I was having coffee with a friend yesterday and she was asking me about WPPI since she has never been. Her questions reminded me of the things I wondered about before I went to Las Vegas for WPPI.
I told her there are generally three types of people who go to WPPI:
1. Those who go to learn.
2. Those who go to party.
3. Those who go to learn and party.
I like to think that I fall into that third hybrid category. I like to have fun, but I’m also going to Las Vegas to learn something. Sometimes, it’s things I already knew, other times, it’s totally new concepts. It must by my inner nerd. I like to learn!
So how do you figure it all out. What to do? What to see? What to spend money on? Here are a few tips.
1. Make a plan. Easier said than done, right? How do you make a plan if you’ve never been? Well, I suggest looking at the schedule of classes. Check out the topics, the speakers, and the class times. Trust me when I say that Vegas is exhausting, especially if you like to learn hard and party harder. Those 8:00am class times are killer. And unless I absolutely MUST see a speaker, are pretty much a pass for me. But I’ve learned that over time. I definitely suggest taking a look at what you think you might want to attend instead of walking in blind. I like plans.
2. Plan “must-sees”. So, you’ve taken a look at the speakers and classes. You’ve identified speakers you want to see. I suggest making a list with the dates and times. Set a reminder in your phone (but remember to adjust the time zone in case you’re not on Pacific Standard Time). While you may want to see everyone and everything, that’s just not possible. Unless you’re superhuman. Plan what you definitely want to see, and anything else will be extras. This year, Justin & Mary Marantz are on my must-see list. I missed them last year because I left on Wednesday and they were speaking Thursday.
3. Walk around the tradeshow without your wallet. Okay, so I don’t mean that completely. Well, kinda. My biggest advice for tackling the tradeshow is to go in with a plan. There are a TON of vendors, some with products I would never imagine existed. But the best way (in my experience) is to walk around the tradeshow with a plan to see certain products (such as albums, print companies, and bags), but without a plan to buy on the spot. Some of the sales people in the booth are amazing sales people and could probably sell snow to a penguin. So, walk around the first time and check everything out. Then, revisit the tradeshow and just hit up the booths you want to partner with. Also, you can attend the tradeshow without a full registration, and without paying (in many cases, vendors give out free passes to the tradeshow).
4. Don’t overbook yourself. I totally did this my first year. I wanted to see everything. I wanted to do everything I could. I went to classes. I volunteered to help in the Shootsac booth. I hung out with friends and we had a mini shootout. I was running around like a chicken with my head cutoff. And while I loved the experience, I was so exhausted that at some points I didn’t know what to do with myself. Set aside some time just to yourself. Get out and breathe fresh air.
5. Spend your money wisely. I know all the choices, bright lights, and doodads can be overwhelming. As related to point #3, be careful how you spend your money. Think about your purchases before forking over the cash. In addition to EVERYTHING going on just within the realm of WPPI, there are also photographers who offer workshops. Some are totally free, some are casual shootouts with a minimal investment and others are a good chunk of change (of course, that all depends on your perspective on money). This is actually the first year that I’m attending a workshop hosted outside of WPPI and I’m super excited about it. So, as with all things, make a plan, figure out if the workshop will help further your business, and invest with case.
6. Say hello. Yes. Say hello to your seat neighbor. Part of WPPI, and one of the best parts, in my opinion, is all the new friends you can make. I remember my first year. I was sitting in an 8am class, sleep-deprived, and trying to pay attention. Then, the guy sitting next to me introduced himself. While I don’t keep in contact with him, I still remember that they are a husband & wife team in Florida, and when I see their work featured on blogs, I remember that he was nice enough to say hello. To me. A total newbie.
So next time, I’m getting into the nitty gritty of socializing while at WPPI…including the parties and events.
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