6 tips for selected the right photo convention!
1. Total Cost
The total cost is easily the quickest way to reduce the list of options. While I do love a fun destination it often can mean the difference between going or not going. Things to consider include flight vs. driving (proximity may be important). Hotel costs, the actual cost of the convention, food and extras (like seeing a Cirque du Soleil show in Vegas) can all add up. Sometimes if you have a friend attending it can help reduce the costs of hotels or the actual convention. Can you use travel reward points from a credit card? Is the onsite hotel affordable or is worth it to pay for parking and to stay at a cheaper hotel further out? If the difference is eaten up by parking fees staying onsite often means more time at the actual event. Will it be a good chance to connect with friends in your industry? Why go if it isn’t going to be fun! Also, what additional costs will be incurred from being away from the business (missed sessions, paying someone to answer the phone or working a trade show booth)? Will you be away from family during important times (like holidays, birthdays, or graduations)?
One of my favorite reasons to attend in person is the trade show. While online shopping is great (who doesn’t love shopping in pajamas at 10 p.m.), the weight and texture of an album and seeing the quality of the printed photos is so important. I love to get my hands on the latest products I can offer my clients. It can be hard to tell scale and quality online. Some shows even give bonuses or discounts if you purchase at the event. One of my smartest purchases was a really nice custom camera strap (made like a comfortable guitar strap with vintage fabric) and a large rolling camera bag. Worried about your luggage for the plane ride back? Ask if they can ship your item for free to your home or studio. On big ticket items or items they have run out of at the show this is a great option. If you are shopping at a store or the trade show what will the tax rate be (this varies per state)?
Do you have friends attending? This often means that some costs can be split (hotel and gas) and you are going to have a great time learning together. Now don’t get me wrong I have met lifelong friends just by being open to meeting new people. But it is more fun sharing the experience with other people you already like and know.
The biggest part of my deciding factor is researching the speakers. Who do I want to learn from? What makes them an expert in their field? How often do I have access to this level or quality of speaker? (If they are only available at larger events it might be worth it to learn from them at a convention because they aren’t likely to come to your hometown.) Will they be teaching about their biggest strength? Will their session be a brief overview or will they take the time to dive deeper into the content. My biggest pet peeve is when speakers spend most of the time sharing their background story and then don’t actually teach on their topic. You knew you had 1-2 hours so let us dive right in and get to the meat of the subject. Am I interested in learning from them and will I actually try what they suggest? In the photo industry there were a few years that were really lean in education. Speakers told a few stories, gave a few vague tips and then sold instructional videos at the back of the room. It just wasn’t helpful. My favorite speakers tend to get right to what the meat and potatoes and share actionable tips that will work. Don’t be afraid to ask your industry friends who their favorite speakers are. Who inspired them?
Be flexible and open to taking classes that you need might not have first been interested in initially. Let’s face it we want to learn about our favorite things, however sometimes we need to learn from others about what does not come naturally to us. For instance I love weddings and am more inclined to take a class with wedding speakers. But maybe I need to step back and take a look at the business side of things. What do you need help with and who could help? Some of my favorite speakers come from other parts of the industry. Often at a certain level your photography will change in small incremental amounts but in business there are always new ways to be creative. One of my favorite speakers was a total surprise. I made it into her class as a last minute switch because she was talking about a newer subject. What wowed me was how many new ideas she put out along with actionable ideas that went right to the heart of the matter. She was so inspiring and yet I had never heard of her! To this day she is one of my favorite speakers.
6. Have a Good Goal
Have a good goal for what you want to accomplish before you leave. Maybe you want to learn about marketing techniques with social media. Or you are looking for the perfect wedding album with soft matte paper and a metallic cover. Have ideas for what you want to accomplish but then also let yourself have fun and enjoy the unexpected surprises like enjoying dinner with new friends or winning a custom canvas. I am a big believer that life is what you make of it and that you get out of something by what you put into it – so go and do some research but don’t forget to enjoy the time working on your business. And bring a good notebook, pen and phone charger! If you need more direction on attending an event, or are thinking of planning a workshop yourself, check out Eventbrite!