When I was asked to write an article about the importance of attending conference, I agreed immediately. Those of you who know me know that I am not one to brag about my accomplishments; however, I will brag about the following. While there are a number of members who have attended all but one conference, I am the only member to have attended every conference. Conference is that important to us.
The first reason is meeting members face to face, to put a face on those members we know from the discuss list or articles they have written in the newsletter. To make new friends and learn about their business as well as catch up with old friends is wonderful. We discuss business, sewing techniques, family, children and grandchildren and all those things we do not put on the discuss list. I really make an effort, and urge all attendees to make the same effort, to meet and talk with everyone and not spend all the time with old friends. I’ve used these friendships to reach out to specific members with questions out of my expertise and help has always been forthcoming. Two examples of this: I was making a wedding gown. I scanned the photo of the gown detail and sent it to an ASDP friend with what my plans were for constructing the gown. The question I asked was if I was forgetting anything or if I was on the right track and the friend sent me back some suggestions I had not thought about. I made my first heirloom dress and requested a member to mentor me through the project, which she agreed to do.
The second reason includes a little more bragging. During the 1990s, I served on the national board and in 1999 was elected national chair. As some former presidents will tell you, I am passionate about the organization and the business of the organization. I want to know what is going on with the organization and keep up to date with the management of ASDP. I want to attend the membership meeting, ask questions, and remain involved. This is our organization and it is vital to me to make sure it remains strong, growing, and properly managed.
I started attending consumer-sewing shows in the mid 1980s. My children were older and could be left for a long weekend and I could drive the four hours to get there. I took so many classes and was so disappointed because they were intended for the hobby sewer and not the professional. This year I took three classes with Kenneth King and learned so much. At conference, I’ve studied with Susan Khalje and Claire Shaeffer, whereas I would never have the additional time and money to go to them for classes. I’ve met other teachers over the last nineteen years (yes, 2013 will be the twentieth annual conference), learning so much that I can take back and use in my business. I want the advanced classes, I want to learn beyond the hobby sewer, I need to grow my business and myself, and conference is my best tool.
I’ve been asked how I make it to conference every year. Once I know when and where the conference is going to be, I start making plans. First, it goes on the calendar. I travel a great deal in my business, so when something goes on the calendar the master classes and tours are included and the travel dates are marked as well. Oh I love the fabric shopping tours, the trip to the Maryhill Museum outside of Portland is a must, the Worth I saw in Savannah, the New York City Museum, etc. I may not take part in the extras, but the days are blocked off. I balance my workload and commitments so I can attend conference. By the way, I do this for all major events during the year.
Based on previous years, I try to figure out what my cost for conference is going to be. Next year’s conference will be in Nashville, TN, so I will be able to drive rather than fly – a cost savings. Once I have an estimate of the cost, I make sure to build a “conference tax” into the price of my work, much like the often-discussed PITA tax. One suggestion is to raise your hourly rate by what you need for conference and another is a sliding surcharge. I will also put birthday money aside for conference or more likely the shopping tour.
In closing, let me urge any member who has not attended conference before to attend, and those of you who have been absent for a few years to come to Nashville.
Written by Abby Riba, ASDP member