Tropical Think Tank 2016 – New friends, amazing clarity and a bloody good time


How to describe the Tropical Think Tank conference that Anthony and I have just returned from? The best I’ve come up with is that it’s like being in the Big Brother house. You form intense relationships very quickly with the other people there … and unless you’ve been there, you just can’t understand what it’s like. (I know! Sorry!)

Chris Ducker has created something truly unique with this masterminding conference of his. There are 50 attendees and nine speakers (nice ratio right?). We all stay at the resort in the Philippines where the conference is held, live in each other’s pockets for five days and the cover price takes care of everything:

  • A welcome party.
  • Three days of conferencing and masterminding where the morning session consists of three keynotes + a panel discussion and the afternoon session consists of round table masterminding with one speaker and five other attendees for two hours.
  • Free time every afternoon (at which point the resort pool becomes a highly effective networking venue).
  • Four days’ worth of breakfast, lunch and dinner (amazing buffets for days!).
  • One day worth of free time + a sunset boat trip + the amazing White Party to finish off.


What makes this conference so amazing? Well access to the speakers is one thing; they don’t speak and then you never see them again. They’re there for the mastermind sessions and also at the lunches and dinners – and they’re there to engage. (This year an absolute highlight for me was being able to meet and chat with Brian Clark of Copyblogger (now Digital Commerce Institute – something I recommend signing up for if you want to create digital products and services to sell). I think Brian was pretty much the first person I ever followed online so it was hard to keep a lid on the fangirling (and let’s be honest, I didn’t. But hey, I tried.).)

But … more amazing than the speakers are your fellow attendees. Do you own a business? Do you know many people with whom you can talk shop and geek out with about being a business owner? Are you in a position to call on smarter minds than yours when needed? After this conference you will have all that and more.

Tropical Think Tank puts you in the same room as 50 other people who Just. Get. It. Not only that, despite running business from Tarot to Plastic Recycling to Author Coaching to Memory Mastery  – they all have one thing in common: they are ridiculously smart. As amazing as the speakers were this year, most of Ant and my biggest aha moments came from our fellow attendees.

  • Jess showed how her customer onboarding process makes project delivery smoother.
  • Ari pointed out what should have been some really obvious things to us about our brand positioning and sales process.
  • Stella gave me a huge lightbulb moment about to how to best deliver a service people have been asking me for for a while.

Not just that – we cemented the amazing friendships we made last year while making new ones for life. Since it would be impossible to share every single thing we’ve brought with us back from TTT, I’m just going to share my key takeaways from each speaker’s presentation instead. So here we go:


Peter Shankman

I first of all have to give a huge shout out to Peter. I’d heard of him before TTT, but didn’t really know anything about him. If you’ve heard of the website ‘Help a Reporter Out’ (HARO) – Peter founded that. (He’s since sold it). Peter’s thing is customer service – but he’s also one of the most insanely generous and kind people I’ve ever met. (Also, if you have ADD or ADHD he’s recently launched a website just for you called Faster Than Normal: Unlocking the Gifts of the ADD and ADHD brain. Check it out.)

What did I learn from Peter? The four basic rules of the customer economy:

  1. Transparency: You’re going to screw up at some stage. Being transparent allows you to turn haters into lovers. And there is no greater lover than a former hater!
  2. Relevance: Deliver information to your customers where they want it (whether that be email, social media, community forums). Not sure where they want it? Ask them!
  3. Brevity: You have someone’s attention for 2.7 seconds before they move on. Learn to communicate in a way that allows you to grab people’s attention in that short space of time by becoming a better writer, speaker and creator of visuals.
  4. Be front of mind: Stop chasing likes and start doing likeable things. That’s the easiest way to stay front of mind.

Sue B. Zimmerman

If you’re speaking to me some time in the next few months, you’re going to hear me say “xx is my jam”. As in: “productivity is my jam”. If it annoys you, hunt down Sue – she started it.

What’s Sue’s jam? Instagram (closely followed by Snapchat I suspect).

The main things I took away from Sue’s presentation is that social media is not for selling (a mistake I see a lot of small businesses making still). Social media is for engaging with people, relationship building … and driving people back to your website in order to build your list.

