6 Days, 7 Airplanes, 18 Taxis, 4 Hotels, 40 Appointments and 100s of Handshakes and Hugs Later.

In all the years I have been repping, these last two weeks have been some of the most productive.  I traveled to two great events and met with so many of the art producers and creatives that I have gotten to know so well over the years.   While I was busy doing my thing, three  of the photographers in our group attended At Edge’s Face to Face in NYC,  two attended Debra Weiss’s One on One event in LA and three of them ventured out on appointments.

All of those events and appointments together amounted to connecting with well over 200 people.

I have always said that the single most important thing I can do for my photographers is to make a connection.  And, if a photographer isn’t shooting, the single most important thing they can do for themselves is to make a connection. Doing so in this industry goes a long way.  And, having done this for quite some time now, I can say the relationships that have come from these connections – both personal and professional – have indeed been beneficial for everyone in our group.

Even though each event is very different, they all provide a very powerful path to making important connections.   See below for how we made each event work for us.

AT EDGE -FACE TO FACE

For those of you who have never attended an At Edge Face to Face  event, the goal is to connect top level creative talent with leading photographers.  (Link here to learn more)

Each photographer is scheduled for three 15 minute meetings with people they would like to meet.  When I attend the event, I accompany the photographers and help them to present their work.  Attending with them allows both of us the chance to connect one on one with the reviewer.

Our photographers made their own connections- without me.

Well, even though attending with them has worked well in the past, this time I decided to do things a little differently.  I learned a long time ago that if there is an opportunity for a photographer to have a meeting one on one without me, it can be more powerful than if I were present.   I have found that when I am present, the conversation can turns social and the photographer is left without the opportunity to tell their own story.

The fifteen minutes At Edge allows is not a lot of time, so why be a distraction? We decided that this time, I would merely make the introduction, say a quick hello and leave them to their conversation.

Hunter Freeman, Chris Crisman and Kevin Twomey all agreed that it was their time to shine at these meetings and all came back enthusiastic and excited about their new connections.  Connections that were entirely theirs.

Our photographers know that the quick, fifteen minute meeting, is just the beginning of their connection and it is up to them to keep it going.

I have heard photographers question how they can adequately show off their work in just fifteen minutes.  And I have also heard them say that it wasn’t worth the time and money to attend an event if they were only going to meet a few people.  I have always thought this was short sighted because all it takes is one person, one connection or even just one image that makes that next job happen.

Hunter Freeman had a great strategy.  He knew that he only had fifteen minutes and recognized that he was one of many that would be presenting their work that night.  Hunter started off each meeting telling the person that they would end the meeting with three things to remember him by;  Kids with Power Tools, Apple and Dreams.  His reviewers were intrigued and when he got to those particular images he would point them out and remind them that these were the images they were suppose to remember him by.   When the meeting ended each person – on their own – mentioned all three images back to him.  It was a successful connection.

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In addition to Hunter’s strategy, everyone in the group spent the next few days following up with email and hand written thank you notes and not just to the people on their meeting list, but to everyone at the event.  There were so many flying around I could not keep up.

As we all discussed,  having a reason to connect with someone is half the battle.  At Edge provided so much more than that.

LE BOOK CONNECTIONS LA

At first glance, you may describe a Le Book Connections event as chaotic or even overwhelming.  There are so many exhibitors, countless attendees and too many portfolios, ipads and images on display to count.

If you had never attended before it would be natural to ask, “How can you digest all of what you are seeing so that the event is meaningful?”

Here is how we do it:

•  Create a compelling and colorful environment. 

We make sure our booth is inviting and shows off imagery, not just portfolios. We use a combination of music stands and tables to showcase the work.  Every book is kept open to an image.  People often comment that the booth draws them in every time.

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•  Curate our work so that we can easily show what is the newest.

The question most asked is, “What do you have that is new?” This is an obvious question and helps people digest all the work they are viewing.  We ask each photographer to update their books before the event and also provide us with any special presentations of their latest work.  Since so many people are already familiar with our photographers this is an easy way to get them to take a second look.  This time, Ron Berg’s Kentucky Derby Fashion promo was a big hit and fun for people to flip through.

