I’m so glad that you are coming to the Spark Christian Podcast Conference! It is going to be an amazing time of learning and growing.
Whether this is your first conference, or you are a conference pro, you probably have a lot of questions as you get ready for this experience. You might even be experiencing a little anxiety about the whole thing!
Through this series, we hope to answer all your questions AND give you the confidence to fully engage in and enjoy the conference. Each week, I’ll give you a few things to do to prepare. You can download the whole list here, but don’t stress over it! Just check them off each week, a little at a time.
Jump to Week 1: Sign Up and Travel
Jump to Week 2: All the Paper Things
Jump to Week 3: Get to Know the Sponsors
Jump to Week 4: All the Little Details
Jump to Week 5: Just Breathe
Jump to Post-Conference: Find Your Focus
January 20 – 26 Sign Up & Travel
This week is all about making sure you are all signed up and ready to travel. But before you do that, let’s take care of one very important thing.
1. Get prayed up
Before I went to my first writing conference, my friend Melissa Taylor gave me the best one sentence of advice. She said,
“Be prepared for God to do anything at She Speaks.”
She was right. God did a lot of “anything” in my heart and in my life leading up to and during the week of She Speaks. And I know it will be the same for Spark.
Start praying now for an open heart and open mind for whatever God wants to do in you and through you this year. It may not be what you expect. It may bigger and much grander than you could ever imagine. Or maybe quiet confirmation of where you’re going. It could be a painful redirection to a new place or an old trampled dream may come to life again. But whatever it is, God will be faithful to walk through it with you. Be prepared for God to do anything.
You also need to pray for God’s protection. Our enemy knows that God does amazing things when His people draw close to Him. As you get deeper into preparing for this Jesus-filled opportunity, don’t be surprised when your appliances go on the fritz, gremlins infect your electronic devices and your vehicle breaks down two days after the warranty expires. Just laugh and know that you must be right where God wants you to be.
But it’s no laughing matter when Satan saves his most vicious attack for the ones closest to our hearts … our families. He thinks they are fair game for physical ailments, bouts of rebellion and a crisis of faith. Put on your armor every day, friends, and cover your family. God desires for them to thrive through your ministry.
2. Sign Up for Add-Ons
Did you know there are some cool add-on experiences while you are at Spark?
Professional Headshots – Add a 10 min professional head shot photo shoot that includes one digital image with touchups and full copyright ownership.
Literary Agent Appointment – A one-on-one 15 minute appointment with a literary agent, covering topics from representation, publicity, consulting, and blogging networks.
Expert Podcast Coaching – Gain access to our coaches lounge and receive a one-on-one fifteen minute appointment with a podcast coach.
You can sign up for all of these on the Spark Registration Page. They need to be purchased in advance, so go ahead and do this before they fill up!
3. Travel and logistics
Get your travel plans made so you get the best rates! The conference is at the Marriott Springhill Suites Northwest at 20303 Chasewood Park Drive Houston, TX. 77370. Book your special Spark group rate here.
The closest airport is IAH – Bush Intercontinental. An Uber between the airport and the hotel is about $30 – $35 depending on time of arrival and traffic. If you are flying Southwest Airlines, you’ll arrive at Hobby Airport, which is farther away. An Uber will be $45 – $50.
And don’t forget about this post in Facebook group where you can find roommates and people to share cars or Ubers. You might just make a new best friend!
4. Connect on social media
Hang out on the Spark Christian Podcast Conference Facebook Group to stay up to date on all the news. Dorothy and Misty are posting a ton of important information there. Use the hashtag #SparkPodCon liberally on all platforms with the graphics here to let to everyone know you are going!
Start making a list of people that you want to connect with at the conference. Note their name and why specifically you want to connect.
Just a little warning though. There are people who are at all places in their podcasting journeys in the group. It may be overwhelming when you see people who are more prepared and seem to have it all together.
Don’t let the craziness overwhelm or discourage you. Sometimes you may need to just turn the notifications off and give it a rest. Learn from others in the group because they will be your biggest supporters and cheerleaders, but be discerning about what applies to you and what doesn’t.
See you next week with a few more things to do!
January 27 – February 2 All The Paper Things
This week, let’s focus on some of the marketing materials you may need to bring with you. Time is getting short, but you still have time if you make them a priority.
1. Business Cards
If at all possible, it would be great to have business cards at Spark. You’ll make about 100 new best friends and will want an easy way to share your contact information. A few tips for creating your business cards:
- Include your name, email address, phone number and social media info. Most people don’t have a need for your physical address.
- Include the name of your ministry, podcast and/or your tagline. (Don’t have a tagline? Check out this post for a worksheet and step-by-step webinar to come up with one!)
- Add a nice headshot to help match names and faces.
- Don’t use a solid dark background on the front and the back. When I get someone’s card, I like to jot some quick notes on it, what we talked about and anything I want to follow up on from our conversation. Those memory joggers are super helpful when you get home!
