Your first live event can be overwhelming, especially if it's the biggest live event in the digital industry. But early YouTuber and digital pioneer Michelle Phan has some essential advice for getting the most out of it - by cherishing the human connection.
The247: As an OG Creator, how do you feel about big conventions like VidCon today?
Michelle: I remember the first VidCon I attended was literally the first one. It was held in a hotel lobby in LA, 5,000 attendees. It was me, Ryan Higa, Kevin Jumba, David Choi. Basically all the Asians!
It's just incredible seeing how it's grown and expanded to what it is today. The creator economy is essentially an established industry.
For new creators navigating VidCon for the first time, I highly recommend meeting up with people who are also creators like yourself, because it's nice to have a community that you're a part of, and you can share your experience with each other and connect.
The247: Creators often have collaborators, but fave mentorship. How do you help take other Creators to the next level?
Michelle: Really just keep your heart open. I know it's so overwhelming, because it's one thing to experience an audience through the phone. It's another to receive them in real life. Energy is really important, so I really recommend getting rest.
One thing I wish I had learned early on was don’t rush. I just recommend taking your time. Also every person you encounter will be different. For some people, they may just want a picture with you and for others you may feel like talking for a while. But you’ll be surprised how much of an impact you could have on someone’s life because they feel like they know you. When you have that human to human connection, it's such a wonderful gift that you can give to each other. Receive all that love and give it back to them, because I'm sure they're going to take it with them for a very long time and keep supporting you.
Creators often have collaborators, but few have mentorship. How do you help take other Creators to the next level?
Michelle: A lot of the creators that I helped mentor along the way were people who they had, the skill, they had, the purpose. I mentor them, but it's still work that they have to put into it.
So essentially, you could see me as a coach, but if you're not willing to put in that work, then you're not going to get the pay off.
So many people don't even realize they're talented. They need to be reminded, “look, if I was able to create an empire from one makeup tutorial and film it in my bedroom, then imagine what you can do.”
They still have to be motivated to get up, film, edit and make content. No one's telling them how to do it.
The247: Looking back, do you ever wish there was one thing that somebody had said to you along your journey?
Michelle: I wish I knew not to have so much self judgment on myself, especially when I get a lot of negative comments. A lot of creators are so kind, they're artists. They're very sensitive, and when you become a public figure and you put yourself out there to everyone… you're a mirror to how others feel about themselves. And I wish I knew that because I beat myself up a lot over the gossip and posts. I still receive a lot of mean comments, but they don't affect me. You scroll through them like, “oh, I hope they feel better.”
The247: And now you’re providing resources for others at scale with Thematic?
Michelle: Yes! I was inspired to create Thematic to help provide solutions to the creator space. I think the biggest problem that a lot of creators face when they're creating content, especially branded content, is copyright music.
I’m proud we have female founders. I really believe when you're a company that's more purpose-led and not profit-led, people feel that. Thematic is something I wish I had when I started off on YouTube. And I thought to myself, wait, this is actually very useful for all creators. How do we productize this? How do we expand on this? And how do we continue evolving this? And yeah, I’m just looking forward to helping more creators along the way.
The247: For those starting out now, what do you hope Creators still feel from YouTube’s early days? Do you have any nostalgia?
Michelle: I miss the mystery of it. It was a secret, and people were just having fun. And now, like your indie rock band – or a startup when they only had 10 people – it's not the same when they become mainstream. It's never the same. So I think what I miss most is how small the industry was, how everyone knew each other. It felt like a family.
What’s good now is that it's more artisanal, it's more meaningful, and we’re only going to continue seeing it evolve. I like looking ahead and getting excited about new technologies and innovation, better tools created for storytellers to tell our stories better. It's how we connect with people. It's how we open people's hearts, and it's only going to get better.