So, one of the first questions I had from friends and family… I was doing Instagram stories and stuff about it along the way, and they asked...
So, if I haven't mentioned yet or you don't know much about me, I actually have a background in interior design, and now do web design for interior designers, for builders, kind of just the home and design industry. And so, the beginning of this year, I had made it a goal to network with a lot more of them and just kind of get to know the ins and outs of what I've missed over the years and how I can best help them. And so, I was on the hunt for different conferences and events that I could go to. I searched for quite a while and in the first few months of the year, I hadn't been able to find anything.
In early February, through a string of events, I came across the Design Influencers Conference. It used to be called the Design Bloggers Conference and it's been all over the United States. This year it was in Atlanta, which happens to be (yay) a four hour drive for me.
So, I booked my calendar, booked the trip, booked the babysitters, all the stuff and headed down there the past couple days.
So, here are some of my key takeaways, some things I've learned, some things I think they totally nailed and then (if you guys are listening), some things that I think they could do a little different too, just based on my own personal thoughts and a few thoughts I've gathered from some other people while I was there.
So first up, some of my key takeaways were from one of the presentations done by Kyla Herbes from House of Hipsters, and she presented on Pinterest, which is like gold mine city for so many interior designers that were there. She talked about how we could optimize our boards and things by using keywords. A lot of it was stuff I knew, but I feel like just having it presented straight to me and taking notes about it along the way was a really great to just be able to leave and immediately do something with that information. So thank you Kyla. That was really helpful.
One of my other favorite takeaways was from Linda Holt. She taught a little session on iPhone editing. It wasn't even necessarily taking the pictures, but more dealing with what you took. I have an Android and I was still able to follow her presentation perfectly. She introduced us to a lot of fun apps and even showed an on-screen demonstration of exactly how to use those apps and we got to see it live. It was so fun to see everybody kind of looking to the side like, “Look what I did”, and changing things around on some photos they had on their phone. So that was another one of my key takeaways. I've already used some of her tips on my Instagram.
There was also a session about Google Analytics and Google's suite of free and fun marketing tools. It seemed like it kind of went over a lot of people's heads, but hopefully they were really taking it in because as someone who does a lot of things on the web and helps my clients understand that, I really understand and see the value in it. And somebody even asked the question: how much would the stuff cost if you paid for it? And he gave the figure of hundreds of thousands, and these enterprise companies pay for this and it's available to us for free. So, I thought he did a great job of breaking down the different tools and how we can help our businesses with them.
One of the last things (but it probably was one of my favorite takeaways) was actually a morning mentoring session. A lady named Carla Aston was at my table and I got to meet her and chat with her. I continued to run into her around the conference and she helped connect me to some really amazing people (because I'd gotten to know her at the session). And then, another really sweet lady, you all know her as Trim Queen helped out. And then, they even had things from sponsors. Basically we sat at roundtables and went around and asked our questions. When it was my turn, I said: "Look, I'm being really honest, I'm actually here to hear you ask questions, and get to know how I can help you better." So, they gave me some great feedback and I just was like, typing away everybody's questions and just trying to listen and store away in my mind ways that I could help not just the designers in the room, but also how they represent other people outside of the room. Deborah was another moderator but I didn't get to meet with her. I am so thankful for this idea and these ladies that helped out.
So, the next thing I want to talk about were some of the action steps that I'm going to take. These kind of relate straight to some of my key takeaways, but one of the first ones was just some of the Pinterest activities that we were going over. So I'm definitely going to change around some board descriptions and do some of the things she talked about as far as when to keep a board secret, how to help label those and just make sure that my Pinterest boards, and my Pinterest account in general, is set up as search engine status and not so much as a social media platform. So, just trying to figure out some key ways that I can use that for my business, and then also turn around and help clients with that as well. So that's one of the main things that's very top of the list right now for me. I even signed up for a Tailwind account this week and have seen MAJOR improvement with the tips and Tailwind app. I'm finding it quite fun to schedule my pins out and... duh, timesaver!
The other one I've done today quite a bit is just following up with friends that I met, not necessarily trying to sell them on services. Of course, that's not why I was there, but just really saying thank you for some of the people that I got introduced to. I just made some really good connections and just some really sweet friends. And so I hope to keep a lot of those friendships going and just check on them from time to time. So, trying to email them all while things are fresh in my mind, and different ways and places that we met and just keep that connection there. I took notes just in a notebook most of the time and I'm going to actually type those onto the computer. One of my business mentors, Kelsey, recommended that. She said after a conference she always sits down and types out her notes. One of the days I actually took my computer and typed them out but the other two days, I just used that notebook. And so I'm going to sit down and type out those notes which will also help me hopefully remember things that I learned, and then get them into a more searchable format.
