Craftsy Instructor Summit 2016

All images courtesy of Craftsy.com.

I was very fortunate to be one of the first Craftsy instructors when the company was just starting in Denver, Colorado. One of the founders contacted me out of the blue to ask me to critique their first quilting online quilting class and I was very impressed at the quality and content of their class. So when the opportunity was offered to teach my “Stupendous Stitching” class online for this company, I jumped at the chance.

Craftsy filmed and launched my class in the fall of 2011 and then asked me to teach two more of my fiber art classes “Stitch & Slash” and “Snazzy Self Portraits” so I now have three active classes on their network and am teaching almost 40,000 students online.

Today, Craftsy offers more than 1,000 classes, with almost 3 million enrolled students from 120 countries around the world. Their classes are offered on multiple platforms and mobile devices and are available 24 hours a day. That’s an amazing achievement in just 5 years. And they give all the credit to the quality and dedication of their instructors. That is the message we heard over and over during this 3-day amazing Summit which took place last weekend.

The purpose of the Summit was to offer an opportunity for instructors to network with each other and become better marketers. I was very excited to attend since I knew I would be meeting with the most talented people across the country who taught quilting, sewing, spinning, knitting, crocheting, cooking, baking, cake-making, drawing, painting, and I could go on and on!

Craftsy Instructor Summit 2016

I arrived on Friday and that night, we all hung out together and got to know each other. People were constantly saying, “I know your name but it’s great to put a face with it!”  I met people I knew from teaching on the road and many people I didn’t know but who were funny, interesting and very talented.

Saturday was packed with information about marketing.  A subject I knew a lot about since I spent my career creating direct marketing campaigns. Because I also have an MBA degree, understanding data comes as second nature to me. But the morning sessions all revolved around social media and that was when I realized how much I needed to learn about reaching a potential audience who are spending a majority of their day on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

Our first speaker was the CEO of Craftsy, John Levisay. He shared some of the Craftsy story with us and showed his passion for building a company that has quickly grown into the premier online learning platform in the world.

The second speaker was Sara Wilson from Facebook. She spoke about getting your page verified and using a new Facebook app called Mentions. Here’s a link to apply for verification for your Facebook page. I haven’t had time to figure out how to use Mentions yet but supposedly it helps you increase the likes on your business page because it has a feature called “Trending News” and you can customize that feed to see what people are talking about in the market that you are targeting. Then, if you comment about that topic, you get into the feed. Sara also gave us two more suggestions on ways to get more engagement with our Facebook fans. Conduct a live Q&A session and post more videos, more frequently.

To me, one of the most interesting and powerful parts of the Summit was hearing from Shari Caudron from the Boulder, CO based marketing firm called The Narrative Group. She talked about the power of storytelling and how telling stories helps us connect to people, develop trust, and help them remember you. We spent a good deal of time developing the bones of our personal stories by completing a writing exercise that she developed to help people see themselves in a different way and be able to express that to other people. In business, that would be called an elevator speech. Honing the essence of who we are and why we do what we do.

I have been to many conferences in my prior career and this was the first one that I left with actionable ways to better my marketing through developing my story. I can’t wait to finish it, polish it, and put it on my “about” page on my website. As a devout fan of The Moth and Ted Talks, I know how powerful story telling can be.

Craftsy Instructor Summit 2016

Craftsy asked me to tell my story as well so I spoke for about 45 minutes on how I came to be a fiber artist and how I was able to earn a living from being a fiber artist because of the enormous publicity (and royalties!) I receive from being a Craftsy Instructor.

After my presentation we heard from Danielle Wilkie, a Craftsy staffer, who talked with us about the importance of using Google trends and analytics to understand what people are looking for and how they are coming to our websites. She critiqued several of our sites (mine wasn’t one – darn!) but after her talk, I had another “to do” on my list. Based on my “story” — update and change my website!

Lesa Snider, from photolesa.com, spoke about image editing and sharing using Google Photos and Apple Photos.

Ending the first day was Steve Reinhardt from Craftsy who talked about the direction the company was taking in 2016. That’s all I can say about that! But keep your eyes peeled for some new changes appearing on the Craftsy website in the coming months!

Friday night was a blast. It started out with a mixer before dinner where like-minded folks got together to network. The sewers and quilters gathered in one room and the knitters, crocheters, spinners in another. The third room had the cooks and bakers and the fourth, probably the most interesting, had all the other crafts like photography, woodworking, jewelry, paper, painting, drawing, and gardening.

After dinner, we all congregated back into the conference room that had been converted to a casino and a dance floor! There was a DJ that spun tunes all night and everyone was given $1,000 (fake of course!) of chips to gamble away at Blackjack and craps. I sat down at a table and had the unfortunate luck to have a dealer who spent his life in Las Vegas before moving to Denver! Of course, he always won the hand but I didn’t care. It was all in fun.

Sunday morning, we heard from David Germano and Jim Flink, who co-teach a class on digital marketing. They focused on how to actively “listen” to what your audience is talking about and how to deliver short videos that can educate and entertain them.

The second highlight of the Summit for me was the last session of the day. Three of the top executives in the company sat in a room, surrounded by the instructors, and candidly answered any and all questions. Not all the answers were what we wanted to hear, but it was obvious, they were listening and open to hearing our concerns. So much so, that at the end, we gave them a standing ovation.

All the instructors that I spoke to (a lot!) were so impressed with the effort that Craftsy made in helping us improve our business acumen and marketing skills.  As they said, it was a “win-win” for everyone.

What a great weekend!

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