*This blog was written about the 2016 Smart Conference in Atlanta, GA. I cannot guarantee that your event will be exactly the same as this one.
The Smart Conference is the biggest event that Ramsey Solutions puts on. It's packed with live music, Ken Coleman as the host, and 8 world class speakers. My husband, Daniel, and I recently attend the conference in Atlanta, GA and I wanted to share with y'all our experience.
First of all, you have to buy your tickets online. I would recommend purchasing your tickets as soon as possible because these events do often times sell out. Find an event near you here!
Tickets for this event were priced at:
$59 General Admission (floor seating)
$109 Couples (floor seating) <---This is the option we picked!
$129 Premier Seating (reserved seating)
$229 Backstage Experience (upfront seating, complimentary lunch, Q&A session with the speakers, and a free book)
Then you'll want to reserve your hotel. Make sure to check your event's web page for a bargain rate on a hotel. The affiliate hotel for the Atlanta Conference was a Courtyard Marriott which only cost us about $140 after taxes and fees, for two nights because we reserved our room through Dave’s website.
The hotel had been newly updated and was gorgeous. I researched the hotel to compare the rates, and this hotel was normally $170 per night! Not only was this hotel a convenient price, it was also conveniently located at about 4 miles from the event location.
Beginning of Event
8:00 a.m. The doors opened at the church location. As we were coming in Anthony Oneal was outside greeting everyone, and even pulled the guy standing in front of us out of line to ask him about his company’s t-shirt he was wearing.
When we entered the church our tickets were checked, then we were given a sticker for our seating section, and a plastic bag full of an Event Guide booklet, a pen, and other promotional items. I loved the Event Guide booklet because it had a section for each speaker's info and places to take notes.
8:30 a.m. The event officially began with quotes and funny sayings on the large video screens at the front of the room. Then a live band and three singers performed a few cover song that all had motivational themes. I was pleasantly surprised by the live band. I wasn’t expecting that added touch at all. I feel like it pumped everybody up and really made the event seem less formal and more welcoming.
People were still filing in and finding their seats. If you had a general admission or couples general admission seats, your seats were first come, first serve, so I would recommend finding a seat as soon as possible.
From the time the doors opened until the end of the event there were local vendors selling refreshments, coffee, snacks, etc. As well as Dave’s team selling books and other Ramsey Solutions materials.
My husband took advantage of the coffee for sale. We, being debit card people, were nervous about whether or not they would accept cards, but they did...but only after strongly emphasizing DEBIT or CASH? I loved that credit wasn’t even an option (you’ll also notice this on his website as well).
Although, they did offer plenty of refreshments onsite, they also welcomed the audience members to bring their own drinks and snacks. I saw several people lining up at water fountains to fill up their reusable water bottles. I wish I would have known this because bringing my own snacks is one of my personal favorite money saving tips! I was afraid they’d make me throw away my outside items, like you’ll see at a lot of concerts and sporting events, so I didn’t want to risk it.
9:00 a.m. The event got fully underway when Ken Coleman took the stage to joke around a bit with the audience and prepare everyone for all the speakers of the day. Then he announced, “Now, for the big man himself...welcome to the stage the one and only Dave Ramsey, ladies and gentlemen!”
I was shocked that Dave came out at the beginning of the event. I feel like normal speakers as famous as him would have waited until the end of the event to build up the anticipation and present themselves as the “main event”, but not Dave! He came out and got the crowd excited for the day ahead, while talking up all of the other speakers, and mentioning each person’s topics.
I think that summarizes Dave so well, because he’s not in it for the fame or the applause, he truly does his job to help people, and I think that even applies to promoting the other members of the Ramsey Personalities team.
1st Speaker: Dr. Les Parrott
Les is an expert in marriage and spoke about “how to fight a good fight”.
The notes from his speech were...
-Why we fight:
Reason #1 Perception (We take things a different way than our spouse meant it to be) & Reason #2 Men and Women are different (Shocker! We just think differently.)
