Here's why you need to get yourself to the next convention.
New Products: Being a great photographer is an ongoing process. You need to understand all the changes in technology, while developing your own style and technique.
Diversity In Your Skill Set: Every convention offers a variety of workshops to help you fine-tune your craft. Here’s your chance to add a few new techniques to your bag of tricks. Try and get to the various programs you choose a little early and then make it a point to meet the speaker as well. You don't want to be known as a "one trick pony".
Marketing and Business: Most conventions offer at least a program or two on the business and marketing side. What good is creating the finest images of your life if nobody knows who you are? Here’s your opportunity to pick up ideas on how to promote your work and your business.
Print Competition: If the trade show/convention you’re attending offers print competition make it a point to walk through the gallery of winners. Looking at all of this outstanding work will help you stay on top of what’s hot in composition, lighting, printing and presentation. If judging is open to the public, find some time to sit in, just to listen to the judge’s comments. You’ll find the process a remarkable addition to your ongoing education.
Network, Network, Network: This may well be the most important reason to attend any event where there are a lot of photographers! You need to build your network and meet other photographers who are dealing with the same challenges you have in your own community. At every program you attend, make it a point to talk to the people around you. You’ll be amazed at how much you have in common!
Working the Trade Show: I’ve actually done complete posts about just this topic alone, but essentially hit the trade show with a plan. Start out by thinking through what you need the most in your own business. Do you need new gear? Are you in need of better backdrops, lighting, props? Maybe you need help with your workflow. The list goes on and on, but the point here is to follow through online before going to the trade show. You need to know who the exhibitors are and where their booths are located.
Start in one aisle and literally do your best to walk the entire show. If you make a list in advance of the companies, products and services you want to see, they’ll come up in your travels regardless.
Know Your Credit Line: I'm a big fan of leasing high-end gear rather than buying it. If you think you've got some major purchases in your future, apply for a lease in advance so you know your credit line at the trade show. It'll give you more buying power to know what you've got to spend when you're actually talking with a specific vendor.
Take a Camera! All you need is a decent point and shoot, yes, even your iPhone. But here's the point - you need to build a library of images of you interacting with other photographers and the vendors whose products you use. These images will come in handy later on for press releases, your blog and Facebook posts. Just build your stash of shots, but it's important to capture you interacting with people, not shots of you alone at the show.
Never have a meal alone! It's the golden rule of working a convention. Try and plan meals in advance if you can. One of the greatest ways to stay on top of what's going on in the industry is to share a meal with people you'd like to meet and get to know better. And remember, this includes the vendors you work with as well as other photographers.
Check out things with your own state affiliate for a more in depth schedule and attend as many shows as you can. At every convention you’ll make new friends, meet new vendors and pick up something new for your skill set! It's all part of building your business.
...and on the list of conventions, trade shows and workshops you should attend is our own Summer Session for SCU. Yes, it's another shameless self-promotion, but this program year after year has changed people's lives and more important, their business. That's not from me, but from the hundreds of photographers who have attended! If you can make it to Chicago in August - this year's program is going to be remarkable and you'll return home with your battery fully charged and ideas to make 2013 the biggest year yet for your business! There's even the deferred payment program with "Save Me a Seat" which gives you sixty days to implement what you've learned before paying the bulk of the bill.
Photo Credit: Kenny Kim, Skip's Summer School