Matt and Enna Grazier, of Grazier Photography founded Inspire Photo Seminars with a group of like-minded studios three years ago, and are counting the days till Inspire 2012! Follow the Graziers on Twitter. Follow Inspire Photo on Twitter.
Thank you again Seshu for inviting us to share our ideas about how to get the most out of a conference! In Part 1 we described our philosophy about conferences and the wonderful benefits of smaller regional conferences. Large or small, attending a conference is a significant investment of time and money, and in this post (Part 2 of 2) I'm happy to share my strategy for getting the most out of a conference.
Winter is conference season! Several great events have already happened in January, and a few more are on the horizon (WPPI in just a couple weeks, and our Inspire conference later in March).
I tend to get a little ADD – if I may use that term lightly – when I attend a big conference. I’m likely to wander dazed through the tradeshow and collect every single piece of paper that is offered to me, and forget to take notes about products that I might want to buy or sell. I wander from one shiny object or person to the next, I bounce in and out of conference sessions, full of indecision about where to spend my time, or I play hooky from the classes entirely, opting instead to spend quality time with old and new friends over coffee or a long lunch, or even camped out in the hallway outside of the conference sessions.
Don't get me wrong – I LOVE participating in a conference in this fashion, and I'm sure I'll never change my ways, whether it's a cozy intimate conference like our own Inspire or Pictage‘s Partnercon series, or the mega-sized WPPI. What I’ve learned through trial and error is that it’s important to go into a conference with a “strategy”, a plan of action and goals, so that when I leave I can feel that my investment was well worth the time and money.
When attending a conference, our advice is to choose conference sessions and opportunities that will give you concrete help towards reaching new goals. If you're just getting started, this will help keep you from feeling too overwhelmed by all the new information. And if you’ve been in business for more than a few years, then the great thing about this strategy is that – if you’re completely honest with yourself – it should be easy for you to identify the areas where you need the most help or improvement.
1. Set Goals. What is your business in need of? Look over the course descriptions and find the ones that interest and will benefit you. Set a few goals for the conference based on your own needs and the unique opportunities offered by the conference. Don't shy away from the challenging topics.
2. Choose Classes. Prioritize your list of classes to attend. See how they fit in the schedule. This can be difficult as you are bound to have to sacrifice a class or two due to scheduling conflicts, but your goals should help you make these decisions.
3. Make a List. Make a list of people to meet, Exhibitors whose products or services you wish to learn about, and any other topics that you need to research at the conference.
4. Connect. Reach out to some of the other attendees and speakers before the conference. This will also make it easier to make connections with people at the conference. We're super excited about our online conference community which is designed to facilitate this exact sort of interaction and networking before, during, and after the conference! People who are attending our conference in March are already interacting and getting to know each other in our virtual conference community, preparing for their classes, learning about our sponsors.
5. Go. Go the conference. Have fun and learn to the point of exhaustion.
6. Take Action. Set a deadline to take action on all the new ideas and information that you take home! Don't just let those ideas ferment. Give yourself a deadline (we think 1 month is good) to take action on the most important things you took home from the conference. It may help to find someone you can be accountable to for these action steps – your business partner, or a fellow conference attendee are both good options!
Here’s My Sample Plan:
Our Studio Goals for 2012
a) Expand our studio to include a team of associate photographers
b) Refine our product selection for portrait clients
c) Network with more photographers in Seacoast NH, ME, and northeastern MA
d) Explore other sources of revenue (non-wedding and portrait related)
e) Polish our brand and portfolio
My Punchlist For The Inspire Conference
Look at and hold every Couture book available (and decide which to offer in our Boudoir and Portrait clients). Learn album sales strategies from Studio Nouveau’s session on Album Sales and Workflow.
a) Connect with at least two photographers who we might consider hiring on as Associates.
b) Get an intensive portfolio review with Allana Taranto (I need to choose a good set of images to share, so this review can feel comprehensive)
c) Take tons of notes in Carla Ten Eyck’s Managing a Team class (I admire Carla’s bustling studio so much, and I’ve wanted to learn some of her management techniques for years)
d) Learn about pricing and bidding on commercial shoots from Jane Shauck.
e) Attend Doug Levy‘s lighting demo where I can learn how he works with light.
f) Feed my heart with insights and ideas from Lauren Rutten on how to keep my business and work emotionally sustainable.
After The Conference
a) Set up a meeting with potential associates/employees at our Portsmouth NH studio.
b) Order new sample albums.
c) Identify some potential commercial clients/subjects in our new hometown and pursue them.
d) Get our revised portfolio selections onto our website asap!
e) Have a long meeting with Matt (my hubby and business partner) to discuss all our ideas and new knowledge that we want to implement or continue to develop. Preferably with wine and chocolate.
Like I said, I’m notorious for skipping or bouncing around in between conference sessions because I want to hang out with people, or just can’t decide which session to attend. Heading into the conference with this punchlist will help me stay on task, remember my goals, and ensure that I’ve maximized my time and financial investment in attending the conference. Of course at Inspire I'll be busy running around behind the scenes, but I do plan to work hard to address each item on my punchlist while at my own conference!
Be one of the first 5 to use this PROMO/DISCOUNT CODE: 2012TIFFIN and receive $50 off your registration.