We are smack dab in the middle of conference season, and it is quite possible that you may be attending your first conference or workshop. You’re probably a solid mix of excitement and nerves; both ready to jump in and meet new people and learn new skills, and also unsure about what to expect. In today’s episode, I’m sharing my own experience with my first conference season, and the value I gained from attending. I’m hoping to inspire you to commit to that conference you’re thinking about, or at the very least share some wisdom so you can have the best experience possible at your first event.
The Shoot It Straight Podcast is brought to you by Sabrina Gebhardt, photographer and educator. Join us each week as we discuss what it’s like to be a female creative entrepreneur while balancing entrepreneurship and motherhood. If you’re trying to find balance in this exciting place you’re in, yet willing to talk about the hard stuff too, Shoot It Straight Podcast is here to share practical and tangible takeaways to help you shoot it straight.
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Review the Show Notes:
My first conference and workshop experiences (2:15)
The value gained from each conference season (8:09)
Encouragement for your first conference season (9:04)
Mentioned in this Episode:
Review the Transcript:
Welcome to the shoot it straight podcast. I’m your host, Sabrina Gephardt. Here I will share an honest take on what it’s like to be a female creative entrepreneur. while balancing business, motherhood and life myself along with my guests will get vulnerable through honest conversations and relatable stories because we’re willing to go there. If you’re trying to find balance in this exciting place you’re in yet willing to talk about the hard stuff to to shoot it straight podcast is here to share practical and tangible takeaways to help you shoot it straight.
Welcome back to the shoot it straight podcast, we are smack dab in the middle of what educators and coaches refer to as conference season. If you have been a photographer for a little bit, you know that generally speaking, the first quarter is when there’s a huge variety of conferences and workshops that you could attend. There are so many different ones around the country that cater to different markets and different locations. There are different sizes and they pull in different types of photographers, there’s just a whole lot to choose from. And maybe you’re going one or more than one this year. And maybe just maybe this is the first conference or workshop that you will be going to ever if that’s you, I totally understand the butterflies that you’re feeling in your stomach right now. Even if you have a friend going with you or meeting you they’re doing something this bold and new, feels a little bit uncomfortable, you’re probably a solid mix of excitement and nerves.
You can’t wait to jump in and meet people learn some fantastic things, maybe even shoot a little bit for your portfolio. But on the flip side, there are a lot of people there a lot of big names potentially. There’s a lot of unknowns about what to expect, and it feels a little like the first day of school. So I thought I would record this short little episode to kind of help you prepare for your first conference or workshop experience. I wanted to tell you a little bit about what to expect and also how to really get your mind right and have the best experience possible. So I can vividly remember my very first conference and workshop season. It was the year that I finally was ready to pour some real money into education and my business and I committed to three different experiences within a six month period back in 2014. The first education experience I committed to was a one day small group workshop, I was flying to a city that I’d never been to and meeting with photography idle. I would spend the day in a small space with about 10 other photographers, none of which I knew.
And we would spend the day going over portfolios and photographing a family and having lunch. It all sounded wonderful on paper, hence the reason I signed up. But as the event approached, I was so nervous. I was so afraid that I was going to be seen as a fraud. I was so afraid that the coach and the rest of the attendees would see my work during the portfolio reviews and laughed at themselves. I was so nervous that I wasn’t cool enough to be spending the day with this group of women. Before I left town, I made sure to do some shopping and get an outfit that I felt really cute and confident in. I stayed in a hotel near the event I rented a car because I like to have my own transportation. And on the morning of I woke up really early and basically spent the morning giving myself a pep talk. I belong there. I was there to learn. It was okay that I wasn’t going to know anybody. I could meet people unlikable, this is all going to be fine. And guess what it was, after the first couple of hours, maybe even the first hour, it was very obvious that I was not the only one feeling that way. We were all nervous. We all felt like a fraud. We all questioned our work. And as the day went on, we began to relax. There was laughter there were tears. We got to watch each other and our coach be creative and a photograph of family. And then we ended the day with a meal together in this tiny little restaurant. And at that point, we all felt like old friends. I went to bed that night feeling so fantastic. Not only had I learned a lot, but something shifted in me.
All of a sudden I felt like an actual legitimate photographer. I’d spent the day educating myself and being surrounded by other artists. And something about that experience made me feel legitimate. It made the imposter syndrome fade away and it gave me a confidence that I didn’t even know I was lacking. A couple months later was my second commitment of the year. This was a small 10 person three day workshop. It was a seriously intimate commitment. we would be spending three days together, all of us sleeping in the photographer’s home. This was a photographer who I had long idolized her workshops sold out year after year, and I was thrilled to actually have snagged a spot. Again, I didn’t know a single person going. But after the last experience, I had a little bit more confidence of what to expect and how it was going to go. I knew that it was going to be fun. That weekend was hands down the most transformative experience of my career. There is a very distinct line before and after this experience in my body of work in my pricing and in the type of clients that I worked with. It absolutely changed the trajectory of my business, not to mention the fact that I made friends with women who I still keep in touch with today. And the host photographer is now a personal friend of mine that we can experience was so intimate because we hung out in our pajamas, we ate every single meal together, we went swimming because of the hot Texas summer, we had drinks on the porch and coffee in the morning. And well it was like the best girls weekend ever. And it’s so funny because before that weekend, I hadn’t known any of those women. But that’s a pretty cool thing about women, we tend to open up pretty easily.
