Is CMA Live worth all the hype? CMA Live 2017 reviewed

Anne JohnstonBehind the lens2 Comments

Marcus Sheridan CMA Live 2017

CMA Live is the UK’s leading content marketing event run by the Content Marketing Academy. Held in Edinburgh it’s a 2-day event attracting world-wide speakers at the top of their game. But is it worth all the hype? Read on for my review of my first CMA Live experience.

My journey to CMA Live 2017


I’d only just heard of the concept of content marketing and the Content Marketing Academy in early 2016. I was learning about content marketing but wasn’t sure if I was ready to invest in what was then called TCMA 2016. So I made the decision not to go and followed as much as I could on social media. Big mistake! I just knew I had to be in that room in 2017 and got my hands on early bird tickets as soon as they went on sale.

With the event being a year away I knew then that I didn’t want to wait all that time to make changes in my business and so also became a member of the CMA. Partly also because I was aware of the amazing things the members were doing in their businesses and I wanted a piece of that action.

Safe to say by the time CMA Live 2017 came around, complete with a rebrand and a new name, I was ridiculously excited for it. I even took to Facebook live to share my excitement because I didn’t want other people sitting on the fence like I was a year ago having the same fear of missing out.

Watch me share my excitement on Facebook live

Check out all my photos from CMA Live 2017 here!


A venue like no other


Chris Marr cares a lot about putting on an experience. This is no normal business conference and a boring hotel room will not do. CMA Live 2017 was held at The Hub in Edinburgh, a beautiful building with high ceilings built in the 1840s.

When I went in there was bacon rolls for breakfast and 3 baristas serving up coffee from Brew Lab. I’m not a coffee fan (sorry, guys) but other guests loved it and I was happy with tea and then energy drinks on the Friday haha!

I picked up my CMA Live t-shirt that I’d pre-ordered from the Gillies and Mackay shed that was built on site and got chatting to the other guests.


A big family reunion

There’s an old saying that friends are the family you make for yourself, you know, the family of all your favourite people, and being at CMA Live felt really special. There were so many CMAers that I’d got to know over the last year and met for the very first time at CMA Live and there were hugs all round. There were a few people that weren’t CMA members that I’d connected with on social media and there were also heaps of people that I didn’t recognise but got to know over the few days in Edinburgh.

What brings us all together is that we all want to do bigger and better things with our customers at the hearts of our businesses and I know a lot of friendships started right in that room.


Amazing speakers with something for everyone


When you go to events you hope that the money you invest will be worth it. You hope that there will be some actionable content for you to takeaway that you can bring home and put into your business and CMA Live 2017 did not disappoint.

Over 2 days we had 4 Keynote Speakers, 6 Main Conference Speakers, 6 Lightning Talks from CMA members as well as a surprise Lightning Talk that was kept under wraps until she took to the stage on the Friday afternoon.

My friend and fellow CMA member John Espirian has written a really in-depth review of all of the speakers which you can read here.

Here’s a wee roundup of my takeaways from all the speakers.


Day 1 – Thursday, 8th June 2017

Chris Ducker

Chris spoke about the power of using video and that by 2020 90% of all content consumed online will be video. That staggering statistic made me sit up and pay attention.

Another message that really resonated with me is the about the need to become someone’s favourite and reinforced my thoughts on becoming an expert in my field so that I’m the first person they come to when they have a photography question.

He gave us the exact formula he uses to launch products and services live and I’m sure this will come in handy over the next year.

Chris Ducker CMA Live 2017

Connect with Chris at


Col Gray and Ross Coverdale


Col and Chris are the geniuses behind the CMA rebrand and boy it felt good wearing an exclusive CMA Live t-shirt. They talked us through the story of the rebrand, the need to create something that really encompasses what CMA truly represents.

The result is much more fun and you could truly feel that vibe in the room.

Connect with Col at

Connect with Ross at


Roger Edwards


Roger has a side hustle as a body combat instructor and is also a marketer with a background in financial services. He spoke about the need to strip the bullshit out of our marketing and to speak in our customers’ language. Yip, let’s not complicate things. He shared with us an imaginary start-up company with a very clear message that got much more convoluted and difficult to remember as the company grew.

He taught us to remember to maintain the principles of a small startup no matter how big you get.
Roger Edwards CMA Live 2017
Connect with Roger at


Yva Yorston


Yva is a CMA member and bravely took to the stage to share her struggles of running her business and how important it is to have the right people around you to support you when things aren’t going to plan. Yes, there’s no such thing as a self-made entrepreneur and I too am so grateful for the support of the CMA squad.

Connect with Yva at


Stefan Thomas


One of the quotes from the 2 days that really stuck in my head came from Stefan.

“Every big opportunity starts with a small conversation”

How you approach networking is really up to you but personally I’m not in a room trying to sell myself to as many people as possible. I’m there to learn and to make friends. He said that by being genuinely interested in people you meet you never know where things will lead.

I kept that in mind as I bonded with my new found friends over food, drinks and a lot of dancing on the Friday night!

Stefan Thomas CMA Live 2017

Connect with Stefan at


Sharon Menzies


By going all-in on content marketing, Sharon and her team at Influx Recruitment have changed the way they do recruitment and are leading the way in the recruitment space.

