Seven Landmark Lessons From 2021
What I now know at the end of the year, might not have been so apparent when the year started.
For me, this year has been about delivering new formats in a rebooted space. I took 2021 as a testbed to look forwards and not go back to tried and tested formulas. This is where the opportunities and challenges are to be faced.
This year of transition has enabled me to learn. Here is what I now have more clarity and conviction to share with you. This is what I genuinely believe in and stand beside.
The Experience You Create (And Subject Matter) Is Everything.
People go to live business events to be entertained (I used to think it was to learn). Online provides a much deeper space to learn. After spending a long time apart, 2021 was the year when people started to come back together.
You Are The Media tested this in July with an in-person event, You Are The Media Online Offline and I now realise that for in-person events, learning is secondary to being around others. Whilst the occasion is a way to stay up to date with thinking and ideas, companionship and connection are what matters. Being around people who say, ‘I’m a part of this too’ feels good and strengthens connections.
The YATM Month Of Learning was a workbook-themed month during April and this provided an opportunity for people to learn together around a specific topic of content marketing and helping people find their momentum. This is something you cannot do in an in-person space (such as continual break-out rooms) where you bring quality learning from people from around the world and encourage people to be taught and work together.
Finding Common Ground Earns Your Place With Someone Else.
Sharing your expertise and viewpoint provides an opportunity to sit at someone’s table. When someone recognises that your values align with theirs, you can ‘share a meal at that table,’ every single week.
I understand that trust and loyalty come from having a common ground with others. If all you do is the approach from a ‘business’ perspective and your message is around how you make a living that is fine but becomes limiting. If you can still have that but recognise the reason why you do it and the values that you stand by, it starts to relate with others. For instance, the common values of YATM are around: community; delivery; independence; creativity; fun and learning.
A key to finding your common ground with others is when you pay more attention to the people around you (your subscribers or customers), not just sticking rigidly to the industry you are a part of.
Experimenting Keeps You Ahead Of The Rest.
2021 was the year of ‘considered’ experiments. The reason the YATM experiments are not a risk is that the community is supportive and everything is considered. A rebooted world means you have to tinker until you find what fits. I am a believer in ‘doing’ and bringing ideas to life. That way I can explain my own trial, error, success and understanding.
2021 has seen the introduction of YATM Learning, The Month Of Learning and YATM Online Offline hybrid event.
Bringing back a live event, with people in a room and online at the same time was nerve-racking as had nothing to compare it to or use something else as a benchmark. When you do the things that others aren’t doing (yet) you forge ahead carving a new path that others can then follow. The benefit is that you will be two steps ahead. This has helped shape my thinking in 2021. The experiments you deliver on and the content you create shape you (and can help others).
Hybrid Occasions Do Work.
You can fuse the best of both worlds with people together in person as well as online. Leaping back into in-person events in 2021 has felt like a plaster being ripped off for many. The business themed events and expos have continued where we all left off when the pandemic started in Spring 2020. The same delivery, the same format. It is possible to merge online and offline as we have proved with YATM Online Offline.
When you start, things will always go wrong (tech has been my biggest issue). As long as what you are delivering has the right message, your intentions are genuine and everyone feels a part of the occasion. For many people and businesses, this is a huge opportunity to create something in an untouched space.
People naturally crave connection, they want to meet up and feel in sync with others but for them to travel, events have to be relevant and valuable, making the journey feel worthwhile. For those that can’t make it, you can still create an experience that makes sure they are still a big part of the occasion.
A Community Means Everyone Can Do Well From It.
When you bring people together and encourage their involvement, everyone in that community can get more from their efforts. For instance, people in the YATM community work with each other, either for paid projects or the ask is easier when working together to be guests on podcasts.
People’s own profiles have been heightened by being a part of YATM. Matt King came to his first in-person YATM event in February 2020. Becoming involved when the world went offline and leading areas such as YATM Learning has led Matt to present in other spaces. I’d like to think that being a part of YATM has helped build Matt’s personal brand in 2021.
When an initiative is propelled forward by people who are part of a community, there are opportunities for everyone. Connections are made and momentum is created. Everyone cares and feels like they have a stake in its success.
Relevance Keeps You In The Frame.
As we started to find our flow again in 2021, what hasn’t changed is what we create has to be worthy of people’s time and mean something to them.
Over the past eight years, I have gotten to know more people than if I didn’t take on YATM as my project. This was one of the things that kept me together during lockdown and has given me immense happiness and connection. This has turned into business, even swimming together! By having a project with a pulse, I have to create work that is relevant and timely for others. An engaged audience over a large audience matters.
The goal of wanting more and more is not as valuable as making something worthy of people’s time. If you can do that, you become the bank of connection, ideas and learning.
You Are Your Audience.
I had a lightbulb moment this year that I was creating content that would have helped the old me. 2020 was a year where the progress that was in place for YATM, was stopped in its tracks ie. we had a year programme of live in-person workshops that never happened. If I knew I’d be sharing information on how to create hybrid events or online learning, the 2020 me would have snapped that up!
This adds a new dimension where you change, ‘what do people need from me?’ to ‘what would help the old me?’
It helps, when you’re putting your content out into the world if you are part of the audience that you serve, and there’s no great divide between you and those you’re reaching out to.
There’s no need to be engineering some sort of hierarchy between you and others – become a part of your audience.
2021 has been the year to move the needle and find a new groove. It can be quite isolating at times when you are stepping forward with something new. The last thing you want to become is complacent and just keep on going as though nothing has changed, this is how you lose relevance.
Even if I share what has made an impact on me this year, it all comes down to the journeys we are all on. There are times to take a step back, find the sparks that can work and then take a deep breath and step forwards.
One of the biggest rewards of being a part of You Are The Media in 2021 is that I can see that people are connected and feel a part of something. It was here for people when the pandemic started (it didn’t take a break), it is still here as we come to the end of another year.
Each year provides new ideas to progress. Whether 2022 sees the emergence of NFTs and a rabbit hole to go down, what remains is the power of a community and the importance to keep going. We can’t stop, the fun has only just begun.