Get involved: Speed Up Your Education and Success

Will people miss you if you don’t show up next year?

This is a question that stuck with me from a Seth Godin article from a while back about attending conferences and events. When I read Cherie’s Phelps post a few weeks ago I was reminded of it  again. Cherie had talked about how confidence and getting involved at the last Next is Now event was a great experience for her both personally and professionally.

My own experience has been the same. In the past, there have been photography conferences where I just sat back and didn’t really do much except listen to speakers and maybe a little small talk in the hallways. The events where I benefited the most were the ones that I was involved with in some way. Where I was out in the hallways talking with people or even if it was something as small as handing out name badges, getting advice from others or helping someone with their website – the experience was more memorable and rewarding.

“Think back a year ago to the last time you went. What do you remember?”
In the article Seth asks what you remember about the last conference you attended. You don’t remember the presentations, you remember the people you met. Many photographers will tell you the same thing – it’s the conversations in the hallway and friends they have met that keeps them going back to the event year after year. The last few conferences for me were more about catching up with people, meeting new friends and getting inspired. My “education” consisted of simply networking at the event, and skipping speakers because I was helping out, or talking and shooting with other photographers.

After the events, I started traveling to see other studios, hosting get-togethers at mine, and reaching out more and working with others. Being able to do that is invaluable.  I always came away from the informal get togethers reinvigorated and excited about my business.

Meeting people in person at the events, made my online connections stronger. Learning online is a fantastic tool, especially to keep up with new and fast changing ideas and technologies. But online doesn’t replace the offline events, and building a network and meeting new friends. It’s why I’m so excited about the Seniors Ignite Event next spring.

Far too often we sit back and are afraid to step up or put ourselves out there because we feel we aren’t good enough, our work isn’t good enough, or that we don’t have anything of value to add. We hold back and tell ourselves that we’ll step up when we feel as good as everyone else.

Everyone has something they can add and contribute – even if you are new to the industry. 

A couple years ago at the SPA Event in Palm Springs, I volunteered to help with live streaming a video of the Fashion Show online. There were a few people that volunteered to help with video, and one of them was Nick Sharples.

He sent a note to SPA offering to help out with video and lights. He had never even met one SPA member and he was only 20 at the time.

Right away I was really impressed with him. He was eager to learn and help.  He clicked with everyone right away and we all learned a lot from him. How long he had been in the industry was completely irrelevant to me and to everyone else. His video skills were incredible, and he had really great ideas on things that studios could offer their senior clients. Things that no-one was really doing in the industry yet and it fired everybody up. Jen was so impressed with Nick that she asked him to come to Oklahoma and run all the media and video for her studio.

It would have been easy for Nick to make excuses about being new, young or inexperienced. He didn’t. You can see the results of that here on Seniors Ignite  and at 3 girls photography.

It’s easier to just sit back, especially when you’re new to the photography industry, and it can be intimidating jumping in with a group of photographers that have been around awhile. That’s another reason why helping out or volunteering makes the experience so much more – it makes meeting people and networking much easier.

At your next conference or event, don’t stay on the sidelines. Get involved in some way, offer to help out.  It’s one of the reasons I’m excited for the Seniors Ignite event – the environment is set up for small groups, shooting and collaborating with other photographers.

Will people miss you if you don’t show up next year? Seniors Ignite is one of the things happening today because Nick showed up.

What has your experience with professional events been? Share your thoughts in the comments below.




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