Creative at Heart: First-Time Attendee Tips
I can’t believe it’s been almost 3 months since the first Creative at Heart Conference, where does the time go?! Since then, so many great things have happened with the wonderful friendships I built when I was there. C@H was a one-of-a-kind experience for me (you are read more about my experience here and here), but today I wanted to share a little about what to expect and how to make the most of your time there. For some of you, on top of all that excitement there may be a little bit of underlying anxiety and nervousness. Your bags have been packed for days, but you’re still obsessing over finding just the right outfit, picking out that perfect statement necklace, and making last minute trips to Target for cute PJ’s. The funny thing is, none of that really matters. What matters is what you DO at the conference. With that said, I wanted to give you some tips and share some insight from my experience. Trust me, I totally understand that it’s very intimidating to attend a conference where you don’t know a soul. However, I’m hoping these tips are useful for you first-timers and help alleviate any stress you may be feeling!
1. INTRODUCE YOURSELF
I know it sounds really nerve wracking, but trust me, it’s one of the best things you can do. Before the sessions start or during breaks, turn around and say hello to the people sitting around you! It doesn’t have to be anything crazy, just a simple “Hi, I’m Jess from Jess Creates! I’m run small graphic design company, which specializes in wedding stationery and branding for small businesses. So nice to meet you”. You never know what will come out of that simple conversation! Chances are that person has already done their research (aka cyberstaked you) and may already know who you are! In my case, some girls even recognized me from Katelyn’s blog and said how much they loved our wedding, which was so, so sweet.
2. GRAB DINNER WITH YOUR NEW FRIENDS
There’s usually a little bit of downtime at least one of the nights before the evening activities, so I highly encourage you to grab a group of your new friends and have dinner together! It’s such a great way to get to know folks a little better. Many of those 20+ girls who I chatted with over tacos and margaritas have become great friends! We spent time talking about our goals and dreams for our businesses, but we also got to know one another outside of “work”, and it was so much fun. I can’t begin to tell you how much has come out of those friendships I made that night; styled shoots, dinner dates, and so much more. Believe it or not, a handful of those ladies have also become clients! You just never know what can happen!
3. BE PRESENT DURING THE SESSIONS
I’m such a note taker, but I highly recommend really trying to put your pen down and be present during those presentations. If you’re too busy Instagramming, you’re going to miss out on some great information! As hard as it can be for some, tuck that phone in your purses, check out from social media, and soak in those powerful words. You want to be as free of distraction as you can while you take in all the valuable information from the speakers. They will change your life!
4. MAKE TIME GET TO KNOW YOUR ROOMMATES
Whether they’re a professional in their field with a huge following or a freshman in college with a big dream, you never know what will come out of the relationships with your roommates. You may feel like you don’t have much in common with a photographer or an event planner, but I’m here to tell you some wonderful things can come out of those relationships! For example, one of my roomies at the time didn’t have a business yet but just weeks after the conference she got a businesses license, launched her website, and we’re currently working together for her branding – which is amazing! I can’t tell you enough to make the most out of your time with your roommates, no matter what creative skill they have or what stage their businesses is in. If you’re a photographer and your roomie is a stationery designer, maybe she’ll need some styled shots of her invitations!? If you’re a calligrapher and your rooming with an event planner, maybe you can brainstorm some fun gifts for her clients that feature some of your beautiful calligraphy!? No matter what, take time to invest in those relationships. Those ladies you’re having late night chats with will be your biggest cheerleaders and hold you accountable for those big dreams! It’s incredible!
5. CONNECT WITH OTHERS IN YOUR FIELD
This is a big one guys. If you haven’t realized this yet, you’ll learn quickly that community is more important than competition. Don’t let the ugliness of comparison and fear hold you down. And don’t worry….there’s plenty of work to go around! I’m such an advocate of making friends in your line work and you know why? Because you need each other! Those people understand you! Also, for example, if you’re a stationery designer and you have an inquiry from a bride that you simply can’t accommodate – what do you do? Instead of just declining the project, wouldn’t it be great to refer her to someone else? Especially if it’s someone you trust and admire? Not only does it show you care, but it also speaks so much for your personality. Plus as an added bonus, I’m sure the inquiring client will be so grateful for your recommendation! So overcome that little voice in your head that’s telling you otherwise and make friends in those break out sessions!
6. IF YOU CAN, BRING SNACKS (and maybe a bottle of wine….or two)
Leave it to me to always talk about food, haha! You’re probably thinking I’m crazy at this point….but hear me out. I knew I lived within driving distance from the hotel the first time around, and I had this secret hope to have a little impromptu get together. I wanted another excuse to get these new friends together, and what better way to do that through delicious snacks (Emily’s salted caramel chocolate chip cookies to be exact) and wine! So the first night before dinner, we kept our hotel room door open, opened a couple bottles of wine, and invited every person that looked familiar from the conference to come in and join us! Next thing I knew, we had almost 20 girls sitting in our room, laughing, and chatting. It was such a great time and one of my favorite memories of the conference.
7. KEEP IN TOUCH AFTER THE CONFERENCE IS OVER
I understand that it’s sounds impossible to stay in touch with 100+ people. After the conference is over you’re going to be so inspired and excited, you’ll want to run home and apply everything you just learned to your business. One word of advice though….don’t forget about all those amazing people you just met! Of course you’re going to have a fire in your belly to start making changes to your business, but one of the things that was invaluable to me was taking the time to reach out to the people that really made an impact on me in some shape or form. It doesn’t have to be a lengthy email by any means, but there were some people that were SO inspiring to me, I felt like I needed to reach out and thank them. Also, don’t be afraid to connect with those people that you wish you had time to talk to, but didn’t! After the conference I found out Emily G. and Alicia both lived literally minutes from my office. So I blindly reached out to them after and scheduled a time to meet for lunch! We met up and instantly I felt like I was meeting up with old friends. So after your time is over at C@H, make the time to continue those relationships or even make new ones!
8. MAKE THOSE BIG PLANS HAPPEN!
I remember one night sitting in the lobby chatting with a large group and Ashley mentioned she had always dreamed about doing a styled shoot. She had the vision in her head, but just needed some vendors to make it happen. Minutes later, Ashley had a handful of people step up and volunteer to make that vision a reality. Sure enough, we have a styled shoot with a handful of amazing vendors scheduled for the end of April. This weekend you’re going to be surrounded by tons of creatives. Don’t be afraid to share your ideas, you never know who will volunteer to help you. Once those ideas start flowing, make them happen!
9. HAVE FUN!
Seriously, have fun. Check out from work, forget about all those unanswered emails, and try not to think about that never-ending list of things to do. Dance to Taylor Swift, enjoy meaningful conversation over cupcakes, hug your new friends, and make friendships that will last you a lifetime.
You guys are going to walk away with so much after the conference has ended, I really can’t find the right words to express how much those few days changed my life. You will laugh, cry, and leave more inspired than you could ever imagine. I’ve been to countless graphic design conferences where I’ve left with nothing more than a notebook full of notes. I’m telling you friends, this is going to be unlike anything you have ever been to in your life. You’ll know from the moment you arrive that this is different…something truly special.
I hope these few tips have given you a better idea of what to expect and how you can make the most out of your Creative at Heart experience! I’m secretly jealous that I won’t be there in person, but you’ll be getting a little something from Jess Creates, so I’ll be there in spirit.
Have an amazing time friends!