You know when you get SO excited about something you forget to check out all of the details? That was my feeling as I walked out of Create + Cultivate 2 weekends ago in Dallas. Was it beautiful? Absolutely. Did they do an amazing job? They did. Was it the right conference for me? Yes and No.
I had heard so many amazing things about this conference that when I heard there were only 50 tickets left I immediately grabbed one. I had glanced at the track lists maybe once or twice over a handful of months and I remembered thinking “Oh yeah, that looks interesting”. What I came to understand was the distinction between “interesting” and “applicable” is a big one when picking a conference for yourself. For the base conference ticket price you got randomly assigned a track and if you paid the VIP price you got to pick your track. There was a major difference in tracks when it came to the kind of work I did and I definitely was in the wrong track (my mistake). I couldn’t rationalize spending an extra $225 to pick my own track but at the end of the day it was totally worth it, not for the extra swag but to sit in the panels that more closely aligned with the direction I am taking my business in.
My track consisted of: A panel on curating your Instagram feeds and how to take pictures for Instagram and make money with your feed. Not unhelpful, took away some good tips (didn’t know what flat lay was) but again just slightly misaligned with my client base as most of them don’t dabble in Instagram.
The Art of the Pitch: Probably my favorite panel of the day. Talked about how to present yourself, what the people you are pitching to are looking for, how to deal with rejection etc. Awesome group!
**This would be a good place to mention that of the 400 people (no, I did not meet all of them), I didn’t meet a single person who did remotely close to what I did for work. In a few instances it worked in my favor because some of these women were looking for a web designer/social media managers. I met a lot of Lifestyle and Fashion Bloggers. Looking back, had I paid more attention it became clear that this particular version of Create + Cultivate was largely aimed towards that world.
My third panel was how to keep your blog true to you and your brand. Sophia Rossi was on this panel along with some other woman who seemed very popular with the crowd and whose names I unfortunately do not remember. I love HelloGiggles. If you haven’t started reading them please do. Sophia Rossi is business partners with Zooey Deschanel and it is a contributor based website/blog. Even Sophia Rossi made a joke that she was not the best contributor to this panel as she is in broadcasting and the rest of these women are in Lifestyle/Fashion. They gave a lot of empowering and useful advice on staying true to yourself and it refreshed my aspirations to just be me and I am grateful to have heard them speak.
Then we broke out into “Mentor Sessions”. I chose mentors that were PR/Social Media mavens – the first girl I sat down with runs a very successful PR company in New Jersey and man she really knew her stuff! Unfortunately the room was loud so I only caught about every 3rd word of what she said. The 2nd girl I sat with was so soft spoken I could barely hear her over the hum of the room and although her company seemed very successful she seemed very uncomfortable leading a group of women in discussion about social strategy.
Then the last session is where I really enjoyed my time. Sophia Rossi interviewed the creators of Soul Cycle. These women were incredible! Amazing advice, awesome stories about how to lean in to your brand and make your company a reflection of yourself. They made me want to run to the nearest Soul Cycle studio. During this session a lightbulb went off for me. I wanted more of this! I wanted to hear about how these sassy, insanely talented woman created these companies! How they stay motivated, what challenges them. I wanted to know why building a multi billion dollar company is worth it, what are their biggest obstacles. It just felt far and away the most alive session of the day. If I can take anything away from this conference is now I know exactly what I’m looking for.
The keynote was given by Emily Schuman of Cupcakes and Cashmere. She is a very successful blogger/designer/mom and her empire is definitely something to be admired. I left not remembering too much of the last session but with an awesome swag bag and the memories of meeting some very cool people.
Would I go back? Maybe.
Here is what I would do first:
1. Read the tracks extremely carefully. If I know I wouldn’t want one track vs the other than I would pay to guarantee my spot in the one I liked.
2. I would look at the guest panelists. Look for people aligned in similar jobs to yours or people you feel inspired by.
3. Take a friend. Going in alone was tough. I am an outgoing girl but seeing that practically everyone brought someone with them made it kind of hard to interact with people.
My ambivalence in going back is completely because of my own decisions. Create + Cultivate does a really great job at what they do. I will say, it is not for everyone, but that’s the beauty of these. They do 2 a year and they are always a little different. They are announcing a new city on Feb 15th. Maybe I’ll see you there!