When Delilah I took the leap and started planning the first ever Craftcation Conference nearly six years ago (that’s right! 2017 will be our 6th anniversary!) I had not only never planned an event of that size, but had never even attended a conference before!
There were a handful of conferences for creatives around at that time but when registration opened I always put if off telling myself that I:
- Couldn’t afford it
- Wasn’t outgoing or confident enough to introduce myself and meet new people
- Couldn’t spare the time away from my business and family
AND… frankly I didn’t really understand how it could possibly be worth all the time, money, effort and risk.
Then the first Craftcation happened and I finally understood what all the fuss was about. It’s impossible to relay the amount of inspiration, skills, knowledge and togetherness that I had under my belt after that inaugural Craftcation. Happily I wasn’t the only one who left feeling incredible and ready to apply all the things I learned to my business and creative pursuits.
FYI: If you’re ready to take your business and creativity to the next level, click here to join us for four days of making, meeting and learning at the beach in California that you’ll never forget.
The only downside to planning a conference is that when you’re there you don’t get to experience it the way that an attendee experiences it. Delilah and I miss out on a lot because we’re running the event. Because of that, we decided to begin attending other conferences. In the past few years we’ve been to: Schoolhouse Craft in Seattle, Alt Summit in Salt Lake City, Camp Mighty in Palm Springs (which is sadly no more) and a mastermind group in Portland. We gained some amazing stuff from each of these experiences: new connections and friends, insight into and a renewed excitement for our business, time away to strategize, creative inspiration and some of most cherished memories (seriously, some of the best times of my life were spent with fellow creatives at a conference). Not every conference was a perfect fit for my personality and where I was with my creativity and business but even when that was the case I STILL got SO much out of the experience that it was WELL worth it.
I REALLY WISH that I could back in time and convince myself to start going to creative conferences in the early years of my business and when I was a struggling artist. Concepts and skills that took me so much time and money to learn were literally handed to me on a silver platter at these conferences.
I would for love for all of you to join us at our conference (you know I’m a bit partial to Craftcation 🙂 ) for four days featuring industry professionals leading attendees in hands-on food & craft workshops and lectures and panels on creative business at the beach in Ventura, Ca this April BUT I know that Craftcation isn’t the perfect fit for everyone. You need to pick the right conference for you! I’ll be sharing a post on how to pick the perfect conference to attend in a few weeks. In the meantime here are 7 reasons why attending a conference will revolutionize your business and creativity. Whether you attend Craftcation, one of the other conferences I’ve mentioned or another one I really want to emphasize the importance of attending a creative conference if you’re an artist, business owner, crafter, blogger or creative of any sort. If you do your research and pick the perfect conference I promise you’ll be thanking me!
If you’re still on the fence check out my 7 reasons why attending a conference will revolutionize your business and creativity below which includes some quotes from previous Craftcation attendees.
“Community, education, growth, and inspiration are all priceless as a creative and why conferences are worth it.” –Maddie Spoto
1. Build your creative community
Like most creative business owners, I work alone. I do my best to build my creative community on social media, at craft shows and in random social situations but the long-lasting true connections I make are usually those I make in person. My creative support system is built from people I met at conferences. In the interest of brevity I’ll mention two of these people here, but please know that I’ve made so many awesome connections at Craftcation and other conferences and if you’re one of these people please know that I’m SO grateful for our friendship.
At the second Craftcation I met one of my long-time craftelebrities Kari Chapin. After the conference we connected through email and then it naturally blossomed into Google hangouts sessions where we shared our trials and tribulations with our businesses and lives. It all came to a head when we decided to travel to Craftcation 2015 together and literally spent five days straight with one another. The bond that we created during that in-person time in the car, my house and hotel room became the basis of what I believe will be a life-long friendship. At Craftcation 2015 I met Meighan O’Toole. We didn’t have much time to chat at the conference since she was under the weather and I was being pulled in a million different directions but after the conference we starting talking through email and then on the phone and in Google Hangouts. The next thing I knew we had agreed to be accountability partners. It all happened so easily. The support and advice that we share is beyond valuable to my business and personal life. Yet another relationship that brings so much joy, support and awesomeness to my life.
Most of my close friends I’ve known for a minimum of 15 years so making these intense and authentic connections as an adult has been surprising in the best way possible. None of that would have happened if it wasn’t for Craftcation.
