VidCon Australia: Defining Influence

When I flew to Anaheim last June, I wasn’t simply escaping a cold, wet, dreary start to winter in Auckland. I was on the hunt for sun, surf, summertime…and, something else entirely. Exactly what that ‘something’ was, I hadn’t a clue – but I knew I’d know it when I saw it.

I knew a few things. I knew that the something I was searching for wasn’t as tangible as a cold cocktail in my hand whilst sitting on Santa Monica Beach. Though, when I look back now, there are definite transcendental qualities inherent in beachside cocktails. But I digress…

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When I got to California, I wanted something awe-inspiring. Something surprising. Something enlightening, even.

Is that too much to ask? You see, I’ve been living in New Zealand now for nigh on 15 years, and while I absolutely love my chosen homeland, I sure do miss the diversity & sheer size of home. California stands fairly sturdily on a foundation of desert-heartiness & beachside industriousness. It drips in cool-factor, geekiness, and social awareness. It’s a home to most, a religion to many, and a dreamy fantasy to a chosen few who go through life with rose coloured glasses always on. California, to me, is interwoven into the fabric of my soul. My body and aura react to my home state – a native child grown near the sea.

It was California’s all-encompassing bigness that taught me from early on that I could dream and do anything – as big or as small as I wanted to. But I would have to work hard for what I desired. I’d have to learn to take the hard-knocks with the soft, salty smooches.

Growing up in San Diego was an absolute trip, though. We played lots of sports, studied a lot & spent every stolen moment we could at the beach. But, beyond the sunshine, butterflies, beaches & tanned bodies of adolescence, there was always something in me that yearned for more. Never happy with the somethings in front of me. As to the above – I needed something. More.

Though, I should be clear here from the outset: I didn’t ever need more stuff.

Stuff has never appealed to me – and I don’t think it ever will. I didn’t need more money. I didn’t need more praise. What I needed was more of life. I needed more small moments of joy. I needed more opinions that didn’t quite jive with mine. I needed to discover more. See more. Learn more. Experience more. Be more. And so it was that through this quest for moreness, I developed a very strong sense of curiosity. And, because of this sense of exploration, I’ve been able to consistently see the world through different lenses & experiences.

In fact, it was the curiosity for discovering more that led me to New Zealand in the first place.

And now all these years later, that same curiosity is what keeps leading me back home.

img_5979-1Over the past decade, I’ve been very lucky to attend some amazing world conferences & gatherings that’ve changed who I am. Even in small increments, I’ve begun a huge pivot toward a more fulfilled life. A life of value derived from helping others and telling stories. I’ve also rubbed shoulders with some of the most amazing storytelling minds on the planet, & in doing so gleaned as much knowledge as I possibly could over the course of a workshop, an hour-long session, or a cocktail (the cocktail lessons tend to be the best for gleaning!).

So it was one of the greatest pleasures of my professional and personal life, to have been able to experience VidCon in Anaheim this year from an industry/professional standpoint. If you don’t know what VidCon is, simply put, it’s one of the biggest most inclusive events on the planet. It is a celebration of differences, technology & ideas. It’s also the place to be to watch a beautiful coming-together of different communities and fandoms. For a professional storytelling-social media-strategist-OG, VidCon brought together creative tips & tricks, channel executions, marketing strategies, trends, algorithms, and talk around the morality of modern media.

Geez Louise, I ran around like a nerdy kid in an awkward adult candy store for the entirety of the event! Three jam packed, fun filled, and awe inspiring days turned me into a major VidCon fangirl in California. I met so many amazing people, learned a lot about the media industry vertical that I work in, and found that thing I was looking for all along: my spark.

At a huge convention center filled with 36,000 people, I remembered exactly who I was and what made me tick.

Storytelling. People. Inclusion. And, passion for what we do professionally and personally. Talk about finding ‘something’ in exactly the place you weren’t looking! Magic!

I should also mention that, whilst at VidCon, I realised how much of an important part geography plays in the kind of content we consume. We really do tend towards common, comfortable stories that reflect our cultures, countries, and social groups. Many of the featured creators, while HUGE in the USA, were & still are fairly unheard of here in New Zealand. So, yay for VidCon, I found some new fave creators.

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Fast forward four months from VidCon in Anaheim, and here comes another opportunity to find something else.

VidCon Australia, the inaugural event, was happening…and there was no way I was going to miss it! In fact, after getting to know some of the people from for the industry track, I was beyond stoked not only attend the event in Australia, but to be asked to speak on adapting global storytelling trends to local markets. Talk about excitement!

Taking place in my favorite Australian city, my fiancé and I flew from Auckland to Melbourne on a Thursday night – and we stayed through Monday afternoon.

I was literally so excited that the mood of our trip was nothing short of celebratory.

We splashed out & stayed at a fairly swanky hotel (which always helps set the scene for a good time) and woke up early Friday morning to explore the city a bit.

We wandered down Degraves Lane for our ceremonial avocado on toast breakfast – washed down with the most amazing coffee on the planet. After breakfast we headed to AC/DC Lane and took in all of the beautiful colors and portraits on the graffiti-laden walls there. From there, we spent some time in the National Gallery of Victoria looking through amazing exhibits and getting all cultured – n stuff. All of this before lunch!

At about noon we headed to the Melbourne convention center to check in to VidCon. I was an absolute ball of excitement and nervous energy. Luckily my friend Jim (who I met in LA) was heading up the industry track in Australia, so I knew there would be at least one familiar face in Aus for this conference.

Check in was super easy, and the staff and volunteers were gorgeously friendly. Even before the actual convention started (it took place over the weekend) everybody seemed amped for fun times ahead. And, let me tell you, fun times were had!

