I’m back from The Growth Conference 2018, which was held in Antwerp, Belgium.
It has been my first time alone overseas and it was really an eye-opener.
Luckily for me, I can speak some Dutch (well, Afrikaans actually) and French, so I was able to find my way to the venue, even though I was touring the wrong areas of the port – thank you for not understanding there’s a river flowing through the city, Google Maps.
But the journey began much earlier than that:
Taking the First Steps
I have to say that when it comes to organization, I am not a master. Despite building sustainable strategies for clients, when it comes to my personal organization – I’m lost.
I needed to:
- Purchase a ticket for the conference.
- Book a flight.
- Book a hotel.
- Buy train tickets from Brussels to Antwerp.
- Order new business cards (huge mistake, tell you later).
- Exchange local currency to Euros.
- Pack my suitcase.
- Pack my backpack: laptop (didn’t need it), passport, wallet, etc.
- Book appointments through the app.
- Book workshops (I actually missed one, no biggie).
Once everything was ready, I needed to change my mindset.
Mantra: I Can Do It
No matter how seasoned I was when it came to local events (and even helping to organize a few), I had no clue what the local ecosystem was like.
Most of the attendees I only knew by name and Linkedin picture and may have heard on a podcast, that’s it.
I was even contemplating unbooking what I booked and staying home, as I was nervous about going overseas; not because it was overseas, but because I had no one to watch my back, and I didn’t know anyone at the venue.
You Are Stronger Than What You Think
As mentioned above, Google Maps has been no savior – I missed most of the Power Breakfast at the venue, got there late, sweaty, and with blisters on my toes; but, I wasn’t the only tardy one which was good.
Once there, I immediately started conversing with some of the people who arrived and understood one thing (well, actually two):
- Marketers and growth hackers are the same everywhere.
- I understood way more Dutch than I expected to understand, which helped me in deciding with whom I should be interacting first.
All you need is to be courageous and just start talking to people.
I met people running growth and marketing for 8-9 figure businesses in Europe; some of them already had global presence, in many different verticals; most of them in travel and transportation – hot scenes to take part in.
Each and every lecture opened my mind, and I usually skip all lectures altogether in order to network.
But it was different – when in Europe, people attend all venues within the main one; people don’t stay outside unless they’re on the phone or having a smoke (or both).
People don’t talk during lectures, they don’t disturb the speaker, they don’t push one another in a queue; it was really different than events in The Startup Nation, believe me!
“Oh My God, I Touched Him!”
Some of the speakers at the event, we all know and love, Josh Fechter from BAMF Media, Sujan Patel from Web Profits, Savvas Zortikis from Viral Loops and many more.
Naturally, most people were waiting for Josh to speak.
Don’t get me wrong, Sujan and Savvas had amazing lectures and I learnt tons of things I never realized about NPSs and more, but Josh is Josh (sorry for being a fanboy here).
His lecture was electric and I was just sitting at the edge of my chair to learn more and more things.
Josh also had a different style than the other speakers and I was able to see in him what I’ve been doing this past couple of years:
- He’s a middle child, just like me
- He started with nothing, just like me
- He thinks copywriting and organic growth are more important than ads, just like me
At the end of the lecture, I actually had the opportunity of speaking to Josh personally about growing my other brand, The Marketing Frenzy, and get tips from the man himself.
When the event was all over and I met (almost) everyone I booked some time with, I hitched a cab with a couple other attendees – that was probably the icing on the top.
It was the most hilarious cab ride I had in years; people were plastered or just “in the buzz”, while I was the soberest and pointing out stuff that a drunk guy wouldn’t be pointing out.
Everything from chasing the cab once a wallet was lost, to taking glasses out of the venue (by mistake, yes).
I also realized that in the world of startups and marketing, Tel Aviv is like a real hub globally.
Once I said I’m from there (well, actually a 15-minute ride from TLV, but it’s the same metropolitan area), everyone in the cab was like “really?! I love TLV!” and started speaking in broken Hebrew and telling me how much they liked the beaches, the hummus, and more.
I really felt proud of being the only Israeli to attend the event so I could take this token of joy back home with me.
Oh, and I almost forgot – business cards are obsolete. Hardly anyone carried them and was surprised that I wasn’t just connecting with them on Linkedin.
So, rethink your stationary strategy there!