Whether you’re a blogger, freelancer, entrepreneur, or small business owner, you’ve probably attended or considered attending a conference in your field. What you’ve most likely discovered in researching or going to one is that they’re a major investment of your time and money. Unfortunately, finding the right conference can be a bit like finding the right hair stylist – you don’t know if it’s going to be amazing or disappointing until you’ve paid up and sat in the chair. So before you budget, save, and book your next conference, be sure you choose the best one for you and your business. Ask yourself these five important questions, and check out these great, comprehensive resources to help you research and register for your next conference.
What’s resources do you have?
Before you start looking for a conference you should determine the resources you have to invest – ask yourself, what’s my budget and how much time do I have? Some conferences are only half a day and may cost around $100, while others can span over the course of several days and cost close to $1000 or more. It’s important to be clear on your resources before you go searching so you don’t over extend yourself. You can expense a conference to your business, but you still need to be certain your finances are intact before committing. It’s also essential that it works into your personal and professional calendar. Even if the conference is booked out further than your work schedule, you’ll be able to notify your clients accordingly.
Where do you want to go?
Now that you’ve got an idea of the time and money you can invest in a conference, you can determine where you want to go: somewhere local, somewhere out of state, or somewhere international. This decision may be dictated by the resources you have, but there are other factors to take into account when choosing a location. Do you want to connect more deeply with your regional network? Do you want to gain more national exposure? Do you want to experience your industry from the perspective of another culture? While contemplating these questions, you should keep your target audience and client base in mind in addition to the personal growth you hope to achieve.
How do you learn best?
Once you’ve covered the logistics of where you want to go and how you’re going to get there, you can focus on what you want to gain from the conference. In my experience, taking into account your personal learning style is one of the most important steps you can take in choosing the best one for you. Think back to academia – did you thrive in a larger or smaller class size? Consider lectures or workshops you’ve attended in your professional life – do you enjoy engaging with the speaker and other attendees or do you prefer to soak it all in with your eyes, ears, and notepad? Being clear on the type of environment in which you’re going to learn most effectively is essential to having the best possible conference experience.
Why do you want to attend?
Knowing the purpose or intention behind why you want to attend a conference is also key. It’s pretty easy for a conference to catch your eye just because the price is right, the location is convenient, or the lineup of speakers is amazing. However, if you don’t know what knowledge, skill, or connection you want to walk away with at the end, you could be left with a great experience and nothing to show for it. Are you hoping to build and expand your network or are you looking to learn a new skill or more about a particular subject matter? Maybe you’re at a transitional moment in your career or planning to expand your business in a big way, and you need more insight before you get started. Determining why you want to attend will help you to have the best conference experience.
Who do you want to connect with?
Whether your primary goal is to network or not, you will have the opportunity to connect with others no matter what conference you attend. Considering who you want to connect with is one more factor to take into account as you hone in on your decision. Do you want to connect with peers in your field, industry veterans, or potential clients? Peers are pretty easy to engage with at any conference, but if you want to be able to interact directly with the speakers or presenters, you should consider one with a more intimate atmosphere. Conferences are also a place to connect with potential clients – just look for a one that’s hosting companies, brands, or sponsors on site.
Now that you have a clearer picture of what you’re looking for in a conference, it’s time to start searching! Check out these three awesome and comprehensive resources to get started:
Crave, a verb:
1. To long for; want greatly, desire eagerly
2. To require; need
A few months ago I debuted the first edition of CRAVE with a compilation of my virtual hoardings. You know all those pictures, articles, and posts you Like on social media? What happens to them? How many articles have you Liked and actually read? Did you ever buy that great new product you Liked? Most times, the answer is no. So, I began periodically reviewing my likes and bookmarking the information in a folder called Cravings.
In this edition of CRAVE, I’m sharing some of my latest cravings from a Saturday of shopping around New York City. A couple weekends ago, I was hosting some out-of-town company. We walked through the park, hopped onto the subway, and ventured out onto the streets of Soho with one destination in mind: The Reformation. Coincidentally, we’d both been eying dresses from the sustainable LA-based boutique. Next, I suggested we shop for accessories at Erica Weiner, a Brooklyn-based antique and vintage-inspired jewelry brand with a shop on the edge of Little Italy. After that, we let or instincts guide us and roamed based on the flow of the crosswalks. This landed us at our final destination: a below-ground shop with an interesting window display and a name we couldn’t resist: Fair Folks and a Goat. As we explored the wares, I was reminded of that spark you get when a store window catches your eye, you wander inside, and touch, feel, or taste things as opposed to just reading reviews or looking at images on a screen. It was then I realized how much I’d been craving a shopping experience offline.
