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 and Part Five.
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 excited to share the interview we did with Natalie Cuen of PaperFlora. She’s a two-time Craftcation attendee and has attended a blogging conference as well. She gives some great tips on how to deal with conference overload as well as how to connect with other attendees if you’re attending a conference alone. I love this quote from Natalie about her favorite part of attending a conference.
“I think the best thing about conferences is the people you meet. You have to reach out to other attendees and make an effort to connect. I’ve heard of others going to a conference and spending time alone in their rooms because they didn’t know anyone. That breaks my heart. You are all there for a similar purpose or goal so you have some common ground.”
Please introduce yourself.
I’m Natalie Cuen designer and owner of PaperFlora. An accessory shop specializing in wedding and bridal clutches, bridesmaids gifts and more. I love handmade and vintage items along with everything paper! You can check out my things on my website/blog, Instagram, Pinterest, Google+, and Twitter.
What conferences have you been to?
How do you choose what conference to go to?
I try to choose a conference that is well rounded offering a variety of classes/workshops and speakers.
Why is it worth it to go to a conference?
I think the best thing about conferences is the people you meet. You have to reach out to other attendees and make an effort to connect. I’ve heard of others going to a conference and spending time alone in their rooms because they didn’t know anyone. That breaks my heart. You are all there for a similar purpose or goal so you have some common ground.
How has your business or creative pursuit changed after going to conferences?
I’ve learned a lot about growing a small business, blogging information, how to take better photos… and so much more!
What are your tips for conference goers on a budget?
If the conference is more than a one day event, I research the local area for budget friendly restaurants or coffee houses. It may be less expensive to share a room or stay at a local hotel, not the one the conference is held in. Take your own snacks or drinks and keep them in your room.
What was your first conference like?
It was scary, exciting and thrilling all at the same time. I attended by myself and it was a three-day conference. I really didn’t know what to expect but from the moment I entered the doors every team member was welcoming and helpful in getting me all the information I would need. I had printed my class schedule out at home and I knew where and when I needed to be somewhere. I also made a conscious decision to reach out and get to know other people. I talked to people sitting around me, I invited people to lunch or dinner and I stayed out of my room and in the social spaces to connect with others.
What was one of your best conference moments?
I loved meeting Kari Chapin. I’ve read her books and loved them so actually getting the chance to take a class and talk with her was amazing.
Have you connected with new people at a conference and what are your tips for attendees (especially introverts) to network at conferences?
I was very hesitant before my first conference but I decided to reach out via Facebook and Etsy boards to see if anyone was attending. Those chance networking opportunities turned into meet ups at the conference and friendships long past the conference date. We communicate through social media and support one another personal and business ventures.
What are the essential things you bring (or wish you had brought) to a conference?
I take the “Smash” spiral notebook to each conference. It includes a glue stick pen so I can adhere handouts or other info right into the notebook. That way all my info is in the same place and when I want to look up something I learned at a conference it’s all there, year and after year.
How do you apply what you’ve learned to your business/creative pursuit?
That’s a little more difficult because when I return from a conference I have conference overload and it takes a few days to get back and have time to digest all the material. I decide at the conference, at least two things that are “must do’s” when I get back home. That way it’s not so overwhelming.