There are many goals that YouTubers set for themselves, however vain or seemingly insignificant; one hundred thousand subscribers, one million views, appearing in YouTube Rewind or having a book ghostwritten for you. For me, it was attending a YouTube event as a Featured Creator.
There are many reasons a person might want to attend an event like this — the parties, the free stuff, the opportunity to meet fellow creators. But for me, it was about recognition. To have the people who work for an event like Vidcon see my work online and determine that I deserve a space on their lineup and to express myself on panels is a massive accomplishment. If you’re interested in what it’s like to attend Vidcon as a Featured Creator, and if it’s really all it’s cracked up to be, then read on.
The first step to attending as a Featured Creator is being invited as a Featured Creator (duh). There are a number of things that the Vidcon team takes into consideration. Surprisingly, it isn’t just about numbers (although that can definitely help). A dedicated audience, a unique perspective and a consistent presence online will assist in the team recognizing your channel and deciding if you will be an asset to their panels, mentor programs and performances. This should go without saying, but it also helps if your YouTube career isn’t riddled with scandals.
The night before
Vidcon Australia hosts an Aussie experience for Featured Creators the evening before Vidcon begins. It’s a time for Featured Creators to meet and get a taste for the city. In the past, they’ve held a graffiti tour of Melbourne and meet & greets with native Australian animals.
This year, Featured Creators and their +1s were taken on a short bus tour of Melbourne on the way to Chin Chin. Chin Chin is a popular Melbourne restaurant serving modern Asian-fusion cuisine. Performers in morph suits covered with red sequins and giant lips for heads directed guests through graffitied back alleys towards Chin Chin. Yes, it was as wild as it sounds.
At Chin Chin, there were a number of truly Melbournian elements that immersed international guests in the culture, while still entertaining local creators. Max the Drag Queen, a prominent drag performer in Melbourne’s thriving community, danced and lip-synced to a few songs in the middle of the evening.
Upon arrival, you were given a small token which could be used in a customized vending machine. The machine held prizes such as tours around Melbourne or a helicopter ride around the city. You could also win vouchers for the iconic Croft Institute, where drinks are served in syringes and the venue is themed as a run-down laboratory. Of course, Chin Chin’s renowned menu also gave guests a delicious and literal taste of Melbourne.
Vidcon and its partners are known for throwing some pretty killer parties. The drinks are free (sometimes with a cut-off time), the music is blasting and there’s always some sort of gimmick. This year’s Australian Vidcon was a bit calmer than previous years. A few regulars commented they were pleased to be heading into Sunday’s activities without a hangover for once.
On Saturday night, both Instagram and Cameo held ‘Happy Hour.’ Cocktails, wine, beer and cider were poured generously in the Instagram lounge. Outside, a selection of wine was available at Cameo’s booth. Two Featured Creators, Alex Hayes and Eva Gutowski, have experience DJing and took control of the evening’s soundtrack in the Instagram Lounge.
Speaking on panels tends to divide creators. Some absolutely live for speaking their mind on stage. Others can’t imagine anything worse than talking to a large crowd. Regardless of where you stand, it’s a great way to share your opinion and learn from other creators. If you’re nervous about speaking up, just remember that you were selected for a reason. Your input is both valued and valid.
If you are chosen to moderate a panel, you’ll be in charge of ensuring the conversation flows smoothly. Prepare more questions than you think you will need, and don’t shy away from forming more questions as the panel plays out. It is also incredibly important not to make the conversation about yourself. You will likely have views to express on the topics discussed. However, the moderator’s role is to make room for panelists to share their opinions. If you notice a panelist not talking as much, address a question to them directly so their viewpoint is wholly represented.
Featured Creators at Vidcon have a unique opportunity. You get to be in the same room as other people killing it on YouTube, Instagram, Facebook and TikTok. There’s the chance to meet new people, make friends with the people you click with, and perhaps even find somebody you want to work with in the future.
