Today I’ve included several tips for making the most out of your class (and overall) education experience at WPPI .
1) Make a Plan
- Print the PDF and plan out the classes you’d like to attend prior to heading to WPPI. Make note of any Master Classes you may be attending, then plan the rest of your day. I highly suggest attending some Master Classes if you can. (I realize however, that these do tend to sell out quickly after registration opens.) The experience is more intimate, since class sizes are much smaller (around 30 people) plus the speakers may contact you before the convention to let you know about special things that may be taking place in class (or if you should bring your camera.) Last year I attended David Beckstead’s Master Class on composition, and he requested from each student ahead of time via email to send him a couple of images each, so he could to do a live critique in our Master Class! Bonus: smaller class sizes mean a greater chance of winning some prizes as well!
- If you are not sure which Platform class to go to, check the links for class descriptions, or go to that person’s website and see if you would be interested in hearing them speak. Check to make sure there is not an updated schedule prior to leaving for the convention. Last year I think they made a last minute change to a platform class on Sunday morning, that I originally had in my schedule for 9 AM, but it was rescheduled for 11 AM. In previous years, there were room locations on the schedule, but it does not look like they have that information available this year in the PDF or online. Hopefully the schedule you receive when you check in at registration will have it. Otherwise, it will be chaos trying to find your room the day of the class. However, I understand why they don’t currently have it, since room numbers would likely change is you assign them too far in advance (and can still change without notice.)
- If there is a speaker you have seen before (say at the WPPI Road Trip or at another seminar,) also do some investigating into what new material they may be presenting (so you don’t encounter overlap in information from the last time you saw them.) If there is a BIG speaker you would like to see, I strongly suggest Pre-Board for that Platform Class. The classes with the higher capacity counts will likely be in high-demand, and if you’d like to see them, Pre-Board is the way to go. For example, this year I did Pre-Board for Kevin Kubota on Sunday night because he is a very popular speaker, and will be in one of the higher capacity convention spaces. Last year, Pre-Board also had a time limit, and you had to print out a pass for each one. I think if you didn’t arrive 30 minutes to the start of the seminar with your Pre-Board, you could lose your Pre-Board privileges for that class. This year I think Pre-Board is included on your badge and you just get scanned—although I’m not finding a lot of specific information out there about this.
- Get to a platform class at least 30 minutes early so you can find a seat. I’ve seen people lining up 60+ minutes prior to a platform class, but I don’t really think it is necessary. (I didn’t do it, and had no regrets.) Plus, if you line up early, you will likely miss portions of other platform classes you’d like to go to. When choosing a seat, be sure to not pick a seat that will have an obstructed view. In the large conference rooms, often there are one or two video cameras shooting the presentation so it can be projected onto big screens for people further back to be able to see. Make sure you aren’t sitting behind one of those cameras if you can avoid it.
- Have a backup plan. Often there may be more than one platform class being held at the same time that you would like to attend. Have a number one pick, and a number two pick. That way, if your first choice is full, you have a plan B. This also comes in handy if your original speaker is covering material you may have heard from them already, or if you decide the material being covered is not really right for you. Don’t be afraid to politely (and discretely) exit a platform class if you don’t feel it is beneficial to you…sometimes it is hard to figure out what will be covered from the description. I had a pleasant surprise last year when I left a platform class after 30 minutes that didn’t meet my expectations, and stepped into Jesh de Rox’s presentation next door (which I had no clue at that time from the description, what his program was about.)
2) Take notes – This is a no brainer, but here are some additional strategies to taking notes:
- Take a point and shoot camera to take pictures of slides used in the presentation—this helps if there is a lot of material being covered and the speaker is going quickly (and no need to drag your DSLR for this!) I am not sure if you are allowed to video record the presentations…I think they would strongly frown upon that.
- Sometimes (especially in Master Classes) the instructor will provide a study book, so make good use of it
- The speaker may also make their notes available online via a special weblink—take advantage of it when you get home
- Many times the speakers will also have discount promo codes from their class’s sponsors. Be prepared to write these down, and circle or highlight them to find later—also include the expiration date of the offer (this will help for what to do when you get back from WPPI; more tips on this in a future post)
3) Schedule your free time
- Are you checking in on Saturday or Sunday? Make time to sit in on either the Print or Album Completion judging. There is valuable information to gain here by viewing the judging process, and it can give you great insight on making better images or album designs. When you check in at registration and get your badge, look for the signs directing you to which rooms the judging are in—usually on the first floor of the convention center. When you enter a room, it will be dark, so be discrete and find the first seat you can as to not to disturb the judging process. There will likely be more than one room of judging at a time, so if it is crowed (I’ve been there with standing room only sometimes) try the next judging room. You can leave when you need to, but again, just be unobtrusive.
