I love January: new year, new goals, and most of all, Imaging USA. Nashville, here we come. It’s exciting to be at an event where more than 10,000 photographers gather and everyone learns, shares, and gets inspired. Those of us who have been to many PPA annual conventions (more than 30 for me) know generally what to expect when we get there.
But members who are at their first or second Imaging USA may not know what to expect and how to get the most out of their convention experience. Here are the tactics I suggest.
Plan your schedule. There is a lot to see, so give yourself a head start before you arrive in Nashville. For example, pre-convention classes begin the Thursday preceding the conference, so that may dictate when you need to arrive. The convention itself starts bright and early Sunday morning, so come prepared with a list of must-see speakers and top-pick programs. Choose sessions based on what you think will help you improve your photography and business this year. The Imaging USA app is the best resource for up-to-date program information, and you can download it right now from your favorite app store.
Take notes. Speakers pack a ton of information into the time they’ve been given. You’ll find that you cannot wait to get back home and apply the great ideas and techniques you’ve picked up from them. Then you’ll hurry to the next program and hear another speaker blow you away with inspiration. It’s easy to lose track of things. I’ve found through experience that notes I jotted down while I was in a program in a dark auditorium may not be very clear to me several days later when I’m home. The best way for me to remember and to consolidate my thoughts is to review my notes each night back in my hotel room. I often rewrite them, fill in the blanks as I go, or even type them up on my laptop while everything is fresh in my mind. I highlight the items I want to prioritize and put into action as soon as I get home.
Find a buddy. If you don’t know anyone at Imaging USA, introduce yourself to someone before a session and see if they’d like to chat afterward about what you both took away from the speaker. You just might make a friend for life and even find a colleague who wants to be mutually accountable for turning thoughts into action. It’s great to have a sounding board—someone who understands your challenges and can help you problem solve.
Strategize your Expo experience. My head spins when I first walk into the trade show on Sunday. I love to shop for new equipment, props, backgrounds, and more. The labs all have their latest product samples, and they offer tips for increasing profits in your business. At the very least you’ll spend a couple of hours to see everything. Don’t go without a budget and a list of exhibitors you most want to see. The Imaging USA app is a good place to track that.
Catch the image exhibit. This exhibit is right on the Expo floor and includes images from the 2019 International Photographic Competition as well as from the World Photographic Cup. You’ll see the Grand Imaging Award finalists and be able to get the scoop on how to get started in image competition if you haven’t already done so.
Prepare to meet, greet, and party. Depending on your membership situation, you may have received an invitation to attend a new member reception, an international reception, or a private event. Go, meet new peers, and share your experiences with photographers who will understand your situation. At every event, look for PPA Board of Directors members and say hello. On Sunday, don’t miss the Imaging USA Welcome Party with live music and fun photo ops. The closing party on Tuesday night is filled with music, food, and drinks. It’s a great way to end this amazing event.
See you in Nashville.
Audrey Wancket is the owner of Wancket Studios in Spring Grove, Illinois.
More than 100 vie for the highest image honor from Professional Photographers of America.