I just got back from Showit United, my first ever photography conference in the US and let me just say, it was super interesting. My head is spinning with all the ideas I want to implement.
I’ve so many actionable tips that I’ve scribbled down in my super spangly United notebook. (It’s the little things).
Now, I know that the immediate day or two after returning home from a huge event like this is THE time to write all this down. Publishing it on the internet also helps me stay accountable, or that’s my hope anyway!
Of course, there is going to be a wide range of information at a large, 700-plus attendee conference like Showit United. Much of it I didn’t feel like was geared towards me. Motivational content which was very popular with the crowd makes my eyes roll.
But give me all the juicy, actionable tips mixed in with a sprinkling of philosophy and a healthy dose of realism and it’s all good.
Oh yeah, I didn’t do any preparation whatsoever beforehand and didn’t bring my camera. I’ve used mostly random photos I had from my previous two trips to Arizona earlier this year in an effort to be somewhat relevant.
Main themes of Showit United 2019
1. Starting with self
I loved how one of the main themes of United was self-confidence, and specifically ideas about putting yourself and your uniqueness at the center of the work.
I’ve always struggled with this – and previously preferred to let the work speak for itself.
But in a crowded market, people don’t buy the product, they buy the result. They buy YOU. Can you fix the problem they have? Can you be trusted to deliver what it is they’re looking for?
James and Jess talked about how a terrible accident transformed their lives, and what realized years later that they had neglected ‘starting with themselves’. They hadn’t filled their own cups. Instead, they used to seek validation from their virtual community.
A thought came up that many of the speakers on stage had used a life coach which had been transformational to them. Without self-awareness and a healthy relationship with yourself, serving others was fraught with problems.
As a Christian I also like to flip this idea. I contend that it’s serving God and others that we find our purpose and fill our cup. Looking outward toward selfless service is what we’re built for.
Closely, well, connected to this idea was CONNECTION. Humans crave connection. We should always strive to create as many relatable touch points as possible in the way we talk about ourselves, the experience we provide and our work.
Jen and Jeff from Tonic Site Shop said that people seem commonalities. And people make time for stories. Figuring out what to draw out of our own lived stories is certainly tough, but a necessary part of creating connection in the mind of our target client.
Another major theme was creating, communicating and delivering VALUE. One of the things said by Ben Hartley of Six Figure Photography really resonated.
He said that a guy in his town who charges $1,000 to shoot a wedding may be more expensive than Ben who charges $10,000 to shoot that wedding.
A little cheeky, maybe, but the point was to drive home the idea that what you bring can and should be so much more than what your clients are paying.
For me however, the challenge is always how to communicate that, especially when he advises against sales calls that breathlessly shout ‘All the edited digitals! Includes 25 4 X 6’s! Fast turnaround! Free engagement session! Easy booking! Click my Calendly here!’
4. High-level thinking
Not sure what to call this one because it encompasses so much. In a nutshell, keeping up with high-level tasks only, and delegating or outsourcing those that do not move the dial forward.
Yes, I need to outsource my editing one day, soon! The three editing companies that were represented at the conference (and all seemed to have amazing offerings) were Freedom Edits, Photographers’ Edit and Edit Source.
As a business owner about to go into my fourth full-time year, I am on the cusp of needing to make changes to my business. One of these is outsource my editing, but I feel terrified of giving up control.
Building a team is a process that takes time. And here’s the thing. I’m in that zone where honestly a good proportion of the people and businesses I’ve had on my team so far have not worked out well.
I’ve realized that no-one does the darn work the way I want it done and would do it myself. Time after time I’ve experimented … then immediately faced disappointment and taken back control.
Any other business owners relate?
We know it needs to be done but it’s a painful process to outsource that honestly seems more trouble than it’s worth? How to get over this mental block?
Quick n’ dirty random actionable tips from Showit United
Laylee Emadi – Create a list of weekly tasks then add them to a calendar! Spend 2 hours each day on something from the weekly list.
With Grace and Gold – Have a goal for every page on your website. Litter your copy with words and phrases you actually say.
Katy Davis – Use 10 ‘I believe’ statements and 10 ‘guilty pleasures’ on your website to connect with potential clients. The goal is that people will think of you only when they come into contact with that thing you love! (e.g. NOT coffee!)
Amy and Jordan – Create different funds (like sinking funds) for expenses you know are coming up or recur yearly. Think best, not good when deciding how to spend money. A latte every day would be good but a debt-free retirement would be better!
Can’t literally remember – What the ‘O’? That means ‘What’s the opportunity?’ Especially when something goes wrong, always be thinking ‘what’s the opportunity to not only address the issue but go above and beyond to put it right’?
Ben Hartley – Always have in the back of mind ways to fulfill a need that’s higher up the chain of modern-day consumer needs [see below]. Definitely a biggie, but touches everything you do, including the way you tease out of clients what’s truly important to them and their relationship.
Like, everyone – Have a time that you stop working each day! Take days off!
The lovely randomness!
The photography community is a small one! It can be wonderful to connect with people that you’ve been following or listening to for a while. One of my fave connections was running into Denise Karis who I had just been listening to that morning (like an hour beforehand!) on the Bokeh Podcast. There were definitely a few double-take moments and weird coincidences!