- Make time to go to the trade show. I usually look for blocks of free time when I won’t be in a platform class, and plan to go to the trade show during that time. Many of the trade show exhibitors will have a speaker line up as well, which can be a great opportunity to see a platform speaker you weren’t able to see due to schedule conflicts or full classes. If you have gone in years past, most vendors that have speakers have likely already sent you an email with a schedule. In the My WPPI planner you can see a list of all the exhibitors under the Exhibitors tab, and link to their Facebook pages—which may have more speaker information. However, the best way to get these schedules is go to the trade show on the first day as early as you can, and make the rounds—each booth with speakers will have them posted (and sometimes have a hand out with the schedule.) Keep in mind it is usually the bigger exhibitors that will have speakers (and they are usually shorter presentations lasting about an hour.) For example, in years past Canon, Nikon, Graphistudio, Nik, and several of the big print companies all had speakers, so you might want to check them out first. I will have more trade show tips in a post later in the week.
- There are also opportunities for smaller groups of education, beyond the platform classes. Some of the bigger names in the industry will have small groups or meet-ups. For example, last year David Jay and several small groups lead by different photographers had small classes in the Signature at MGM Grand. You had to pre-register, because space was limited, but these were free. I believe I found out about these because I was on his email list. If you have photographers you admire, start following them on Facebook or Twitter, or get on their mailing list–they may also be doing small meet-ups as well. For example, I believe Dane Sanders is doing a coffee meet and greet in one of the sitting areas of the convention center one morning, which I think I saw on Facebook, or got an email because I’m on his mailing list. I have a Master Class already scheduled for that time, so I cannot go. I have also received invites from previous years Master Class speakers via Facebook, who have organized events outside of the convention. This leads me to…
4) Be active on social media
If you haven’t given in to Twitter, it is a must for WPPI. (WPPI is the reason I set-up my Twitter account last year.) At anytime you can search #WPPI or #WPPI12 (the official hashtag of this year’s WPPI) and see what is going on, from shout outs, to shoot outs, parties, meet-ups and everything in between. Most speakers will give you their Facebook and Twitter info at the beginning of their program. Often times, giveaways and freebies in the class will only be done via Facebook or Twitter (i.e. first person to post on the Facebook wall, Tweet about the speaker or mention the speaker, could win a prize from one of the classes sponsors.) Sometimes cell signal is poor in the convention center, so may want to start following speakers you are planning to see before you head to Las Vegas. I think that their may be free WIFI in the convention center this year, but with 15,000 attendees, I can imagine it would be too effective? We’ll see…
While I’m on the subject, most classes will have some sort of giveaway(s.) Make sure you bring plenty of business cards, since drawings are often done out of a pool of cards handed in by the audience (plus you want to have them for networking as well!) However, giveaways in class via social media are also becoming more popular (see above.) Additionally, be prepared to go a little overboard to win something. Speakers love lots of enthusiasm, so be prepared to jump up on your chair and holler if the situation call for it. Also, check under your chair for something as well…it may be the way you could win something! Do not overlook the materials placed on your chair either. You could potentially qualify to win something by filling out your information on a card, or having something they’ve handed out have the “prize winning magic banana sticker” on it (or something to that effect.) Pay attention to others who win in your class, and always be gracious to them (applaud and cheer for them.) You never know…if they don’t need what they’ve won, they might give it to you. Or, you could offer to trade something with them you won, which you may not need. If you are really lucky, and happen to win something that is a duplicate or something you already have (like a book) you might try asking if you could swap for another prize (with in reason, and similar value, of course.)
Stay tuned! I will be making a post almost every day with more WPPI tips, up until the start of the convention on February 16th. If you found a helpful tip here, please show some love by liking my Facebook page, or follow me on Twitter. Who knows, we might run into each other at WPPI. If you have any other questions, please leave a comment, and I will do a question round-up post prior to the convention. Cheers!