It’s June, so in my world that means it’s time for VidCon! Yes, that’s the company Viacom acquired earlier this year. It is yet to be seen how that will impact VidCon, but I am hopeful the event will continue to be true to its spirit.
In the nine years since its inception, VidCon has become the largest convention for people who watch, create and work on online videos. It was started in 2010 by John and Hank Green, creators of Vlogbrothers, Crash Course, P4A and several other kinds of awesome. The convention is hosted in the massive Anaheim Convention Center, which is hands-down my favorite conference venue of all time. In the last couple of years, VidCon has expanded to Amsterdam, Sydney and London and had close to 30,000 attendees at the U.S. convention in 2017.
In a rapidly changing digital video landscape, VidCon’s agenda is constantly evolving. You can expect enthusiastic fan engagement, authentic creator conversations and valuable industry insights. VidCon sees three primary audiences: fans, creators and people who work in online video. Accordingly, the agenda has three unique tracks—community, creator and industry—catering to each of these groups respectively.
Whether it’s your first VidCon or not, this may all seem overwhelming. Here’s a handy guide to traverse its many offerings and make the best of your time at VidCon 2018.
Don’t miss the expo halls
VidCon expo halls on the first floor are where one might say all the action is. It’s the home of the community track attendees, where brands set up booths and lounges and where all the buzzworthy stuff happens. I won’t reinforce the stereotype of the crazed hordes of screaming teenage girls, but it tends to skew young. This is an opportunity to see creator and fan engagement and experience that relationship up-close. Walk through this floor, enjoy the food trucks outside, catch some live performances, attend a community panel and support your favorite creators by picking up merch. Also, wear comfortable shoes.
Listen in when creators talk
The second floor is where the creator track is hosted. I have spent more hours in these halls than I can recall. There’s a palpable creative energy on this floor, where you’ll find content creators talking. This agenda is packed with platform updates, best practices, video making workshops and creator case studies. It’s a great way to get a pulse of the creator ecosystem, hearing about top challenges, new opportunities and ways to make this creative endeavor sustainable. It’s also a chance for non-creators to better understand the life of a creator and be more empathetic to their cause when working together.
Get a 360-degree perspective
Last year was a tough year for online video, from demonetization and brand safety concerns on YouTube to the proliferation of fake news on Facebook to Vine finally shutting down. VidCon’s agenda is reflective of the climate, and there are sessions across all three tracks to discuss impact and solutions. It’s possible we’ve only heard of these challenges as they are viewed within our individual silos. VidCon offers a great chance to get an overarching perspective that can further the conversation and help us get closer to finding solutions as an industry.
Here are my picks of sessions for anyone interested in these hot-button topics:
- Why 2017 Sucked for Online Video (and How to Make the Next 12 Months Better)
- News and Fake News: Creator Responsibility in Fact Checking, Sourcing and Reporting
- What’s New With News Feed
- Not Suitable for Advertisers
- Alternate Avenues of Monetization
VidCon brings together a diverse group of people under a roof for three jam-packed days. It may seem nearly impossible to find relevant people and make meaningful connections. And after years of asking for a networking solution, VidCon’s finally delivered. They’ve partnered with Brella, a networking app to make it easier to find and connect with other attendees. They’ve also designated a networking area on the third floor, which is where the industry track is hosted.
My recommendation is to schedule at least five to 10 conversations over the duration of the conference. Try to find people from different aspects of digital video, from creators to studios to talent managers, in order to get a more holistic view of the business. There’s still a fair bit of card exchanging done, so remember to carry your contact details on you.
Learn something new
I have worked in digital video for about nine years and the thing I am most certain of is that it’s constantly changing. What may have been relevant a year ago might today be redundant. The content of the convention is directly related to what’s top-of-mind in the digital video landscape. There’s a good mix of platform evolution, where the business is headed and upcoming creators and programming.
As an industry track attendee, you can access any session. I highly recommend catching a couple sessions across tracks to get a better sense of what each of the stakeholders—users, creators and brands—are thinking. Here are my top recommendations to help you get started:
- Creators Tell Brands and Agencies How to Work With Them
- Brian Solis and the State of Influencer and Creator Marketing
- Keynote From Neal Mohan: Building Communities and the Next Generation of Media Companies
- Matthew Patrick Keynote: The Psychology of the Watch Journey
- The 8 Formats You Must Know to Build Your Audience on YouTube
- The Creator Business Model Grows Up: New Revenue Streams, New Platforms, New Reality
Additionally, I’ve found it useful to go prepared with a couple questions that I’m looking to get answered. This will help you put together your schedule and set up meetings with the right people. Make sure to utilize Q&As, both formal and otherwise. Many presenters take questions after the session and will be happy to look at your specific situation.
While I work in this industry, it’s easy to view everything through a lens of metrics and key deliverables. VidCon reminds me of the human stories content makers choose to tell. It is a testament to the exponential growth of an industry that’s changed entertainment forever. The lines of digital and traditional are continuously blurring, and that’s seen everywhere at VidCon. Give yourself a chance to be amazed at what creators have accomplished in the last decade and how they’re leaving an indelible mark on both the social and creative arch of history.
While VidCon can feel like it’s all work, remember to stop by the several parties from the industry track reception to the Tubefilter pre-party. I went to my first VidCon in 2012, and it’s since become an annual ritual that I look forward to each year. I am excited to meet new people, have interesting conversations, hear inspiring stories and come back feeling rejuvenated about content, my work and our industry. Hope you have a wonderful, VidCon!