Not in NYC, don’t worry! All of these retailers are all available online as well.
Pining for… the perfect LBD to take from day to night? Head to The Reformation and check out their collection of ribbed stretch jersey shift dresses. I opted for the Arly Dress in black. No matter which style you choose, it can easily be dressed down for daytime with flats and a crossbody or dressed up for nighttime with wedges and a clutch.
Yearning for… a unique conversation piece to wear to your next event? You need a Heartbeats necklace by Erica Weiner. I wore my Heartbeats necklace featuring the Talking Heads lyric “This must be the place” to a garden party a week after purchasing it, and nearly every person I chatted with that night remarked on the necklace and the quote.
FAIR FOLKS AND A GOAT
Longing for… the most functional bag to carry in the city or on your next trip? Let’s start a movement to revive the fanny pack, which has now been rebranded by Herschel as the hip pack. If you’ve ever lived or traveled in an urban environment like NYC, you know it’s essential to have a great bag that is functional and fashionable. I typically turn to my crossbody or occasionally a backpack, but I have to admit, the hip pack is the most aptly designed for pedestrian, city life.
Still craving more? Check out CRAVE: First Edition!
So, I said I’d be coming to you with quick posts during my crazy week, but today I carved out some time to share a story that’s long overdue: My Midwestern Fashion Journey.
Last night I attended a fashion panel Q&A/discussion in Madison, Wisconsin. I know that fashion exists everywhere. “Fashion is instant language.” It’s something we don’t need words to understand – it speaks for itself, it tells its own story. Fashion is something that is part of every community and culture, whether people are cognizant of it or not. So, I won’t go on to make the broad statement that I didn’t know a fashion community existed in Madison. It’s the home of online retail giant Shopbop for goodness sake. But after living in Madison for the past few years, the fashion community didn’t exist to me until last night.
I like to think of myself as one who thinks outside of the box when it comes to city searching. I grew up with a mom who was a tried and true foodie before foodies existed. Every weekend we’d get in the car, leave the confines of suburbia, and scour every corner, hidden gem, and local hole in the wall in Atlanta for the best butter, cheese, produce, and chicken. But, somehow, when I moved to Madison I fell into the classic pitfall of a GEN Y city girl.
Madison is a small town with a Midwestern culture, both of which are pretty unfamiliar to me. When I first moved to Madison, I looked for those familiar fashion faces to anchor me. I located the local Anthropologie and Sephora… and… that was about it. No major department stores at the malls? No Nordstrom Rack? No Lululemon? (Please note a Lululemon has since been built in Madison.) I immediately strapped on my skeptic hat about the existence of a fashion community here. Perhaps, I thought, Madison is a town concentrated with local boutiques. This is the case in my former college town, Athens, Georgia, but Athens is about half the size of Madison and just about an hour and a half from the heart of downtown Atlanta. Still skeptical. As a GEN Y city girl, I wanted to be inundated with options. I wanted my safe department stores for the basics, the national chains for the seasonal must-have, and the amazing local boutiques too. I felt I’d already struck out on the first two, so I had a pretty bad attitude when it came to the third.
I found Hot Mama, a Midwestern chain with closet staples like Michael Stars and Splendid and a pretty great selection of premium denim. Things are looking up. I found an awesome casual/active wear store, Neena, with brands like Beyond Yoga and Rese. Another step in a positive direction. And, of course, there’s Bop. The little brick and mortar caterpillar that later emerged into the major retail butterfly Shopbop. When my mom came to visit for the first time, we strolled in and out of several shops in the State Street section of downtown, and I ventured into the Monroe Street area one Saturday after a trip to Trader Joes, but still, the fashion community in Madison wasn’t really speaking to me. I’d hit a wall, and through inaction, put my exploration on hold.
Friends know that I’ve had a real journey acclimating to Midwestern culture and Midwestern fashion. And, yes, I do attribute some of this to my GEN Y city girl mentality. The fashion community in the South is intense. It piggybacks off the pulse of its coastal counterpart, fashion mecca New York City, while adding its own southern charm. It’s very vocal and competitive. In the Midwest, everything is more quiet and laid back, including the fashion. I remember feeling very loud the first time I went out in Madison. Not literally audibly loud, but my outfit was screaming “I’m not from here! I’m a southern, GEN Y, city girl!” Although I still wouldn’t say I feel particularly comfortable in Madison when it comes to my style and meshing with the Midwest, time has truly been my greatest ally, and over the past couple years, I’ve accepted my uniqueness in a Midwestern fashion world.
