Community, Entrepreneur

Cultivating Community and Growing an In-Person Event with Latasha Haynes of BLINK Conference

Episode 035: Show Notes

It’s going to get crazy up in here! Today on the podcast we have Tasha Haynes from BLINK Conference. She is AMAZING, and we are so excited to have her share all her wisdom with ya’ll. Tash is in her fifth year of running the BLINK Conference, so she definitely knows a thing or two about conferences by now.  She has great advice for those looking to start their own conferences or perhaps attend a conference for the first time.

It’s going to get crazy up in here! Today on the podcast we have Tasha Haynes from BLINK Conference. She is AMAZING, and we are so excited to have her share all her wisdom with ya’ll. Tash is in her fifth year of running the BLINK Conference, so she definitely knows a thing or two about conferences by now.  She has great advice for those looking to start their own conferences or perhaps attend a conference for the first time.  |  The Strategy Hour  |  Think Creative Collective

With Tash, we go through how the BLINK Conference has grown and chat about the unique format of their conference that makes them so different. We also dive into how they are able to create that really intimate family aspect at BLINK, which is hands down our key takeaway from our experience there and has led us to have really close relationships with not only Tash, but other speakers and attendees that we met at that conference as well. We also chat about landing sponsors, landing keynote speakers and all the good stuff in between. Tash has a huge place in our hearts and we think she will have a huge place in yours too, if you let her in.

The Heart of BLINK Conference

When Tash first picked up a camera and started shooting, she attended several conferences along with her husband, Ike. However, these conferences always had the same people with the same perspectives, and so Tash felt that she was missing out on a huge part of her business learning. The lack of minority representation at these conferences made it impossible for her to ever imagine herself as a speaker at one of these events.  After making several attempts to speak and share, and being rejected so many times,Tash realized that the only way that she was going to see changes was by starting her own conference, and that is how BLINK was created.

The Growth and Chance of BLINK Conference

Over the last five years, BLINK has seen significant growth and evolution. BLINK’s very first conference felt like a struggle to Tash. It felt like they had no idea what they were doing, like it would have been better to just pay people to come. But since then, things have definitely changed. The conference has gone from a two day to a three and half day conference, with an amazing 27 speakers and just under one hundred attendees. This has been incredible growth since the mere 30 that showed up to the first ever conference.

What Makes the BLINK Conference Unique

BLINK really is a unique format, and it is geared towards photographers in the sense that they get out to do stuff, but also towards creatives in the sense that they get to learn about business. What makes BLINK unique is that, despite pressures from sponsors, it has remained small and intimate. For Tash, she finds that when there are 80 to 120 attendees, she can easily get to know each of them without losing anyone in the crowd. Another aspect that makes BLINK unique is the mentor breakout time where attendees get to spend intimate time with their speakers of choice, to really get more of a one-on-one learning advantage and opportunity for community to be built.

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In-person community allows for connections.
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Sticking to Your Values

For Tash, she never wanted BLINK to be in the same place every year. When you’re a working professional, whether you’re full time or part time, investing in education is expensive, so she wanted it to be a way for attendees to travel and have a vacation at the same time. Tash knew that if they had a great conference and if people wanted to return to it, she had to have certain things in place to make it worthwhile for them to want to come back every year. The first was to always make it in a new location, and the next was not to have the same speakers two years in a row. At BLINK they have an every other year policy, so if you speak at BLINK this year, you cannot speak next year. This makes it fair and valuable for educators looking for the opportunity to share, and also the attendees who are investing their money into the conference.

How to Stand Out As a Conference Speaker

One of the best ways to stand out as a speaker is to not just portray the dream, but actually be able to show the fruit of carrying out the dream. Tasha does her research into all speaker pitches to find out exactly how they have helped other creatives, what mistakes they have made, how they have run their businesses, and why they are passionate about sharing and giving back. For Tash, it is super important to attract real, authentic speakers who actually want to come to teach. The bottom line is that you have to build trust and practice the motto of “give, give, give, ask”. These are the types of people that Tash wants her conference to be associated with.

Landing Sponsors and Vendors

Oftentimes, getting sponsors for a conference really requires a lot of proof and past experience to show them that you run a successful event. The tricky thing is that most sponsors are not interested in smaller conferences. They want the big numbers and the crowds of attendees to even pique their interest. However, Tash has pulled out all the values of a small conference and has found a way to make her mark. There are definitely companies that exist who value small conferences. This is especially true for vendors, because the level of relationship and interaction that they get from BLINK attendees is much greater than they would receive at a trade show, where you only have a few moments with potential clients as they stroll by.

In-Person Community Creates Opportunity

One of the most crucial parts of a conference is the in-person connections that are created. There is nothing quite as magical is meeting someone you knew online, in person. It opens the doors to endless opportunities and sparks greater connections that shift and build a whole different type of community bond. Being in-person is one of the things that Tash always pushes for, as it creates opportunities for collaboration and friendships to build a strong support system around you. Although an online community is great and serves its purposes, there are just certain conversations that cannot take place over a cup of coffee, or at dinner, or while you’re out shooting photos. You need that in-person connection.

Highlights

  • Hear Tash’s story and her motivations for creating BLINK conference. [0:05:01.5]
  • Discover the differences between BLINK year one and today, and how it has evolved over the years. [0:08:10.6]
  • Understand the aspects of BLINK conference that makes it unique in every way. [0:10:12.8]
  • Learn what it means for Tash to stick to her values and what motivated her to create a traveling conference. [0:14:40.2]
  • Find out how to stand out from the crowd to become a speaker at a conference. [0:25:58.2]
  • Hear the strategies for landing sponsors and vendors even when your attendance numbers are small. [0:30:14.8]
  • Discover the importance of in-person community and how it creates opportunity for bigger connections.” [0:34:31.3]

#TalkStrategyToMe [0:43:36.2]

  1. Identify the weaknesses in your business and find a conference that will equip you in those areas.
  2. Find out what type of conference best works for you, personally.
  3. Ask others who have attended conferences about their experience.

Today’sGuest

Latasha Haynes

BLINK Conference

WebsiteInstagram | Facebook

Latasha is a wedding and portrait photographers based out of the beautiful Pacific Northwest. She is also passionate about sharing, investing and growing the industry, and that is why she has worked so hard to offer educational resources and experiences for our fellow photogs and entrepreneurs. One of her biggest endeavors is BLINK, their annual boutique conference for photographers of all kinds that focuses on empowering, networking, and providing leadership so that we all can grow our business dreams into realities.

KeyTopics

  • Motivations to start a conference.

  • Lessons from growth and change.

  • Creating a unique conference framework.

  • Hosting a traveling conference.

  • Standing out from the crowd as a speaker.

  • Strategies for landing conference sponsors and vendors.

  • Building a strong in-person community.

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