The key to engaging with people at Vidcon is, in the words of Kim Kardashian, don’t be f*cking rude. Discussing subscriber counts or the number of Instagram followers you have can come across as incredibly boastful. Plus, asking somebody’s subscriber count early in a conversation gives the impression that you’re only considering talking to them if they have clout. Which is a pretty superficial and gross way to start a conversation.
Do your best to remain calm and professional when meeting creators that you’re a fan of. Backstage is where creators try to relax and switch off between meeting fans and attending programming. Let them know that you appreciate their work, but also feel free to have a short conversation about the event and their Vidcon experience before letting them have their space.
Vidcon has some rules around impromptu meet-ups, so always work within their guidelines for the safety of all attendees. Official Meet and Greets are organized through Vidcon. Fans will also often come for a quick chat and selfie after panels. I won’t tell you how to engage with your fans. If you’re going to be rude then that’s on you (and your reputation). Just know that they are often very nervous and very excited. Be kind, above all else.
Press meeting as a Featured Creator
Many Featured Creators at Vidcon have the opportunity to do interviews with various publications and brands in attendance. These will typically be organized well before the event. Good interviewers will send a rough rundown of questions and interview format ahead of time. If you’re being asked questions that you don’t feel comfortable answering, simply say you don’t want to respond. They are usually pretty happy to write-off the question. If you say something in a press interview there are no promises it won’t get published — even if you ask nicely after the fact.
There is a live show every evening of Vidcon, and it’s often a big spectacle that fans are really excited about. If you are fortunate enough to have secured a spot on the main stage for a performance, do your best by your subscribers and put on a great show. You don’t need to be a singer or dancer to entertain the crowd; just ensure that it’s more than a live Q&A or some quick party games. A poorly planned main stage performance can make the audience feel that you don’t care about your fans’ experience, even if it is fun for yourself and other creators on stage.
In the Instagram lounge
A highlight of Vidcon is definitely the Instagram Lounge. This is where creators chill out between panels, meet and greets, performances and creator chats. Instagram has breakfast, lunch and a light dinner covered. Plus, there’s a coffee cart complete with a barista ready for all your caffeine needs. DIY waffles and donuts were ready both afternoons, with the baked goods in signature Instagram colors. It should go without saying that all the food was very Instagrammable, and every corner of the room was ready for a photo shoot.
The Instagram lounge is also where the majority of networking happens. Representatives from various companies chat with creators, interviews take place wherever there’s a quiet corner, and creators catch up with each other — some with a more obtuse business agenda in mind than others.
In addition to food and networking, the Instagram lounge this year allowed you to make your own GIFs, play Mario Kart and Super Smash Bros. Ultimate on the Nintendo Switch, and dance your heart out in Dance Dance Revolution.
Hotel accommodations for Featured Creators
All Featured Creators are given accommodation at a hotel near the venue. I won’t specify which one for the privacy of future Vidcon Featured Creators, should Vidcon use the same hotel next year. Having accommodation near the venue helps with accessing Vidcon quickly. That meant creators with programming earlier in the day could get there on time. It also allows for added security, which is necessary for some of the bigger creators in attendance. The hotel is seen as a bit of a ‘thank you’ from Vidcon, too, as (from my understanding) Featured Creators are not paid for their time at the event. Being put up in a nice hotel is a bit of a luxury in addition to being a necessary convenience.
The Vidcon staff
Everybody behind the scenes of this event has put their heart and soul into it. From the founders, to the organizers, to the barista making your coffee. They are all doing their absolute best and, from my experience, with the best of intentions to provide an incredible event for fans while ensuring Featured Creators also have an awesome experience. It never hurts to say good morning as you pass them in the morning, have a quick chat with the girls handing out free swag in the Instagram Lounge, or talk to the people walking you to your panel about their Vidcon experience so far.
Vidcon will always be what you make of it, whether you’re a Featured Creator or a Community Track pass holder. Talk to more people, attend any and all events you find interesting, and take up every opportunity that you can. If your goal is to get on that coveted Featured Creator list, keep making content that you’re passionate about and work on growing a dedicated community. The weekend is definitely work, but it’s some of the most fun and rewarding work you’ll ever do.