Let's face it, WPPI is OVERWHELMING. When I first attended two years ago I guess I was naively unaware. As soon as my friend Spring and I stepped foot into the hotel, panic immediately set in. How were we supposed to navigate a sea of 15,000 photographers all descending up on the MGM Grand? For the first two days of our trip we didn't even leave the hotel. For two whole days we didn't see the sun. WHAT?! Yep, WPPI is overwhelming. But I learned a few things on that first trip to Vegas. And for those of you who are attending WPPI for the first time learn from me and my mistakes to ensure you have the best experience possible! Yes WPPI is overwhelming but it doesn't have to be!
1. Shoes. The right shoe choice can mean the difference between a happy day and very uncomfortable and painful one. Before I first attended WPPI, I had never been to Vegas before. I had NO idea that the saying "Everything is bigger in Vegas". Ok maybe it's not a real saying but it's completely true. Wanting to dress cute the first day I wore some cute boots with heels. But as we walked the mile from our room to the conference center (yes the hotel is really this big) I immediately regretted my choice. Walking that back and forth every day taught me a valuable lesson: Invest in a cute pair of flats.
2. Tissues. Who would have guessed that tissues would have made this list?! But Vegas is in the dessert and you've guessed it, the dessert is dry! So dry that I kept getting bloody noises and was constantly looking for tissues. So if you're prone to dry and sensitive skin, make sure you bring along extra tissues and moisturizer!
3. Sleep. Be prepared to not have enough. Between the parties, the classes, the walking, the eating, the socializing, assume that you'll never have enough sleep. If you can steal away to your room in the afternoon, take some time to relax and decompress. Take a cat nap and meet the evening refreshed and ready to go!
4. Twitter. Twitter was a huge tool for us when we were trying to figure out how to meet people at WPPI. Twitter is how people communicate impromptu meet ups, get togethers and lunch dates. Use Twitter and Facebook to stay up to date all gatherings. Being able to gather together in smaller groups, to meet people face to face is what makes WPPI manageable and valuable. Learning is great, for sure, but it's the relationships that we develop that truly help us grow!
5. Pre-Board. When it came to classes, Spring and I filled every waking minute of our schedule. This was before there was an option to pre-board to hear speakers and so we would get to the classes two hours early and wait in line. While this was a great way to meet new people, and we met some fabulous ladies waiting in line for Jasmine Star, but at the end of the day it was a little crazy. Now WPPI has the option to pre-board for speakers before you even step foot in the convention center! If you have a favorite speaker you'd like to see, save yourself some time and pre-board!
6. Get Away. While there is SO much to see and do at WPPI, it's important to step away from it all at least once during your stay. You're going to be running on all cylinders so do yourself a favor and plan a night away from it all. Spring and I went out to dinner and saw a Cirque du Soleil show. It was the perfect way to decompress, hang out together, see a fabulous show and relax. This year I plan on going out to dinner for my birthday!
7. Be Bold. When I was preparing for the trip, my friend Shyla gave me a few words of advice on how to make the most of our time at WPPI. "Don't be shy, be bold. Go up to people, introduce yourself." This admitted wall flower and introvert took her words to heart and tried to gather all the courage as I could muster. It paid off. I met some of my favorite photographers, who were just as fabulous has I had imagined they would be, as well as met some amazing people who I know call friends. Even if you say to just one person, it will make a world of difference!
8. Business Cards. Don't forget your business cards! You'll be passing these out left and right so make your you have an extra batch to share with all the people you're going to meet! Also, if you can, try to write down where you met the person and where they are from. That way when you get back to your hotel room with twenty new business cards you can remember the face to the card!
9. Camera. You'd think that this would be obvious, you are attending a photography conference after all. Don't be afraid to travel with some of your gear. You don't need to go over board. Your 5d Mark II, your point and shoot, your iPhone. Have something to document all the fun memories you'll be creating:)!
10. Confidence. Two years ago I remember walking down the hallway of the food court at the MGM. It leads directly to the conference center and where all of the photographers congregated at lunchtime. I remember clinging to my business cards from WHCC and desperately hoping no one would see right through me. You see, I attended WPPI as a test. A test to see if this is what I really wanted to do. When we first attended, I was still a full time news photographer. I only had three weddings booked for the year and I was using a template website. I felt like a fraud and knew for sure, that if someone dug deep enough, they'd find me out.
Looking back, I want to shake myself and say "Everyone starts somewhere! Look at where you are going!" If there is one thing you should take with you is confidence. It doesn't matter where you are in your business, or if you have the right website, business cards, clothes or camera gear. Be confident in the person that you are and all the amazing things that only you can bring.
If you're going to WPPI, give a shout out! I can't wait to meet you face to face! WPPI is such a great experience. With the right attitude and a few helpful tips, it will definitely be an unforgettable time! Hope to see you there!