•  Provide an Agency Portfolio

We learned after the first Le Book that not everyone has time to review every book like at a regular portfolio show.  So, to combat that, we created a AGENCY PORTFOLIO.  However, rather than group the portfolio by photographers like most other agencies do, we group the book by  SPECIALTY.  That way, a reviewer can see which photographers in our group shoot still life, food, lifestyle, landscape etc and if they see something they like we can direct them towards a particular book.  It is amazing how many times someone goes from book to book once we show them the group portfolio.

•  We Know How to Throw a Good Party

At the Le Book Connections NY event last year, we hired a very nice looking bartender (can’t hurt, right?) to mix martinis for the cocktail hour.  The shake shake shake and the martini glasses wandering around the room were a hit and drew people to our booth for sure.

Well, this year, we upped the ante and partnered with Brite Productions.  We asked to be placed next to them and together we hired the bartender, served martinis again and added pigs in the blanket for a little Mad Men style.  It was a party not to be missed.  And, the sense of community was unsurpassed.

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DEBRA WEISS’ ONE ON ONE EVENT

I have never personally attended one of these events because they are by invitation only for the photographers. However,  whenever I receive an invitation for them to attend another one, I always encourage our photographers to do so.

Her event is similar to FotoWorks in that photographers meet one on one with many art producers and creatives to present portfolios. They are allotted 25 minutes and they see upwards of ten or more people.  It is a very productive time and many connections are made.

I am sometimes asked why photographers in our group attend events like this.  People wonder why photographers at this particular level would need to do this?  Why wouldn’t they just reach out to the creatives and art producers on their own.  Surely, they would get an appointment.

My answer is simple.  Efficiency.  There is no other way that a photographer (or a rep for that matter) could see that many people in that short amount of time.  Ron Berg and Hunter Freeman saw 10 people each at Debra’s One on One. Chris Crisman and Richard Schultz met 20 people each when they attended FotoworksNYC.  Any rep will tell you that coordinating 20 appointments for one photographer would never happen in two days, ever.  You would be lucky if this happened over a week and to get a photographer to commit to a week on the road promoting their work is a long shot as well.

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CHRIS CRISMAN’S LAST MINUTE ROAD TRIP TO NYC

3:30PM (West coast time) on Wednesday of last week, I received an email from Chris Crisman.  “I am headed to NYC tomorrow for appointments, can you help me out?”  3:30 my time is 6:30PM in New York.  YIKES!  While I was thrilled that he was hitting the pavement with his new portfolio, I was not quite sure what I would pull off for him given that most of NY was headed home.   Regardless of the time, I began sending emails.  I started with the art producers that have called in his work or estimated a job with him in the last year.  I then reached out to friends, knowing that I would at least get a reply from them!

Well, by the time I got back at my desk the next morning, Chris had eight appointments.  Eight!  I was so grateful for everyone for even considering such a last minute request.  On top of the eight appointments, countless others replied with their regrets – which I thought was amazing given how busy everyone was and I never expected that many people to even reply.  And, as I said to Chris, even a regret means they had to think about you for a second.  Who knows, maybe they even clicked on his website.

When it was all over, Chris had an opportunity to show off his new portfolio, talk about potential projects and meet new friends.   Something he would not have otherwise been able to do from behind his desk at his studio.

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A special thank you goes out to Glen Serbin, Susan Baraz, Elizabeth Owens, Alex Orlowski , Debra Weiss and all the NYC Art Producers that took time to schedule appointments and reply to my emails  for making our time on the road very very productive!  We are part of a very special community of creative, talented and generous people and we are very grateful.

The power of the One on One connection is evident at the At Edge Face to Face event.

Hunter Freeman recently went to the At Edge Face to Face event in NY.  It was the first one I had missed so I was very interested of course to hear what he had to say.  When he returned, he wrote this for our blog.

“It was really a great time, and I can’t wait to go to the next one. At Edge really delivers on the opportunity to meet so many different influential people in our industry.  There were creative directors, art buyers, agents and photographers and they all were interested in getting to know each other.  The night was filled with great conversation and sharing of ideas.  People were inspiring each other and encouraged by the camaraderie.

