Atlanta Spark and Hustle Lessons, or How to Do a Conference Right

By Maria Peagler

Jul 28
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Maria Peagler at Tory Johnson's Spark and Hustle Atlanta

I spent three days of last week at Tory Johnson’s Spark and Hustle conference in Atlanta.  The first day I presented a session about How to Gain Followers on Twitter, and the remaining two days I networked and met some brilliant women interested in growing their businesses.  Tory Johnson has turned Spark and Hustle into a million-dollar company in just one year:  she started the conference last year in Atlanta, and this was the final conference of the Spark and Hustle season. What did she and her staff do that we could all learn from?

Tory Johnson and me at Atlanta Spark and Hustle

Tory Johnson and me at Atlanta Spark and Hustle

Know your target market. Tory’s audience is women, and the entire conference experience was geared to them.  The stage was gorgeous in orange hues with beautiful lighting.  Luna bars were at every table and provided as snacks throughout the three days.  Fun music blasted during breaks so the energy never died.  Evenings were focused on answer-based sessions and a dessert party.  Her entire family was in attendance, from her mother and husband to both of her children.  I expected the Lifetime movie network to be running a movie marathon in the rooms just to top it all off.  Seriously:  Tory and her staff know their audience and catered to the “whole” woman entrepreneur.

Get real. Not only were none of the attendees hustling business cards into everyone’s hands, the presenters gave amazing advice and strategies, often without ever promoting their own business.  No sales pitches.  Just women offering help and experience to other women.  Marley Majcher, @ThePartyGoddess and author of But Are You Making Any Money, was refreshingly honest about how busy she was as a Hollwood caterer, but found she would have been better off working at McDonald’s for minimum wage with the hours she was putting in.  Ramona Rice,@RamonaRice and Spa Director of DeStress Express in Newport News, VA, tweeted Marley’s session was worth the entire price of the conference alone.  I agree.

Ramona Rice and Maria Peagler at Atlanta Spark and Hustle

Ramona Rice and me at Atlanta Spark and Hustle

Make authentic connections. Tory encouraged conference attendees to move to a different table throughout the day to meet as many people throughout the conference as they could.  Sure, it was a hassle, but she was right.  I met sharp women with incredible businesses at every table, and I made true connections that will last.

Be open to serendipity. I know, this sounds  new-age.  But in all honesty, be open to the unexpected.  Here was mine:  at 11:30p.m. after the first day of the conference, I was standing at the hotel desk where the clerk was telling me she couldn’t find my reservation, my confirmation number was no good, and they were full.  I was exhausted after a full day of presenting and answering a million questions, and I just wanted to get to my room.  Up walked Teresa, my tablemate that first day, who graciously offered to share her room with me.  What an angel!  We made fast friends, are keeping in touch on Facebook (she’s from out of state), and we became the three musketeers with Ann.

Ann, Teresa, and me at Spark and Hustle Atlanta

Ann, Teresa, and me at Spark and Hustle Atlanta

So at your next networking event or conference, dare to be different.  Know the audience.  What do they need that no one else is providing?  Make those real connections, be open and honest about your business, and you create a win-win for everyone.  What has been your best conference or networking experience?



About the Author

Founder of, Benjamin Franklin award-winner for independent publishing, award winning author of eight books, wife, mom, quilter and watercolor artist.

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