-How to fight:
What to avoid: 4 red flags
Criticism, Defensiveness, Contempt, Stonewalling
-Sharing withholds (Sharing things that you’ve kept to yourself.)
2 Positives & 1 Negatives
I loved his light-hearted approach to marriage. He told a few hilarious stories about his own marriage, all of which were relatable and for lack of a better word…”normal”. We think about a marriage expert as stuffy and not in-tuned with the real world of marriage. Dr. Parrott wasn’t like this stereo-type at all! I just absolutely loved his talk and we left feeling refreshed about our marriage.
> Grab Dr. Les Parrott's book The Good Fight: How Conflict Can Bring You Closer
2nd Speaker: Rachel Cruze
Rachel is probably best known for being Dave Ramsey’s daughter and the middle of the three Ramsey children. After six years into her career as a Ramsey Personality she’s made quite a name for herself as a speaker and an author.
I respect and admire everything about Rachel. From her modest clothing, to her pronounced love for her husband and daughter, she’s an amazing role model for the generation of young moms today. She spoke about contentment and how to stop comparing your life to other people’s lives.
She briefly covered the main topics of her new book, Love Your Life, Not Theirs, with a discussion about 7 Money Habits for Living the Life You Want.
1. Quit the comparisons (Be grateful for what you have)
2. Steer clear of debt
3. Make a plan for your money (“A budget gives you permission to spend”)
4. Think before you spend
5. Save like you mean it
6. Give a little...until you can give a lot
7. Talk about your money (even when it’s hard)
She talked about her life growing up in the Ramsey family, how her parents filed bankruptcy a few months after she was born and how that affected her childhood.
My favorite part of the speech was when she talked about her favorite part of her job, watching the families in the lobby of Financial Peace Plaza doing their debt free screams on The Dave Ramsey Show. Especially the young families.
She told the story...
"An energetic five-year-old will burst through the door, just happy to be out the car after an eight hour drive. The dad follows close behind with a two-year-old on his hip. Then comes the tired mom, just happy to finally be out of the car. ...The time comes to tell their story. They tell Dave how they paid off all of their debt and what they’ve sacrificed and how long it took. Then the time comes for them to do their debt free scream, and the kids have been practicing for the whole drive. The parents lean down so the kids can reach the mics, and they count down….3, 2, 1...WE’RE DEBT FREE!!!!"
Then Rachel went on to say...
"I see that little girl, on her dad’s hip...I was that little girl. I see that dad, exhausted from working so much over-time. And I see how many soccer games did he miss...but also that he won’t have to miss anymore!"
I cried just listening to this part of her story, because it hit home! I saw my own kids and our own family’s struggles. All in all, Rachel is an amazing speaker and story teller!
> Grab Rachel Cruze's book Love Your Life Not Theirs
Break (30 mins)
During this first break we purchased Chris Hogan’s book Retired Inspired, got to meet him, and had him sign our book.
3rd Speaker: Chris Brown
Chris is best known from his radio show Chris Brown’s True Stewardship, where he provides biblical solutions for questions about life and money.
I was so enthralled by his childhood story about growing up homeless and with a single mother that I hardly took any notes.
Some of his childhood stories were heartbreaking, as well as inspiring.
His main topic of the day was about living generously. Helping others is really helping ourselves as well, because the gift of generosity doesn’t just stop at the material gift, it’s much more spiritual than that.
4th Speaker: Chris Hogan
Chris was my husband’s favorite of all of the speakers, partly because he was hilarious, but mostly because his main topic, retirement, is my husband’s main motivation. I loved his enthusiasm and heart in every part of his speech. You can see his true passion coming through each story that he told.
His topic of the day was Retire Inspired (also the title of his book).
The notes from his speech were...
-Retirement is NOT an age; it’s a financial number!
