Earlier this month I attended CMA Live 2017, a content marketing conference in Edinburgh, hosted by Chris Marr of the Content Marketing Academy.

But a ‘content marketing conference’ isn’t really the best way to describe it; it’s so much more than that. It’s the best two days of the year, highly motivational, inspirational and an all-round fantastic event to be a part of.

It was a two-day event, with four Keynote Speakers, six Conference Speakers and seven Lightning Speakers (of which I was one!). I loved all the talks for different reasons.

Some were hugely practical and actionable, like Roger Edwards’ talk on keeping strategy and marketing simple. And Andrew and Pete, who taught us how to discover our Content Stamp. Janet Murray explained how to get media coverage for our businesses (without writing press releases!). And George B. Thomas gave us a whistle-stop tour of the tools we need to manage and measure our marketing activity effectively.


Whilst I love learning practical tips, my biggest takeaways from CMA Live 2017 were a bit more personal. They were mindset shifts, new perspectives, realisations, epiphanies…whatever you want to call them!

The day after the conference, I plucked 9 main takeaways from the thoughts swirling around in my head. I’m sure there will be more over the coming weeks and months, as I really process the information.

But, for now, let me share these 9 with you:

1. I’ve not actually launched my service

Chris Ducker – Launching Live: How To Successfully Launch Your Next Product Or Service With Live Video

In my Lightning Talk at the conference, I told the story of how my business has developed over the last 18 months; the process of transformation from being a general VA to a VA specialising in content marketing, to a dedicated blog management service.

But from Chris Ducker’s opening keynote on launching using live video, I realised that I’ve not actually launched my service in a way that anyone would know it exists!

Given that 90{45f4fc4891b26231cfb72291276cb20476a3eab690b1f46b766966aeb2108e8b} of the content consumed online by 2020 will be video, Chris was explaining how live video, in particular, can be harnessed as a means to build buzz and drive sales for your new product or service.

So, my plan is to use his step-by-step strategy to, officially, launch my blog management service.

Christ Ducker at CMA Live 2017



2. I’ve been dabbling

Sharon Menzies – Are You Dabbling Or Are You All In?

“Are you dabbling?” was the big question that Sharon Menzies posed to us in her Lightning Talk – and my conclusion was “yes, I have”.

I think this is partly due to being a generalist; I turn my hand to a lot of different things and I have lots of different skills. It’s why I make a good virtual assistant! But it can be a blessing and curse.

It also means I tend to over-commit myself and use some of the projects I’m working as a distraction from the ones I should be working on. It’s easy to become a jack of all trades and a master of none.

In order to prove to myself that I can make this business a success, and get results like Sharon’s (722{45f4fc4891b26231cfb72291276cb20476a3eab690b1f46b766966aeb2108e8b} growth in 12 months!) I’ve got to stop spreading myself so thin and go “all in”.

Sharon Menzies at the CMA Live 2017 conference



3. The troll under the bridge lives in my head

Cara Mackay – The Trolls: Take Back Control

Cara’s talk was all about trolls, and how to deal with them. She used the analogy of the troll under the bridge in the children’s story ‘The Three Billy Goats Gruff’ to explain the different reasons people give negative feedback, the different ways that people tend to respond, and how we can take back control.

During her talk, I realised that, for me, the ‘troll under the bridge’ lives in my head. Until the conference, I didn’t fully appreciate the extent to which fear has prevented me from achieving things. I would tell myself it was down to lack of time or procrastination. But, really, it all comes down to fear.

Cara’s talk contributed to an overall theme that came out of the conference for me, that I need to recognise when that ugly troll is rearing its head, ignore it, and push past it.

Cara Mackay at the CMA Live 2017 conference



4. It’s ok to tell people “you’re not right for me”

Erika Napoletano – How To Find Your Voice And Own Your Fucking Brand

Erika’s talk had a few different themes and messages, but this was the one which stood out to me. I’d heard it from others before but, sometimes, even if you know something intellectually, you have to be ready to really internalise the information and take action on it.

Say you walk into a networking event, and you get asked the dreaded question: “what do you do?”. Erika’s way of dealing with this is to ask them your Big Universal Question, which immediately reveals whether they’re going to “get you”, and whether they have any potential of being a client whatsoever.

I’m a people-pleaser. It’s another reason why I’m good at what I do. But it’s also a reason why I get overwhelmed because I say yes to things that technically I can do, but often I don’t want to do, or that don’t serve my own vision and priorities.

