Lifestyle Magazine

5 Tips for a Successful Business Event: Lessons from Craftcation

By Linsibrownson @CleverSpark

As part of the two person Social Media team at the Indie Business Conference Craftcation, I was able to experience both as an attendee but also get a good look behind the velvet curtain.

What I saw on both sides was amazing.

Let me back up a moment in case you haven’t heard of Craftcation.  It is, after all, only in its second year.  Craftcation is a conference for creative entrepreneurs.  The 4 day event has a mix of business lectures and panel discussions that are geared toward micro and solopreneurs.  The topics range from website development and SEO to getting a book published and DIY PR.  There were also frank discussions about money, business partnerships and how to keep going when the going gets tough. But amongst all the information and insight from real world pros was something I find quite unique.  FUN. A whole slew of hands-on workshops – sewing, mixed media art, food classes – even an artisan bar tutorial that left attendees with jars of accoutrements and a buzz.

And at the end of each long day was another mental break, social outings to really take budding relationships to the next level.  In a matter of days you could get a year’s worth of business coaching, a new dress, purse, apron and kombucha, a felted gnome and a shit ton of friends.  Well worth the (crazy low) price of admission.

I’m not going to recap the whole event – I think these ladies have done it better: Maddie @maddiedierkes, Denise @PearMama and Jen @DreamsDelirious.

What I want to talk about is WHY the conference was so successful.  These were my takeaways and tips.

1. Build your event for the attendees.

The founders Delilah & Nicole really understood their audience.  They’re not newbies to the world of handmade arts and business, but I don’t think you have to be a seasoned pro to do something amazing for your peeps.  You just have to care enough to really listen and pay attention to what people are craving.  These women saw a need in the world and rather than jump on the bandwagon and hold a small local version at the rec center, they focused their energy on identifying a certain type of person and finding out exactly what would make them go bananas.  And then they built it to spec, bringing people lit-rally across the country to attend.

2. Foster a community.

As with most conferences, a big part of the experience is the connections you make.  But this wasn’t a networking event, it was more like a retreat.  And the people who came as strangers left as friends.  This is a pretty impressive feat considering the several hundred attendees and wide array of classes at any given time.  Depending on what you were there for, you might not cross paths with the same person twice.

Which is why the community was so important.  People will come back to learn and play (and have a vacation) again, but they will FLOCK  back to see their friends IRL once a year.

So how did Craftcation foster this community?  Online and offline.  In between classes there were opportunities to connect, chat and take pictures with new friends.  There was morning and evening yoga, lunchtime gatherings and evening mixers (that went well past evening).  Online, using hashtags #Craftcation and #Makers2013 opened up a dialog that let people use all their social media channels to talk about classes, share pics and compliment instructors.

That brings me to another point.  The Instructors & Speakers were 100% accessible throughout the conference.  There was no celebrity status (even though there were a few industry celebs in attendance) or hierarchy among people.  Everyone was there to learn and share and enjoy each other.  You don’t get a better community than that.

Leading my 'Branding' round table. Photo courtesy of

Leading my ‘Branding’ round table. Photo courtesy of

3. Assemble a support team and know people’s strengths. 

You can’t do everything alone in your business.  It’s impossible and trying sucks.  So accept that you need help sometimes and set out to find the right people to do that.  When it comes to pulling off a big event, it is absolutely necessary to have your team on board and excited about what they are doing.  A big part of keeping people motivated is making them feel important.  Give people tasks that play to their strengths, let them make moderate decisions (also important if you don’t want to age yourself several years over the course of a few days) and for godssake – praise them!  People want to help, but nobody likes to be taken for granted.  And letting people know that you depend on them is much more likely to inspire them to step up to the plate.

Hard at work - tweeting, or vine-ing...or whatever.  Photo courtesy of

Hard at work – tweeting, or vine-ing…or whatever. Photo courtesy of

The Craftcation team (myself included) was an energetic and happy bunch.  Everyone went above and beyond their duties because everyone felt the same connection as the attendees.  We loved the people there, we loved the events and we love Delilah and Nicole.  We worked our asses off and we had FUN.

4. Plan carefully, but let things go.

No matter how much planning, scrutinizing and forecasting – your event will have some bumps.  The more events you do the easier it gets to handle but it will never ever be perfect.  And that’s okay.  Because as soon as you have a perfect event you will have to retire. Or die.

The best thing you can do is plan ahead for potential trouble and communicate your mission with your team.  As long as everyone is on the same page, and you have some sort of protocol in place for disasters, you WILL get through it – and you’ll probably be amazed by how easily everyone manages.  But check your expectations and make your priority be to ensure as many people as possible have a good experience.  Everything else is just details.

Along with this, being open to feedback is essential.  You have to be willing, no, WANT to hear from people on both sides to make the best decisions and improve the event next time.

On the outside, it appeared that Craftcation was pretty damn near perfect.  But since we know that’s impossible, it was truly impressive that the organizers and sponsors alike asked as many people as possible for their honest feedback.  There is even a staff retreat in Palm Springs to discuss what worked and didn’t work and begin preparing for next year (meetings partially held poolside, drink in hand).

5. Don’t stop marketing when the doors open.

As I mentioned, I was brought in to help manage the social media campaign throughout the course of the conference.  Lots of events stop worrying about marketing once they sell the final tickets.  You’ve made your money, now you just need some pictures to show people having a good time.

Not so, and it’s a damn good thing that Craftcation understood this.  Going back to the community element, we (myself and my partner Tara) were the ones fostering it online.  We were EVERYWHERE – sharing tidbits that not only started conversations but also showed the value of the conference to anyone who was listening – and around the world they were listening!  We were able to capture moments that attendees couldn’t see because they were absorbed in the experience and observe important elements to report back as feedback to the organizers.  The conversations online are still going weeks later as people are seeing photos of themselves and digging through conversations and links that we shared.

Using social media heightened the experience for the attendees and undoubtedly increased sales for next year.

If you are planning an event large or small, take these 5 tips to heart.  And I highly recommend you check out Craftcation and its sister event the Patchwork Show.  Follow them on Twitter, Instagram, Vine and Facebook and check out some of the conversation through #Craftcation

Some of my fave pics:

craftcation collage

These pics are mine, but they aren’t nearly as good as the professional pics from Matthew William Photography

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