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2 weeks ago I went to San Francisco for a 2-day conference hosted by Udemy. I didn’t know what to expect. I had no idea what the atmosphere would be like. But I prepared beforehand and the experience was more fulfilling than I could imagine.

Here are 10 lessons that I learned.

Connections matter most when they’re in person

I’ve been on Udemy for over 18 months. You would imagine the amount of connections that you would create during that timespan. I’m not really an introvert, so I got to know quite a lot of people. What’s more, I even set out to introduce myself to more people that I knew were coming to the conference.

I thought I would go there and know everyone. Well, it turns out it doesn’t really work that way.

I was pleasantly surprised that 150+ people turned up for the conference. A lot of them I did not know, but learned about them along the way.

However much you think you know someone after having a few Skype calls with them, it’s only when you meet them face to face that you can establish proper rapport. And that was the best part about Udemy Live. It felt like friends meeting friends. It felt like a social gathering. It felt like a community.

A photo with myself and other instructors getting ready for breakfast.

A few of my closest friends that are on Udemy, getting ready for brunch right before the event got started.

Adding a physical presence to what I already knew about other instructors went a long way to cementing our relationships. It’s no wonder that people started speaking about the next Udemy Live even before this one was finished – we all had too much in common and too little time to explore every connection.

The platform is in good hands

The conference was extremely well prepared. Meeting instructors was one thing, but getting to know the Udemy staff was something completely different.

You would expect the people that work for such a successful enterprise to be competent, but it wouldn’t be a given that they’re also extremely sociable, enthusiastic, energetic and candid.

That’s what I refer to when I say the platform is in great hands. From their CEO – Dennis Yang – and all the way down to their interns, there was something about their demeanour and their passion that struck me. They were all genuinely devoted to their mission – to bring high quality education to the entire world. And they weren’t setting their goals too low either – they have an expressed target to reach 100 million online students as soon as possible (they’re currently just under 12 million).

Udemy’s recent changes are all about student satisfaction

I’ll be the first one to admit – I was bummed by the price change. Initially I was excited and trusted Udemy. Then I saw my sales go down and down. They haven’t really recovered since. I went to Udemy Live thinking that an explanation was in order – not necessarily justifying the dip in revenues, but understanding the overall vision that the company had.

I came away feeling much better. The main takeaways were that although revenues have gone down, student engagement is skyrocketing. This is because students are only enrolling in the courses that they want to take without being pressured to do so. Average minutes consumed are up and so are the satisfaction ratings.

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A breakdown of what the people that were in the room for the conference had achieved on Udemy up to that point.

Most of all, by speaking to Udemy’s Executives, you could tell that they’re really focused on student experience. Nothing trumps this. And even though we, as instructors, are the main force driving their content, we have to focus on providing an even better experience for our students.

Lindsey Bonner is a real person

If you’ve been on Udemy, you’ve probably heard about Lindsey Bonner. She’s our saint – the person who relentlessly handles all the communication aspects between Udemy and Instructors via their Facebook Groups. What we all admire about Lindsey is her extreme patience – you can imagine what happens when you concoct a Facebook group of nearly 40,000 people formed of students, experienced instructors, rookies and disgruntled marketers.

To put it midly, things won’t always go everyone’s way. And that’s where Lindsey steps in to calm everyone down and maintain peace and harmony within the groups.

It was awesome to meet her in person (and even interview her!). She’s all that we expected and she played an integral part in facilitating the running of the conference. So big shout out to her!

…And so is the Udemy team 

We’re all about team here, right? Well, the Udemy Team was equally fantastic. They made us feel like we were VIPs – always excited to meet someone that they’d only seen in online videos. That’s one thing that actually surprised me – the fact that, yes, they do actually watch our content and, yes, they are genuinely excited to meet each instructor in person.

Their genuine excitement was felt throughout the weekend – from the cocktail reception on Friday, all the way to the tearful farewells on the Sunday (they weren’t actually tearful, but I like to dramatise). Apart from making us feel like the most important people in the room, they did a great job in organising the conference content wise:

  • We found out exactly who did what in the company
  • We had a lot of informative sessions including how to market your course, how to do PR outside of Udemy, how to handle video production etc
  • They made sure everything was on time (an underrated skill, but usually most of these conferences overrun their session times)

We’re not competitors

You would think there would be a bit of a competitive spirit when 150 people with similar products on the same marketplace got together in one spot?

Well, that actually didn’t happen. I was pleasantly surprised at how friendly everyone was. We all share the same journey and the same passion. We all want to get better and get our courses in front of as many people as possible. However, we all also understand that it’s a collaborative effort – with every quality course that gets out there Udemy becomes better. And if Udemy is better, then it can get more traffic. That can only benefit all of us.

As a matter of fact, Instructors’ main motivation wasn’t to gain a competitive edge. They were present at #UdemyLive mostly to meet others and to explore partnerships. The 2 day event was intense, but it generated some interesting possibilities for collaborations in the near future.

Focus on extremely good quality

One message that was sent across by the Udemy team was simple: quality courses will come out on top. Whether you’re trying to gain an edge via SEO, pricing or conversion, ultimately your course quality will determine its standing on the platform. 

Actually, all the recent changes that the platform has made have all been aimed in this direction. That’s including the price change which has improved several metrics in that regard.

One other thing that was made aparent was the messaging within your course. It was revealed that many students are dissatisfied not necessarily because your course quality is bad, but because you might not do an excellent job in narrowing down your target audience. If people take a course that they think would help them only to discover that it’s aimed at someone else, then you’re in trouble.

Build a tribe

Speaking about targeting, the star of the show was by far Seth Godin. He had a 90 minute keynote address on the Sunday of the event. And he was spectacular.

He had many great points that stuck with me. However, the most important one was the idea to build a tribe. Build products that create raving fans that want to consume more and more of your content. Focus solely on that and do it with heart. It’s the best long-term recipe for success you could have.

Seth Godin on stage at Udemy Live for his Keynote speech.

Seth Godin on stage at Udemy Live for his Keynote speech.

It made a lot of us realise that sometimes we might be pursuing short-term gains through our courses, rather than building the best possible course and keeping it updated at all times.

My “AHA” Moment

Seth managed to trigger an idea that I had for some time.

He made me realise that I need a long-term content strategy that excites me. And that’s when I knew what I had to pursue next – launching my own Podcast.

During the weekend, I interviewed several top instructors on behalf of Udemy. I thoroughly enjoyed talking to them and learning the key messages they had. What’s more, I realised the power of interviewing people – it places you in a position of authority. It enables you to connect to significantly more people. And most importantly, it opens them up to the point where the dialogue contains rich content that you can go out and implement straight away.

Therefore, the plan is set: I will be launching my own Podcast in August. I’m really looking forward to making the announcement closer to the date and to bring you all a bunch of exciting episodes.

Thank you Udemy for all your hard work in putting this together and giving us the opportunity to connect. It was a truly life changing weekend and we’re all looking forward to the next one!