How to choose the right conference to attend
In preparation for Craftcation: Business and Makers Conference we’re doing a series of posts about attending conferences. In our first post 7 reasons why attending a conference will revolutionize your business and creativity I shared some of the reasons that stopped me from attending conferences when I first started my business. I also talked about some of the awesome benefits that I get out of attending conferences like:
1. Building my community
2. Getting exposure to new ideas and skills
3. Learning about new trends and technology
4. Making marketing and PR connections
5. Expanding my comfort zone
6. Recharging my creativity and getting inspired
7. Strategizing and planning
There are some awesome quotes from past Craftcation attendees on what they get out of conferences as well.
This week I’m excited to chat with you about how to choose the right conference to attend.
Attending a conference isn’t the easiest thing to do. It requires prioritizing, planning, budgeting and juggling work and personal commitments. Conferences are social and fun BUT they are an investment into your business and creativity and like any investment that you make, you need to be sure that it’s smart and take time to do research before you commit.
I’ve been an attendee at several conferences and although there’s not a single one that I regret going to… some were a better fit than others. When I’m trying to choose the right conference to attend I take some time to consider these six things.
*Note: I’ve also included some quotes from past Craftcation attendees to get their perspectives.
FYI: Craftcation 2017 registration opens 10.13.16 and the first 50 people to register get $50 off! 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.
1. What are your goals?
This will be different for everyone. Some of us may be going to a conference to get information and learn about a specific topic or meet like-minded people who share our love of creativity and entrepreneurship or spend time with friends or get away from our routines and have a change to look at our businesses and lives with the perspective that you can only get when you’re not embroiled in the day-to-day. Whatever your reasons are, you need to make sure that the conference that you choose will fulfill them.
If you want to learn more about social media and the conference only offers one social media class… it might not be the best fit. If you want to build your community, make sure the conference offers several networking events and helps cultivate community.
Take some time to write down your top five or ten goals for the conference and then look at what the conference offers in comparison to what you need.
“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.” –Lauren Venell
“I try to choose a conference that is well rounded offering a variety of classes/workshops and speakers.” Natalie Cuen
2. What is your budget?
This seems to be the one many emerging creative entrepreneurs get caught up in. We think, “This conference is super cheap and since I can afford it, I’ll go!” Choosing a conference based only on if it fits into your budget is a huge mistake. The conference that I went to that was the worst fit for me was also the least inexpensive and the one I went to that cost the most was the second least beneficial to me! Those experiences have made me realize how important it is to do my research before I buy my ticket.
It’s also important to consider what you’re getting for your money. Some conference registrations include meals, some have added supply fees for craft workshops and some are all inclusive. When you’re figuring out the cost of a conference you need to factor in ALL costs including travel, registration, meals, hidden expenses like parking etc…
Take a bit of time and research how much the conference will actually cost you. Even if it seems out of your budget but fits all the other criteria you’re looking for there are still ways you can be smart about budgeting and make it happen. Be sure to read our post next week on how to attend a conference on a budget for more on this. If a conference is way out of your reach even with some savvy budgeting then start planning now for attending next year.
3. Consider the location
This factors into budget as well. If a conference is close to home then your travel expenses will be significantly reduced. You may even be able to skip the hotel and drive in each day.
It’s key to also consider if the location fits with where you like to be. If you hate the snow and cold then don’t attend at winter conference on the East Coast. If you live in the Midwest and long for some beach time then consider a conference in California in the spring or summer.
4. Consider networking opportunities
I have a running list of craftelebrities that inspire me. If I see that one of them is presenting at a conference then that for sure factors into my decision to register. Getting to see someone that you admire (and especially being able to meet and hang out with them at social events like lunch or happy hour) is super rare!
“I choose a conference based on the classes and the presenters. If the conference is offering a class I’ve been wanting to take or features presenters I’ve always wanted to meet, work with or learn from, I’m in!” –Vennice James
Aside from the presenters it’s important to consider the businesses that will be there. If you’re a blogger/maker looking to connect with potential sponsors be sure to check out what sponsors will be present at the event and make sure they align with your mission.
AND… of course there are the awesome benefits you get from building a community of like-minded individuals! It’s truly priceless to be able to make in-person connections and forge supportive authentic friendships.
5. Get feedback from past attendees
Speaking of building your community… if that’s something that’s key for you, you need to make sure that the attendees are there for the same reasons. There’s nothing worse than saying “hello” to someone at a conference and getting the cold shoulder. Check out what past attendees have said about the conference. Google the conference and read blog posts from past attendees, reach out on social media and check for testimonials on the conference website.
NO conference is going to be 100% perfect but this is a great way to get a general feel of what it’s like to be there. Another great way to get a feel for the conference is to watch videos from previous conferences. We knew right away it would be impossible to communicate the awesomeness of Craftcation, which is why we started making videos the first year. You can see past Craftcation videos here and the video from last year here.
6. Take ROI (return on investment) into account
This goes back to considering your budget. It’s always hard to invest your time and money into something BUT you need to look at what you’re getting back. For example I spent $2,000 (registration, hotel, meals etc…) into a conference a few years ago. I started planning WAY ahead of time, made sure the conference was a good fit and created a game plan for myself for the weekend. That $2,000 investment has resulted in $40,000+ revenue because I strategically planned my time and made sure that I connected with sponsors that aligned with our brand, took time out to plan and set goals for my business, met brick and mortar shop owners who placed orders with me and made friends with fellow creatives whose advice has helped me grow my business the way a business coach would. Since that experience, I made a commitment to attend at least one conference a year and I’ve NEVER regretted it!
Before you make the commitment to attend a conference, take some time and do your research. Established conferences should have enough information their websites so that you can make an informed decision.
“It’s much easier to get hooked when you know what will be offered.” –Keri Cleverly
Bonus tip: If you can’t figure out if a conference is right for you and you’ve perused all the materials online, email the conference producers and ask them if it’s a good fit. Let them know your reasons for attending. Most conference producers want attendees to come back year after year and are willing to take a few minutes to answer your questions.
“There are so many great conferences out there these days, especially for creatives, small and online businesses. I say find what works for you and be picky. It might take some trial and error, and it will take some research, but once you find that community it is almost too easy to choose what conference you will be going to that year.” –Maddie Spoto
I’ve never attended craftcation, but I know it’s going to be great this upcoming year when I do because of the variety of speakers, lectures, and workshops to choose from. I’m so excited!
I appreciate that you mentioned that the location of a conference can affect your budget a lot. I hadn’t thought about that before, but it will be important because we are on a tight budget. My wife and I want to attend a conference to help us learn more about living healthy lifestyles. To make sure that we will stick with our budget, I will be sure to check the location of the conference before we choose to attend.