I'm going to go into Google Data Studio and make some dashboards. The gentleman that presented on Google showed us how this was really like Google Docs (sort of)- a little bit drag and drop. And so I want to play around with that. I'm not going to go too far down the rabbit hole, but I'm just going to get that set up a little bit and see how it can help.
And then lastly – check, I'm doing one of them right now, is make some videos. That was something that I talked about a lot and talked about not worrying as much about makeup and hair, what's in the background and whatever and just getting yourself out there. So, I'm a little nervous doing this. It also kind of feels good to do it again. So, that's what I can go ahead and check off my list of action items - that I am doing a video – Yay.
So, after talking to a few of the other attendees, we were giving our own feedback about things that we’ll maybe do differently, or things that you can maybe do differently. So I'm going to group these two things together. Things I would do differently? I love this. The first thing on my notes is I would pack snacks. Me and another great friend that I met there, talked about how snacks and making sure they have food actually makes them (as an introvert even) very anxious and so they had plenty of snacks. Don't get me wrong, we had plenty of snacks, but just the things I'm used to: protein bars, stuff like that. I just should have done a better job with packing snacks for myself.
And another thing I would have done different is I probably would have stayed at the hotel that the event was at. So long story short, my husband travels and we are Marriot people, so I stayed at the Marriott down the street. But sometimes with the Atlanta traffic, it was a little bit of a drive, and then things like hauling a bag or things like that around. I just really had to make the decision for the whole entire day, like 7am till 10 o'clock at night of what I was going to need and have with me and that just kind of added a little extra stress to my day that I wouldn't have had if I was able to just run up the stairs to my room.
And the last thing I would do differently is probably take my computer, but only if I was staying there. I did try taking it one day, and my shoulders were hurting so bad. I’m just not used to carrying that around all the time, and so had I stayed there, I would definitely have brought my computer down each day for taking notes. It would save me from having to now type them out.
Now, thinking of the design conference host and everything, there are some things I'm gonna talk about in a second that they just totally nailed, they did so great. Most of those are on that list, but I did want to talk about a few things that they could do a little different (and if you guys are reading) they’re just things to know and things that I personally… and others too think that they could do a little differently.
One of the things that I talked to multiple designers about was the ability to kind of be in some smaller group settings. I mentioned that the mentoring session was one my favorite things and one of my biggest takeaways. And there just was not really other times for that that were sort of forced. We had plenty of networking time. That's one of the reasons I went, was there was so much scheduled networking time, and other conferences I've been to, that's not been the case, it was very much just learning. So I thought they did a great job of scheduling that networking time, but I would love to have (and other designers told me they would have loved to have) maybe been put in some different groups with people who were at their stage of business. So a few of the talks were maybe really repetitive for people or a few of them were very much over their head. And had they been able to have a little bit of a small group to kind of debrief that with, and if that was something done by the conference that they weren't having to necessarily go talk to 10 people to find the one person that's in their same stage of business. There's just a lot of value in that, I think.
Another thing kind of along those lines, I feel like there maybe could have been a chance for some type of finding a mentor or a partner ahead of time. If people like me and plenty of these other designers who have been there before, if they wanted to sign up to have some type of a mentor or partner. I know Courtney Allison, I talked to her before we came just from a blog post simply like this, she had mentioned that she'd been before, said, “Hey, reach out if you're going again.” And I did and I got to meet her there. So just that there was more of that happening. And maybe that's just something that can happen organically.
And one of the other things I think they could work on is trying to… I understand the diversity in like some of the talks were very, very action oriented, and then some of them seem more just like a showcase of what that particular designer was doing. Some of the speakers were hilarious, which I loved and I love seeing other people's work anyway, and also reminded me of the gap of time that I've had since I've done any interior design. And so, it was great to see and hear those things. But I think if we're not careful, we can just kind of really elevate those people. And so I just would love to see maybe that toned down just a tiny bit.
