the others. So much gain, so much value.

Nashville doesn’t seem so far away anymore.

I’ll be there next year. Can’t wait!