Alert: This biz model may change your [brand], [life] or […] #TFT13

You can’t beat learning from raving fans. The ones who just do stuff, no questions asked. The ones who just make stuff work because of their unbridled optimism and passion for your product or service.

Tools say things to people. Some people see ways to combine and apply tools that can literally change lives and reinvent business models.

This is such a story. A story featuring Listly, Zapier and Google Hangouts.

Not all blog titles can capture the life-changing enormity of an idea.

I tried writing all sorts of titles for this post and they all seem to fall short, so I went for something inspiring and curiously vague instead.

Blog titles so easily end up stuffed with buzzwords. And because #TFT13 is a cool topic, many would have easily fit. Words like: Crowdsourced, Collaboration, Virtual Conference, Transmedia, Content, Creation, Curation, Personal Branding, Disruption…

I hope you are still here. Let’s try and keep it buzzword free from here on in. I suspect we may fail in that endeavour.

This is a story of a business model that is both simple and and highly empowering:

  • It lets you and others like you establish yourself as experts in your field (you do need to be an expert)
  • It lets you run a global event and build a global community around your niche of choice.
  • It does this without you needing to leave your desk.

It’s all about personal branding and leveraging the power of crowdsourcing, collaboration, collective action and promotion. I did tell you we couldn’t avoid the buzzwords completely, didn’t I?

So why should you care?

  • Well lets just say 50% of the people involved with TFT12 now have bigger and better careers/roles since participating in the inaugural event, you could says that’s life changing.
  • It allowed many people connect with their passion & others as passionate as they are without a significant time or many investment.

I’ve shared it with a bunch of my connections and so far I know of four people planning to run events like this around their passion. They are betting on its power to change their life.

TFT13 is live from June 18, 2013, 1:00 GMT, which is building on the footsteps of TFT12.

So what is TFT? It stands for Tomorrow’s Future Today. I thought I knew what TFT was from the website, from following the tweet stream, watching videos and viewing slides. I thought I had a handle on it, but how wrong could I be.

Don’t make the same mistake I did. Dig beneath the surface. Look for the backstory. Focus on the business model.

Don’t be put off by the topic. The magic is in the business model. If your are into ITSM, all the better, but look for the generalities – look what they did and ask yourself, could I do this in my space?

Which of your friends would benefit from knowing about this model? Make sure you share this post with them.

Who do you think should be writing about this? Let them know too.

I originally became aware of the event because Chris Dancy @servicesphere was using Listly to crowdsource the speakers for this virtual 24 hour event. I knew the event was broadcast live via Google Hangouts.

I thought that in and of itself was pretty cool. It gets better.

I contacted Chris recently as I knew TFT13 was looming. When we spoke I was blown away by the backstory.

What is most impressive is the business model that runs TFT

Beyond the crowdsourcing of speakers, the content is managed post event via Zapier which takes the slides and videos (from G+) and processes and trans media transforms them into

  • Slides to Slideshare
  • Videos to Youtube and Vimeo
  • Text Transcriptions to Scribd, Pdf, Kindle and Evernote
  • Audio to SoundCloud, and iTunes
  • Lists of the content are bundled via Listly.

Anyone can access all the content without the need to register or give away their email address. People can find the content at the moment they need it to solve the business problem they are facing at that time.

Having content available across all type of media is something classic conferences have just ignored, because they see the value in the content and not in the networking that happens at events.

Events are changing, I’ve no doubt in my mind. Organizers needs to move with the times.

I asked Chris some questions to learn a little more. Here’s his answers:

1/ Why did you create TFT

After years of seeing friends and peers passed over or randomly selected I felt the physical conference system was horribly broken.  Good people with good messages were not being selected.  To compound the issue, some speakers were receiving a fee.  I saw in our online community a powerful active group of people who could be paid and selected by their peers.

2/ Why did it work when so many projects fail?

“I stated clearly in the beginning, if we did nothing more than get 24 speakers elected, and we never actually went on the air, we were a success.  Our team was volunteer and global.  To get that many speakers, and their organizations to cooperate at any level was a success.  Failure was never an option because success was the ability to clearly state to our industry we wanted change.”

3/ What advice would you give to someone thinking of running their own conference using the same model?

“Remember your biggest asset is the community.  Make sure they can find the content anywhere they look.  Next your speakers have a lot of pride in their presentations and material, let that work for you, don’t make unreasonable demands of their time or content.  In essence, TRUST, even on your worst conference, it’s 1000% better for your audience and speakers than a physical conference.”

4/ So you had a community before you began. Do you think someone could create this from nothing?

“It would be more difficult but I feel they could.  This is a mindset that most people don’t have.  Digital first thinking means leveraging the distorted masses with content and influence.  This works regardless of community, but things move faster if you have a group of connected people.

5/ How does personal branding fit with collaboration, community and social?

“Collaboration and social community are the foundation of personal branding. Both depend on systems of attention, influence and altruism. Personal brands don’t transfer in hyper-digital economies without conscious consumption of community content. By serving the community first as a consumer, you then have the ability to understand the needs of that system. You have two ears, one mouth and 10 fingers — talent observes before it offers suggestion.

6/ Can you really crowdsource your way to a “brand” new career? How can others do so?

“I don’t believe you can crowdsource your ‘brand.’ You can crowdsource your values. If those values are stronger than the habits of a community, then your brand and career will reflect these systems. Others suffer from being overwhelmed by information, tech and connections. We must first teach people to make healthy tech and information choices. Healthy information diets are to the 2020′s what Tab cola was to the 1970′s.”

7/ Did the speakers who landed new careers imagine this would be the outcome from a virtual conference culture?

“None of the speakers on TFT who transitioned to different careers imagined the vault in their careers.  The speakers at TFT12 and TFT13 never considered it a virtual conference. In large part, speakers felt honoured to be selected by their peers. It was that empowerment that moved their careers. To feel worthy of attention and time in a climate short on both, is the brand found inside of confidence and outside of hubris.”

8/ What’s your thought on Sponsorship. How do you pitch this?

“Sponsorship is the simplest of processes.  If a potential sponsor can’t get elected via their peers, customers or networks, they need the conference more than they think.”

9/ Stats show that applications doubled from from tft12 to tft13. How big is your possible speaker pool?

“We need 24 speakers for 24 timezones. In December we had 30 submissions. This year in June, we had over 50. I only see competition intensifying as the TFT brand grows in reach and status.

That’s just a measure of how people decide how and when to adopt. Early adopters needed less proof, plus by the second event more people got to hear of the event.”

10/ Do you think this will run forever?

“It is my hope and dream it would run everyday, 7 days a week, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.  A pool of talented people paid for their time.  No different than early independent cable.”

11 / Tell me about the sponsored track. How does it work/what’s the rationale?

“We had sponsors and or individuals who wanted to be part of the event.  To get them in the content mix we created a second track just for paid sponsorship.  This is really no different than having a vendor hall at a physical conference.  It allows vendors slots of time to talk about any topic important to them, without the pressure of being ‘elected’.”

I’ve also shared different elements of the story on the following blogs. It’s sort of a mini blog post series.  I’ll add to this list as I find other posts about TFT and it’s business model.

So are you inspired? Do you think you could create an virtual 24 hour event for your industry?

Image Credit: wheatfields via and Creative Commons



NIck Kellet (130 Posts)

Nick’s ventures range from a visual segmentation tool sold to SAP, to an award winning board game. Today, Nick is co-founder of Listly, raising the profile of lists to be on par with Slideshare & YouTube.