I have returned from my second trip to Photoshop World, and had a great time, just as I did the first time. The experience is overwhelming and exhausting… but in a good way. I got up at 7am every day, packed my brain full of as much Photoshop and photography goodness as it could hold, networked, asked questions, checked out the expo, attended an evening event, and then stumbled to my room and passed out at midnight. For those of you that stayed out late gambling? I have no idea how you made it through! Rather than provide my Top 10 Lesson Learned,” as I did last year, I’m going to focus this year’s follow-up post on providing tips for new conference attendees. You know, all the stuff I wish I had know before I went for the first time!
1. Transportation and lodging: Last year, I booked my flight on Southwest and reserved the hotel (using the conference rate) separately. This year, I booked them together as a package and saved a TON of money. Vegas ain’t what it used to be, and the deals are out there. I found the best price right from Southwest vacations, selecting my flight and then “adding” the hotel. You can also use Otel.com, or any number of joint-booking services. I didn’t bother renting a car, because they have busses and trams that run up and down the strip (if you really need to experience craptastic Vegas in all its glory). And getting to/from the airport is easy, there’s a shared-van shuttle service that will take you door-to-door for $7. I also recommend staying at Mandalay Bay, because you will want the ability to crash in your room at random moments during the conference when you’re too tired to make it through the entire day.
2. Food: This part is rough. You’re a captive audience at the hotel, and they nail you on food prices. To make matters worse, the convenient/fast food is not good… and be prepared to wait in a line (grabbing Starbucks on the way to the morning session? Forgettaboutit!). Instead, on the day you arrive, jump on the bus, go west one stop to the shopping center and hit up the Whole Foods for your first meal. Also stock up on juice, water, fruit and snacks to get you through the coming days. A gatorade in the gift shop is mind-numbingly expensive. You probably won’t have a fridge in your room, though, so get non-perishables while you’re at Whole Foods for the coming days. When it comes to eating actual meals, just suck it up, and pay the $17-$30 for a meal at the buffet. You can probably get through a day on two trips to the buffet and snacks from Whole Foods. Hitting the buffet simplifies things, because it’s quick and easy, and also makes it possibly to have a half-way healthy meal (and save more time by using the kiosk to buy your meal ticket instead of waiting in line to get in).
3. After Hours Events: Take advantage of all of the events that are available. You may meet people that will change your career, and will certainly make new friends that you can share ideas with. The instructors go to the events, too, and they’re all nice and approachable. Honestly, I felt a bit isolated during my first trip, because it seemed like people had their “clicks,” and they do, but if you’re not shy about it, you can strike up a conversation with anyone. We’re all there for same reason, after all. The first night is the “mixer” at the hotel bar ($11 for a rum-and-coke ugh!). The second night is the House of Blues event, which is cool because you can see Scott Kelby’s awesome band, Big Electric Cat, play while eating and having a few drinks. You’ll need to buy tickets for this a few weeks before the conference to make sure you get in. The third night is Midnight Madness, along with a photographer’s panel session. If you haven’t been to PSW yet, hit up the Midnight Madness event, it’s fun, crazy, and goofy, and I’ll say no more. Just be sure to find out when they’re giving away tickets for that, though, because it’s usually early in the morning on the first or second day, and they go really fast. If you want to gamble, or catch a show, do that s#!t after the conference is over!
4. Picking your schedule: This part is downright overwhelming, because there is just waaay too much going on at once. Download the conference app for your iPhone, iPad or Android. They’ll also give you a print version when you arrive. I recommend going through and picking your must-attends first, and then taking a look to make sure you’re not repeating any topic areas. Then begin filling in the holes. And when you’re filling in the holes, do so with classes that are taught by great instructors, even if you’re not 100% excited about the topic. Trust me on this one. Ben Willmore, Richard Harrington, Scott Kelby, and, if you don’t mind a few sexist jokes, Scott Bourne, are all excellent instructors. And while you’re at it, pick some classes that cover topics that you know nothing about. It is easy to attend a lot of sessions on the same topic, and leave the conference without broadening your horizons. Don’t make this mistake! Final tip on this… it’s OK to skip a session or two, and take a nap, because you can run yourself ragged and end up not remembering anything.
5. Bring your questions and portfolio: Between the classes, expo hall, Adobe help desk, and your peers, this is your chance to get a lot of your photography and Adobe questions answered. Think about them ahead of time, and carry that list with you at all times. And also, bring your portfolio and sign up for a portfolio review session. Just a few minutes with one of the instructors, and you’ll get some really valuable feedback that is hard to get online or from your friends. And they’ll tell it like it is, too, so make sure you’re open to criticism. The first year that I went, I got some really helpful criticism and encouragement from RC Concepcion, and immediately changed my portfolio for the better.
Oh and two more quick things (I guess that makes 7, and I can’t count): If you’re a newbie, definitely get there the day before and hit up the orientation session, because that will point you in the right direction and fill you in on any new events or scheduling changes. And lastly, get your butt on Twitter and keep up-to-date with what’s going on, as it’s happening. Twitter is also a great way to connect up with new friends before, and during the conference. I made two new friends this year, just by posting or replying to other’s posts with the “#PSW13″ hashtag.
I hope these tips help. As always, don’t hesitate to join the conversation by leaving a comment below, or contact me directly. See you next year in Vegas!