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Henna/Mehndi conferences/workshop 101

When you see so many workshops and conferences sprouting around you like mushrooms, then for sure you will have the urge to attend at least one of them. 

The promise of turning you into a master in this art in only few days, you feel lured into getting onboard the success ship. With the constant chatter of workshops in this tightly knit community, the FOMO (fear of missing out) on the golden chance feels increasingly real.

Because I am henna artist I have taken example of henna industry here,  however the points I have discussed could be applied to all types of workshops/conferences. 

So, before you jump into the bandwagon of conferences and workshops hear my take on this . It might give you some perspective that could help you choose what is best for you and can save your time, money and some disappointment perhaps.

Before deciding which conference/ workshop to attend ask yourself few questions

  • Why should I attend ? 
  • Which workshop/conferences are for me?
  • What I will be doing in that conference ?
  • Will it benefit me in anyway?

Clarity is very important before you commit your money, time and energy to anything and that’s why these questions will sure to help you make an informed decision. A good first step is to talk with organisers of such conferences /workshops or folks who have attended such workshop/conferences in the past.

Do not feel pressured and rush to sign up for attending as there will be no shortage of these events and if anything these conferences will only increase in volume.

Now lets go through those questions you would ask yourself and I will give my input regarding those questions and remember its only my point of view and some of you may disagree and that is absolutely fine. I am sharing because it might help someone who is perhaps confused about committing to attend such events, which has turned into a somewhat fashionable trend. 

Before I talk about reasons to attend conferences/workshops let me give you a piece of advice. Don’t expect miracles. You will only be kidding yourself if you think or expect that after attending such conferences / workshops you will be at same level or become as successful or famous as the organisers or instructors. Artistic aptitude and ability coupled with dedication and lots of practice is required before mastering any art. The instructors have years of experience and practice to hone their art. They may share some basic tips but the effort to build and incorporate them into your own distinctive style takes a lot more effort. So don’t be blinded by that illusion. There is no short-cut to becoming a master of the art/business . Or if you are thinking your interaction with them if shared on their social media post would earn you some exposure, the reality is that the instructor is getting all limelight and promotion through you. There is no reward for association, acquaintance or relationship with a renowned artist. The only claim to fame is the quality of your own art. 

  1. Why should I attend ?

             This is very important because if you are very sure about this then things would be easier regarding following questions.

Are you very new to henna art? 

If yes and looking for basic information, then these types of conferences and workshops are specially designed for you and are useful platforms to learn and observe. Workshops/conferences that cover topics such as how to make cones, henna paste, handling henna cones, introduction about henna and its process, basic designs steps like dots, lines and humps.  So this could be the one stop from where you can get elementary information about this art. If they are teaching many various styles of henna art then you can experiment with those styles and pick up one or two that you feel comfortable with and can start from that point. 

So in short if you are completely clueless about this art form and looking for fast answers and at the same time want to mingle with people who know how to turn this art into a prospective business, then these types of conferences can be beneficial for a novice.

If you are moving towards an intermediate level of proficiency in this art and are not satisfied with your progress and are looking for a shot in the arm to move up to the next level, and most importantly if you don’t have ability to learn by yourself then  I would advice stay away from these types of conferences/workshops because its not going to help you much. These types of conferences are really for those talented and committed self starters, those who have the ability to discover, observe and learn themselves with no spoon-feeding or detailed hand-holding. Conferences do not allow enough time for instructors to give personalised attention, or correct your mistakes. In my opinion taking a 1:1 class is a much better option for accelerated learning the art and the right techniques. Who you choose to learn from is equally as important as what you learn.  

If you are an intermediate stage artist looking to move to an advanced level, these types of conferences and workshops are the best place to go if they are teaching exactly what you want to learn. Often there could be an expectation gap between what you expect versus what and how it will be actually taught during the conferences. For example you want to learn portrait mehendi and you eagerly sign up to attend the workshop with that specific goal. The instructor is a master of portrait drawing and has many years of experience with free hand portrait drawing. But during the conference the instructor verbally tells you the theory of how to draw portrait without any proper demonstration or tricks/technique that you had hoped to learn. How would you feel in that instance ? Cheated right? But you cannot argue because they promised portrait mehendi class but they did not elaborate how will they teach . Thats why its important to do your home-work before attending such workshops/conferences to avoid disappointment. Ask the right questions. 

  1. Above example leads to our next question, which conferences/workshops are suitable for me?

 There are so many available in market and many a times it becomes very confusing to decide. The first and most important part is how desperate you are to attend and how much you are willing to spend? If its in your town you can take chance as an experience but if you have to fly somewhere to attend such conferences/ workshop then must do your home work properly.

Find out what those conferences/ workshops are offering in form of teaching. Look for conferences that is actually offering something that you want to learn. 