Saturday was wickedly fabulous. Like LA, but smaller in scale, VidCon Australia packed a fun-factor punch.

I, of course, was early. If there’s anything I’ve ever been in my life – it’s early. For work, for school, for parties, for planes. Early is my bag, baby! The great thing about being the first person to places is that you see things magically come to life. Empty spaces are transformed into thriving events & memorable moments in time. And I love to watch magic unfold.

Most of the day Saturday, I spent up on the Industry Track floor learning all that I could from the speakers, and networking with friends both new and old from across the world.  Every now and again I’d hop down to the Creator Track or the Community Track events to take in some of the pure rocket-fuel energy of fandom that comes dripping from VidCon. The day flew by, literally. And we closed with drinks and networking with others from the Industry Track – all of us well excited and exhausted in equal, beautiful parts.

Sunday was a big day. Day Two always is!

I really enjoyed digging into all of the tracks on Sunday – running around the convention centre like an over-hyped dici-geek on a cotton candy and pure coca-cola drip. My talk was at the end of the day, and, to be honest – I wasn’t sure anyone (save for my fiancee & New Zealand crew) would turn up. Sunday evening is usually when I’m in my Smurfette Onesie watching Harry Potter with my family. Anyone who came to hear me waffle on would be a wee legend in my book.

Luckily, people showed up! And, kept showing up during my 45 minutes of fun & sharing. On a personal level, I was able to really enjoy the moment & take it in. I laughed with the crowd in the room (who knew Betty White dabbing could be such a crowd-pleaser?), answered some great questions & have been in touch with most of the folks who were present in one way or another since. That’s the beauty of attending things like Vidcon Australia, you meet all kinds of people who will be in your life in some way or another from that point on. Some you’ll throw ideas around with, some you’ll help out with a challenge (or they’ll help you), and some you simply meet for a coffee and to spin yarns with.

Talk about a gift, right? Memories, people, & stories to keep for a lifetime. Yep, sign me up for more.

img_0539After VidCon finished up (soon after my session on Sunday afternoon), we celebrated in style by hitting up an amazing restaurant in the central city, Cookie. My fiancee, my buddy Jim & I sat chatting, re-hashing the three days just gone by, and drinking amazing red wine & cocktails. We lol’d, we pontificated, and we ended the night at a rooftop bar nearby with yummy Australia red wine.

Beautiful times with beautiful souls – that’s what I’ll take away from VidCon Australia. After Cookie & our rooftop tipple, we bid adieu to Jim with warnings of Drop Bears nearer to the coast (he was headed off adventuring, while we Kiwis had to head back to NZ for work on Monday.)

All in all, the first VidCon Australia was an experience of a lifetime – not just for me, but for a lot of people.

I think it was quite a gift to see the conference in its first year, the heaving throngs of fans and creators that are in Anaheim will be on the horizon. But for 2017, I can honestly say that I loved it all. The people, the vibes, the fandoms, the city and learning. It all added up to an amazing event that I can’t wait to return to in 2018.

The best part? Just as I had found in Anaheim in June, I found so many somethings I never expected in Melbourne.

And, if you need more convincing, here are my TOP FIVE REASONS to head to VIDCON MELBOURNE in 2018:

  • Location, Location, Location

    Melbourne is an amazing city. For art, culture, food, wine, sports, music… you name it. I’ve been to Melbs so many times for both work and play, and still cannot wait to get back. The Convention Centre in Melbourne is perfectly placed for an event like VidCon – it’s in walking distance to the central city, scarily near to an amazing shopping complex, and literally steps from great restaurants that sit right on the water (perfect for sunset-gazing.)

  • Access

    The access you get to amazing global speakers and content that’s world-class is second to none from an Industry perspective especially. I didn’t spend a lot of time on the Creator & Community floors in Melbourne, but I’m sure those tracks were superb as well. The secret sauce to VidCon Melbourne is literally access. Whether it was the ABC, Instagram, or Influencer agency leads – access to information was off the charts. And, right now, the conference is in growth mode, which means that this is the time to get in and listen/talk/network/geek out with world thought leaders on a more personal level.

  • Networking

    The networking is strong with this one. No, really. It is. Some of the most magical moments of the conference for me were the quiet times in between sessions when speakers or attendees would simply sit together and pontificate on subjects in depth. Getting to know people from countries, backgrounds, and industries is very important when it comes to being able to compare notes and bounce ideas off of when you’re in smaller places like I am here in New Zealand. I also love just walking the exhibition hall floor, too, to see who else is down there curiously looking into the experiential aspect of VidCon.

  • Fandoms

    Fandoms are the backbone of VidCon. I’ve never seen so many diverse, engaged, and passionate people when it comes to influencers/creators/YouTubers and their communities. I find it absolutely fascinating to just sit and watch how the young people who attend VidCon act and interact with each other – and, on the other side of the coin, interact with their online heroes IRL. There’s literally no better place to get right to the heart of how Gen Z and younger generations are creating content – and consuming it. The fandoms are powerful. They’re fascinating. And, they give me so much insight and hope for the future of storytelling. The kids, team. The kids just want a great story.

  • Inspiration

    Inspiration. It’s something I know I’m always chasing. I’ll keep this point very short-and-sweet: just go. If you can, go. Grab an Industry pass. Go to sessions across each of the three tracks. Do the meet-and-greet hall and feel the buzz of meeting a creator (and being surrounded by their fans!) Magic is all around, as is inspiration.

For photos, vids & stories of my travels to VidCon & beyond, follow me here: www.instagram.com/cassieroma

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