Here are some awesome thoughts from Craftcation attendees about the importance of building your creative community at conferences:
“My first Craftcation was like opening the door to a party, and I was invited!! I attended many business conferences in my former career, but I never experienced groups of people gathering and laughing, introducing themselves, and excitedly comparing the workshops they’d chosen to attend. On the last day of the first conference, everyone was feeling melancholy that it was all over. We traded business cards and said we’d keep in touch. It was like having spent a good weekend with distant relatives at a family reunion.” –Keri Cleverly
“Working solo can make it difficult to meet people, this is the mecca of crafty loners. I love being surrounded by creative people in an artistic environment.” –Vennice James
“(The people you meet) will help connect you to the kind of like-minded people who become resources, support networks, and good friends for years to come. Some of my best friends and strongest connections, both personal and professional, are people I’ve met at conferences.” Lauren Venell
“(One of my best conference moments was) the feeling of being accepted by a huge room of really awesome women that just get it. The friendships made. And the vote of confidence that you can 100% go out and do this, if you really want it.” –Maddie Spoto
2. Exposure to new ideas and skills
It’s so easy to get caught up in the routine of the way you do things. Your way may not always be the most efficient or best way but it’s yours and at least you know how it works… right? At conferences I’m introduced to new concepts and ways of doing things. The decision to merge all of our events under one umbrella business was born from a branding talk we attended at a conference. That decision has been one of the smartest things we’ve ever done for our business. The amount of time we’ve saved trying to juggle eight social media accounts instead of four is just one of the reasons why that particular conference was so worth it!
I no longer make things for a living but crafting is still so dear to my heart. I spend so much time doing all the business stuff (you know, spreadsheets, accounting, analyzing social media stats and all that other fun stuff) that I forget that the whole reason that I’m in this industry is because I deeply believe in the passion of making things. At a previous Craftcation Kim Werker couldn’t stop talking about her #yearofmaking. Although I wasn’t ready to commit to a full year of daily creating, hearing her explain how it’s changed her life is what convinced me to FINALLY stick with taking a pottery class and here are three important lessons I learned from completing that long-time goal. Making pottery is one of the things that I’m pretty sure has stopped me from totally loosing my mind and disappearing into an anxious workaholic life last year (at least for the last few months of 2015).
Here are a few thoughts on how being exposed to new ideas and skills have changed the perspective of Craftcation attendees:
“I have always left Craftcation with a notebook full of new information and perspectives, and with my head swirling with new ideas. Implementing those ideas into my business has created a lot of positive change.” – Keri Cleverly
“My artistic and creative pursuits have grown beyond my expectations.” –Vennice James
“I have come home with a new passion from each Craftcation so far. My first conference I came home with a mild addiction to embroidery thanks to Amy Tan. Then my second year I came home with a Bernina sewing machine and haven’t stopped sewing since! These are two mediums I would have NEVER considered before Craftcation. They have added a whole new opportunity to the classes I teach and the products I make.” –Kelly Affleck
“Conferences can be a great way to learn a variety of skills in one area in a short period of time.” –Lauren Venell
3. Get up to date on new trends and technology
Although I’m on the computer working ALL THE TIME I can’t be on every blog, social media outlet and read every newsletter. Things slip through the cracks. At a conference when you’re talking to someone who is standing in front of you it’s impossible to get distracted by your email or to-do list… SO you’re fully present and paying attention to the information that they’re sharing. At most of the conferences that I’ve been to I’ve been lucky enough to connect with people (whether we meet at a social event or in a workshop that they’re teaching) who are so generous with their tips and tricks. From social media scheduling apps to resources for supplies to make my own handmade goods I’ve been able to keep up to date on new trends, technology and get information that I didn’t even realize I was needed but once I had it I had no idea how I ran my business without it.
Veteran Craftcation attendee Vennice James totally agrees with this sentiment, “I’m not technically savvy so business classes are a must attend for growing my business.”
4. Make marketing and PR connections
Chances are that like me, you follow people and brands that you admire on social media. Perhaps like me, you also long for the opportunity to be featured on a blog or in a magazine or get to work with a brand that aligns with yours. When we were planning the very first Craftcation I needed to get to the word out. I reached out to the connections that I already had and then I emailed over 800 bloggers asking them to share about the conference. YES… 800! Each email was hand-crafted to the person I was writing to. I got lots of positive feedback and shares BUT in the years since I’ve realized how much farther having a personal connection to the person you’re writing to (whether you meet them at a conference or are able to let them know that someone who you met suggested them or referred you) goes. The connections I’ve made at conferences have not only helped our business grow but we’ve gotten shout-outs from people in our industry that I’ve admired for years!
