Last year was the first time I attended WPPI, and it was an amazing experience. There were so many valuable things that I gained from just that one trip.
WPPI is valuable for so many things: Education, Finding Vendors at the Tradeshow, and Networking were the biggest three for me.
Some of the advice you’ll hear about WPPI includes wearing comfortable shoes, because there is so much more walking than you might actually anticipate and don’t forget to bring a ton of business cards – both for networking but also for contests during the platform presentations. But here are a couple of things that I did last year that really helped me get the most out of the experience, and hopefully these tips will help you as well.
Platform Classes – Planning and Pre-Boarding
Class Selection – There are so many amazing classes to choose from and it might be difficult to choose what is best for you, especially when just scanning the list and trying to choose between two speakers that you would love to see that are speaking at the same time. Last year, my husband helped me select classes by helping me choose what my two biggest goals were and focusing on what I really needed to learn. For me, last year, it was Marketing and Selling. Keeping that objective in mind, I was more focused with my class selection, and ensured that at least 3 of my 5 pre-boards covered those areas.
Pre-Boarding – Many classes do completely sell out in advance and others will get filled quickly on the day of the session. I was surprised that some people did not pre-board for their classes. Trust me; it’s definitely the best way to go. But even with pre-boarding, you should still plan to arrive early. If you sit near the front, you might have a better chance to be seen when asking a question, and it might even help your odds at winning the giveaways. And some speakers will giveaway items to the first X attendees. You don’t want to miss out on something valuable that is free just for being early.
Tradeshow – Planning Ahead
Map Your Route – There are a ton of vendors and last year the tradeshow filled two huge conference areas. You likely won’t be able to stop at every booth, so it can be helpful to have a plan, so you don’t miss out on seeing a vendor that was important to you. Try to grab a copy of the floor plan in the magazine when you arrive, and spend some time mapping out your plan for the tradeshow. It may even be helpful for you to scan the exhibitor list on the WPPI web site, and make a list of the important vendors for you to see. Ultimately, you want to map your route through the tradeshow floor to help you maximize your time with each vendor and ensure that you don’t miss something that was important to you.
Budget – there are many things to buy while you are at the show, so it might also be valuable for you to determine your budget in advance. Some of the show specials can be tempting so know what is most important to you before you leave for your trip, and stay focused on any purchases you make.
Show Specials – I also suggest using twitter to follow your important vendors. Many will announce show specials or contests in advance through Twitter, and these specials might be better on the first day of the tradeshow. You can get the most benefit from those show specials but ensuring you visit those vendors on the first day. And who doesn’t love winning a Twitter contest or two by answering a question or being the next person to arrive at a booth and snagging a great prize?
Meet Your Vendors – when you stop at the vendor booths, especially for suppliers that you already use, make a point to introduce yourself and get to know them. It can often be more fun working with a vendor when you know them personally, and you know that your business is important to them. Sometimes you won’t just meet staff at the tradeshow, but you get to meet the owners. Ask for their advice on products or if they have seen others use their products in unique ways. They have experience in our industry and many want to help their clients build and grow their business.
Networking – Don’t Just Trade Business Cards
When I went to Las Vegas, I knew only a very small handful of photographers personally, and had interacted with others via forums online. I remember one night feeling a little out of place, missing home, and just wishing I had more photographer friends. I had met a few people that day, but nobody that I could call and meet for the evening out.
But a friend I knew in advance called and invited me to join her and a larger group for dinner. I almost didn’t go and that would have been a huge mistake. I had a wonderful time. Most of us were newbies at WPPI, and many of us were in the first year or so of launching our businesses or just getting ready to launch.
There were 3 or 4 tables of people, but I happened to be sitting with a few women that seemed just like me – in similar life situations – and we all really clicked. I exchanged business cards with many of the group members and spent time over the next few days bumping into them, attending other events with them, and going to dinner with them.
But the best part? I didn’t let the relationships end in Vegas. When I arrived back home, I looked at the stack of business cards I gathered, and decided to create my own group on Facebook for photographers. We created a group that fosters positive feedback and helpful advice. But it also helped us maintain the friendships we made. Some of us have seen each other in the last year, and we also started a monthly skype call for whoever is available. I can’t wait to see my friends again this year at WPPI. We are organizing our own group breakfast, and getting to know other members that have been added to our crew over this last year.
I don’t know if I could have made it through this last year in business without these friendships I have made. After I left my full-time job last April, this group became my “co-workers” in a sense, and they have given me strength, advice, and guidance to help me grow my business, and I can only hope that I have done the same for them.
So my best advice for heading to WPPI for this year is “don’t just gather a stack of business cards, but aim to gather and create real relationships and friendships”.
I hope you find this information useful and I look forward to meeting you in Vegas at WPPI.