I am getting ready to embark on my third trip to WPPI. As with any convention or continuing education event, you are bound to take home an abundance of new knowledge, motivation, and ideas to enhance your business. What about taking home new friendships with your peers?
Sure, most of us probably think we will meet a few new people. The strongest and most beneficial relationships I have made were from meeting peers at industry events and other educational classes. If you haven’t created relationships with your peers, you are missing the boat. You will benefit from a large and strong network with other creative’s. Most of us are likely focused on gaining knowledge of how to book more clients or light a dim reception hall. If you are heading out to WPPI this week or weekend like myself and others, take advantage of this convention and other events you attend in the future to build relationships with your peers. I have been self employed since I graduated college; I learned early on that connecting with others is one of the best things I can do for myself and business. When I moved to my current city almost two years ago, I quickly learned that networking with others was my lifeline to finding new business in a new town.
Sometimes it is easier to fly below the radar. Take advantage of all the convention has to offer educationally, but relax in your hotel room and try to absorb all the information that was supplied earlier that day. For some people, these types of social events are challenging and exhausting. I have yet to go to any type of convention that didn't leave me mentally and physically exhausted after a few days. Not to mention, it can be awkward meeting new people. I am naturally a social person, and consider myself outgoing. However, when I am surrounded by people I don’t know I tend to be a little shy. Even though I am social, I still have to push myself beyond my comfort zone. In order to make this process easier, I have put together a few tips and tricks to build relationships with your peers. Hopefully these ideas will help you build and grow lasting relationships with other creatives.
Be Friendly: You are most likely going to have someone you don’t know sitting on either side of you during every class. Make sure you introduce yourself to the person on your left and the person on the right. It may be awkward at first, especially if you have to drum up the conversation. Start with something simple like “Hi, my name is ______ and I am from such and such.” Ask their names, where they are from, and what they like to shoot. The same goes for when you are walking through the hallway or standing around waiting for something to start. Strike up a conversation with someone. It will help pass the time and you will be surprised at how fast you will find common ground with each other. There are several photographers who go alone to industry events and there are several people who are first time attendees. Make sure you are welcoming and help others have a great experience. Don’t be afraid to ask someone to grab lunch or dinner. Nobody likes to eat alone; you will probably make their day! If you ever get stuck on conversation, remember you are all photographers! Think about something that interests you. I love to chat about gear and business with my photographer friends. I have yet to meet one of my peers who didn't share a common interest.
Exchange Business Cards: Always take lots of business cards to any event you will be around your peers. For each person that you meet, ask for their card and give them yours. There is no way you will remember everyone’s name and interests after you meet them. If you are really bad at remembering names and faces, jot down a few things you learned about them on the back of their business cards. I keep my peers business cards in a folder on my desk in case I need it for future reference. I would love to be able to refer their business to someone if I have the opportunity.
Be Social: Connect with these new friends on social media. I always find the peers I have met on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram as these are networks that I believe are popular among other creative’s. I typically try to do this the day I meet someone. This way they are fresh in my mind. I can also write a little note on their wall or send them a message saying how nice it was to meet them that day. They will most likely reciprocate and follow you on your social media networks. At most conventions there is a hash-tag used for the event. Search the hash-tag and you may be able to find others to connect with and follow. Now that you are connected, you can like their images, comment on their posts, and keep in touch.
Stay Connected: The final and most difficult thing when making new creative friends is staying connected. As business owners and entrepreneurs, we all have such busy lives. We sometimes let our new relationships go by the wayside. Do your best to remain in touch with others. Social media will probably be the best outlet for daily contact. Write on their walls, like their images on Instagram, and share a Tweet once in a while. If these friends are local to your area try to meet up for lunch or coffee every now and then. You can always email, call, or text each other to catch up. I also try to contact peers through social media or email and see if they are attending the latest industry function that I plan on attending. This way we can make a point to get together.
I hope these tips come in handy for the next social event with your peers. I still remember everyone that I met at my first WPPI. I went by myself and didn't know anyone that year. Luckily, I met a couple classmates that were very friendly and was invited me to join them for dinner and activities. This welcoming attitude really made my trip. Starting this year and for all future events, I am going to make a point to pay it forward. I challenge you to do the same. It will improve your experience. Be friendly and social. Get out of your comfort zone. Take advantage of all the social events and invite others to join you. The connections you make today may be the most important relationships you have in your future.