Creative conferences and conventions can be a great step towards building your personal brand and building credibility. You may meet people who become life-long friends and business partners, and you will definitely get the chance to spread the word about your business to a much larger audience. Here are 5 specific ways in which you can get involved with the creative conferences going on around you.
1. Be An Attendee
If you’ve never attended any sort of creative conference or convention, now is the time to get started! Yes, building an online community is a big part of growing any business nowadays, but when you take the leap from gaining online followers to making real-life connections, you’ll see your community strengthened even further. Because I attended the last two Texas Style Council conferences, I made lots of new friends that have become part of my extended online network. We’ve created private Facebook groups to keep in touch since the conference, and we go out of our way to support each other’s work online since meeting in real life.
If you’ve never attended a conference, particularly if you consider yourself introverted or shy (that’s definitely me when I’m around lots of new people!), plan to have an icebreaker. I made my own hand-embroidered name-tag which I sometimes wear to conferences and local meet-ups. It’s been a great conversation starter:
2. Sponsor or Be a Vendor At a Conference
Most conferences and conventions offer sponsorship packages at varying price levels, and some conferences even offer table space for vendors. If the theme and demographics of the event are a good fit with the target audience for your business, sponsoring and/or vending at a conference can be a great way to introduce your biz to a new group of people!
If you choose to sponsor a conference or have the chance to do a brand activation where you can create a fun activity or experience for attendees, go out of your way to be original and memorable, in a way that makes sense for your brand. For example, at Texas Style Council, Honest Tea had a booth where attendees could create their own buttons. Honest Tea is known for their inspirational quotes on the inside of each of their bottle caps, so they encouraged attendees to draw or write something similarly inspiring and turn it into a circular button that attendees could take home with them. This aligned well with their brand message, and it offered a fun and easy activity for conference attendees.
3. Volunteer At a Conference
Another great way to get involved on a deeper level is by volunteering for a conference. This might mean helping out during the event itself or taking on some of the pre-conference planning duties. I recently volunteered to be a Content Coordinator for Pursuit Creative Conference, a new conference for creative entrepreneurs here in New Orleans that some friends of mine are putting together. I was planning to attend the conference anyway, but by volunteering, I’ll get to have a greater hand in shaping the conference and I will also be in a better position to make more connections with other attendees prior to the conference.
4. Speak At a Conference
After you’ve attended a few conferences or maybe even volunteered for one, you should start to feel more confident and knowledgeable about your area of expertise. If you find yourself attending conferences and realizing that you know just as much as the people on stage, it’s a great time to make the leap into speaking.
Some conferences have an internal process for determining their speakers, but many conferences put up a call for speakers. One way to find out about when these are posted is to sign up for the email list of conferences that you have attended or are interested in speaking at. You might also try a Google search of “call for speakers 2015″ to discover new conferences. While doing research earlier this year, I stumbled across a call for speakers for iRetreat Conference, which is how I became one of their speakers at next month’s conference.
Once you’ve found a conference you want to apply to speak at, be ready to explain, clearly and concisely, which topic you would like to speak on. Some conferences might have a variety of formats, like individual speakers, panel discussions, and debates, so be ready to let them know which format you are comfortable with. You’ll also want to show why you are the right person for the job, so include specifics about why you are the expert on this topic as well as examples of any past speaking experience.
5. Start Your Own Conference
What if you live in an area that doesn’t have any conferences that are a good fit for your business, and you don’t have the funds to travel to one? Maybe it’s time to take matters into your own hands and start your own conference.
As I mentioned earlier, my friends are creating a new conference for creative entrepreneurs here in New Orleans called Pursuit Creative Conference. This year’s event will be on a smaller scale: a one-day event at a venue that is big enough, but not massive. Any time you’re planning a brand new event, it’s best to start small, and build up over time, rather than trying to do too much right out of the gate.
A few years ago, I joined forces with an existing conference, Rising Tide, in order to create a second stage of panels focused on hands-on, how-to topics on blogging, social media and tech. We named it Tech School, and even though I’m no longer involved in running the conference, Tech School is still a part of the conference today.
How has being involved with conferences helped you grow YOUR creative biz?
I’d love to hear more about what conferences you’ve attended and how it’s helped you grow your creative business! Let me know your thoughts about conferences in the comments, or reach out via Facebook or Twitter – my contact information is right below!
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