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In less than a week Matt & I’ll be heading out for Scottsdale, AZ to speak at one of my favorite photo conferences, UNITED! This will be my fourth year attending, third year as a speaker, and I can’t WAIT. Some of my favorite people attend this conference, and as a result, some of the BEST conversations happen here!

Tips for navigating professional conferences for creatives | Abby Grace

But I aaaalso recognize that as an extrovert, this sort of environment is where I thrive. I LOVE the rush of all those people I haven’t met yet, the conversations that cut straight to the chase, late-night champagne chats, all of it! Matt, on the other hand, is an introvert, and everything I just listed off that I love is also the sort of thing that has the potential to sap all his energy [and/or make him want to hide out in the lobby until the chaos calms a bit].

So in anticipation of UNITED next week, I’ve pulled together my best tips for navigating the sometimes-intimidating waters of a professional conference for creatives!

1) Those people you admire- the ones you’ve been following online for months or years?- GO UP AND MEET THEM. Trust me- they’re just as excited to say hi as you are! You’re only together in the same place for a few days, so don’t let that time pass only to arrive home and think “dangit! Why didn’t I introduce myself?” It’s part of what these conferences are about- allowing you to connect with the leaders who’ve impacted you and your business.

Tips for navigating professional conferences for creatives | Abby Grace

2) Stick around for late-night conversations. That’s where some of the best stuff happen. Don’t get me wrong- keynote sessions, lunches, break times, those are great too. But there’s something about the late-night conversations that are just BETTER. Maybe it’s because when you’re tired, you’re more likely to be vulnerable, and in the midst of that vulnerability is where friendships are forged and growth begins. Those moments are where I’ve found the deepest encouragement from people who are willing to really challenge me to be better, kinder, more grace-filled, and where friends have NAMED the gifts I never really knew I had. I cannot express to you how deeply empowering that is to experience.

3) Feel free to skip the small talk. I’m giving you permission right now- don’t worry about asking where everyone is from, what they shoot, how long they’ve been in business, etc. Trust me- you never remember the answers to those questions, anyways. Like I said above- you only have a few days with these people- do you REALLY want to waste that precious time asking what camera each other uses? No! You don’t.

Instead, trying asking something that requires more than just a one or two word answer. Here are a few examples- feel free to screen shot this if you’re the type who person who needs a cheat sheet!

  • What are you passionate about? (this one’s my favorite!)
  • What sort of personal work do you turn to for inspiration when you’re starting to feel burned out creatively?
  • What makes you awesome? (Be careful not to ask this in a sarcastic tone of voice)
  • What are you MOST looking forward to this week?
  • If you could only watch ONE movie for the rest of your life, what would it be? Why?”
  • Are you a Leslie Knope or a Ron Swanson? (Feel free to swap these for your favorite TV/movie persona)
  • When was the last time you failed hard? What did you take from that situation?
  • If you could have any super power, what would it be? Why? How would you use it?

And it all else fails…

  • “Do you know how much a polar bear weighs? No?…. enough to break the ice. Hi! I’m ___!”

Phoenix/Scottsdale- we’re coming for you!

Tips for navigating professional conferences for creatives | Abby Grace

Second and third photos by Laura & Rachel

Navigating conferences for creative pros

October 31, 2017

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