Last weekend I attended the Wedding and Portrait Photographers International (WPPI) conference in Las Vegas. I would venture to say it is the largest conference of its kind. It was my first time there but I enjoyed it immensely. Not only can you take classes from top photographers who are blazing the way, you get to see the latest gear from the likes of Canon & Nikon. But most importantly you get to network with togs and create new relationships. Priceless. My trip was a short one but I thought I would share some lessons learned from my time there.
- Lodging: stay at the conference hotel. This year it was held at the MGM. I chose the Monte Carlo since I had a great deal with them. However the time and hassle of walking back and forth was not worth the savings. It is easy to forget how large the casinos are and the distance between them.
- Classes: if you can get referrals from togs who have been before. Time is short so do your best to seek out those speakers who will deliver the content you are after. One thing I did was to get feedback from friends on classes they took this year and made notes about the speakers. The ones with good reviews I plan on attending next year if they speak. Also do pre-register for those must see classes you have marked down. I didn’t do that for one of mine and I missed out as the class was sold out.
- Trade Show: my sole reason for attending was the trade show. I wanted to see the newest gear, talk with print vendors, and possibly score a deal. I only allowed one day for the show and that was not near enough time. If you go plan for 2 days to really make your way through and have enough time to ask your questions. Also make sure you follow your favorite vendors on Twitter. Through out the conference they tweet special deals and giveaways. A great way to score an extra discount.
- Mini classes at the trade show: on the floor of the trade show top photographers host mini classes at vendor sites. Photographers such as Bambi Cantrell, Zach and Jody Gray, and Kevin Kubota just to name a few were presenting on topics such as posing and lighting wedding brides. Most vendor had handouts with schedules of who would be speaking.
- Networking: this probably doesn’t need to be mentioned but nonetheless. You are at a central location with your peers from across the county and world. Make the most of meeting new people and “talk shop”. On my cab ride over from the airport I shared it with a gal from London. I saw her Canon 5DM2 on her shoulder and immediately struck up a conversation. We talked marketing ideas the whole time. Be on the lookout for evening parties and meetups. Keep an eye on Facebook & Twitter for the latest get togethers. Try your best not to eat alone. See if others are meeting up for dinner or breakfast. I can’t stress enough how much useful information you can get from talking to others.
- Business cards: bring more than you think. Not only are you going to be exchanging them with your new found friends, the vendors generally have drop boxes for giveaways.
- Receipts: be sure to keep all of your receipts for tax write off purposes.
- Discount codes: be sure to take note of the discount codes you get from vendors as many of them expire quickly. If there are a few you are really after make sure you pay attention and act on quickly if needed.
- Follow up with your new contacts: once you leave and return your normal every day routine don’t forget those new contacts. Strike up an email or video chat. I personally have been doing this since the day I got back. I met two great photographers (one in KS, one in NC) and got invited to a photographers Facebook group that is overflowing with great ideas and people. These contacts alone were worth the trip. Stay connected!
- Act on those classes you took: you spent time, money, and effort to get to Vegas to learn new things. Make sure to get a game plan on how you can implement those ideas. It would be easy to shelf them and think you will get to them later. However if you are like me those details will start to fade in the old memory bank. Strike while the iron is hot. Outline the best ideas from those classes and move on them.
And tip number 10 1/2: at the roulette table bet on black. Statistically you have a 50/50 chance of winning.
Until next time…