VidCon presented by YouTube is a staple in the online video creator community. At it's core, it is a convention that brings everyone's favorite content creators in a single space for us to hear about their work, their goals and their stories. However, it's grown from just a convention. The -Con in VidCon is also interchangeable with "Conference." For other tracks, such as Creator and Industry, these panels go beyond our favorite creators and into some of our favorite businesses, brands and influencers.
Because of my job, I was sent to VidCon to learn more about content creation for work, especially since we want to explore deeper into the world of video for our content. I also must admit, that I wanted to go for fun too. I've been a consumer of YouTube for the past decade and the opportunity to not only see people from my favorite businesses speak, but engage with my favorite creators, was impossible to pass up. I also want to take a moment to acknowledge how privileged and blessed I am to have a job that supports professional development and gave me the opportunity to attend this conference!
What I appreciated about VidCon was that it wasn't solely focused video creation. In fact, there were plenty of panels that focused more on the technical aspects like lighting and sound, or how to tell better stories and even opportunities to chat with creators in a more intimate setting. Below is a roundup of some of my favorite takeaways from my experience.
Know How to Tell a Story:
It's interesting to see how many people's titles have shifted from writer, photographer, creator, etc. to "Storyteller." It's become an umbrella term, sounding almost-cliche but truly only relating to a small segment of what Creators do. In fact, it only sounds saturated to me because I only consume the content of those who identify as "Storyteller."
Knowing how to tell a story is both simple and hard. There are mechanics behind it like the idea of narrative or tools like "The Hero's Journey," but you also need to have a passion behind it. It's important to understand the purpose of a narrative, how to construct it and how to tell it, but what you do with it comes from the mind.
Stop Thinking, Start Doing:
We're all thinking of these stories in our heads - What story should we tell? Whose story? Why? But they'll never get out into the world if we don't get them out of our minds! If you're a storyteller by nature then you already have an idea of how you want to tell stories, but maybe you're hesitant to explore the medium for it...Don't be! As a Creator, we'll continually face new challenges that scare us, but we'll never know our success if we don't just start doing it. I say this to myself too because I'm a huge perpetrator of "saying, not doing."
Sometimes we may not have the ability or access to create the content we want. My challenge to you is to think about how accurate that it. You don't have a fancy $2,000 camera and a mic, but do you have a camera in general? Do you have a phone? Can you use your ear buds as a mic? There are plenty of workarounds when you're a Creator, and we're not here to judge you for the quality of production - we're here to experience the quality of your content. So stop thinking about and get like Nike! (Just do it)
Let Go of the Numbers and Engage:
It's so easy to get lost in the ether of "the following." But numbers don't mean everything, I learned that explicitly this past weekend! I met creators with subscribers/followers ranging from 10K to 4M, and there quite a few people on the lower end that felt that they were much more successful despite having lower numbers. Why?
Because they engaged more! When you engage with your following, you're keeping them interested in you and whatever you're talking about. Sure, you may have a million followers, but if you aren't even getting 100 of those followers engaged with your content then are you really successful? Be mindful of how you define success and realized that our world is more than just a numbers game. It's a factor in the equation, but so is your engagement rate. Try to find a balance of both.
Find Your Voice and Stick to It:
It's hard to find your voice, especially when sometimes you can feel trapped in an echo chamber! Even with a degree in Journalism I still don't always believe in mine, but I know I've have it. When I was an Opinions Editor I felt like I really demonstrated a mastery of it, but it was hard to get there. Some tips to find your voice are these:
- Think about your "Why!" Why do you create? What motivates you? Why do you want to talk about this? Your "why" is a distinct part of your voice because it guides you.
- Write more! As a Creator your focus may be on video or imagery, but knowing how to write your voice is a great way to develop it. Writing enables us to really visualize everything that we're thinking textually and that will further help you amplify your voice, whether it's in-text, videos, narrations, etc.
- Embrace the Flux! Your voice isn't singular and neither are your beliefs or motivations. Understand that these will probably change and so will your voice. Everyone's narrative shifts and that's beautiful. Don't be scared when you find your voice changing throughout your work, embrace it and begin honing it where it is. This leads on the path to mastering your voice because it equips you with the tools to navigate it.
Individuality isn't Saturated
This was by far the biggest lessons I received at VidCon. Many of us called the YouTube space, hell even the Creator space, saturated. But it's not. In the grand scheme of things, the amount Creators there are out there is small. Then when you factor in the ones who are truly individual compared to the ones that just try to reinvent the wheel, you realize that this space isn't much saturated at all.
I put individuality right under "Finding Your Voice" because they are a direct result of each other. When you know your voice, you know yourself - and vice versa. As products of society, we're taught to fit in however we can, but fitting in often requires sacrificing yourself because you're sacrificing what makes you different. There ain't nothing wrong with being yourself. Being yourself will never go out of style. It isn't over-saturated or cliche to be YOU.
These are just my biggest takeaways from the convention, but I hope that a point resonates with you. Whether you're an aspiring creator, a full-fledged creator or maybe just hitting a wall (like myself), maybe one of these points will motivate you to go for it. I mean, we're all about this idea of "shoot your shot," aren't we?