Todd and Anthony of T&A Leather totally agree, “Our connections grew significantly. We’ve been showcased in blogs that feature up-cycled/recycled/reclaimed artisans, we keep in touch and support other creators throughout the United States and share show information with each other.”
5. Expand your comfort zone
This is a BIG one for me. It may seem like I’m an extrovert but starting up a conversation with a stranger is super stressful for me. In fact one of the most anxiety-provoking situations I can imagine is being in a car with someone who I don’t know very well. One of the best ways that I’ve gotten through this is through attending conferences. When I’m in a group of people who share my interests it’s so much easier to start or engage in a conversation. It’s far easier to turn to the person next to me and tell them that I like the way that the terrarium that they’re making is turning out or ask them what they thought about what a presenter said about building your brand than to just start chatting to a stranger at a party or networking event. If you’re at conference the chances are extremely high that you’ll be surrounded by like-minded individuals. You already have at least one thing in common… you both choose that conference.
Aside from getting out of my comfort zone as far as building my community goes, conferences also help me get out of my business, creative and personal comfort zone. I try new crafts, go to workshops on topics that I don’t know much about and take my chances exploring new places.
I love how Craftcation attendee Maddie Spoto explains it, “I am an introvert so going to conferences where I know people is a great way for me to be comfortable while stepping outside of that zone and meeting new people. I have definitely gotten better at it and more comfortable with networking and creating a community through going to Craftcation.”
6. Recharge your creativity and get inspired
Whether you’re a creative business owner or simply a creative who loves to makes things, you know that feeling when you’re just not as excited as you once were about your business or creative pursuits. Maybe you give into it for a few days and wait for the inspiration to return or maybe you just keep working and ignore the fact that you’re not motivated. Either way those moments of doubt, frustration and impostor syndrome come up more often than we’d like. They come up so often for me that I wrote this post on 25 ways to recharge creativity + motivation + combat feeling overwhelmed. Those are all awesome ways to alleviate that business or creative slump but I’ve also found that after I attend a conference I’m SO inspired and reinvigorated not just for my business and creativity but also for life in general.
I love what these Craftcation attendees share about how conferences inspire and reignite their passion and creativity:
“Inspiration! The inspiration alone at Craftcation is unstoppable! There is so much positive energy and so much creativity that you can’t help but walk away nourished with ideas and direction!” –Kelly Affleck
“Craftcation allows plenty of time for question and answer opportunities; where ideas are just flowing-and being batted back and forth among the attendees. You really can’t experience that energy through a computer screen.” –Keri Cleverly
“It’s a great place to get inspired and reignite your creativity.” –Vennice James
7. Strategize and plan
When you’re the head of pretty much every department in your business you don’t have much time to strategize a long-term vision for your business. The day-to-day stuff takes up pretty much all of your time. Delilah and I fell into this trap and found ourselves treading water just trying to get through our to-do lists with no end-game in mind except for keeping our heads above water. At conferences we’re finally able to take the time to think about the big picture. We ask ourselves questions we don’t give ourselves the luxury to answer during the rest of the year like… What is our idea of success? What’s working in our business and what isn’t? How can work smarter and have more time for our families and friends? Where do we see our business in one year? Two years? Five years? AND most importantly we create a plan of action to make our businesses and lives reflect our ideals.
Craftcation attendees Maddie and Todd & Anthony agree that taking time away from your business can be the best way to plan and strategize for the future:
“Going to conferences (esp. Craftcation) allows you to breakaway from your everyday, take a look at your business and work on things that might take a back seat to making or customer service. As creatives, we often work on our own – having a community is seriously the best thing for your business. The support and friendship are a great reminder you are not in it alone. – Maddie Spoto
“We were able to stretch our creative and business minds to push through boundaries that would normally take years to do. This was solely due to the concentration of information that a creative conference provides. From business lectures to craft classes, introductions to seasoned artists and craft booze tours, dancing and ghost hunting, it all culminated to a new level of growth, community and a deeper love for our art.” –Todd and Anthony of T&A Leather
I know this blog post was a long one BUT I’ve been thinking so much lately about how attending conferences has changed my life, creativity and business and I was so excited to share everything with all of you!
*This is the first in a series of six posts we’re doing on Tuesday’s starting January 19th about attending conferences.