Going to a face and body art convention is a little like going grocery shopping. You get a carload of groceries which can be a bit overwhelming to unload and find places for once you get home to your kitchen. Little by little, you begin to store away and make use of those wonderful ingredients and seasonings you brought home as you create fabulous new dishes. (Or at least you hope they're fabulous.)
I recently attended the St. Louis FPBA convention this November. It was particularly fun to connect with many artists I had become friends with through social media, and I enjoyed classes from great instructors such as Lori Hurley, Mark Reid, Nick Wolfe, Margi Kanter, Elisa Griffith, Denise Cold, and many more. The St. Louis convention is particularly known for being a friendly, cozy convention with good access to instructors, but cozy or not, by about day two my brain was getting precariously close to the full level. Nightly jams and early classes cut back on my normal amount of sleep as well. I found that planning ahead of time helped, even in the midst of information overload and lack of sleep, so if you want to make the most of your convention time, here are a few tips.
Look at the entire schedule in the convention book and circle all classes that you'd like to take, even if they are offered more than once.
The reason you need to circle every class, even if it appears more than once, is that the first time the class is offered, you may have to choose between two classes you want to attend, but later in the week, that might not be the case. You won't be able to go to them all, so think strategically before you make a final decision of what you're going to take each day so that you're able to take as many of your preferred classes as possible.
Go for pre-classes, and if you're thinking about post-classes as well, consider booking an extra night in your hotel at the end of the week.
By the end of the convention, you will be tired. Very tired. I drove to St. Louis from Chicago, and even though I tried to get a fairly decent night's sleep on the last night before my return trip, I was worn out from the cumulative effects of not enough sleep during the week.
Both the pre- and post-classes are wonderful additions to the convention experience, and I highly recommend them. I left early Sunday morning and arrived in time to take Mark Reid's four-hour afternoon pre-class of boy designs. I now know from experience that by the end of the week, I don't feel like taking any more classes, so I'm glad I took one at the beginning. I didn't have the energy to take one at the end and follow it up with a long drive on the same day. If I were to do it again, I would probably add an extra night at the hotel so I could enjoy one or two of the post-classes without the concerns of driving the same day, because there were several I would have loved to attend which would have been exceptional additions to what I had already learned during the week.
Take notes and go over them later.
I had a small, bound notebook which I used for convention notes. It was small enough to carry easily, but large enough to fill with lots of good information and small sketches to help me remember as much as possible. Take time to review your notes later. If you can implement all of that great information at once, you're a super-performer, but if it's overwhelming for you, choose one or two pieces of advice each week to begin using in your business and watch it grow. You'll find that taking notes is especially important for the business classes, for which you can't take a reference photo to look at later. And this leads me to the next point.
Make business classes your priority.
I realize that the artsy classes are fun. Face painters love to play with paint, and you learn all those vibrant new designs which you can try out later during the evening jams. Investing in your skills is important, too. But the truth is, as one of the instructors mentioned, it doesn't matter how well you paint if you don't have the knowledge to run your business well and make it grow. For your business to thrive, you need the business classes offered by successful veterans. Don't think the business classes will be dull. I found they were some of the most entertaining classes of the entire week, thanks to teachers like Lori Hurley and Arla Albers.
Learn a new skill.
The St. Louis convention had a balloon track, which meant there were balloon classes, even for beginners. I have to admit I didn't take any balloon classes, but I should have. During the convention you have to make choices, since there are five or six classes offered simultaneously during any given time slot, and I was lured away by face painting classes so I didn't take the class on beginner balloon twisting. A convention, however, is a perfect place to learn a new skill, such as magic, balloon twisting, clowning, or face painting, which will add value to your growing business. Don't miss out on the opportunity to learn something new.
Take time to socialize.
Part of the fun of a convention is that you get to meet a variety of entertainers. Some you'll know, or will at least have heard of. Most you won't. Take the time to get to know new people and learn about them. Whether an artist is a beginner or someone who has been in the business for 25 years, there's always something valuable you can either learn from her or share with her. I'm thankful for the new friends I made during the convention, and I wouldn't have missed meeting them for anything.
If you missed the 2016 St. Louis convention, mark your calendar for FPBA 2017 - Mystical Forest, which will be held November 12th through the 17th.
Beth MacKinney is the owner of and primary face painter for Face Paint Pizzazz in the NW Chicago suburbs. Stop by Clownantics.com for more of Beth’s face painting tutorials, and if you’re on Facebook, join the Facepaint.com Challenge Group to showcase your artwork and have a chance to win a store credit for each challenge theme.