So having a ‘BUQ’ will help me be really specific about what I do and how I help people, putting it in a context that the other person understands. This way, the other party and I can both work out if we’re the right fit for each other, whether as a client or a general contact.


5. Keep fighting to be myself and not slip into the default settings of ‘professionalism’

Doug Kessler – How To Swear In Your Fucking Marketing

This was a theme that I took from several talks (Doug’s, Cara’s, Erika’s and Mark’s). I don’t think I’m not myself in my marketing, but I do worry about what other people think of me and I am probably a bit restrained in some situations.

We all do it; we maintain the norms of ‘professionalism’ so that other people don’t think badly of us. But it’s ok to repel the people who don’t fit the same mould, or who don’t like your approach.

I think the idea of being professional is changing. These days, because customers do all of their research online, they don’t come into contact with your business until the latter stages of their buying process. If they’re weighing up their options, which are otherwise the same on paper, the differentiating factor will be which brand they relate most to.

And the easiest way to relate to a brand is through the people and personalities behind it. So the traditional idea of being ‘professional’ actually creates a barrier between you and your customers.

So, I’m going to make a conscious effort to be more human in my marketing and business in general.

Doug Kessler at CMA Live 2017 conference



6. It takes 30 months to become known, and there are no shortcuts, so be ok with where you are and keep going

Mark Schaefer – Become Known

What I took away from Mark’s talk, amongst many other things, was that we should be ok with where we are on the journey. As entrepreneurs, we are always focused on our vision and goals, which means we’re constantly giving ourselves a hard time about the gap between where we are and where we want to be.

The 30-month benchmark gives us a target to work towards and something to keep in mind when we’re struggling to be consistent.

Mark Schaefer at CMA Live 2017 conference

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7. Realising how hard I’ve been clinging to the plane door

Marcus Sheridan – Built To Last

Every point that Marcus made during his closing keynote resonated with me in some way but, for me, his stories culminated in a message about pushing through to the other side of fear.

A few days before the conference, I watched a video of Will Smith sharing a story about going skydiving in Dubai. In it, he describes the sickening fear in the build up to the jump, only to find that the experience itself is blissful and the fear disappears.

As I was watching the various talks and taking note of the different practical things I should be doing to promote my business, I suddenly had a realisation – that the reason I hadn’t been doing them was because of fear, for one reason or another.

Before, I would put it down to procrastination, lack of time, spreading myself too thin. But actually, these are surface reasons and the underlying reason was fear. Fear of judgement, fear of failure, imposter syndrome, etc.

Watch the video and you’ll understand what I mean by clinging to the plane door. I realised that whenever my brain starts to make excuses for why I’ve not done something, it’s actually just my ‘lizard brain’ clinging on to the plane door, telling me to step away from the edge and get back to safety.

But the best things in life are on the other side of fear. So now that I have this awareness, I can call it out and say “no, I’m going to push through this and do it anyway”.



8. Total honesty gives other people permission to speak their mind and ask for help

Me – There’s No Such Thing As A Self-Made Entrepreneur

In my Lightning Talk, I talked about the struggles I’ve had over the last 18 months in developing my business and the support I’ve received from two communities I’m a member of, Youpreneur and CMA. The response to it was overwhelming; I had the most amazing feedback from people. Everyone was so kind and supportive.

What I learned from the experience is that being totally honest gives other people permission to speak their mind and ask for help. I think all of us should make an effort to do it more because, when you’re truly honest, other people feel that they can be honest too.

There is no point having these underlying fears and struggles that we’re all having and dealing with them alone. If we shared them, we’d all be able to help each other move forward.

Yva Yorston at the CMA Live 2017 conference


9. Learning to believe people when they tell me I’m amazing

The feedback I had from people was quite incredible but I struggled to really take it on board. I’m not sure why that is…perhaps because I don’t feel I’ve proved myself yet.

As entrepreneurs, we give ourselves a hard time about our progress, so when someone gives us a compliment and tells us we’re doing a good job, it can be difficult to believe it! I’m definitely a work-in-progress from that point of view.

But I want to say thank you to everyone who did give me such amazing love and support after my talk, I’m very grateful. I hope that it helped others to reach out, get help for the struggles they’re having and move forward.

So, what’s next? Well, I’m going to create my launch plan, content plan and follow up with all the people I spoke to and connected with and see if there are some people out there I can help through my service.

Can’t wait till next year.


  1. The point about fear stopping you from leaving the plane door resonates very well, I too would take the leap next time I go back to procrastination or similar excuses.look forward to more blogs from you

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