#66: Ryan Gill — founder of Cult, The Gathering, and Communo — on creating awards and hosting events to build your influence

What started as a ploy to increase his client count quickly turned into a mission to deliver value. The result was Ryan’s annual Gathering event. In today’s episode, get Ryan’s tips for hosting a memorable, impactful event that leaves you eager to do it again and again. Also, don’t miss Josh and Ryan’s personal chat about the benefits of humble beginnings.

Listen to this episode on iTunes

What was your biggest insight from this week’s episode? Let us know in the comments or on Twitter @influencer_inc.


Ryan is the founder and chairman of Cult, a marketing consultancy; he’s the founder of Communo, a community and resource for providers of services related to advertising. Ryan also creates and hosts an annual event, The Gathering.

Ryan started The Gathering out of a need to gain attention. His new marketing company, Cult, was to serve two types of companies — those that had cult followings and those that had the potential to have cult followings. The problem was that not many companies met those criteria. Then the idea came: create an award for prestigious brands that had achieved cult-followings.

The Gathering, originally intended to be a one-time event, is on its 6th year and has grown from 300 (250 of which were friends and family) to 1200 attendees. The event began as a strategy for lead generation and now is a moneymaker in its own right, attracting large sponsors and brands. After a few years, Ryan started treating the event as its own business.

To make sure the event delivers good content, Ryan relies on his own judgment and that of his advisory board.

The Gathering includes awards, influencer marketing, AI, etc. They seek feedback from attendees so the event can improve year over year.

Though Ryan founded The Gathering, most of his time is spent in the background, yet he’s gaining a reputation as a game changer.

Ryan’s first book, Fix: Break The Addictions That Are Killing Brands, was self-published and argues against the over-reliance on advertising to build brands. “Overuse of [advertising] in promotion gets annoying for the customers, and it’s a waste of money.”

Ryan’s second book, Community Inc. explores seven hacks for creative professionals in the sharing economy.

Benefits Ryan saw from his first book:

  • It gave his existing clients clarification of what he offers, and they utilized his services more.
  • He followed up with companies that purchased his book in bulk and sometimes would receive invitations to speak or collaborate with them in some way.

Communo is Ryan’s newest business (still in startup mode) and is a technology-based company with real-world co-working spaces. It’s a platform for a sharing economy, allowing members to give and get work.

The right mindset of a Communo member: you’re a business — not a freelancer — looking to grow your business beyond yourself.

There are currently 43 disciplines on Communo — from web development, software engineering, videography, writing, etc.

Ryan’s advice if you’re wanting to host an event to build your influence:

  • Hire a team
  • Honor repeat attendees (ex. a “5-year alumn” pin)
  • Hire a professional event company

The backstory on Ryan’s daily videos: A Communo videographer asked if he could shadow Ryan at The Gathering to get behind-the-scenes clips. The videographer didn’t ask for anything in return, but after doing such an excellent job, he now has a 12-month contract with Ryan. Hence, the daily videos Ryan posts across social media.

Josh and Ryan discuss the benefits of humble beginnings and the dangers of wealthy, successful parents giving their kids too much.