This blogpost series focuses on tips for attending the annual Handcrafted Soapmaking Guild (HSMG) Conference. This year the conference is held in Miami, FL on May 18-20, 2011. The first year I attended I had no idea what to expect. I've picked up little tips along the way (and some from other attendees) that I hope you'll find helpful if you're planning to attend.
One of the most important tips for a successful conference is to keep your mind open to new opportunities and possibilities. This is an educational and networking event, so you may not get direct leads for sales at the conference. But you just never know what opportunity may present itself. Here are just a few opportunites that have happened to me:
- Meeting new colleagues/friends in the industry who later may refer customers to you when they cannot fill their product or capacity needs.
- Mixing and mingling with industry suppliers who may feature your company or products on their website (to lead to more exposure and orders).
- Potential collaboration with industry colleagues whom you previously assumed were "the competition." (Like I said, keep an open mind and leave preconceived notions at home.)
- Picking up a key piece of information from a presentation that is the perfect piece you needed for your business.
Sara Nesbitt, owner of Sara's Soaps 'n Such (Burgaw, NC) said she picked up a key piece of information at last year's conference in Denver. It was just what she needed to hear. "Attending last year's guild conference increased my sales through the use of social media. I'd mostly thought of social media more as a networking tool than a marketing/branding tool," she said.
Sara said Donna Maria Coles Johnson of Indie Beauty changed how she viewed social media. "For example, she talked about adding brief videos via YouTube to your social media life. They don't even have to be directly related to your products or business; they can be about other people's businesses, like those that are local to your community, Sara said. "I'd never thought about that. I had used YouTube to upload tutorials for fellow soapmakers, but not to market other people. My thinking changed from "Social networking" to "social media." Ironically, through "media," I've begun to "network" more, connecting to local people who I've met in real life and befriended in person."
Sara said last year's conference taught her that social media wasn't something to fear. As a result, she now uses Facebook, Twitter, blog, newsletter and has a YouTube channel. "I use these tools to help other soapmakers grow their businesses - swirl tutorials for CP, discussion forum on Facebook, pictures and ponderances on my blog," she said.
Check back tomorrow for my blogpost entitled "Even If You're Shy, Just Say Hi."