- Use the back of the card for more information, but leave space for people to write on the back.
- Keep it simple and don’t stress over it. I can promise you I have never gotten back from a conference and thought, “Now who was that guy with the fancy custom font on his business card?” Nope. But I did say, “Who was that amazing girl who has the really cool ministry? Let me go find her business card and contact her.” It’s a simple tool to help make connections. Keep it that way.
- Vistaprint and Moo are two popular places to order your business cards. Moo’s cards are a little nicer, but Vistaprint is less expensive and delivers faster. You can design them right on either site, and can often find special deals. If this is your first time to get cards, don’t get too many. You’ll probably want to change them at least once. Or twice. (Can you tell I’ve been down this road??)
2. Podcast Media Kits
You’ll meet lots of people who want to know all about your podcast, so have a Media Kit or One-Sheet handy to share and help your podcast stand out. If you have purchased the add-on meeting with a podcast coach, this is a good way to help them quickly see who you are and what you are about. Here’s a great post with ideas for creating one, and several examples from different types of podcasts.
3. Podcast Guest Media Kit
Looking to be a guest on one of the amazing podcasts that will be represented at Spark? Bring several copies of your personal media kit or one sheet. This will help the podcast hosts in the crowd get to know you quickly and find some topics that may connect you with their audience. Here is an example from Spark sponsor The Interview Valet and here is mine that I created recently to pitch a specific podcast.
4. Book Proposal
If you are pitching a specific book idea in a meeting with a literary agent, you’ll probably want a book proposal. These can take a long time to create, so if you haven’t started yet, you better get busy! My favorite resources for book proposal help are:
Mary DeMuth – She has inexpensive guides and templates in her Book Launch Mentor shop for both fiction and non-fiction proposals.
Chad Allen – Chad is a literary agent and former acquisitions editor for Baker Publishing. Chad has a ton of book proposal posts and resources on his site to help create a strong proposal. He has also stopped by here a while back to give some tips on making the most of your meetings with agents and acquisition editors.
That should keep you busy for a while! I’ll be back next week with some tips for making the most of your time with the conference sponsors.
February 3 – 9 Check out the Sponsors
Are you getting excited yet? I hope by now, you are starting to check things off of your checklist (scroll back up to the top of this page to download it!) and have filled in some names of specific people you want to meet at Spark.
One group of people I KNOW you want to meet are the amazing Spark Sponsors. Without the sponsors, there would be no Spark. These people are not here just to sit at a booth. They are here to serve and help you. They are experts in the podcasting field and have valuable information and experience to share with you. Here are some tips for making the most of your time with the sponsors.
1. Think about upcoming needs you have for your podcast.
Are you just getting started and need all the tech gear? Have you been struggling with your hosting platform and thinking of making a switch? Is it time to start earning an income from your podcast? You may not have time to meet everyone, so give some thought in advance to the key areas where you may need some input from an expert.
2. Check out the sponsor page
Go to the Sponsor Page on the Spark website and learn about each of the sponsors. Most of them have clickable links with the logos shown there, or you can just Google the business name to find them. Find out what they all do and decide which ones may be able to help you with the top needs you have. Some of the sponsors are also hanging out in the Spark Facebook group, so you can connect with them there as well.
3. Write down your questions and who you want to ask
This may sound a little silly. After all, these burning questions are the main reason you are coming to Spark and there is no way you’ll forget them, right? Well, in case you don’t already know, let me be the one to tell you … conference overwhelm is a real thing. Your brain will be so full, important things will start leaking out of it. The last thing you want is to get home and remember all the questions you meant to ask the guy from Buzzsprout! Write them down (you can use the Questions/Concerns box on your checklist) so you make the most of your time at Spark.
February 10 – 16 All the Little Details
Less than TWO weeks until we all get together for the Spark conference!! Are you getting excited? I know am! Or, more precisely, I WILL be after I have crossed off all the to-do’s. Misty sent an email last week covering a lot of little details for the conference. In case you missed it, I’ve included most of the same info here, plus a few extras.
What to Wear
- One of my favorite oxymorons is “dressy-casual”. Ha! That cracks me up every time. But that is what to expect at Spark. Slacks, polo or button-down tops, skirts, jeans with a nice top, casual dresses, nice sandals are all ok.
I would discourage shorts, your favorite graphic tee and any footwear made of plastic. 🙂 Check the weather when we get a little closer. Texas weather this time of year can be quite fickle.
- Tuck a sweater, shawl or wrap into your bag. Conference rooms may be chilly.
- Comfy shoes are important. There will be some walking between conference spaces and especially around meal times.
Accommodations at SpringHill Suites and Meals
- The rooms are spacious so you will have plenty of room to spread out and make yourself at home.
- If you are staying at the conference hotel, your room includes free breakfast.
- There will be light snacks and beverages available, but if you have super-specific dietary needs, you may want to bring your own.
- Lunch and dinner Friday and Saturday are on your own. You can find lots of great restaurants in the Vintage Park area nearby here.