When it comes to Instagram, Sue reminded us of the same thing Peter did – we have less than three seconds to get people’s attention. So if you’re being active on Instagram make sure your visuals are FABULOUS. (I’ve since deleted about 30 pretty average images from my Insta account! And have also updated my profile to make it much clearer about what I do. Not following me yet? Here I am! And here’s Sue.)

Brian Clark

Y’all already know who Brian Clark is from above so I’ll cut straight to what I took away from his session.

  • Social media will never replace email lists when it comes to marketing (so get busy building those email lists people).
  • Start with a minimum viable audience rather than a minimum viable product.
  • Find out what that audience is hungry for – and then make it and sell it to them.
  • The best way to create a strong personal brand is to set out to create something bigger than yourself.


Jordan Harbinger

Jordan was at TTT to talk about relationship building.

The first thing he reminded us was if people don’t buy into YOU, you will never get their business. He pointed out that we need to be networking in an organic and ongoing fashion (as networking only when you need new business is too late). The best way to network? Simply be generous. Generosity is the backbone of all great relationships.

He also mentioned that being great at giving help but reticent to ask for it is not the way to go about things. Giving people the opportunity to help you in the same way you’ve helped them leads to stronger, mutually beneficial relationships that last.

Nathan Chan

Gotta love a great Aussie business story! Nathan built his Foundr brand while working a full-time job and has gotten where he is today through some ridiculously insane hustling. His fledgling magazine has managed to interview people like Richard Branson and Seth Godin – people who are notoriously hard to get access to!

I loved a lot of what Nathan said in his talk but I mostly loved the huge value he put on design; he highlighted how important great design is when it comes to building trust – something we’re always trying to communicate to our clients.

Nathan also loves a great quote (as do I) so here are some of my faves from his presentation:

  • Making promises and keeping them is a great way to build a brand.
  • You earn a reputation by doing hard things well.
  • Design isn’t just about how something looks, it’s about how it makes you feel.
  • If you don’t have great design, people will not trust it.

Five things that will help your business build trust:

  1. Great design
  2. Great product/service
  3. Constantly delivering value
  4. Case studies
  5. Testimonials

Want to find out more about Nathan’s story? Check out his podcast interview with the Merrymakers here.

Matthew Kimberley

Ah Matthew – our favourite speaker from last year was back to again to talk selling to us. Now I’ve never been a fan of selling. I’ve always favoured a softer approach. But the fact is, you can’t run a profitable business without selling and I’ve learned a lot from Matthew in the past year (by being a subscriber to his list and studying how he writes his sales letters, masterminding with him and listening to him speak).

Matthew covered off 16 points of Professional Persuasion in his talk but it’s not appropriate to go through them here. I suggest jumping on his list because I know he’s currently building a product around those 16 points.

So – what were the main things I took away from Matthew’s talk?

  1. Selling is not evil when you’re selling something of value that will make a person’s life better/easier.
  2. Don’t be afraid to ask for the sale. If you’ve provided value to someone by way of free content on your blog, or free consulting over the phone … don’t be afraid to ask them to purchase your next level ‘thing’. No one ever got annoyed at someone for trying to sell them something (they only get annoyed when you keep harassing them once they’ve said ‘no thanks’ 🙂
  3. Don’t jump from giving people things for free to offering them a high-cost, premium product. Give people the chance to say ‘Yes’ to little things before asking them to say ‘Yes’ to something big.


Lou Mongello

Do you know what Lou does for a living? He’s a Disney expert! He was one of I think three ex-lawyers gracing the stage at TTT and yes, he abandoned lawyering to indulge his passion for all things Disney. Incredible and cool story. Anyway, Lou’s presentation was about the power of in-person type meetups which is something I’ve been wanting to do more of for our clients (things like seminars, speaking, workshops, masterminds etc). I didn’t take too many notes during Lou’s presentation as I just enjoyed sitting back and listening to him speak – but he’s definitely inspired me to do more stuff offline this year.