Then comes the essential part of any conference/workshop, look at the instructor line ups. When you evaluate the instructors, don’t look at their social media popularity, instead concentrate on their teaching abilities AND willingness to share their knowledge freely with tips, tricks, techniques that they have learned to get to where they are today.

Popularity on social media has nothing to do with teaching ability. Remember the difference between being good at something and being able to teach something to someone, these are two very different things. Sometimes in pretence of teaching they only demonstrate their talent while they have no interest in teaching anything to anyone. If these instructors are not easily approachable then stay away as they have nothing to share with you. They have no intention to share any tricks or techniques with you. For them you are only business revenue that they earn when you register to attend class. Do not let yourself be victimised by these business persons who con you with misleading words and peddle unrealistic dreams. There are very few selfless teachers and they are like a needle in a haystack. If you find one latch on to them. Selfish teachers you will encounter a dime a dozen. Good luck in actually learning anything from them as their insecurity in sharing their skills will ensure you will never be as good as them or any better. 

  1. What I will be doing in that conference?

This is not an attempt to be humorous! Of course learn things when I am spending so much money for this. Yes of course learning is the most important objective when attending any conference/workshop but not everyone goes there with the intention to learn. 

    When you attend such conferences/ workshop don’t have high hopes about learning to avoid disappointment, because we have to be realistic, such conferences can only scratch the surfaces and at best create some awareness and perhaps fan some interest.  So once you have some basic directional interests regarding any subject, you can subsequently upgrade your skill with more practice and research. Keep your mind, eyes and ears open so you can learn whatever you want to learn even though it would not have actually been taught. 

Confusing but true. 

Very few events give real time demonstrations, rather they have presentations using markers and slideshows with verbal explanations.  But as I said we have to be practical and realistic because some topics are such, it is time consuming to explain them with actual demonstration and they don’t have that much time for that .

So in such situations how can you learn? No worries , in such events there are artists who are applying mehendi for each other, watch them working and learn from that observation. Talk with other participants, interact with them, ask questions to the instructors, discuss with other participants or instructors and try to learn how to get over challenges and obstacles you are facing with your art. So in short spend time interacting with everyone. In that way you may create some good connections that could be helpful in future. You will learn many things that won’t be part of course. 

These types of events give opportunity for you to promote your work if you are smart enough. One simple example , if you notice there are some people who are very active attending all major events. Sometimes you will wonder why this person is everywhere ? However few of them are not attending such events to learn anything instead they are there to show off their work and create some connection. What is the benefit ? Their dream to launch their career as instructor. Remember, many such events do not pay anything to instructors, apart from lodging. So again what is the benefit? But what I understood so far is that it a good marketing and promotion for you and your work. You get international exposure and in future you can team up with a couple of more such artist and launch your own conference/ workshops . These forward looking artists view attending such conferences as long term investments in their own future and keep them selves busy with popular artists, building alliances and relationships, or drawing whatever they know best either on a board or on someone’s hand for publicity and marketing. So in short this is one kind of marketing strategy and nothing wrong in it actually one should consider to implement that for their business growth.

  1. Will it benefit me in anyway?

 Yes if you have clarity what are you looking for.  I would say it will benefit you more if you attend with realistic expectations, be inquisitive, observant and socially extroverted. After all it is a net working event so build connections. 

There are many conferences being organised around the globe. Find out the one happening near to you. Few I can list below to give you head start in your search.

  • Henna huddle (London, Canada)
  • Henna connect (India)
  • Henna con (USA)
  • Spring-fling henna conference (USA)
  • East West Mehndi meet (Europe)
  • Henna pro (Canada, London) 

There are few questions you can ask to organisers before you commit yourself for any such events, for example

  • Who are the instructors ? 
  • What are they teaching ? 
  • How are they teaching ? Means are they using realtime demonstration, only slide shows or mix of both .
  • Are they providing study material? And what types of study material, is it downloadable images , booklet or something else? So brief understanding about material is also very important. 
  • Approx how many students would be there?
  • How long each classes would be?
  • During the class, Would there be enough time for teacher to explain, student to practice and discuss the challenges?
  • By any reason , the instructor could not make it to conference, would they inform attendees? What if the instructor is the one for whom you have signed up the class so in such instance would they entertain refund if demanded? 

        I know its really disappointing and disheartening when the instructor, you are looking forward to learn from, could not attend conference/ workshop. However, it more frustrating if organiser conveniently avoid informing attendees and they get rude shock on the day of event during introduction. Very rare but it could happen and many times such circumstances are  unavoidable. 

So, these could be my reasons to attend such events but not necessarily yours. I hope some of you found this article useful. So find out your reasons and then attend such events and even if you are unable to attend, don’t feel you are missing out on anything because there are many other ways to learn and interact in this internet age. 

So best luck and best wishes with all of you.

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