Sharon shared her journey with content marketing and the massive difference content marketing and a new website from Martin Huntbach at Jammy Digital have made to her business. If you’re going to do content marketing and learn from the best you want to go all-in on it and Influx Recruitment are doing just that.

Sharon was given an award to recognise her achievements and it was so sweet to see her dedicate to her team.
Sharon Menzies Influx CMA Live 2017

Influx Recruitment Lauren CMA Live 2017
Connect with Sharon at


Doug Kessler


Doug spoke about the power of using swearing in our marketing. While I do drop the odd swear around my friends (I am human after all) it’s not been something I’ve done consciously with my marketing so far. It was really interesting to see how other brands make it work for them and I was amazed at the content he shared on the topic.

Swearing is processed in a different part of the brain to the rest of language so when we hear sweary words it really makes us pay attention. Like it or loathe it, it’s one sure way to make people sit up and listen.

Connect with Doug at


Cara MacKay


Cara is the Managing Director of the company that make the best sheds in the world, Gillies and Mackay. She also published a blog on LinkedIn, How to: fucking work from home that as well as bringing in a lot of sales brought out too many trolls on a so-called “professional” platform.

I remember being disgusted with the way she was treated on LinkedIn for dropping a few f-bombs. She wasn’t doing it to provoke a reaction. She was telling a story and speaking from the heart and she’s exactly like that in real life.

While drinking a glass of prosecco Cara taught us to be brave and how to handle the trolls in style. Don’t apologise for your content, don’t justify yourself and don’t be sorry.

Go Cara, you amazing beautiful woman!
Connect with Cara at


Erika Napoletano


I made the most pages of scribbles from Erika’s keynote.

She had a clear message about completely owning your voice, being human and being brave. People come to us because they suck at something and it’s up to us to be the asshole that gives it to our clients straight and act in their best interest because we’re the experts. We do that by acting like the human beings that we are and being vulnerable because people relate to feelings.

Erika asked us all to find our Big Universal Question. Instead of trying to sell sell sell to people we can pose things a different way by tapping into real feelings. If we can ask a question in the right way with the solution that solves a potential client’s problems, they’ll then know in an instant whether you’re right for them and we’ll know if they’re the right fit for us. It was awesome to see this in action as she did a live session with Ross Coverdale.
Erika Napoletano CMA Live 2017

Ross Coverdale CMA Live 2017
We also have to recalibrate how we feel about fear. She shared her social anxiety vulnerabilities, how she feels when she has to walk into a bar when she barely knows anyone and I completely got her. By facing up to our fears that’s exactly how we overcome them.

I’ve made big steps to overcome by fear of public speaking and I’ll definitely be pushing myself further going forward. I also know if I make a mistake I’ll be honest and owning it. Thank you, Erika!

Related content:

Feeling the fear and doing it anyway: how I overcame my fear of public speaking


Connect with Erika at


Day 2 – Friday, 9th June 2017

Mark Schaefer

I’ve read Mark’s book The Content Code so was excited to see him take to the stage. What a way to open up day 2!

He spoke about the main theme running through his new book, Known and the steps that you can take to become known in your industry. If you can niche right down and do something that no-one else is doing you’ve got a better chance of making it but you have to have the 30 month mindset. You have to be someone’s favourite and fight to stay that way.

He said that the saddest thing in business is that people give up too early and it resonated with me. You have to know when the right time is to pivot but it does take on average 30 months for a brand to tip so you have to really be prepared to stay in it for the long game.

Mark interviewed CMA members Pete Matthew and John Espirian for his book Known and he invited them the stage to share their experiences and how they’re becoming known in their fields.

Connect with Mark at


Andrew & Pete


I’d been following Andrew & Pete on social media since around the time they went to Social Media Marketing World in 2016. They are a bundle of fun and help their clients to create marketing that stands out.

We all want to attract the right clients but it doesn’t have to be done in a boring way. Yes, we should all be professional and friendly but using this in our marketing is not going to do us any favours. They shared a step-by-step process to creating brand values and content that people will really relate to and will help us stand out.

Chris Marr CMA Live 2017
Connect with Andrew & Pete at


Pamela Laird

Pam runs a hair salon, Fin & Co, in Carnoustie and has gone on a huge journey since joining the CMA. She shared her journey from having anyone in her salon to being really clear about which clients she wants in and how to produce the content to attract them. She shared the story of her favourite client and now wants all her staff to be producing content so that every day they get to work with their ideal clients, too. A true leader!
Connect with Pam at


Janet Murray


Janet made us question if PR could be the missing piece of our content strategy. We all put so much effort into our own blogs but if we could be featured in the press it could be a feature that keeps on giving with regular traffic to our websites, leads and sales.

She gave us a sample email pitch to help us get featured as well as ways of connecting with journalists that are actively out there looking for brands.

I made the most of media attention years ago when Jessie J shared one of the photos I’d taken of her at a gig on her social media accounts. That was before I launched my photography business full-time and I’ll certainly be keeping an eye out for new opportunities.
Connect with Janet at


Karen Reyburn

Karen talked to us about the power of finding a profitable and powerful niche.

