Tips for Attending a SAQA Conference

With the SAQA TEXtiles conference happening next weekend, I thought it might be fun to share some information about how to get the most out of your conference experience. 

THE ESSENTIALS

Preparing for the conference is important. Bringing the right things (including the right mindset) can make all the difference. Some of the things listed here are truly obvious and some are esoteric, but they are all worthy of thinking about.

Bring your absolutes. Recently I went on spring break with my family and forgot my eye glasses!  I survived by wearing my contacts a lot. This is not ideal. I decided to create a short list of what I absolutely needed for travel. Here is my list.

Contacts and eye glasses
Wallet with ID and favorite form of money
Phone and charger
Medicine

What are your absolutes? Define them and make sure that you do not leave the house without them.

Beyond the essentials what else should you bring? I have found these items to be very useful.

THE GOOD TO HAVES

Water Bottle—I often buy one in the airport and re-use it until I lose it.
Food Rations—Travel can be unpredictable, and snacks make it better.
Handwork—I think we all know why this is a good idea.
Scarf, Light Sweater/Cover-up—Yes, Texas will be lovely this time of year, but who knows what the indoor temperatures will be.
Sturdy Shoes—I am not sure why anyone would want to wear anything but sturdy shoes. I will try out a pair before I travel with them to make sure that I can walk several miles without problems.
Business Cards—This is a must for a conference. Bring a lot and try to give them all away.
Notebook—I have a travel journal that I use on trips. I take notes at the lectures, doodle quilt ideas, and gather all good information in this journal.
Clothes with Personality—Looking your best you is a good thing. Of course, if your signature style is a t-shirt with a funny saying and blue jeans, by all means wear that. One of the perks of being an artist is that we get to take liberty with our clothes. In fact, people expect us to take liberty with our clothes.
Re-useable Shopping Bags—There will be shopping, and you might as well be prepared.
Large Purse or Tote Bag—I have a backpack purse I always use for travel. It holds extra information and travels well.
Light Hat, Scarf, Mittens, Umbrella, and Jacket—I attended QuiltCon in 2015 in Austin, Texas without these things. There was an ice storm. The Texas fashionistas rejoiced by running around in their UGGS and parkas that they never get to wear. I froze.

What else?

Packing the above list should help you feel prepared for the physical rigors of conference going, but what else should you bring mentally and emotionally?

 

MIND SET

My very first conference as a quilt artist was a Surface Design Association conference in Kansas City. I was incredibly intimidated. I hung out in my hotel room alone. Having done that, I will say that is NOT how to enjoy a conference.

I struggled with the idea of networking. I was all by myself, and I did not know how to connect with other conference attendees. If you feel this way too, I have simple suggestion.

Stop thinking of it as Networking. Start thinking of it as Meeting New People. In fact, in this case, it is Meeting New People who also happen to love the very same things you love—art, fiber, and quilts. I hope you will trust me here. If you show up for the conference ready to learn and share, you will rewarded with an amazing experience that will give you energy to take back home and empower you to be a better artist.

This is true, but you most open yourself up to the experience in order for it to happen.

Did I miss anything? Please share your tips for attending conferences. I would love to hear them.

These photos were all taken at the SAQA conference in Lincoln, Nebraska last year in partnership with the Quilt Study Center and Musuem.

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