Welcome to the fourth post in our series as we prepare for Craftcation 2016 on making the most out of attending a creative conference. If you missed the first three posts you can check them out here:
Stay tuned for our next posts in this series in which we’ll cover how to make the most out of a conference and how to network at a conference (even if you’re an introvert).
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.
Aside from the things we covered in our post on how to attend a conference on a budget like planning early, researching travel options and setting a budget before you go here are a few other things you can do to make the most out of your experience of attending a blogging, DIY, business or creative conference by being well-prepared.
*Note: I’ve also included some quotes from past Craftcation attendees to get their perspectives.
1. Pack smart
You don’t want to incur extra expenses for baggage at the airport but you also don’t want to opt-out of bringing something only to get there and realize that you need it. I’ve been to about a dozen conferences and I put together a Conference packing checklist to help you stay away from over (or under) packing. Of course you may have items to add or there may be some you don’t need. Feel free to use it as a base list and edit as needed.
There are a few things on there that took me some time to realize were lifesavers like:
-an extension cord: you never know where the outlets are in a hotel room and you don’t want to end up spending hours crouched in a corner on your lap-top
-an external battery pack for your phone: this is a must since some days you’re away from your hotel room for 10+ hours and draining your battery by checking in and sharing on social media. Modcloth has some cute one like this.
-disposable toothbrushes are great from after-meal brushing
PLUS: There are 40+ more personal, clothing and business must-pack items on the list. Click HERE to download the ultimate packing checklist for diy, craft blogging + business conferences for free!
“Don’t start packing without checking the weather. Pack comfy walking shoes and clothes. If you’re going to do yoga bring your mat or at least a beach towel. As I mentioned earlier, I always pack an electric tea kettle so I can have unlimited coffee, tea, oatmeal and ramen. This saves me time and money. Drink emergency or vitamin C packs to keep your immune system up. Small crock pots, record players, and quilts have been spotted in crafter’s rooms. If you’re flying and or sharing a room head phones are essential! I also like a giant scarf that can double as a blanket or cover up.” –Vennice James
“Once I am registered, I make sure I secure a place to stay and that all my travel plans are in place.” –Maddie Spoto
“I prepare by checking my tickets and class schedule. Then I read over directions and times. I print out the schedule and hang it on the wall. This way I can see the entire line up for the week.” –Vennice James
2. Prepare your business
You’re at a conference to learn and build your community but you’re also there as a representative of your business or craft. The same way that you wouldn’t show up to a wedding in flip-flops (unless of course it was on the beach and that was the dress code) you don’t want your business to show up “under-dressed”. This doesn’t mean that you need to go crazy and stress out building the perfect website or hiring a high-priced branding firm to design the perfect logo but it does mean you should have something to hand someone that represents your business. If printed business cards aren’t in the budget just get some letter stamps and create your own with some card stock. A handmade business card is not only inexpensive but also creates a conversation piece especially if you add some on-brand elements like fabric scraps, collaged confetti, splattered paint or anything else that fits your brand. There are some great DIY business card ideas on our branding Pinterest board.
If you aren’t set up yet on social media you may want to set up at least one account. If you’re attending a conference like Craftcation I suggest Instagram because it’s easy to use and a favorite in our creative community. Don’t worry if you don’t have hundreds of followers… chances are that by the end of the conference you’re social media community will have grown. We’ll have more on this in our next post on how to make the most out of a conference.
It’s also a good idea to get your elevator pitch down. Your elevator pitch is basically quick (ie: you could say it during an elevator ride) answer to what do you do. If you’re joining us at Craftcation this year I’ll be doing a workshop on Wednesday with Meighan O’Toole called the Pre-Craftcation Plan during which we’ll cover refining your elevator pitch and share how to make the most of your time at Craftcation.
3. Plan your goals and do some research
Committing to attending a conference is big deal! Make sure to revisit our post on How to choose the right conference to attend. You want to make the most out of the time, effort and money you’re putting into attending and the best way to do that is to prepare and plan your goals.
Here are few tips on planning your conference goals:
1. Think about the areas of your business and/or creativity that you’re struggling with the most. Choose workshops that address these topics. If you’re having a rough time building your social media audience make sure you take at least one social media workshop and if a presenter who specializes in social media is offering office hours, sign up for a session. It’s also smart, as past Craftcation attendee Keri Cleverly says, to keep your long-term goals in mind as well.
“Throughout the conference I’ve kept it in mind that my business will hopefully grow and change, then I’m more inclined to attend presentations where more seasoned information is being offered. The information may not apply to me at the time, but down the road it might be very helpful.” –Keri Cleverly
2. Research the presenters. Take some time to explore the presenters and find out what their areas of expertise are. Attending a conference offers you a rare opportunity to meet these heavy-hitters with years of expertise in person. Don’t miss out an chance to chat with one of your favorite bloggers, makers or writers because you didn’t take the time to get to know enough about them to strike up a conversation.
“I spend time researching the guest speakers and presenters. I try to familiarize myself with their businesses, products and talents. Often while doing this, I’ll make a list of questions that I may want to ask if they have a question and answer forum. I also check out the website to find the sponsors for the conference, and what their products are as well.” –Keri Cleverly
3. Presenters aren’t the only people at a conference that may be offer you advice, community and support. Get to know your fellow attendees ahead of time by reaching out on your social media outlets and asking if anyone else will be at that conference as well. Start following and posting using the conference hashtag (ours is #craftcation16) as you’re preparing to go.
4. If you’re interested in meeting brands and businesses to partner with for your blog or business, take some time to research the sponsors that will be at the conference. Get to know their brand and services or products so that you have a solid knowledge base on which to begin building a relationship.
5. Create a list of your goals and intentions for the conference and write down a few action steps you can take to get closer to those goals.
For example: if your goal is to build your community write down three things you could do before, during and after the conference to achieve that.
Your list may be:
a) Reach out on social media before the conference to connect with fellow attendees.
b) Introduce myself to at least three new people per day.
c) Follow up with new people I met after the conference.
“Each Craftcation conference I go to, I pick two to three things I want to focus on. Yeah, I take classes I am interested in, but I make sure most of them have to do with that focus. For example, this year I wanted to focus on jumpstarting my freelance graphic design business, improving my photography and dialing in my Etsy shop. That made applying the things I learned at the conference to my business fairly easy since I tailored my education to my business needs. I wanted to make my Etsy shop sparkle with good photos and listings…I made sure to sign up for office hours with someone from Etsy and spent a good chunk of my year implementing everything we talked about, which has definitely improved my traffic in my shop. -Maddie Spoto
“We prepared by researching all of the lectures we were interested in and finding the ones that would most benefit our current business situation. We then noted the days and times of each lecture in our calendar. We assessed our creative business state and wrote down questions we had that could be answered by the presenters. We made sure to have pen and paper in hand to write down all the valuable information. This allowed us to maximize our learning and move us ever forward.” –Todd and Anthony of T&A Leather
Bonus tip: Bring an open mind!
“Above all, bring a mind ready for meeting new people and new knowledge.”