So the first time I went to WPPI, I went by myself. Sorta. I had “met” another photographer through a forum who was looking for a roommate. So I messaged her that I was interested and we made arrangements from there. At this point in time, I didn’t know any other photographers in real life (only online and through Facebook), and I was scared. SCURRED is probably more appropriate.
But I really wanted to go to WPPI and see what it was all about. So I asked one of my BFFs to come with me to Vegas. She is not a photographer, but she couldn’t pass up Vegas. So in a sense I went alone (since she didn’t have a pass) and faced my introvert fears. And talked to strangers. And made new friends.
Now WPPI is one of my favorite times of the year to catch up with friends from around the country.
WPPI is totally intimidating, especially for a first-timer. The bright, flashy lights, the thousands of people, and the newness of it all. I can speak from experience that as a natural introvert (I prefer small groups and 1-on-1 chats to BIG groups), the whole prospect of attending this huge conference freaked me out. Actually, going to a huge conference still freaks me out. But a funny thing happened the first time I went. I started to recognize the people I had met online on forums and Facebook. And with every hope of not seeming terribly creepy, I’d approach someone I “knew” and said, “Are you so-and-so?” Since we “knew” each other online, it usually cut the first meeting awkwardness. Kinda like that first date awkwardness. And the same would happen in return. I remember meeting a ton of people approaching me the same way. It was totally weird and awesome at the same time. Thank you social media.
Oh and then there are the parties. The BIG parties that “EVERYONE” is at. The parties that promise to melt your face off with awesome. I’ve been to some of those parties. And they are fun and crazy and probably will make your deaf before your face melts off. I encourage party attendance if it’s your thing. It’s your experience make the most of it.
My advice on being social…especially if you’re shy…like me:
1. Connect with other photographers online. Seriously. Make a new friend on FACEBOOK that you know is going to WPPI and make a plan to meet up. Then when you meet in person, it’s like you already know each other. Since I used to live in California, I’m looking forward to meeting up with my friends from California that I haven’t seen in three years and catching up. A good friend of mine that now lives in Dallas was someone who I met on a forum, then met in person at WPPI. We reconnected after she moved here. You never know who you will meet and how they will affect your life.
2. Plan your trip with other local photographers…or photographers from across the country. Now that this is my fourth time attending WPPI, I don’t have a problem with sharing my room with “strangers.” It can sometimes be hit or miss, and I think it’s important to find people that you connect with at least initially. Most importantly, with sleeping habits. It’s probably not conducive to bunk with others who like to party all night and you like to sleep. I know it’s Vegas, but I’m totally one who likes her shut-eye. Also, if you’re going to be sharing a bed, make sure it’s someone you know. I’m bunking with my friend LYNN again this year.
3. Attend the parties with a friend or group of friends. Safety in numbers. Seriously. And of course, more fun. Two years ago, I attended one of the big parties with a groups of friends and there was an employee from an album company who wanted to get friendly with me. And wanted to dance with me. And wouldn’t leave me alone, even when I pointed at my WEDDING RING. Needless to say, I will NEVER use that album company. Also, attending these parties with friends allows you to share cab fare.
4. Meet new people. It’s probably inevitable to meet new people, but I suggest meeting at least two new people who you will continue to be friends with after Las Vegas. Or perhaps you have connected with some people online and they’ll be going to Vegas. Make it a point to meet up with them in person, over coffee, lunch, or drinks.
5. Don’t be afraid to say hello. I know, it probably sounds lame or obvious, but when you’re shy, a simple hello can feel impossible. But who knows, the person you say hi to, may be MORE shy than you. Just remember, you won’t make a connection with everyone, but you never know who you might hit it off with. Some of the best conversations I’ve had have happened in the hallways at WPPI.
6. Invest in relationships with the photographers you meet and hit it off with. This is definitely my goal this year at WPPI. I made the decision to not go to the BIG parties, and while I think about how I might feel “left out” or like I missed something or just plain uncool, I know that the time I’m spending with people who care about me and will remember me the next day is way more valuable to me. Instead of investing money into a party, I’m choosing to invest my time with people.
I get to Las Vegas in just 10 days! I’m excited and nervous but more excited.