WPPI Conference Review
Let’s be clear here, WPPI is not for everyone. The pace of this conference along with the demographic is something that we think can be very polarizing. A love it or hate it type of thing. As a veteran of almost 20 years of trade shows and conferences in the photo and a couple of other industries, I’m of the belief that pre-planning your activities to extract maximum value from a conference such as this, will leave you with either a very successful feeling, or by not planning anything and flying by the seat of your pants, one of utter defeat.
Too often, we see the blame fall to the conference and the organizers, as opposed to the lack of personal preparation in advance of the conference. We went to WPPI with a clearly defined set of goals to not only bring back some good information that will be released over the next month or so, but also to find some time to grow our own photography businesses.
Did we succeed?
We returned from WPPI with:
Some ideas on how to change a few things about our photography businesses to breed success.
A plethora of new vendor options.
Valuable Statistical information that points to the direction the Photography industry appears to be taking.
A bunch of new contacts and friends, who I hope to stay in contact with, and hope to shoot with one day.
So let’s get to the review criteria listed:
A lot of the speakers we saw at WPPI we’ve seen before. Some have exactly the same content that we’ve all seen, while some have made entirely new content. It was refreshing to not have a Platform session filled with speakers bashing a sales message down your throat. I can only take so much “buy this and you’ll be better” message amongst the content I actually pre-boarded to see.
Some of the new speakers were reported to be very entertaining. Chuckie Arlund was one that we took the time to go see. He had a very engaging style, and although I thought I was pretty good at the whole lighting thing, there were several takeaways from this platform, that unlocked some new ideas for me.
If you’re going to invest in WPPI, we HIGHLY recommend that you look at the Plus, and MasterClasses. (Disclaimer: they are at additional cost, but our experience this year was that some of the best learning came out of these rooms on the 2nd floor of the conference centre.) We took in Joe and Mirta Barnet’s “Win-Win” Pricing Masterclass and it was pure liquid gold. Dina Douglass was another Masterclass attended and it was good to know what to expect with the HIGH END client. All great info, that we felt could be lacking in some of the platform classes.
Overall we’re looking for more accountability for the content delivered. And perhaps some changes in the speaker lineup to refresh things and make sure past attendees continue to return.
This is a magical place full of unicorns and fairy dust…ok no, not really. But if it’s related to the photography business, from gear, to print companies, to lighting companies, to online hosts, actions, props, backdrops and the list goes on and on, it’s here. In multiples.
One of the highlights was the sheer amount of awesome photographers doing presentations on booths. The names are FAR too many to list here. But if you were an expo only passholder, you could see many of the same speakers that were only accessible to Full Registration Holders on the trade show floor.
Looking for an album supplier? Take your pick from any one of DOZENS of options. The USA’s two biggest retailers of photo and video gear were both there, as well some larger regional retailers. Lights and Modifiers, yes! Client Management Solutions, yes! White House, Bay Photo, ACI, etc etc etc.
One of the most encouraging things we heard talking to various vendors, was that they felt that maybe overall attendance might have been down slightly, unilaterally they felt that the quality of the attendee was up.
Also, we heard that the print market in North America appeared to be up overall! GREAT news!
Overall, the trade show is a lot to get through and being focused on what you need to grow your business is key here. It can be overwhelming and leave you more confused than when you arrived.
Some of the vendors could really try to adopt a cleaner look to their booths. Some were extremely cluttered and hard to understand. The BEST booths, were the ones you could actually get into to get your hands on the products.
Vendors take note. If we can’t touch and feel what you’re offering, we’ll go to where we can do so.
Networking and Parties:
We combine these because the two go hand in hand.
WPPI is the ultimate networking opportunity. With 10′s of thousands of fellow industry professionals in one place, have business cards, be friendly (I’m Canadian, so that comes easy) and be prepared to listen to what others have to offer. From vendors, to potential sponsors, to speaker contacts, the BEST business gets done after hours at the various social functions.
From Photographers Ignite, to the Print Competition, to the Bay Photo Party, to Lazers and Blazers, etc etc etc. The networking opportunities are boundless! But, and a big but here, you get out what you put in.
I belong to a fabulous group of photographers on Facebook, and some of the members, I only get to see once a year. It’s a highlight of WPPI every year for me.
Always check with your suppliers to see what social/networking opportunities they are offering. There are many fabulous get-togethers happening in various suites almost every night. Invite a group of photographers you know for dinner outside the convention hotel. Pick their brain and get some information. But try to offer some too. THIS is networking.
This, for me, is where the conference falls down. Without signing up with one of the MANY various privately hosted shoots, the shooting opportunities AT the WPPI Conference are almost non existent. With all the trade partners and awesome photographers on site, it would be appreciated if some partnerships could be made to offer opportunities to learn about posing and lighting in a more workshop oriented environment.
I won’t speak for anyone else, but will say that I would pay equal to the price of a Masterclass (or even more) for a chance to shoot with some lighting gear alongside the likes of Chuckie Arlund, Jerry Ghionis, Zach Gray, Neil van Neikerk amongst many others. Vendor sponsorship could offset the cost, as could the admission fee into these shoots.
They could be beginner, intermediate and expert level workshops.
I understand it’s a HUGE logistical challenge to put something like this together. But it would be welcomed. And would add SIGNIFICANT Value to WPPI.
All in all, we felt WPPI 2013 took steps to improve since 2012. There’s a ways to go yet, but you can bet your boots that we’ll be there next year looking for more!