Craftcation: Making the Most of Your Conference Experience

Maybe you’ve heard of it, maybe you haven’t: Craftcation is the ultimate get together for crafty folk! Picture a huge conference full of creative makers– blogging superstars, uber-writers, people who have made their names out of being visionaries. It is four days of intense workshops centered around taking your small business to the next level.

Sold yet? I was.

I never went to prom (or really cared about it), but the excitement I had about Craftcation could have rivaled another girl’s excitement about that hallowed dance.

I decided to go with my friends Janie (of JanieXY) and Julie (of Rotten Cupcakes). I think we were all looking at this as sort of our prom, because once the schedule went up for workshops on the Craftcation website, we didn’t waste any time making a plan.

Here’s how we made the most of our Craftcation. You can use our tips for other workshops.

  •  Get the early bird rate. Look, I’m the first to want to pony up the full amount to support an idea I believe in. However, a lot of conferences worth their weight are pretty spendy. Usually, when a conference date is announced, there will be a discounted rate for those that purchase tickets early. DO IT! We saved a few hundred dollars by using the special rate. It’s a big help and your pocketbook will thank you.
  •  Once speakers have been announced, start researching them! Get hardcore: ask friends about them, check their blogs, Google for interviews, do whatever you can to get to know your instructors. All this research is gonna get you amped up for the conference, and you can start forming lists of questions that can be asked once you are actually in workshops.

craftcation1

  • You don’t have to do this, but I highly recommend it. If you have a group of friends or colleagues that are going with you, plan your schedules together. Most conferences schedule different events at conflicting times. Sit down with your friends and figure out how to spread the love: meaning, actually figure out who will be going to what, and how to split up in order to cover conflicting events. This was absolutely key for Janie, Julie, and myself. We each took copious notes in separate workshops, and then exchanged notes after the confrence. Talk about getting bang for your buck! I almost felt like we were part of a super note-taking team!
  • Talk to people! I love Dyana Valentine’s philosophy: “Find out something about a stranger today.” I tend to be on the introverted side, but it’s always worth it to introduce myself to the person next to me. I usually start with a compliment because it’s open ended and sincere. Find out what feels comfortable to you and do it! So much of these events is really about connecting with other people. You have no idea what people are up to. And usually you have more in common than you might have thought.

craftcation2

  • Go to every event you can! Again, I’m not the most social person, so it helped to have my roommate Julie by my side. We went to most of the events together, put in a good effort, and then left when we felt at peace with departing. The idea is to participate– these events are coordinated for specific reasons and it’s usually to enrich the experience as a whole– and so it makes sense to meet the conference plan in the middle and SHOW UP for mixers and happy hours. You aren’t obligated to stay, and most of the time I find that once I have a little lemon water in my hand, I’m in rapt conversation with someone extremely interesting and I could care less about leaving. I love it when I surprise myself!
  • Remember those speakers and instructors you vigilantly researched before you came to the Craftcation? They are usually at those mixers and happy hours. After hearing Tiffany Han speak, I summoned my courage and approached her during a happy hour. What resulted was a conversation that empowered me– encouraging specific actions related to my portrait business. I fought tears and the whole thing ended with a hug I didn’t know I needed. Ask the questions you’ve been composing. Ask what comes to you out of the blue. Just make sure you ask. These opportunities are so often the takeaway of the experience.

craftcation3

 

  • It’s cheesy, but make sure you ask for business cards! I like business cards for two reasons: 1.) because a good business card is inspiring, 2.) If I ask for your business card, it means you made an impression on me and I intend to follow up with you. I ended up with a handful of business cards each day, and before I went to bed, I taped them into my notebook along with details (where we met, what we talked about, etc.)  next to each card so I could jog my memory later. And you can bet I ended up finding those people on Facebook or sent them emails when the conference ended.
  • Bring your own food. Some food will be catered, and I had a great experience when that happened, but a few meals were spent in the hotel restaurant. This can be hit or miss, so use Yelp (check reviews as well as a menu online) to figure out if that’s an area you want to fly by the seat of your pants. If Craftcation is held at the same hotel next year, I will be bringing a cooler full of food to nosh on. It’s not because I’m a snob about food, it’s more about the fact that I like to eat pretty frequently and healthfully. And in case you didn’t pick up from this post, I really like to have everything figured out and organized. Including my meals.

Aurora Lady & Julie of Rotten Cupcakes

 Photo by Matthew William Photography

  • Make the most of unscheduled times. I used these pockets of time to wander around Ventura and do some of my favorite things: I scooped up this lovely blue coat at the Goodwill downtown, and I had kick ass vegan burger at their local haunt. I know this doesn’t sound like the most active use of time, but I needed the break to really digest what I was learning and processing in workshops. Goodwill calms my nerves like a purring kitten, so that’s where I go to relax. Know what that is for you and be sure to use it at your conference.
  • Follow up! I’m gonna touch on this again because it’s truly important: when you are back on solid ground (like, say HOME), send emails to those people you connected with. Make a plan to grab a drink with them. Skype. Be friends on Facebook! Do whatever you do to keep your friends in orbit. You just spent four days with complete badasses. I’m sure you want to keep them around!

Craftcation was one solid month ago, and I’m still hit with reverberations of what I learned. I feel jolts of excitement when I think about attending next year. It kind of blows my mind that I live in a time where making money on what you love is so much of a viable option that there is a conference built around it– could there be a more fantastic thing?

I learned so much. And I can’t wait to go back.

xo

 

5 total comments on this postSubmit yours
  1. Yay! Great post! Looking forward seeing you at the next Craftcation for sure! :D

  2. All these tips are spot on! So glad you found the courage to say hi to Tiffany at the mixer. She is a firecracker of inspiration. I love her!

    P.S. So honored that you drew me. It was a great group at Craftcation. Wasn’t it?

  3. this post is so wonderful and it is great to hear how to tackle the conference and make the most out of it (i am a TOTAL planner too)! i am beaming with happiness right now reading how much you enjoyed the conference and the last bit makes me teary :)
    and the artwork -SO KILLER!!! love it so much!

    thank you and see you next year, we are already working on it (heading to Ventura in a few weeks!)…we will be blogging about it.
    XO
    d

  4. Aurora! You’re amazing!

    Seriously. I am so in love with all of this! And FUCK YEAH! that you came to talk to me at the mixer. It was so great getting to talk with you, and I love that it helped!!

    Keep up the awesome yo! Seriously.

  5. This post is great! It’s key to be strategic about these types of events for myself as well. Also, I love that the goodwill is soothing for you- I walk to mine every week for a good ol’ thrifting time out from life ;)

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