I walked away feeling like the trip east was a huge success.  I don’t often get to share my own work and doing so in this environment got me excited to do so more often.  There is nothing like the value of a one on one connection – whether it be with someone who has the potential to hire you or someone who does what you do.   

I believe that down the line, events like this will be one of the most powerful ways that photographers will be able to connect with AB’s/CD’s face to face.  The increase in other “Pay to play” arrangements is proof that both sides of the table are appreciating the opportunities offered by such an arrangement.  I can say with confidence that this is a trend that will continue to grow.”

Why At-Edge is a true marketing partner

In May,  I attended the At Edge Face to Face event in LA.  It was one of the best ones yet.

Since At Edge was founded with the idea of being an exclusive marketing program that connects top creatives with the  leading photography talent in the world, these events are a natural part of their program.  Glen Serbin, the soul behind At Edge, works tirelessly to find relevant  agency creatives that are otherwise hard for the photographers to meet and ensures that each person who commits to engaging with the portfolios does so understanding how highly the event is regarded amongst the photographers.

At each event I attended, the idea of community was a common thread.  The event is a safe place for art buyers and creatives to mix with photographers and reps and for photographers and reps to meet each other.  It is very non aggressive and provides an opportunity to share work without the distractions of the work day.   Most importantly though, everyone involves recognizes that it is not a typical portfolio review but a chance to give photographers direct access to creatives who have the capacity to actually hire them.

It is obvious that everyone attending values photography as an art and appreciates each other for their participation.  Everyone is thoughtful, friendly and open to seeing new work.   Each reviewer takes their job seriously and the photographers appreciate that immensely.

At Edge seeks out an intimate venue, provides lavish food and an open bar.   All of those things combined with the power of the photographic and creative community make for a very successful event.  The mood is never chaotic and the energy is always upbeat and positive.

That said, the creatives are the critical part of the success.  They are genuine in their feedback and interest and often offer their time to meet with the photographers again at their offices.   Since the meetings are personal and the leads genuine, our photographers always walk away feeling like the new connection was meaningful.

These events have been hosted in NY, Chicago and San Francisco so far.  I have had the good fortune of attending every one.  Each one was better than the last.  However, as the events grew in popularity,  I worried over time, if they would grow in size and become less impactful.

It was at an event I attended in NY, when I wondered if the magic of the earlier events could actually fade.  Changes had been put into place that aimed to make things more positive (ie: larger cocktail party and more reviewers) that actually took away some from the intimacy.

It was of course still powerful but just felt a little bit different.  I know that some (including myself) offered feedback regarding this to Glen and his team (Susan Baraz and Elizabeth Owen) and they reacted right away to ensure that Face to Face would remain as strong as ever.

The recent LA event was a testament to how At Edge is a true marketing partner.

It was obvious that Glen, Elizabeth and Susan listened to the feedback and reminded us all why Face to Face is one of the strongest and most personal connections event out there.

Here is what was different this time and why I think it added to the success:

•  There were 3 appointments per photographer – this made for a full evening.  Providing an opportunity to meet with 3 different creatives/buyers allowed photographers to share their work with a greater variety of potential clients.  For those who traveled from out of town it made the trip even more worthwhile.

•  The room was well lit from above.  It made for viewing photography and now video much better than a candle lit table or mood lit room.

•  The cocktail hour was in the middle of the event.  This allowed photographers yet another chance to connect with potential clients at a point when everyone is still excited and eager to meet rather than wait until the end when everyone is tired and maybe looking to head home.  It also made it feel more private by having those who were attending and reviewing be part of the event.  This went a long way towards that personal feeling the Face to Face event provides.

I should also add that while this wasn’t a change but a function of geography, the Los Angeles reviewers were so happy and eager to participate.  Everyone always wonders if an LA event will be well attended since everyone is so spread out.  I think the LA creative community, while indeed spread out, is so tight knit and dedicated to creativity that being asked to review for AtEdge was an honor that they accepted proudly.

Once again I was excited to go and show off what some in our group were up to and was proud to sit next to our photographers while they shared their latest work.

Thank you  At-Edge for giving us such a powerful opportunity.