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 and Part Four.
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 sharing the interview we did with the lovely Maddie Spoto of Folk Dreams Jewelry and Maddie Spoto Design. Maddie has attended Craftcation every year. I loved reading about how she didn’t even have a business yet when she attended Craftcation the first time. She has awesome things to say about the community she found and connections she made at Craftcation as well as some great tips on how introverts can meet new people at a conference. I love this quote from Maddie about why she attends conferences:
“Community, education, growth, and inspiration are all priceless as a creative and why conferences are worth it. 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 is a great reminder you are not in it alone.”
Now onto the interview…
Please introduce yourself.
I’m Maddie Spoto, Dreamer and Creator of Folk Dreams, Graphic Designer by day, Jewelry Designer by night. I love to work with my hands, paddle outrigger canoes, get outside and love on animals!
What conferences have you been to?
How do you choose what conference to go to?
Craftcation was the first conference I had ever really heard of for creatives, and I have gone every year since the first year. I have found a beautiful community there. Each year I go, I am able to grow that community and expand into new ones like Academy of Handmade and Boss Ladies. 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.
Why is it worth it to go to a conference?
Community, education, growth, and inspiration are all priceless as a creative and why conferences are worth it. 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 is a great reminder you are not in it alone.
How has your business or creative pursuit changed after going to conferences?
That first year I went to Craftcation I did not have a business. Leaving Craftcation that year was the start of my creative business. I had wanted to start a handmade business since 2007 but at the time I was still in school, working part time and didn’t really know how to go about it. I was being creative at work, as a graphic designer, but I needed an outlet to create my art with my two hands, so Craftcation was the inspiration I needed to realize that this is what I wanted and it gave me the education to start it!
What are your tips for conference goers on a budget?
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. Other ways to save – find local conferences that don’t require much travel, stay with a friend or share a room with another attendee, or buy a one day pass for a multi-day conference.
What was your first conference like?
Craftcation year one (my first conference) was a head cannon! I think it blew everyone’s mind. That first year was something special, I can’t explain it. But for me, personally, it was total realization that there are people like me in this world that are making it happen and that I could too. Dreams became reality at Craftcation year one!
What was one of your best conference moments?
I don’t know if I can pin down a moment, but I can pin down my best conference feels. 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.
Have you connected with new people at a conference and what are your tips for attendees (especially introverts) to network at conferences?
Craftcation is rad, especially for introverts, because you get half craft classes and half business classes. In craft classes, you are able to stop, sit down and get creative which is the best platform for introverts to network, in my opinion. Sitting at a table with fresh faces exchanging stories and admiring each others work is far more comfortable then making small talk at a mixer (better yet this gives you an easy way to make friends to have fun with at the mixer later)! This translates through the rest of the conference. And each year you are able to build on top of the last. I personally love to have business cards that show my work – this is an easy way to give out cards when asked what do you make (or do). It is an easy way to show off what you do while making networking a little easier.
What are the essential things you bring (or wish you had brought) to a conference?
Business cards, my phone (for social media), a notebook, a highlighter, some of my work and some fun outfits!
How do you prepare for going to a conference?
Once I am registered, I make sure I secure a place to stay and that all my travel plans are in place. Once it gets closer I make a list, add to the list and add a little more…then a pare it all down when I am packing. A few printouts of what classes I am taking or interested in (my schedule) and get a good nights sleep the night before, because even though conferences are fun, they are exhausting!
How do you make the most out of your conference experience?
I try to get to know new people each time I go and I follow up with them after. I am not looking for contacts, I am looking for good business relationships/friendships – people I believe in and want to support and work with. Every year I find more and more people and I build on those existing friendships. I keep up with these people through out the year through events, social media and I always try to work with them at some point because that is the very best!
How do you apply what you’ve learned to your business/creative pursuit?
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 jump starting 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.
Here’s a photo of Maddie and some photos she took at Craftcation.