Jadah Sellner

I saw Jadah speak at Problogger last year and was just blown away. She has incredible presence, passion and heart – and it really jumps off the stage at you. At TTT Jadah was speaking about using a challenge (like a 30 day challenge) to build your tribe and again, this is something I’m keen to do this year. I’ve done little challenges in the past and they’ve gone ok, but after Jadah’s presentation I can see the key to challenges that really ‘stick’ is to ensure that, whether the challenge goes for five, 10 or 30 days, that you can effect a genuine change for the people taking part in that time. Which means if you’re thinking of running a challenge to build your tribe, the best place to start is with this question:

What simple, easy, life-changing result can I effect for people?

And then, if the tribe you built has achieved some level of transformation during that short challenge, make sure you have something next level to offer them after that.

Hal Elrod

Hal was the closing speaker for TTT and if you’ve not already heard his inspiring story, I recommend listening to the podcast interview he did with my TTT15 buddy Mark Costes … and of course, reading his book The Miracle Morning. I wasn’t sure what to expect from Hal’s presentation as I figured it would be pretty much going over stuff in his book (which I’ve read and got a lot from even though I already did/subscribed to much of the stuff he talks about in there). And there was a bit of that. But Chris also asked him to talk about making the next step from simply writing a book to creating a movement (something he’s certainly managed with Miracle Morning given there are Miracle Morning groups to be found all over Facebook). This was super-interesting to me and certainly got the cogs moving. I’ve written two books now so what’s next? What kind of movement do I want to create? Lots to think about!


To wrap up

I can’t write a post about Tropical Think Tank without taking a moment to talk about Chris Ducker, his amazing wife Erz and the incredible Sian – the three key people who put together this event and made it an experience, not just a conference. If like attracts like, then I know all three must have been very proud to take note of the type of people (heart-centred, smart, driven, kind) that attended this event … and taken great satisfaction from the huge outpouring of love and camaraderie that was the hallmark of the final night White Party.

And I certainly can’t finish this post without mentioning our amazing fellow attendees. I’m not going to mention anyone by name as I’m too scared to miss someone. Suffice to say – they were just the most incredible bunch of minds and hearts and I can’t wait to see what the next year holds for them all.

And that’s why Ant and I will 100% be back next year. It’s a huge investment for us, but has been worth every penny and more for the incredible relationships we’ve made. If you’re an entrepreneurial type looking to go to the next level and find yourself a kick-arse tribe along the way … my advice is to find the money and get yourself up there next year too (if you can get a spot!). You absolutely won’t regret it.

21 thoughts on “Tropical Think Tank 2016 – New friends, amazing clarity and a bloody good time”

  1. What a fantastic wrap up of an incredible event Kelly, this brought it all back and I loved the gems you’ve got from the speakers. So pleased I got to know you and bit and looking forward to getting to know you better in the coming year. May I add that seeing inside my head to write your book is some kind of magic act – thanks for the gift.

    1. Holly – you would be in your element. The price gives everyone pause (all up it ends up costing Ant and I around $5000 AUD each including flights) … but both years we’ve just gone ‘so worth it’. SO worth it!

  2. TTT14 was the best event I ever went to, nothing else compares.

    Watching all the photos of the past 2 events pop up has made me determined to get back there next year!

    Thanks for all the great take aways I’ll be sure to start following some of those great speakers.

    1. I said to Chris and Erz on the last night that I just couldn’t deal with the FOMO if we didn’t come next year. So we’re going to make it happen no matter what!

  3. Well done, Kelly! I love reliving the awesomeness of that event and your words took me right back there! Thank you for being such an awesome co-attendee, and friend. I hope we will be back next year, too! Cheers to a great year for us all!

  4. Really a pleasure to meet, talk, and have fun with you. My wife loves your book!! Looking forward to next year.

  5. This just makes me even more determined to go next year! I had FOMO this year just seeing the lineup and then the photos started coming through and it was a major envy moment. It just looks amazing.

    1. Kelly Exeter

      Krystal – I can guarantee you that if you go, you will not regret it. It’s a lot of money, but it’s the best money you’ll ever spend on yourself and your business

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