And then one of my last things I think they could work on is… So, they did lunch one of the days and it was an awesome lunch. But I would have been really happy to pay a little extra for my ticket and then have had an actual dinner, an actual lunch each of the other days and times as well. So it left the opportunity for me and a friend to go grab dinner/lunch sort of one of the days, but I ate an entire pizza. I was so hungry. And I know a lot of these ladies and men are used to like go, go, go, go, go. Me personally, I stay at home and I work from home, so I’m spoiled with being able to snack and eat all the time. So that's probably a totally personal thing. But there was just time for lots of snacks and I really love to eat an entire meal. And a few of the friends I met were from the lunch that we did sit down at tables and get to share a meal together.
And the last thing would be just a little more clarity on things like licensing and a few of the topics like that. And again, it may just be that I had been removed from it for a little while. But if you have those things, it felt like I was coming in in the middle of a conversation. And so, if that's a term, or if there are terms in your industry and in this whole world of influencer marketing that you're not familiar with, maybe just kind of getting familiar with some of the things as they release the updates and the things the topics were about. So it was very well advertised beforehand that like, licensing was one of the things they would talk about. And just in talking to the other people there, that seemed to kind of be something like if you weren't interested in it, like you still want to of course, pay attention and be respectful. And so that's probably across the board. There's probably people there that are like “interest, whatever”, and then me and others who were really excited about that. So, I think as a conference, they did a great job.
Here's some things that I think they absolutely nailed. Again, if you guys are listening, if the board and all the people who put this on, if you guys are listening, some of my favorite things were just those actionable takeaways that I talked about earlier. It seemed like from talking to people, that was some of the stuff that resonated the best. And so I don't know how much input they have into what the speakers talk about, but it seemed like any speaker that gave any type of like, go do this or just any type of action steps, I really believe those are the things people will come away with and like really be able to implement really, really soon.
I thought they did a great job with the size of the group. I've been to smaller conferences before, I’ve been to bigger conferences before and I thought this was the perfect size group of people. I ran back into some of the same people again, but there were plenty of people I didn't meet. I just thought it was really good size group; very easy to manage the crowd easily… you still have to get in and out of the bathrooms, and to get snacks and drinks and things like that. I thought that the hotel was really nice. Having basically like this whole downstairs of the event space to ourselves was really nice, not having to run into other events happening and things like that, I thought they did a great job. And it seems like from the past, they have done an amazing job of taking different places. So I know by the time this comes out, they will have already announced their 2020 event space. I do think they said at the very end that it's going to be like in San Francisco, or somewhere; back out west again. So, I think that's another great thing – just having it back and forth, maybe across the country. So, I know I met a lot of people who flew a really long way to Georgia, whereas I had the benefit of driving, and then should I go next year or another time, then maybe I'd be the one flying.
And then the after-hours networking, I thought they completely nailed that. Again, that's one of the reasons I went. When I saw it on the conference schedule, I was like, “Yes, this is what I'm going for”. I want to do these things. And so the places like Ferguson’s Ballard, the places that hosted us were amazing, they were beautiful. And then the people that were there were very accommodating. It was nice to have drinks and snacks and just fun to get out of like the little place we've been learning all day long and to go and meet new people.
So in summary, if you are going to go next year, 2020 to the Design Influencers Conference, I would highly encourage you to. I can't really think of a reason not to. I mean, unless you just have no desire for your business to do anything online. That's probably about the only cop out I could give you, or if the plane tickets are just too unreasonable for you. But I feel like now you've got almost a year to prepare. I know that they'll already be working on things like speakers and all of that. And so even if somebody's not in the design field directly. I met other marketers, other people there that do social media for brands. And that's something I didn’t talk about a lot in this blog. But if you are interested in working with brands, I was able to meet people from Kravet, from Ballard, from all kinds of different brands that had I been a designer there, that would immediately have been somebody to connect with, to hear more about their programs and all of that.
I thought that the collaborative environment that they brought to bring all these designers, to bring all these influencers, to bring all of these brands and the brand representation together was amazing. Just such a cool idea. I think what you guys are doing is great. I don't think that I will personally come back next year, only because I also work with builders, not just designers. And so next on my list is to try to find a good conference that I could go to and not stick out like a sore thumb with a bunch of home builders. I did meet a few ladies there who on top of being interior designers, are also general contractors, so I need to hook up with them and kind of get their scoop on what could be the next conference that I would go to. But if you're a designer doing anything online, I would highly, highly, highly recommend this conference. And Adam and the whole team, you guys did great. Thank you again for such a fun time and hopefully we'll meet again in the future.