- The hotel runs a free shuttle to Vintage Park, but it has limited capacity. You can share an Uber or Lyft with some friends for $5-$8 each way, or buddy up with someone who has a car.
- There is free wi-fi in the hotel lobby and conference area.
- Bring an external charger pack for your phone if you have one. Carrying your own power will keep you from searching around for a plug and worst of all, leaving your phone in that corner next to an outlet you used during a session.
- If you are short on memory in your devices, go through and make some space before you come. There will be lots of photo ops with new friends, presenters and sponsors. Plus, when the presenter is going too fast for you to take notes, you can take pictures of their slides to refer to later.
Navigating the Conference
- There will be a table to purchase Spark merchandise, but you really don’t need much cash … mainly for tipping the hotel staff and in case you share meals with people and need to split a check.
- You will receive a tote bag with your conference materials and SWAG! It is a nice, handy little bag but I recommend bringing your own. Do you know how hard it is to find your stuff when 150 other people have the exact same bag as you??? Plus I feel more organized and comfortable when I have a place (or pocket) for everything and everything in its place. AND if you bring an empty tote bag with you, you’ll have a place for the goodies you accumulate!
- Think about your note-taking strategy ahead of time. You can use a notebook, or you may prefer to take notes on your laptop or tablet. We will be sitting at tables in the conference room, so you won’t have to balance it on your lap. WIN!
- Try marking things in your notes as you go (or by reviewing your notes at night) to help you find them later. Use sticky flags or different colored highlighters or special symbols to mark important things you want to come back to. For example, you might mark Things to Do with a square check box, good ideas to consider with a star, questions to ask with a big question mark, etc. When you get home, it can be very intimidating to go back through all those notes again, so having specific things to focus on will make it a bit easier.
- Seating is open at all sessions. Maximize your networking time by sitting with someone new every time!
- If you are staying at the SpringHill and arrive on Thursday, you can check-in to the conference then. Otherwise, find the registration table Friday morning. Your registration package will include a schedule for the conference and times for any add-ons you purchased. Check the resource section below for a downloadable packing checklist and schedule planner to map out your days at Spark.
What other questions do you have? I certainly don’t know all the answers, but I’ll try to find them or send you to the right person!
February 17 – 21 Just Breathe
Ack! Just a few days away! We will have such an amazing time together! As we count down the hours, there are just a few things left to do.
- Make plans with friends – Hopefully you have been gathering a list of people that you want to connect with at Spark. Reach out to them before you get there and make plans for lunch or dinner so you aren’t scrambling at the last minute.
- Stop by to visit me – It has been my pleasure to host this series and I am so anxious to meet you. I’ll be at the registration table on Friday morning so stop by and say hello!
- Finish where we started – We began this series by getting prayed up and giving our expectations to God. Remember, God can do anything at Spark! So sit back, breathe and open your heart to anything.
Post-Conference – Choose Your Focus
Oh my. Just. Oh my. Was Spark amazing or what? I can’t even put into words, the learning, the growth, the friends, the LOVE in that place. Misty and her team deserve all the cheers!
Now we are home. If you are like me, you may be asking the scary question:
We have a notebook full of ideas, a stack of business cards from people we want to connect with and a renewed sense of vision and purpose, but with so many options, opportunities and ideas, it can be overwhelming. How do I know what to do next and what to wait on?
How do I get it all done?
First, remember that you don’t have to get it all done tomorrow. It takes time to move mountains, so give yourself plenty of time to pray over and develop the ideas God has given you. Filter all the ideas through the purpose of your calling and let the ones that don’t support your calling stay right there in your notebook … yes, even the really good ones … even the ones that all the cool kids are doing. Just because they are good and they are popular doesn’t mean they are for you or for now.
Then, make a plan. It can be a simple plan … three small things you want to work on over the next few weeks. A plan turns those hastily scribbled notes in your conference notebook into actions and solutions to rough spots in your ministry.
I also want to share with you the Idea Tornado Toolkit. It has helped me and many others capture all the ideas floating around in our heads, filter and prioritize them and create a do-able action plan. In fact, I used it recently with a friend who wants to write a Bible study and film videos to go along with it. She needed a plan to get it done and this is what she said when we were finished:
This is exactly what I needed. My brain felt like spaghetti and you straightened it all out
So if you feel like you have spaghetti brain, maybe this will help you get it straightened out!
I hope this video, and the whole Let’s Go to Spark series, was helpful to you. I love helping people clearly identify the calling God has put on their lives and break that down into a plan that works. If that sounds like something you need … some Biblically-based coaching on being strategically focused on your ministry …. I’d love to talk to you more. Visit my Let’s Work Together page here for more information and a complete pricing list. Spark Alumni will get 15% off any coaching calls or packages booked by March 10!
It has been a privilege to walk through this season with you. Your passion for ministry has inspired me and I am honored to know people like you who are doing amazing things for God’s kingdom. Let’s keep in touch!!!