One of my 2015 resolutions was to attend the Wedding and Portrait Photographers International (WPPI) Conference in Las Vegas. For various reasons I was only able to make it for 24 hours, but I decided to still go. This was also my first time in Vegas. Before I left I scoured the web for reviews and tips and tricks for WPPI first timers including asking friends who had gone how to make the most of my limited time there. Here are some highlights from my experience for anyone else who might be doing as I did.
What I did:
I booked a flight to arrive late on Tuesday night and fly out the following Wednesday night. I figured if I was only going to stay one night I should stay at the MGM Grand where the conference would be, and I wanted to get a good nights rest. I had $90 cash in my pocket and determined that was all I would spend (I started out with $100....but even Dave Ramsey would agree that you have to budget in some "blow money" ;). As exciting as some of the platform class options looked, I decided to maximize my time by only attending the Expo and listening to speakers in the booths. My primary goal was to view album offerings, search for new products to offer clients and hopefully meet up with one or two photographers I knew.
- Having a budget: I liked having the freedom to purchase somethings without having to overthink what I could spend, and once it was gone, I was done.
- Getting rest: I'd read to plan for some downtime and I'm glad I did. There is so much stimulation that it's easy to want to do ALL THE THINGS and burn out, so downtime (even for one day) is a must
- Only attending the Expo: With only one day to explore, it was nice to concentrate on just the expo. There were nearly 300 exhibitors so there was plenty to see, touch, and feel. While I walked the entire trade show floor, there were still many booths I wanted to spend time at and didn't. Plus there were so many great speakers/meet and greets in various booths that there was much value in only the Expo
- Being strategic at the Expo: Did I mention there were a gajillion exhibitors? Knowing that I was purposefully checking out album companies and print/product labs reeeeally helped narrow my focus and guide my time.
- Meeting up with photographers I knew: When I tentatively emerged from my room, I was so glad to have cell phone numbers to photographers I knew (hey Elle Danielle and Catie Ronquillo).
- Connecting online in advance: I LOVE Ike and Tash and their work, so when they mentioned on Facebook they would be attending, I asked for times and days they would be speaking and sharing and scheduled alerts in my phone (yes, I'm a nerd) to make sure I wouldn't miss them.
- Making health a priority: It might seem minor, but I'd heard so many people talk about being sick after WPPI, that I was determined to stay healthy. I stayed hydrated (the desert can dry a body out), took vitamins & Emergen-C, ate healthy, and slept sufficiently. I know that's not the typical "what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas" attitude, but ain't nobody got time to be sick!
What I would change
- Go for longer. I'm proud of myself for making it work this year, but a longer visit would have incredible value
- Get off the strip! The beautiful mountains and fresh outdoors called to me and I was so sad to be inside 99% of the time. And can you see a shoot with gele among the red rocks?? Hello beautiful!
- Connect more! The thing that you can't see from blogs or following hashtags are the opportunities to really connect with other photographers and exhibitors. Companies host informal gatherings, a new friend may want to grab coffee, and of course there are the larger parties and events. My short visit limited these opportunities.
- Use social media strategically. It wasn't until I got back to Dallas that I started searching photos and hashtags and following up on connections made that I realized there were some meet-up opportunities I could have participated in and didn't; as well as having some really neat photographers that I wanted to meet but didn't even know existed....next time gadget!
- Change hotels. The MGM was great, but if I was staying longer a kitchen/microwave would be essential so I'd probably look at the Signature suites.
I have to give kudos to Lukas and Suzy Vandyke for their blog post sharing tips on how to make WPPI a success. I found much of their info quite helpful!
Anybody out there a conference pro, or a WPPI vet? I'd love to hear your tips for success....after all, it's time to start planning for 2016 :)