PS Check out the beautiful ‘desert dreamer’ pin she gave me and get in touch with her if you like what you see and want to get one for your own biz!
My own cynicism
Unpopular opinion time.
Look, I’m deeply cynical about everything. It’s hard for me to truly give in to moments and experiences and be present and all-in. I take absolutely all information with a grain of salt, it’s just me.
Ultimately everyone there is trying to sell something, even if it’s something as intangible as an ethos or trivial as an Instagram following.
Though for sure, every speaker without exception imparted knowledge, experience, information and stories that held value.
The gauntlet has been thrown down to us, the attendees, to create something new that works for us in a unique way. I’m willing to put aside my cynicism and embrace some of the valuable lessons and hard-won experience.
An annoyance about their refund policy
I honestly didn’t think I would end up going to Showit United, and tried without success to sell my ticket. In fact, that was something I was a little annoyed with Showit about. Showit United happens in early November – probably the most inconvenient time of the year for wedding photographers.
In CA and no doubt AZ, wedding season is still in full swing. And for those who live in colder climes, they are no doubt knee-deep in editing. On October 2, I reached out to them to ask if there was any way of getting a refund.
It was the first time I had a chance to breathe in many months. For a company that supports wedding photographers, I thought they’d had a deep understanding about this (and hold their conference in like, February when we are not in peak busy season!)
I had no thought about United in my mind whatsoever, had no time to devote to looking at flights or accommodations whatsoever until one random day in early October. It had been on my list for months, but you know how it is.
It turned out I was one day late to get a refund. In fact, just a few hours The final day for refunds happened to be October 1, but I had got round to looking at United stuff on October 2. They refused a refund (even though they were still selling tickets of course, as anyone who is ‘waitlisted’ magically gets a ticket straightaway) and said I had to find someone to fill the spot.
I’ve no problem admitting I have no friends (sob!) and no community, to be blunt. (Wonder why. Is it because I can be obnoxious, stubborn, deeply idiosyncratic, overly anxious, egocentric, and a massive know-it-all? No, I’m sure that has nothing to do with it. Well, at least lack of self-awareness isn’t one of my flaws.) Obviously I didn’t find anyone.
I spent hours I didn’t have going on Facebook groups, DMing people on IG, spamming my IG followers, posting on Honeybook… hours of my time to try to sell this ticket, which they could have very easily refunded me. Did that make me resentful? It did.
I ended up turning my mindset around when I realized I should just go to the bloody thing, but still, it was frustrating to be told no. I was late on the deadline… by a few hours. In my experience, it’s good business to keep the customer happy and not throw the book at them.
We all mess up, but people (paying clients) do feel incredibly grateful when you give them a good experience. They appreciate that you’ve shown them goodwill when you didn’t need to. I do it with my own clients. Trust me, they know I am going out of my way to help them and that’s the lasting experience they’ll have with my brand.
As a Showit customer of just 2 months, who had 2 Showit websites, I was not happy that they couldn’t show me a little goodwill and favor. Especially as I’m clearly not their target demographic for a conference like this. It would probably be in their best interests NOT to have people there going who aren’t into it – and who will write mixed reviews like this that will rank well on Google. 😉
“Go for the connections, leave with one or two nuggets of info” was my mantra going in. I’d seriously be happy!
As it turns out I left Showit United with a good deal of inspiration that I cannot wait to implement into my business, workflows and even personal life.
Hold up one second. I am guilty of impulsively taking action the minute a thought pops into my head. I’m going to rephrase the paragraph above and say that I can wait to implement the changes. I’ll do so as and when makes sense without sacrificing my mental health.
It’s been such an interesting experience all in all. It definitely was so outside of my comfort zone as that’s my personality type. Boy it’s tough walking into something like this alone and remaining alone the entire time apart from 3 conversations I had.
It’s also easy to get swept along with the hype! I was 10 – 15 years older than the average attendee, and older than 90% of the speakers. At times I felt it! The people that this kind of event appeals to are certainly nothing like me.
However would I change anything? No, not really! I would seriously recommend it for new and seasoned wedding photographers who want to feel reinvigorated. There’s something powerful about knowing what you didn’t know before.
There’s nothing wrong with the conference. It’s incredibly well organized, amazing level of attention to detail, with so many thoughtful touches. It has just the right pacing for each event, had speakers who brought a lot of value, and was a visually impressive event.
I just have a quirky, oddball, outsider personality that would never in a million years enjoy a big event like this when everyone’s getting fired up and I’m just rolling my eyes. Of course, I knew it going in because I know myself, but I just put it out of my mind of put on my uncharacteristically rose-tinted spectacles.
I’m the polar opposite wrong demographic and the wrong personality, but to mainstream, normal peeps this would be a great contender for event-of-the-year that you’ll simply have the BEST time ever at, make tons of friends, and gain even more knowledge than I did.
I also want to say a HUGE thank you to Showit for putting on this monster event which was no mean feat. We can only know a fraction of what went on behind the scenes to put on an event of this quality and size. I am a huge fan of Showit (and will probably be writing more about that soon!), and their intuitive drag-and-drop website builder. However I also wanted to give an unbiased and honest review of Showit United 2019 – my first and last photography/business conference.
So, friends, what did you think of Showit United 2019? If you want to go, what are you wondering about? What are you excited or apprehensive about? Let me know in the comments!