-Top two reasons people worry about retirement:
1. They fear running out of money
2. They fear becoming a burden to their family (That one hurts for us parents doesn’t it?)
-If you plan for retirement right, you’ll have two things you’ve never had before:
-Have a dream meeting with your spouse
Making time to sit down and dream about your future together. What do you each want out of your retirement years? Then plan for it.
I loved the dream meeting suggestion. My husband and I actually did this during our lunch break at the conference. It’s nice to set aside some time and just simply dream together and plan for the future. It’s reassuring to know that you’re on the same page as well.
> Grab Chris Hogan's book Retire Inspired
Lunch Break (90 mins)
During the lunch break, I first of all waited in line for the bathroom (the lines took 10+ minutes every time), then I rushed into the line for Rachel Cruze’s book signing. It was finally my turn, I was so panicked and nervous, that I gave her the most excited hug, and thanked her three times for writing such an awesome book. I think I hid my excitement well, but inside I wanted to explode! It’s not every day that you get to hug one of your role models!
Then it was time to eat. There were a few different restaurants on site with lunch for sale, but the lines were so long by the time we got done with the book signing Chic-fil-a had already sold out. So we ended up driving down the road to pick up some other fast food. I wish I would have known that we could have brought our own lunch. The weather was gorgeous and tons of couples took their lunch to sit in the grass with a blanket (Ramsey Solutions provided a certain amount of free picnic blankets). We opted for lunch in the front seat of our suburban because we didn’t have a blanket and we wanted to talk alone about what we had learned in the first half of the day.
The lunch break came to an end with another live music performance, and everyone seemed excited and ready to take on the last half of the day!
5th Speaker: Inky Johnson
Until this conference I had never heard of Inky or his story. I was curiously excited to listen to his speech.
When he first came out on stage, it was obvious that he didn't have the use of his right arm. I was curious at first if this injury was part of his story or not.
Then he continued to talk about his childhood, in one of the rougher neighborhoods of Atlanta, growing up with 14 people in a two bedroom house, and how he was never expected to succeed. I loved the passion that filled every part of his story as he continued to talk about how he suffered a terrible football injury late in his college football career causing the paralysis in his arm. He was never even expected to graduate high school, but yet he went on to not only finish high school, but also college. Inky set the mold for the rest of his family following behind him, and became the first truly successful person in his family.
The notes from his speech were...
-Things don’t happen to you; they happen for you.
-Don’t believe in shortcuts.
-Eliminate the option of giving an excuse. Eliminate the option of giving up. Eliminate the option of quitting. The only thing left is to press forward.
-Adversity causes some people to break and other people to break records.
-What some consider a tragedy, try to consider a blessing.
Out of all of the personal stories, his was the one that stuck with me the most.
6th Speaker: Dr. Meg Meeker
I absolutely loved Dr. Meeker’s topic about Strong Fathers, Strong Mothers.
The notes from her speech were...
- Our culture demeans fathers and makes them the butt of many jokes. Research, though, shows that fathers have a profound effect on their children. It clearly shows that the best way to increase a girl's’ self-esteem is to have her father give her physical affection.
- All children are connected to their fathers and mothers by a need-based love even if they don’t know them well.
- A child’s identity is shaped by watching his parents for clues regarding what they believe about him.
- Mothers play a critical role in their children’s relationships with their fathers. One of the best things they can do to help build a stronger relationship between their children and their father is to praise fathers more.
- Good parents ask the right questions. Rather than asking how many activities their kids should be in or what school they should go to, they ask how much time is my child spending with me?
There were several parts of her speech that struck some sensitive spots and even made me cry. A few parts that made me think about our relationships with our own children, and parts that made me think about my husband and I as children and our relationships with our own parents.
She ended her talk by saying that the true way to make America great again started at home by raising your children well.
> Grab Dr. Meg Meeker's book Strong Fathers, Strong Daughters
Break (30 mins)
This was the last break of the day. By this time we were getting a bit worn out, but still very anxious for the rest of the day to continue.