Whether you’re outgoing, or an introvert, whether you’re a mom or not married or single, a new photographer, or have been in business for years, women love connection. And that’s what’s so fantastic about in person education. My third and final piece of education that I invested in back in 2014 was the very first conference that I attended. This was a big one, I knew that this was going to be a completely different experience than either of the first two, there was not going to be small group conversations or intimate connections. It wasn’t going to feel like a girls weekend. But a conference brought some different variety to it, I’d have the chance to learn from a lot of different artists, I’d have the chance to meet a lot of new people, I’d have the chance to stretch myself in ways that went beyond an intimate workshop that focused only on one style of photography. I was excited. But something about the scale of the conference made me really nervous. I felt like I was starting my first day of freshman year of high school all over again. What was I going to wear? How was I going to style my hair? Did I have the right camera bag, I needed a new notebook and a new pen, all of that stuff. But just like with the other two experiences, within an hour of the event, all those nerves totally melted away, I realized that yet again, connection was the name of the game, smile at your neighbor, introduce yourself, ask where they’re from. Don’t be afraid to talk to the teacher, ask questions, take photos, it was all about trying new things. And being brave and putting myself out there. I had an incredible experience of the conference. Side note, I also found out I was pregnant with my third child at that conference. But that’s another story for another day. So I’ve told you about my first three in person education experiences.
They were all different kinds of experiences. But I feel like as a first timer, they all gave me a similar nervous hesitation. Now, here we are years and years later, I can tell you that I’ve been to many more workshops and many conferences since then, these things are kind of like an old hat at this point. But I still absolutely love and value every single one connection with women, especially women who have the same passion for photography that you do is completely invaluable. Whether or not you go to these events with friends, or go alone, whether or not you’ve been to the city before or not, whether or not you have a short drive from your home or you’re flying across the country for the event. All that matters is that you will gain so much from this experience. So if you’re about to head out to your first in person experience this conference season, let me give you a little bit of encouragement. Number one, it is totally normal that you are stressed out about what you’re going to wear. Everybody is even the people who have been doing this for a really long time. We all want to feel our most competent and comfortable selves. And for women that is often about fashion. So I’m not saying that what you’re wearing is not important because I definitely want you to have that confidence. Just know that you’re not alone. Every single person that’s attending is wondering what the heck they’re going to wear and what the heck everybody else is going to wear. It just kind of goes with the territory. Number two, it’s totally okay. If you don’t know anyone else that’s going you are going to meet people. That’s one of the most beautiful parts of this experience. But if you’re not a naturally outgoing person, you should definitely prepare yourself me Doing people can feel hard. Introducing yourself to a total stranger can feel really scary. But just like your mom used to tell you in elementary school be friendly, they are probably just as nervous about being alone too. I promise that no one that chooses to go to a conference or workshop is evil or mean, okay, they are friendly, they are there to learn just like you, you already have something in common, you’ve both taken a chance for your business and your education. And you love photography, that means you already have something to talk about.
Number three, a tip I have for you that I actually found really surprising the first few times I attended an event, but now is something I plan for is I make sure to carve out downtime for myself, I’m what you would call an extroverted introvert. This means that I absolutely love to mix and mingle and chat it up and be with a big group and feel that energy and the vibe of incredible women. But it also means that after we’ve had a full day of chatting and mingling and learning, I am 100% drained, I didn’t expect it the first time, or the second or even the third. But now I have learned that I need downtime during these events to recharge my battery. This means that maybe I skipped the happy hour or the optional dinner. Maybe I skipped the morning breakfast or the worship time, maybe I stay one extra night after the event is over so that I can unwind before I head home to my own family. This is an absolutely crucial practice for me to have some time to recover. So in the event that you are an introvert like me plan ahead for this. Unfortunately, that means that you may have to say no to an invitation here or there. And that’s always hard. But you definitely don’t want to go home from these events more exhausted than when you arrive. And the last piece of advice I want to leave you with if this is your first conference season, is to set your expectations accordingly. So what do I mean by that? Generally speaking, the smaller the event, the more you are going to get out of it.
Okay, so a three day small group retreat is going to be highly transformational, truly, you’re going to have your mind blown. But on the flip side, if you’re going to 1000 person conference, yes, it’s going to be fun, and you will definitely learn things, but it’s not going to be nearly as mind blowing as an intimate small group experience. There’s definitely a place for all kinds of educational experiences. I love attending conferences, and I host an in person workshop. So I do value both extremes. But it’s important to have your expectations set accordingly so that you walk away feeling like you got and had a great experience. So that’s all I have for you today. I hope this episode was eye opening and encouraging and has inspired you to either commit to going to your first conference or workshop, or giving you some little nuggets of wisdom that you need to have a great time if this is the first event you’ve gone to. So if you happen to be going to photo native or the reset conference, I have the privilege of speaking at both events this year. So make sure you come by and say hello. And if you’re interested and getting on the waitlist for my small group, mastermind and retreat, I will have that linked in the show notes. Thanks, friends. See you next time.
Thanks so much for listening to the shoot it straight podcast. You can find all the full show notes and details from today’s episode at Sabrina gebhart.com backslash podcast. Come find me and connect over on the gram at Sabrina Gebhardt photography. If you’re loving the podcast, I’d be honored if you hit that subscribe button and leave me a review. Until next time, my friends shoot it straight.