Welcome to our interview series about attending creative conferences! Since our Craftcation Conference is just around the corner (March 26-29, 2015) we’re sharing tips and advice from Craftcation attendees for making the most of your experience at Craftcation or other creative conferences. These lovely creatives share awesome insight about how to choose a conference to attend, make the most of your time, what to bring, how to be budget-savvy and how to meet people at conferences. If you missed some of the interviews from this series you can read them here: Part One, Part Two, Part Three, Part Four, Part Five and Part Six.
Whether you’re a creative entrepreneur or a maker, if you’re ready to take the leap and make 2015 the best year yet for your business and/or creativity and expand your community, Craftcation registration is open now. Join us for four inspiring days of hands-on craft and food workshops, business classes and community events like our ever-famous dance party and opening dinner.
This week we’re thrilled to share the interview we did with Lauren Venell. Lauren offers the unique perspective of having attended and presented at several conferences but she was also the founder of the Conference of Creative Entrepreneurs which ran from 2009-2011. She was a presenter at the very first Craftcation and since it was our first year there were some snafus and she was totally professional and rolled with it. (Thanks Lauren!) We’re overjoyed to welcome her back to share her extensive knowledge on business and finance with attendees at Craftcation 2015. Although us creative types always tend to go to ‘fun’ classes like screen-printing, sewing or finding your creative self, I HIGHLY suggest attending Lauren’s lectures Bookkeeping Basics for Creative Professionals and Personal Finance for the Self-employed. Lauren breaks down seemingly boring financial information so that it’s easy to digest and dare I say interesting.
Now onto the interview:
Please introduce yourself.
I’m Lauren Venell, an artist, designer and financial educator. I’ve launched a few of my own product lines (the Deep Creeps are currently in stores worldwide) in addition to creating work for a wide range of clients. I specialize in props and product design and have a particular passion for infographics that leave the page.
When I’m not making, I enjoy teaching financial topics to other creative professionals, including personal finance, pricing and bookkeeping. I most recently taught “Bookkeeping for Crafters” and “Bookkeeping for Etsy Sellers” on CreativeLive and will be leading workshops on personal finance and product profitability at Craftcation. I love making new friends so please reach out, especially if you’ll be in Ventura this March! You can reach me on twitter @lvenell, or Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/laurenvenell or on my web site & blog: https://laurenvenell.com
I’ve been to many–creative conferences, education conferences, business and technology conferences, political conferences and even some religious conferences when I was younger. Up until 2011 I also co-ran the Conference of Creative Entrepreneurs in San Francisco and Seattle.
How do you choose what conferences to go to?
I tend to choose conferences based on what I want to learn–in other words, which sessions/topics they offer and who will be speaking. Price and location are also big factors, of course.
Why is it worth it to go to a conference?
Conferences can be a great way to learn a variety of skills in one area in a short period of time, and the best ones will help connect you to the kinds 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.
What are your tips for conference goers on a budget?
If possible, find out who else from your local area is attending, and carpool or share hotel rooms with them. Nothing gives you the chance to really get to know someone quite like sharing a car or a room.
Have you connected with new people at a conference and what are your tips for attendees (especially introverts) to network at conferences?
Yes! As mentioned earlier, I’ve made some of my best friends and professional connections at conferences. If you have trouble connecting with new people at events, take part in structured activities and try to sit right next to (or across from) someone else. Don’t leave a “buffer” seat in between–that will just make it harder to have a conversation. If you’re shy about talking about yourself, just ask questions of others. Most people will be flattered that you are taking such an interest.
What are the essential things you bring (or wish you had brought) to a conference?
Business cards — and lots of them. Things often run at a really frantic pace at conferences so you’ll need a quick way to get in touch with someone if your conversation ends abruptly. Also, earplugs. You never know when your room will end up being the one right next to the elevator, the ice machine, or the bachelorette party.
How do you prepare for going to a conference?
I like to find out as much as I can about who will be attending and speaking beforehand. It’s much more likely that I’ll connect meaningfully with someone at the conference if we’ve already established contact online through email or social media. I also like to try to schedule lunch or dinner dates ahead of time with people with whom I haven’t gotten much face time.