There are things that we keep coming back to, that we do and understand the best, that we get the best results for and the more we dig deep and tap into that niche the bigger the opportunity there is to really stand out in that space.

I feel as though I haven’t found my niche yet. I do wedding photography because I love creating special memories for my couples. I teach photography for beginners because I don’t want people being scared of their cameras. I want to help people to learn how to capture their own amazing memories. I’m also passionate about landscape photography because we live in such a beautiful world which is ever changing and I want to see and share as much of Scotland as I can.

Maybe I haven’t figured it out yet or maybe I haven’t been brave enough to do one thing and one thing only but I will be thinking of this over the coming weeks and months.

Connect with Karen at


George B. Thomas

In his fast-paced session George shared with us an astonishing amount of tools that we can use on our websites to create a content marketing strategy without blowing our budget on tools.

This session was really relevant to me having recently launched my new WordPress self-hosted website and I like to geek-out and dig deep on stats. All the stats! Which pages are most popular, where the traffic is coming from and so much more.

I already use Google Analytics to dig into my website stats but it sounds like Slimstat Analytics could simplify it and best of all, I don’t even have to leave WordPress to view all the stats.
Connect with George at


Danielle Sheridan

Danielle is Marcus Sheridan’s daughter and was our secret lightning talk speaker. To hear her share her journey of leaving school to travel with her Dad and then start her own business and take on an employee before she turned 16 really got me right in the feels.

Danielle Sheridan CMA Live 2017

She has true grit and determination and I’m sure she will go far.


Marcus Sheridan

Before I knew it, it was time for our final keynote and speaker to close out CMA Live 2017.

Marcus has been such a huge inspiration to me from afar. Everything that we learn within the CMA comes back to Marcus’ principles and I had a real fan-girl moment when I met him and he signed my book.

To see the way he worked the room, I was in awe. Yes, he knows what he’s talking about but he does it in a way that really connects with his audience. If he asked a question and someone answered it he would get close to them and look them in the eye with his next thoughts. That’s very powerful indeed.
Marcus Sheridan CMA Live 2017
He told us to cling to the metrics that really matter in our businesses. To embrace the messy because we all have to start somewhere with our content. If we share a blog and there’s 10% negative comments, don’t focus on that 10% and allow it to ruin our day. Learn to let it go.

He taught us that we have to talk about the negatives of our products and services on our websites. We need to be clear on why people aren’t the right fit so we can attract the right people.
Marcus Sheridan CMA Live 2017
Connect with Marcus at


So did CMA Live 2017 live up to the hype?


Without a shadow of a doubt, joining the CMA and going to CMA Live 2017 have been the best business decisions I’ve ever made.

It was everything I wanted it to be and so much more. I know Chris and his team put so much effort into and care about putting on an event that is an experience that could have a huge impact on our businesses and they completely delivered.

I felt like there was something for everyone and the messages that have struck a chord with me that shone through are of positivity. It’s about being more human, not being scared to show your vulnerabilities and just to get out there and take action.

I wish I had more time to spend with everyone and it’s true what’s been said about connecting with people by getting to know about them… seems to work pretty well in the pub. I had lots of good banter with tons of people that I really want to keep in touch with and I’m sure big friendships started in that room.

In true CMA style it’s been awesome to watch people that were at CMA Live 2017 take action and start producing their first pieces of content. Here’s just a few that deserve a big fist pump already:

Phylip Morgan for his first Facebook Live video: Golden Nuggets explained #TakeTwo

Andy Campbell for his first blog: CMA Live 2017: my first ever blog

Cammys Magic for his first blog: Are magic tricks real?

Watch, read and support these people for taking their inspiration, running with it and being brave!

I can’t wait to see what everyone does over the next year. We’re all at different stages on our journeys, we all have to start somewhere so if you haven’t done it yet just be brave and get stuck in. Whatever your takeaways, take what you’ve learned and use it propel you to the next level.

I’m not going to lie, it left me emotionally and physically drained. I still found the energy to go to all the socials but by Saturday morning I was gubbed. It’s all good though, I’m ready to up my game and plan the next chapter. I came away needing a good rest but with a whole bunch of new friends, my very first award, a couple of new books and a bucketload of enthusiasm for the future.

If you’re reading this and you were in the room with me I want you to know that I’m so proud of every single one of you. What an amazing squad that have welcomed me into your community. Let’s smash the next year and get back together in a year’s time for a big family reunion!


Wanna be in that room next year?


Tickets for CMA Live 2018 are now on sale. Early bird tickets are available for the first 100 people and are selling like hotcakes.

Click here to buy your ticket now for CMA Live 2018

I’m not telling you this because I’m affiliated with the CMA. I’m telling you this because I completely believe you should be in that room with me and if you’ve read this far you’ll know it’s not your usual boring business conference. This is the event that could be an absolute game changer for you.

Check out all my photos from CMA Live 2017 here! Digital downloads are available to buy so you can use my photos on your blog, website and social media channels.

What are your highlights of CMA Live 2017? What’s your next steps in your content marketing journey? Jump into the comments below and let me know.

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