So, I come back to last night: the fashion panel Q&A/discussion. As a fashion blogger for the past eight months, I’ve revisited my desire to explore the fashion community in Madison. A new friend recently turned me onto the Wisconsin Fashion Network, which led me to the event last night. While I’m still fairly certain I was one of the only non-Midwesterners there, I was able to meet some fellow bloggers, local business owners, and other ladies with an active interest in the fashion community. It was truly a breath of fresh air. After a fairly formal Q&A/discussion, we got down to the real conversations over drinks.
My two major connections of the night were with GaBrielle Pedriani of Look Sharp, Sconnie and Pamela Wilson of Iona. GaBrielle has completely changed my perception of personal style bloggers with her very honest and unique approach to personal styling blogging that defies the typical I’m always casually standing outside this chic cafe with my perfectly on trend handbag slung over my shoulder aesthetic that many personal style bloggers take. Better yet? Her images are backed with words: rich descriptions, a clear voice, and actual writing ability – things that are sadly lacking in many fashion blogs. Then there’s Pamela. I’m pretty excited to make time for a trip to my newest retail discovery: Iona. After chatting with Pamela last night and heading to Iona’s site this morning, I’m eagerly anticipating a carefully and creatively curated boutique with some one of a kind wares. I definitely foresee a more in depth post once I actually explore the boutique, so stay tuned, and in the mean time, shop the site!
As a graduate of the University of Georgia, I will always have an indescribably special place in my heart for Athens, GA (I know all fellow dawgs will agree). Athens has the highest concentration of culture per square mile of any town I’ve ever visited. Within a five mile radius of the downtown area you can dine at some of the best restaurants in the nation and shop at some of the highest caliber boutiques. Athens is also home to amazing spas and salons, quaint local bars and breweries, beautifully curated museums, intimate venues, and more. I could probably write a book praising all of the attractions in Athens, but in this City Hot Spot post, I will keep my focus on the fashion.
The fashion in Athens spans from high-end boutiques carrying top designer names to sustainable boutiques showcasing vintage and hand-made wares. It would be impossible to name just one fashion hot spot to visit in Athens. So, I’m breaking the shops down into four categories.
BEST LUXURY BOUTIQUE: Heery’s Clothes Closet
Heery’s has a better selection of top end designers than most department stores. The racks are lined with labels like Tibi, Nanette Lepore, Tory Burch, Milly, and Diane Von Furstenberg just to name a few. For over fifty years, Heery’s has been an essential fixture in the downtown landscape. They’re known for absolutely swoon-worthy window displays. I remember many a night passing Heery’s while bar-hopping and having to restrain myself from pressing my nose to the windows to oogle the new arrivals. If you’re on a budget, Heery’s holds phenomenal sales offering up to 80% off twice a year! But wait, it gets better! Whatever doesn’t sell at the major sales at Heery’s goes to one of their sister stores in Five Points, Four Seasons Fashion. Once the merchandise goes here, it’s up to 90% off! I’ve gotten some absolutely amazing items from these sales at a mere fraction of the retail price. P.S. Shop online here.
BEST EVERY GIRL BOUTIQUE: Encore
You may have seen me feature Encore in a previous post showcasing their Spring 2014 look book. Encore’s carefully curated look books are just one of the things that set this boutique apart from the countless others in the downtown area. Encore carries all the essential brands like Michael Stars, Sam Edelman, Tart, Joes Jeans, and many, many more. Think of this as the ultimate every-girl’s boutique whether you’re looking for the perfect dress or basic denim. Don’t forget your accessories! Encore also has a full line of jewelry, handbags, and other wares. No matter what your style – trendy, preppy, bohemian, classic – Encore has something for you. Encore’s owner Nikki Grant has truly raised the bar for fashion retail in Athens with tactful buying, impressive styling, and a very relatable online presence that appeals to girls of all ages and styles.