7th Speaker: Anthony Oneal
Anthony’s story was about how he got himself into $25,000 worth of credit card debt, kicked out of college, and homeless by the age of 19. Today as a speaker he's committed to encouraging students all over the country to follow their passions.
The notes from his speech were...
- You have to admit the things that you need to take seriously
- Stop being lazy
My favorite story from his speech was about boiling a frog in his High School Science class. He explained how if you turned the water from 0 to 10 quickly, the frog got alarmed and jumped out. However, if you boiled the water slowly from 0 to 3, 3 to 5, 5 to 7, and 7 to 10 that the frog would relax and fall asleep, and would then die in his sleep. He paused to stare at the audience. Then he said, "Don't die in your sleep!". Meaning, don't get lazy and let things take over your life slowly to only realize what's going on after it's too late. That one hit close to home!
That's how it happened for us in our personal story with debt. The debt piled up slowly over the course of a few years and before we knew it the debt was killing us. We fell asleep. We got lazy. But once we woke up, stopped being lazy with our lives, admitted that it needed to take it seriously, and we believed in ourselves, that we could overcome it! (Read more about our Walk Up Dave Ramsey's Baby Steps here!)
> Grab Anthony ONeal's Book The Graduate Survival Guide: 5 Mistakes You Can't Afford To Make In College
8th Speaker: Dave Ramsey
Finally it was time for, as Ken Coleman put it, "the big man himself." As Dave enter the stage the audience all stood up. In that moment, I was overwhelmingly aware of his true affect on this country.
5,000 people rose to their feet, not because anyone told them too, but out of respect for the man that had helped change their lives. 5,000 is a drop in the bucket though when you realize that he reaches 12 million listeners daily on his radio show. When you hear those numbers they sound impressive, but as Dave mentioned in his speech, he had humble beginning.
His topic of the day was The Power of Intentionality...You Become What You Think About. He went on to tell a story about how back in 1995 he attended a motivational class were their homework assignment was to write down and date their goals. He grabbed a black binder full of his goals from the 80s and 90s. He read off his goal numbers for the sell of his book Financial Peace (which at the time he was selling out of the back of his car), the number of cities he wanted his Financial Peace class to be taught in, and how many cities he wanted his radio show to be in. Then he explained to the audience that his actual numbers, for several years, fell short of his goals.
He continued to explain that today his book has sold over 5 million copies, his class has helped over 4 million families, and his radio show is on 575 radio stations. He paused for a minute...then said, "write down your goals people! It works!". How can you argue with results like that. No, his goals weren't perfect, and they fell short at times, but he stayed focused.
The notes from his speech were...
-Strangest secret: You become what you think about.
-What you put in is what you will get out
-You need goals in all topics: Career, Financial, Spiritual, Physical, Intellectual, Family, and Social.
-Your goals must be: specific, measurable, have a time limit, be yours (not someone else's), and be written.
Dave finished his speech and the live band came back on stage to play one last song. All of the other speakers came on stage to dance and clap along with the song. The entire audience was on their feet and clapping along as well. It's hard to put into words what the atmosphere feels like in a room filled with 5,000 motivated people, but its a bit overwhelming. Just knowing that lives were changed and that every person there would leave one giant step closer to a brighter future was motivation in itself.
Overall, I was blown away by the conference. Every speaker was extremely humble and hospitable. The conference as a whole was life altering, and more than worth the cost of the tickets. I would recommend this conference to any and everyone looking for some motivation in their lives.
Click below to watch my Periscope from the Hotel after the Conference
HEY I'M SAMI WOMACK
I'm the wife to my high school sweetheart, Daniel, + homeschooling momma to our 3 girls. I'm the Budgeting Coach + Motivational Speaker behind A Sunny Side Up Life.
My family used to be in $490k of debt + living paycheck-to-paycheck, but after we hit rock bottom everything changed for us!
Now that my family has become debt free + gained financial freedom, I want to help your family do the same! My passion is inspiring women to live abundant lives through budgeting, intentional living, and positive thinking.