1. Make a game plan. The week is so jam packed with events and classes and expos that it’s a good idea to make a plan for the week as to what you’re going to go do and see so you can use your time efficiently and not feel like you wasted time. Look at the schedule online ahead of time, preboard for classes, put classes on your calendar that you want to go to, go to the WPPI sponsored parties!, and decide what else you want to do while you’re there. Which leads me to my next point….
2. Think outside the box. There is so much more to do while in Vegas besides just attend classes. Since lots and lots of wedding and portrait photographers will be in Vegas at the same time from all over the world, there are a ton of different activities going on outside of official WPPI events. Want to do a styled shoot? Want to learn how to do hair and makeup from the best? Want to swap doing headshots with some other photographers? There are so many opportunities to take part in so also think about what else you would like to do while you’re there. You can find Facebook groups around WPPI to find what other events might be happening while you’re there.
3. Push yourself. I am a naturally introverted person. Not necessarily shy but just prefer to remain to myself and so I really have to remind myself to strike up a conversation with the person I’m sitting next to or standing with in the Starbucks line. You NEVER know you might end up meeting. Go to the WPPI sponsored events. I finally went to the awards ceremony this year on the last night and I’m so glad I went! It was so inspiring and you get a real sense of why you’re there. Also think about taking a Master Class if it’s in your budget. Most them run around $50 and are only limited to a small number of students and give you great access to the teacher, most with hands on lessons.
4. Go to the print judging and print exhibition. Talk about amazing! I went to the print exhibition last year but didn’t attend the print judging until this year. It was such a great learning experience and motivated me to enter the print competition! The print judging happens over a few days and you can go as you want and listen to comments and scores from the judges and see the certain categories that you’re interested in. Then once all the images have been scored, they hang the images with the best scores for everyone to see. It’s awesome to see the best of the best all in one place!
5. Get a rental car for at least a day. We got a rental car for the first time this year and it was great! We didn’t stay at the MGM where the conference is held so it was helpful for those early morning class days to drive there (even though it’s really not that far!). But parking is free in Vegas so why not?! And there is so much to see outside of the convention so go drive out to Red Rock and be a tourist for a day.
6. Plan for the Expo. The Expo is ginormous and you need more than one day to see everything. With that being said, make a list of the things you need to see in person. If you’re trying to decide on an album company or a new product to add to your mix, or if you want to buy gear while you’re there, write it down! Now is the time to do it because you’ll never see all of these vendors in the same place. Well, until next year. Lost of retailers offer discounts during WPPI so this would be the time to buy it. I like to do a run through the first time and just get a general idea of who is where and try to get my bearings the first day. Then I look at my list and make a game plan of the decisions I need to make when I go back. A lot of vendors also host giveaways that week and need to scan your badge so just ask and they’ll be happy to scan it! Use your phone and write it everything down. I always think I’ll remember the exact album and specs I want to use when I get home but I never do. I’m like, “I really liked that one and remember I liked the album cover from this company, but I liked the pages from this company, but who did I decide to ultimately go with??” You can use your phone to take pictures of products and correspond notes to those images- and remember what company they belong to! 🙂
7. Buy snacks ahead of time. Vegas is Ex-pen-sive! Since we stay in an apartment type rental when we’re there, we have a full kitchen to use. If you don’t want to go to the store, pack snacks in your suitcase to bring. As soon as we get there we make a trip to Von’s, the grocery store, and stock up. We also buy things for lunch since we can easily pack a sandwich in our bags and don’t have to fight the crowds at the restaurants at lunch time. At the very least, brings snacks with you since there will be days where you’ll be in class all day.
And have fun! There’s so much to see and do that it’s totally worth the time and monetary investment. Maybe I’ll see you there next year!