BEST SUSTAINABLE BOUTIQUE: Community
Community has added a whole new dimension to the fashion scene in Athens. It is a sustainable boutique situated in my all time favorite space in downtown, right above Jittery Joe’s. Community features vintage apparel and accessories, hand made wares by local artisans, and apparel that is designed in house from vintage pieces. In addition, Community offers sewing and knitting classes, alterations, private shopping parties, and closet consultations. Ultimately, Community has cultivated a place for those interested in the art of fashion design to connect and continue their education. They also demonstrate a strong advocacy for local artisans and sustainable fashion with an emphasis on unique style and impeccable quality. This is truly a carefully curated a one of a kind boutique. P.S. Shop online here and check out their OOTD here!
BEST CONSIGNMENT BOUTIQUE: Suska
You may have seen me feature my favorite consignment boutique in my Spring Cleaning: Closet Edition post back in April. Even though I haven’t lived in Athens for almost three years, this is still where I go to consign my clothes. I’ve yet to find a better consignment boutique in Georgia or elsewhere! Suska is located about two miles outside the downtown in five points. Suska’s owner, Susanna Drennen, founded the boutique in 2005 with a passion for fashion as well as eco-consciousness. She believes that buying second-hand or previously loved items is a great way to recycle, and I couldn’t agree more! Suska is not another Plato’s Closet. They do not give you cash on the spot. Through a methodical process they hand select every garment and research each item through a number of channels to assess its current value, taking into consideration factors like its original retail price, depreciation, and its resale potential. After the 45-day consignment period, you receive 40% of each item’s value in cash or check or 50% of each item’s value in the form of a store credit. Learn more about their process, policies, and how to consign here.
Shopping is a whole different game in Cancun, Mexico. Unless you go to one of the malls to hit up international stores also found in the U.S., don’t expect to see price tags and do expect haggle, a lot. The good news is, especially if you’re a pretty girl (or really just a girl from the United States), you’re going to be able to charm your way into a sweet deal. Better yet? Go with your girlfriend and get a great two for one deal. However, even with my man on my arm, finding a bargain was no problem for me in Mexico. If you’re up to the challenge, head out of the hotel zone, press on past the malls, and explore one of the sprawling flea markets in the heart of downtown Cancun.
The City Hot Spot in Cancun, Mexico: Market 28
Market 28, or Mercado 28 as it’s known by the locals, is an outdoor market with handcrafted goods and authentic food options. Speaking Spanish is a bonus but absolutely not required (I can’t say much other than hello, my name, and “I don’t speak Spanish”). There are hundreds of stalls, or booths, at this market with handmade leather goods, silver jewelry, embroidered bags, woven sunhats, and every other souvenir or trinket you can imagine. There are also some genuine Mexican dining opportunities, and, of course, ice cold cerveza to keep you cool. Definitely don’t forget to wear comfortable shoes and clothes. As you trek around, you will break a sweat! Carve out a couple hours before sundown to hit up this hot spot. We took a very reasonably priced bus from our hotel that dropped us just a few blocks from the market.
How to Haggle
Perfecting a haggling technique is essential when shopping in authentic Mexican settings.
1. Make a game plan with your group. Create signals to let your shopping partners know when you’re haggling and when you’re ready to move on to the next stall. These vendors give the word persistent a whole new meaning. They will not take “no” for an answer if you show the slightest inkling of interest in one of their wares.
2. As I said earlier, there are no price tags. If you find something you like, ask the vendor for the price in pesos or dollars, whichever you prefer. There is a chance they will alter the price depending on the form of payment, so sometimes it’s beneficial to carry both pesos and dollars. Definitely carry cash, as most vendors will not take credit cards. They will either give you a starting price on the spot or in some cases, particularly with jewelry, they will weigh the item and declare a price by weight.
3. From here, you can either make a counter offer or start playing the game: show hesitancy, say you need to think or look around, etc. There’s also the option of simply telling them you think the price is unfair and see what type of counter offer they come down to. If you are looking at more than one item in a particular store, you can ask them to make a deal with you for multiple items. It’s essentially a process of trial and error, but don’t feel like you’re scamming the vendors. They expect to haggle with you! It’s part of the buying and selling technique in these markets.
4. If you make a purchase, they will treat you like a queen and if you decide to leave without making a purchase, they will try to prevent you from leaving. Do not let the vendors intimidate you if you decide not to make a purchase. Full disclosure: it will be slightly uncomfortable and awkward. Just remember you are in control and you have the upper hand. Stay strong and firm and don’t get pressured into purchasing something you don’t want to buy. You are on vacation and your hard earned money is precious! No need to return home with buyers remorse.