WPPI 2014 is just around the corner! I don't know about you, but I'm excited! This will be my first time attending this sure to be amazing International Conference. I'm sure many would agree, it can be a little overwhelming looking at everything that will be going on and trying to decide where I want to go/what I want to do during my time in Las Vegas. Luke and David Edmonson took on an idea they liked from David Beckstead, which was to "adopt" a first-timer and show them the ropes of the trade show, and posted this little contest in Facebook's WPPI group. It was in this thread that Skip Cohen offered to share his tips and advice for those attending WPPI for the first time, and I happily took him up on this offer! Skip was so generous in spending his time sharing all this information (or, as he referred to it, a brain dump) with us!
Here are some of the great tips that Skip shared for those attending WPPI for the first time!
- Bring Business Cards! I think this has been stated in any list of tips I've ever seen for WPPI. One of the main benefits of WPPI is networking. Meeting other photographers, and building a good networking base is so important, so be sure to have plenty of business cards! Another thing you may want to consider bringing, to give to vendors, is something showing your images (a postcard with your images, for example). Talk to every vendor who who manufactures a product or service you would work with. During the trade show is not the best time to try to show your work to the vendors, as it's just so busy, but leaving them with something and following up afterwards is a good way to make yourself known.
- Trade Show/Expo: The trade show is spread throughout two rooms- the Grand Ballroom, and he Marquee Ballroom. The Grand Ballroom tends to be the more busy of the two, with the Marquee Ballroom being a smaller room, with smaller booths, and less people. The first day especially, more people head to the Grand Ballroom, so if you want something a little slower paced, go check out the Marquee Ballroom. More importantly, plan out what vendors you'd like to check out. Make a list of products and services you use/need, and plan your time there. Go down every aisle, as there are cool things going on all over (new products, speakers, presentations). Check with vendors to see what they have scheduled. Give them a call, ask what they're doing at WPPI. This will help you create a plan of action, when you have an idea of what's going on, and what you'd like to check out. Another thing to think- if you think you're going to make a big ticket purchase in the next 6 months, think about doing it at WPPI! If cash flow is an issue (which is it for 90% of photographers the first 5 years), you might want to consider taking out a line of credit so that you have more buying power.
- Print Competition. Skip isn't the only one who I've heard suggest checking out the WPPI Print Competition. He says it's one of the most valuable aspects of the conference, and a great way to learn. Going on Saturday and Sunday, there's plenty of time to stop in and listen to the comments from the judging panel, or walk through the displayed work.
- You're going to walk. A lot. Seriously. A lot. Have you ever been to the MGM? It's huge. No, really. And the conference center is separate, which means even if you're staying in the MGM, you're going to have a hike to get there. Skip suggests that you, "Find the most comfortable who-cares-if-they're-ugly pair of shoes." He even suggests to get up and start walking now, especially if you've become more sedentary over the winter (guilty!), to get yourself a little more prepared. I think a walk just made it's way into my evening plans...
- Classes: There are so many amazing classes being offered, with such a great lineup of speakers. How do you choose?! It comes back down to planning. Take a look at all the classes being offered, and see what would be most valuable to you and your business. Skip suggests choosing at least one outside of your comfort zone (taking a class on photographing seniors if you're a wedding photographer, for example), because diversity is good. It's nice to have a couple back-ups, especially in today's economy. Most classes fill up quickly, so if it's something you really want to do (and you have not pre-boarded), arrive 15-30 minutes early, depending on who it is. I've heard waiting in line can be one of the most fun times, and a great chance to meet new people!
- Don't be shy. In a sea of people, it's easy to hide in your shell, as it's not uncommon to feel intimidated. Seeing photographers and speakers who we look up to is exciting, but you may not know how to approach them, or if it's okay to approach them. Skip made a great point when he said that there's nothing wrong with introducing yourself to speakers, because by them getting to know you, it helps them know if what they're about to talk about is going to hit home. "Don't step into a conversation like a stormtrooper. Respect people's space." If you maintain basic common sense when it comes to approaching people, and not interrupting conversations, you should be okay. Meet those who have a hand at putting on WPPI, like Jason Groupp and Lauren Wendle. Again, WPPI is a great opportunity to network.
- Never eat a meal alone. Unless you really can't avoid it, of course. Get to know people during this time (again with the networking!). You may share similar frustrations, and find out how someone else handled a situation you're struggling with. You may make a new friend! As far as places for lunch- there aren't any. Okay, maybe that's not entirely true, but don't expect anything quick and easy (or cheap) that's close. Just walking from the conference center to the casino, you'll lose 20-30 minutes (each way!). There are a few places in the hallway leading back to the casino, but it's likely to be very busy as everyone will be trying to grab lunch around the same time. Bring something small to keep with you, in case you can't get away and your stomach is screaming at you.
- Travel light/Note Taking. You don't need to bring a lot with you on a daily basis. In fact, you probably shouldn't. You're going to acquire things at the trade show, so you don't want to bring a lot of stuff to begin with. Comfortable shoes, a lightweight bag/backpack, business cards, a snack, some water (don't forget to stay hydrated!), and something to take notes with. On the topic of taking notes, Skip shared what was probably one of his most important pieces of advice: There's only so much you can take in. During classes, kick back, and don't get too caught up in your notes. The same thing happens to most people with notes: we take notes, leave motivated, have good intentions, but they end up in a shoebox under the bed. Sometimes, you spend so much time taking notes that you miss the main idea the speaker is presenting. Look for the "low-hanging fruit", the idea that that is easiest for you to implement when you get home. Listen for the one thing the speaker talks about that resonates with you.
The information Skip shared, and his helpfulness, made me even more eager to get to WPPI to learn and network, but also helped ease the feeling of being a little overwhelmed. I hope this information helps you, too! Looking forward to seeing you in Vegas!
Thank you again, Skip!
If you have any tips or pieces of advice you'd like to share, I'd love to hear them!
For more information on WPPI 2014, or to register, go to: http://www.wppionline.com/index.shtml