I’m so excited to share a little recap of the NYC Create & Cultivate conference with you guys! The conference was last Saturday and went from 8am-about 8:30pm. It was a long, fun, inspiring day, packed with lots of cool panels, brands, and networking. Let’s dive in!
Katie and I took the northeast regional up to NYC the Thursday before the conference and spent Friday milling around in the rain (read her recap…my significantly less humorous + mainly photo heavy account is coming soon). There was a pre-conference happy hour that night, and it was a great way to meet people and make some friends before Saturday. There was lots of wine, cocktails, conversation, and a Noosa bar…yummm.
There were two tracks at the conference: Track 1 had an emphasis on influencers + content creation and Track 2 emphasized entrepreneurship. I was assigned to Track 1–you could pick your track if you purchased a VIP ticket, which I believe was about an extra $150. Our general admission ticket was $350 and included the happy hour and the entire conference, including breakfast, lunch, and snacks throughout the day (as well as a huge swag bag filled with lots of goodies!) I would have been happy with either track, and honestly really wanted to go to some sessions from each…if only you could have picked and chosen your schedule, but that would have been a logistical nightmare. More on this later.
Pier1’s outdoor setup was so freaking cool
The conference was at the Knockdown Center in Queens, which is basically a huge, nice warehouse space. The main area was filled with brand booths–they included LaCroix (they had an insanely cool wall of LaCroix and had unlimited cans for the entire day…pretty much the dream), Jamba Juice, UrbanStems (a personal fav!), Mark & Graham, Birchbox, and Laura Mercier.
In front of the brands was the main stage, where half the panels + our small group mentoring sessions were held. There was also an outdoor area with the VIP section, picnic tables, and another stage for panels. You mingled throughout the entire space no matter your track, so it was easy to meet and interact with people who were attending different sessions.
SOME KEY TAKEAWAYS:
There was no shortage of information–I left feeling so inspired and with a newfound sense of confidence after hearing some girl bosses share their experience and tips for navigating blogging + business. I recognized at least one, generally more, speakers from each panel, but were especially enthusiastic about the advice shared from Jean at Extra Petite, Carly at The College Prepster, Mary at Memorandum, and Naomi at Love Taza. All of these are blogs I’ve kept up with or admired for a long time, and it’s no surprise that a lot of my favorite insights came from them. Here are some bits and pieces from all speakers across the panels I attended:
– Negotiate, negotiate, negotiate. It doesn’t always have to be in the form of dollars–look for other mutually beneficial elements like a press trip in exchange for coverage, social promotion on their end, or even less work (read: means less of your time) for fewer dollars, if budget is an issue.
– Analytics are everything. Back up your pitches and work with metrics–people and brands want to see results, and this includes everything from your conversion rate with affiliate links (consider pulling them for a specific category depending on what a brand may be looking for) to your Instagram engagement rate.
– Speaking of Instagram: engagement is king. We hear this a lot as bloggers, but it’s often disheartening to get caught up in the numbers game, where people seem to gain followers pretty much overnight. Sadly thanks to a bunch of sketchy services and automated bots, many do gain a following pretty much overnight, but it’s not an authentic one. Focus on creating content that your audience loves and engages with, because brands are taking notice.
– Figure out and remember your mission. If you don’t have a mission, come up with one, and remember why you started your blog. The market is so large, that it’s easy to get caught up in the comparison game and stray from why you’re creating your content.
– Similarly, always create content you’re passionate about (vs. what you think you need to post). When you’re authentic and speaking about things you are genuinely excited about, you’ll see increased engagement. If certain photos don’t perform well but you love creating them, keep doing so! Create content for you, and the people you want to be targeting will be there to digest it.
– The market isn’t that saturated. There are so many blogs and even more starting each day. Mary pretty much nailed it: when a new restaurant opens on our block, are we bummed about it because there are already enough places to eat? No! Same thing with a new blog: there’s room for everyone.
– Sponsored posts aren’t bad. There’s definitely a stigma around sponsored posts–I’ve actually considered writing about my feelings towards them–which is unfortunate. Creating great content takes time and should be compensated, but it’s a delicate balance for bloggers to show their genuine love for a brand they’re working with on a sponsored post without coming across as sales-ey. Publishers, remember to ask yourself whether you’d spend money on the product/service, and also consider the platforms on which you’re sharing the sponsored content…some things may be better fit for Instagram stories rather than the blog, etc.
– Yay for behind the scenes content. People love BTS content! Many of us have probably seen that, but it’s the consensus across the board. Consider sharing unfiltered, unedited snippets of your life, particularly on social media (another area where Snapchat and Instagram stories come in handy!)
– Anyone can go to the conference–it’s not just for bloggers! Track 1 and the notes I took were definitely more geared towards bloggers and publishers, but I’d recommend C&C for all creatives, entrepreneurs or aspiring entrepreneurs, small business owners, and people who work at brands looking to collaborate with influencers.
– The next conference city will be announced soon! Stay tuned.
– I really wish I’d attended one of the Track 2 panels (with Kendra Scott and Rebecca Minkoff), and easily could have since our badges (which indicated our track) weren’t checked before each one. The space is so open it’s easy to either overhear panels or just join on entirely. Keep that in mind if you attend!
– Bring water: LaCroix was a sponsor, which was pretty much the dream, but regular bottled water was a little hard to come by.
– If you’re flying, leave some room in your luggage. Our swag bag was enormous, and we picked up a bunch of freebies at the brand booths throughout the day. I’m just glad Amtrak doesn’t charge you for an second large tote :)
– Pace yourself…it’s a long day, and there’s so much to see, hear, and do. There’s plenty of time to hit all the booths, hear all the speakers, and make new friends. Just make sure you give yourself some downtime or you’ll be fried by 5pm.
– Don’t forget the business cards! Create & Cultivate is a huge networking opportunity, and everyone is so friendly and ready to chat! Put on a smile and grab those biz cards.
The yummiest rice crispie treats that came packaged perfectly to go
You may have seen me mention this on Twitter, but Gloria Steinem was the keynote speaker which was so, so cool. First off, can you imagine that she’s 86 years old? Second, she’s as inspiring and down to earth as you’d imagine her to be. She shared bits of her personal life, addressed the current political state without making it the only focus of her talk, and had the crowd in fits of laughter every couple of minutes. My friend Diana (who I finally met IRL at the conference…yay!!) wrote a great recap for her day job.
Laura Mercier was there for mini makeup appointments
Phew! That was a lot. The conference was so great, and I’m definitely looking forward to attending it again in the future (fingers crossed for DC or a city that’s been on my bucket list!) If you have any questions at all about the conference, feel free to leave a comment below or drop me a note at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Photos by Monica Dutia