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The Pro Photographer’s Guide to WPPI

Headed to WPPI this week and next? Like 15,000 wedding and portrait photographers, you are headed to one of the biggest gatherings of people from our industry, that you’re ever likely to encounter. Whether you’ve been a dozen times, or are headed out for your first time, the entire experience can be a bit overwhelming (to say the least). Between the platform classes, master classes, impromptu classes, shooting experiences, mentoring, and of course – the parties – there’s a lot happening. Want to come back in one piece?

Here are my WPPI Survival Tips:

1. Don’t try to do everything. You’ll hear this a lot from many people who have been there, but seriously – DON’T try to see everything. You can’t. It’s too big, and you’ll end up robbing yourself of the benefit of what you DO take in. Be picky about where you spend your time. You’ll get the most benefit if you’re intentional about hearing the topics that are most relevant to you – even if they’re not being presented by the biggest rockstars.

2. Walk the Trade Show floor twice. The first time, just walk through and soak it in. If it’s your first time, there’s no question – it will be overwhelming. I remember the first time I went, and literally stood in the middle of the trade show floor and teared up. Not because I was upset, but because for the first time – I was surrounded by people that “get me.” I was surrounded by all the tools and products I could use to grow my business, and it was awe-inspiring in many ways. So, I just walked around. I browsed through every aisle – just so I had an idea of what was there. I didn’t stop to talk, and wasn’t worried about finding anything. I just walked through the floor and took it all in. I recommend you do the same if it’s your first time.  There will be time later to stop and have conversations. There will be time to buy things for your business, or sign up for new services. That’s what the second walk is for. This is when you block off time, and go back to the vendors that you think can help your business.

3. Set up a WPPI only email address. You’ll thank me later. Every time your badge gets scanned for some kind of giveaway, or every form you fill out, you can guarantee will end up with some emails in your inbox. If you’re like me, you’re not really looking for more emails to manage, so I suggest creating a free gmail email account that you can use just for vendors at WPPI.

4. Sign up for Twitter and use it.  Say what you will about the little bird, for saying connected at events like WPPI, nothing beats twitter. If you’re not already using it, sign up before you go. Twitter is how you find out about all the “extra” things happening at WPPI. All the meet-ups, get-togethers, lunches, dinners, parties, and the conversations that result, are AT LEAST AS valuable as the planned programming. There’s really only one way of having a prayer at following what’s happening, and that’s Twitter.

5. Give yourself time to yourself. Even the most ravenous extroverts (like me), need some time to decompress. Even those of us who THRIVE on being around people, have to take a little time to process what’s happening. If you’re going to invest in your business by listening to speakers, engaging with your peers, and navigating the incredible maze of the trade show floor – commit to giving yourself some time to just filter everything that’s happening. So often people get charged up at WPPI. They learn, discover, engage, and walk away inspired to do more for their photography and their business. Then they get home, and very little – if anything – actually changes. So be proactive about allowing yourself to process the experience. Maybe you just take some time and eat breakfast by yourself one morning, or sit in your room and journal for a half hour. Just do something.

6. The good stuff isn’t on the program. There are incredible speakers at WPPI.  There are super talented people sharing their wisdom, art, and talent with all of us. There are incredible opportunities to hear them speak – but in reality, that’s such a small fraction of the REAL value of an event like this. If you ask anyone who has been to WPPI in the past, they’ll tell you the same thing – the REAL value is in the relationships. It’s in the conversations. It’s in the early morning coffees, or late evening drinks with your peers.  It’s in the new friends you make, and the old friends you reconnect with. This is where the real value comes from. So commit to stepping out of your comfort zone and engaging with the people around you. This is your industry – these are your peers – and there is so much we can teach each other.

7. Make a list. Whether it’s events to attend, people to listen to, or products to see, spend a little time in advance to get organized. Make a list of booths you want to visit on the tradeshow. Make a schedule of speakers you want to listen to (hopefully you got your pre-boarding passes for these!). Make a calendar of all the events happening. Once you get there, everything is pretty much a blur, and you’ll be glad you wrote down why it was you really came.

8. Pick One Thing. Before you leave to go home, pick one thing you experienced that will cause you to be different when you go home. Not everything that happens in Vegas should stay in Vegas. If you’re going to make the trip, be sure that you leave with something tangible that will be different in your photography, or your business. It’ll take you a few days to decompress when you get home, so be sure to write your “one thing,” down so you can come back to it once the “vegas cloud” has lifted and you get back to real life.

What else would you add? Share it with us in the comments section below!
By the way, I’ll be there with my entire family (yes, we’re crazy like that). I’ll be hanging out a few places on the tradeshow floor, as well as at the ONE DAY INTENSIVE VEGAS EDITION.  I also have a few spots open for coaching sessions if you’re interested. Let’s connect!

Written by Jason Aten

Jason Aten is a Michigan based wedding photographer. After a career in marketing and sales management for a Fortune 100 company, Jason became relentlessly drawn to the ability to impact people’s lives through photography. So in 2001 he quit his job to start his own photography business. Jason applies his previous marketing and sales experience to his photography business and now takes the time to educate others with his “Starting Out Right”one-day intensives and resource guides. You can find more posts like this on the Starting Out Right blog.

The NEW ShootQ is Complimentary while in Beta mode for the next few months.  Enjoy!
The NEW ShootQ is Complimentary while in Beta mode for the next few months.  Enjoy!