Granted this post might have been more helpful BEFORE the gigantic WPPI conference which took place last week in Las Vegas, but since I had no perspective then, this post will just have to float around in the blogosphere and maybe it will be helpful for a first time WPPI attendee next year!!
I am back home and rested after the whirlwind trip to Vegas that Paul and I took which started last Saturday and ended (way too soon) this Tuesday. It was four-ish days filled with excitement, learning, tired feet and networking!
As a first timer at WPPI, I had only a slight idea of what to expect since I didn't follow too closely to the goings on last year. Now that I have experienced a lot that WPPI had to offer, I felt that my biggest takeaways from the conference might be helpful to someone attending for the first time in future years! Here are my seven tips for making your first WPPI experience better than ever!
This should be a given, but it is essential to plan out your days ahead of time. Look at maps of the property ahead of time. Check out which restaurants are within walking distance of the classes. If you are staying at a hotel that is not where the conference is being held, make sure you understand how long it will take you to get there. Know which vendors you want to visit ahead of time and plan a route through the expo. All of the preparation will really take some of the stress off of the already heightened experience of being in a new place for the first time!
Attend with someone
Although I don't mind going places by myself, attending a conference of this size could be intensely overwhelming for someone on their own. There are over 15,000 attendees and so much learning and information being shared that not having someone to talk to about the experience DURING the experience would be super frustrating in my opinion. I was so incredibly glad that Paul was there with me for multiple reasons. 1) He's just a fun guy to be around 2) We could download after every class to expound on concepts and ideas that we had just heard, or clarify with each other things we might not have understood fully 3) Despite how many people are there, it would be so easy to feel very alone if you don't have a buddy to hang out with in between sessions or at the expo or even at meal time.
If you have the opportunity to attend with someone who is relatively close, I highly recommend it!!
Wear comfy shoes
If you have been to Vegas before, this should also be a given. Even if you stay at the MGM (where the conference was held this year) you are going to do some walking. A LOT of walking. Everything is just so big and spread out to handle all of the people. Be prepared to spend a lot of time on your feet and plan shoes accordingly.
Attend the 16x20 print judging
I can not stress this enough. MAKE time for this. I wouldn't have even known about it had I not been following Susan Striplings series on her prints that have been through the judging process in years past. The judging takes place on Saturday and Sunday and Paul and I had a little bit of time on Saturday after we arrived in town so we found the rooms where the judging was happening and we sat in for about an hour and a half. I probably could have stayed there the entire day, it was that interesting.
The prints are displayed and the judges instantly assign a score and then the print is assigned an overall score all within a few minutes. Then one judge is asked to share their thoughts. This happens for all the prints that are entered. Just being able to see and hear what the judges say instantly is so powerful. I hope to attend many WPPI's in the future and I can tell you now that I aim to always sit in on at least some of the judging every time I attend!
Book your room where the conference is held
I am pretty sure the conference takes place at the MGM pretty regularly and next time I will save up to stay there. Even though the MGM is pretty huge, being able to pop back up to your room in between classes etc...would be so incredibly helpful. Its also pretty centrally located with lots of good hotel options close by. It was slightly difficult to make plans to travel to the MGM every morning and get to the classes on time and then by the time we made it back to our hotel at the end of the day we were just beat. I would absolutely recommend staying closer just to get more enjoyment out of your time there.
Don't be afraid to ask!
You WILL see people you follow online or people you have read and studied under and respect greatly. You will probably go to their classes or see them roaming in the hallways or see them at the expo. Don't be afraid to go up and talk to them. They welcome the opportunity!! I was able to meet and talk too quite a few people who I have been following online for a while and have mad respect for and they were all gracious and willing to chat a bit and take a picture. Take the opportunity to say hi and that you appreciate them and tell them what their work/blog/teaching has meant to you. You would want the same if it were you right? Do it!!
Bring business cards!!!
There are SO MANY giveaways and drawings that take place at the classes and at the expo. Have your business card handy for whenever it is asked for! I actually won a $500 gift card (which didn't have to do with my business cards) but Paul won a $300 DVD course for me by throwing in one of his. Business cards are always good for networking as well so don't leave them at home. Bring a bunch!!