Your time is the most valuable commodity you have and you'll never have enough of it! How are you going to get the very most out of your trip to IUSA this week or WPPI in March or for that matter any regional or state convention in the next few months?
1) At every program you attend you should always have a point and shoot in your pocket! I prefer a point and shoot over a phone, simply because you need images decent enough to do something with for publicity later on. I know most of you are making more money than you need and have huge budgets to create publicity, but for those of you with limited funding – what are you doing to create awareness for your own business?
It’s such a simple concept – get a picture of yourself with somebody at the convention like a speaker, a vendor or even the person sitting next to you at a program. Next, talk it up – you’re at an international event, learning about new technologies, all of which are going to make you a better photographer than your competitor who stayed home! Write a short press release and send it out with a print of you at the conference to your local paper, post it on your blog, do an email blast to your own data base – in short, put it everywhere it might create more awareness for your role as a photographer.
Get to know each vendor and their products and how they might fit into your mix to make your life easier, the quality of your images better and your photography stand out. Then, get to know the staff working the booth of those companies you're most interested in. You’re not just collecting business cards, you’re getting to know the people involved and even more important, letting them get to know you.
If you're lucky enough to get some one-on-one time with a particular vendor, when you get back to your office/studio, send them a short thank-you note for their time with an image of yours – this is about contributing to their network as well. You never know when a vendor is going to be looking for a new face or a new style of work to represent their products.
Remember, your thank you notes have even more meaning when you use stationery with YOUR images! Use your images to create more awareness for your work as an artist. Don't buy stationery at a retail outlet when you have the ability to create your own!
3) Keep your phone on and check messages frequently. First, there's always the possibility that somebody is going to be looking for you at the convention. Second, your business doesn't stop just because you're out of town. Being on the other side of the planet is no excuse for not getting back to a potential client who's trying to contact you.
4) Network, network, network! It’s not about collecting business cards it’s about the opportunity to find another brain out there that’s just as frustrated as you are! Sorry, that assumes you’re all walking around frustrated, but the truth is, new faces and ideas are what help us grow and just collecting a biz card of the person sitting next to you isn’t enough. But, talking to them about how their business is versus yours, sharing the challenges you’re both experiencing and then drawing from the knowledge you both have will get you through the toughest of times.
5) Never go to lunch or dinner by yourself! Okay, I've said it dozens of times before - I hold the title for being the ultimate lunch slut, but the greatest ideas seem to come out when you’re eating lunch or dinner! The best projects I’ve ever been involved in started with concepts scribbled out on cocktail napkins. If you’re at a conference and you’re staying overnight, never go to dinner by yourself and never go with the same old crowd you always hang out with. I’m not saying you should abandon your friends, just bring one new person to dinner with you!
6) What’s your calling card? Business cards are great, but one of the best vehicles is a postcard with one or more of your images on it. Put together a post card with a collage of your best images and your contact information on the back. I’m not asking you to stand in the aisle and hand them out, but when you’re talking to somebody what a kick to ask to be put on their mailing list and hand them a card that shows your work. If a picture is worth a thousand words, they’ll remember you a whole lot longer because of your images!
7) If you need new gear, get yourself approved for leasing before you go to the convention. I know I've said this before, but here's a way for you to utilize somebody elses assets without depleting yours. If you need new equipment, then wouldn't it be great to know exactly what you've got to spend before you start drooling?
8) Check out the educational programs and decide, now, which ones you want to attend. Try and always pick at least one program completely out of your element. Make it something that might help you diversify your business or pick up on a skill set that's your weakest. Always get to the program early if you can. This is a great opportunity to network and often meet the speaker and talk before the program starts.
Going to conventions is about your education as a photographer. It's one of the fastest ways to help you grow and expand your network, but it doesn't do any good if you just stay home, rationalizing that times are tough and you just can't afford the trip or time out of the office. I know times are tough, but I've said this a few hundred times over the last few years: "Just because the media says it's going to be a bad year doesn't mean it has to be!" And for those of you who think there's nothing left for you to learn in imaging and attending a convention is just a waste of time. This one is thanks to Harry Truman:
It's what you learn after you know it all that counts.
See you in Phoenix! Safe travels!
Illustration Credit: © miklyxa13 - Fotolia.com