It’s been four incredible days since the inaugural Military Influencer Conference in Dallas, Texas. To say this event was a huge success would be an understatement. It was epic! I’ve had the honor of speaking at and attending dozens of events, but none have ever been as great as this one.
Before I share the highlights of my experience I also have to be honest. When Curtez Riggs first asked me to be involved, I wasn’t sure the conference would be a success. It wasn’t because he lacked an amazing vision or skills to pull it of, but because the military community can be a tough nut to crack.
Happy Joe tried for two years to launch events like this with no success. Others with similar visions have also failed. It seemed veterans and military spouses weren’t ready for opportunities like the Military Influencer Conference. I was completely wrong.
I’m proud to say Curtez Riggs made the impossible possible. He was able to achieve an extraordinary vision and bring people together from all walks of life in the military community. Those three epic days brought tears to my eyes because this is needed and Curtez refused to surrender.
My After Action Review of The Military Influencer Conference
It’s difficult to put into words the experience we encountered in Dallas.
The tone was set in the Sunday evening social event when Curtez let people know this event wasn’t about handing out business cards, but investing in each other. From that moment on, I knew this event would be unlike any other.The Military Influencer Conference wasn't about what we could get, but what we could give. #MilBlogging17 Click To Tweet
The downtown Sheraton was nice, the food was great, and the atmosphere energetic. Yet it was the people — the attendees, the speakers, the sponsors, and the team behind MIC that made this all epic.
In many events I’ve participated in, a large group of people usually only care about themselves. It’s usually the mindset of “what’s in it for me?” filled with shallow conversations. It was the total opposite at this conference. People were actually coming up to me asking what they could do for Happy Joe. They engaged in meaningful conversations, discussing more than business. We talked about life, family, passions, and our fears. Attendees were real and authentic.
Relationships that will last a lifetime were forged in three days.
People you have just got to meet.
It’s not unusual for conference attendees to get excited about meeting the rockstars on stage. After all, we tend to want to connect with people who are successful or famous. It’s our culture.
It was an absolute honor to spend time with Emily Núñez Cavness of Sword & Plough and Matt Griffin of Combat Flip Flops. Both of these CEOs took time to answer my questions and provide valuable advice. Thank you!
We also had other incredible speakers and business moguls to connect with, yet it was the other people I had the privilege to meet that made the biggest impression on my time there.
If you were at the conference, there was no mistaking Bobby Henline. Bobby was in the 82nd Airborne and on his fourth tour when the humvee he was riding in ran over an IED. He was the only survivor and suffered burns to over 40% of his body. It’s not the scars or burns that define Bobby; it’s his larger than life character and humor that made him stand out.
At one point in one of our conversations, I told him how badly I got burned on a business deal, at which he quickly replied with “no pun intended.” Bobby’s courage and story is amazing, but his outlook on life is truly inspirational.
Jamie Burton is cofounder of Bravo 748, a group of inspirational military speakers and entertainers. She shared her story on why she started Bravo 748 and it had me in tears. Jamie is down to earth and as authentic as you can get. It was a true pleasure to talk shop with her.
Daryn Labier is an Army Scout Veteran who has given up an assault rifle for a camera. He’s an extremely talented photographer and videographer, but more importantly he’s got great character. Watching this guy dance and rap on the party bus was priceless.
I’ve met some some Special Forces dudes in my lifetime, but Erik Casarez isn’t your typical Green Beret soldier! This guy was humble and genuine, but also has a great story. He and his wife own Green Ledger CPA.
I can’t tell you how many laughs I shared with Nicole Bowe-Rahming. She’s The Fortitude Coach and provides personal development and business coaching, but she’s truly hilarious. After few minutes talking with her, it felt like family.
Obviously we have to mention the man and the visionary behind The Military Influencer Conference. Curtez Riggs impressed me with his leadership style, humbleness, passion, and drive to make the conference not about him. He took an idea and made it come to life. I’m grateful for this Army Veteran.
Andy and Keely Nelson
My new favorite couple. Andy Nelson is our trademark attorney and legal advisor, but he’s also an awesome friend. His wife Keely attended and my wife and I were thankful. Both are passionate people doing great work.
There are many other great people as well.
It’s difficult to call out a few names when there were SO MANY awesome people I connected with. Anthony Espinal, Rebecca Alwine, Moni Jefferson, John Krotec, Alana Wilson, Megan Brown, Eric Hadley, Dan Dywer, and Joseph Gibbons were incredible people to meet and hang out with.
What about the rest of the Military Influencers Conference?
I wish I could write about all the sessions, but I was only able to attend five. All were excellent though the Shark Tank Survivor panel and NATGEO discussion about The Long Road Home were my favorites. I heard great reviews about all the speakers, but where I found the greatest value was just being with people of like mind and spirit.
Hooah to the military spouses!
One aspect that stood out to me was the number of military spouses at the conference. I was thrilled to see so many attend this event. They’re the unsung heroes of the military community and it was awesome to have about a 50/50 split between veterans and military spouses.
Great places for social events.
The social events at Honor Courage and Commitment and Texas Ale Project were fantastic. Be sure to try Fire Ant Funeral beer, by the way. Not only was it delicious, it was fitting given my experience in Operation Charlie Foxtrot at Fort Benning in 1996. This was when I was bitten hundreds of times on the hand by fire ants while setting an ambush.
The Military Influencer Conference wasn’t perfect.
As with any event, there were a couple FUBARs and problems. However the instances something went wrong were rare compared to other events I’ve attended.
Would I go again and was it worth the investment?
We invested a good amount of money and time to participate and I have zero regrets. It was worth every single penny. I’ve already purchased two VIP tickets and the hotel for Military Influencer Conference 2018 in Orlando, Florida.
If you’re in the military community (veteran, service member, spouse) it would behoove you to be at this conference next year. If you’re launching a business or building a brand, you need to be there.
As I wrap up my AAR you can see that it wasn’t about the frills but about the people. This is what made the difference and helped this event be epic. Camaraderie and community is critical for your success. You will find it here.
The Military Influencer Conference is the one conference for our community you don’t want to miss. Ever. Go to their website now and get the news for what’s happening in 2018.