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How to get the most out of conferences

How to get the most out of creative conferences www.pencilshavingsstudio.com

This last weekend I was honored to be included as a speaker at  Amber Housley Inspired, and it was a fantastic experience. My friend Whitney says it best – “there’s nothing like bonding with other creatives in a ballroom.” Or in this case, a meeting room at a hotel.  I learned so much from some really amazing creative women – people who I probably wouldn’t have met otherwise if I hadn’t shown up.  Speaking of awesome creative women, you should really check out Jess Lively, Amy Flurry, and Cathy Olson. You’re welcome.

Stacy Nance and I drove out to Nashville last Wednesday together and let me just tell you, it gets real with people REAL FAST when you spend 10 hours in a car with someone. Stacy is totally my girl – we get each other, and it was really fun to have that much time to really understand who she is, what she’s about, and what she wants to become. The next morning bright and early was the beginning of the conference and it covered all different kinds of topics related to small business for creatives – everything from blogging to branding to web design & SEO, financial planning, you name it. You can find product vendors half a country away, or web designers near you at these things. I came away with LOADS of new ideas, new contacts, new friendships, and more.

I’ve been to a handful of creative conferences, summits, and workshops now.  And it’s never a cheap endeavor to go to one of these things. Initially there’s usually hesitation – “Am I really going to benefit from this?”  And beyond that, it can induce major anxiety, especially for those who might be more introverted and aren’t sure about meeting new people. These experiences have great potential for becoming majorly overwhelming – and almost stifling, if you let it. But I honestly believe that showing up is half of the problem. All you have to do is make the decision to go – and I PROMISE you’re going to benefit from it.

For me, I want to connect with people at these things – so I think it’s really important that even if you go with a group of other people that you know, try to get out of that group so you’re forced to interact with people you probably wouldn’t have met otherwise. Alt Summit is a great way to do that – it’s overwhelming for sure, almost like the first day of college – but my number one piece of advice is try to go sit down next to someone new at every single panel. Sit at a different lunch table. You won’t regret it.

Rooming with people is another great way to forge some long-lasting friendships and support groups. Simon always looks at me like I’m crazy when I’ve told him that I’m rooming with people I don’t know (like at Stationery Academy last year). But again – those late night conversations that happen when you’re figuring out the problems of the world really are the best parts. Those are the places where the magic happens. Ideas are born, collaborations are formed – big stuff goes down.

I always come away from an event like Amber Housley Inspired with pages of notes of things I want to accomplish. It really is refreshing to go to something that forces me to focus on who I am, and what I want to become. It’s a retreat almost – I’m meeting with my tribe and even though it’s exhausting, it’s the thing that will light my fire for the next 6 months.

What are all those big things I want to accomplish? More on that at a later date – but in the meantime, I’m going to keep mentally watering the seeds of all the good stuff that was planted in my brain over the weekend.

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