Last week I had the incredible opportunity of speaking at WPPI -- the world's largest convention for professional wedding and portrait photographers. It took place in Las Vegas and something like 13,000 photographers turned up. The tradeshow went from Monday to Wednesday, and I spoke on Wednesday afternoon -- right before I jumped on a plane to come home. Tuesday night I had an anxiety attack when it dawned on me that I had to check out of my hotel room at 11am and I wasn't speaking until 3:00. Looking back on it now, it seems silly. So what? Just get ready in the morning, check your luggage at the front desk, hang out for a bit and then put on the heels you've been carrying around in your purse all day and speak to 200+ people for 90 minutes. Not the IDEAL scenario, but not the end of the world either. But I was wiped from being an introvert at a conference designed for extroverts, and emotionally exhausted, so I lost it. Stress-induced-acid-reflux-crying-on-the-bathroom-floor LOST IT. Thankfully God met me in my weakness and after a good cry, five hours of sleep, a call home to my mom, and time spent refocusing on God and why I was there in a quiet corner of the MGM Grand, I was ready at 3pm to cram my feet into those uncomfortable heels and share my story with a room full of photographers who were there to soak in as much knowledge as possible to propel their businesses forward.
This year I spoke on the topic Developing a Successful Associate Photographer Program. I shared the story of how I started my business 11 years ago, never dreaming that I would bring on other photographers to shoot for my brand, but how all of the elements came together to clearly point me in that direction four years ago. I now have four associate photographers on my team. Last year, in addition to the 9 weddings I photographed, they shot a total of 27 weddings for Melissa Jill Photography. They are super-talented and I am blessed to not only have them on my team, but to call each of them friends.
During my 90-minute talk, I shared not only my story, but three elements I believe a photographer needs to have in place in order to consider bringing associate photographers into their business, three keys to success, what to look for in an associate photographer, and the nuts and bolts of how we structure our program to make it work on a practical level. I always try to be an open book when I am teaching so I shared everything from profit, to our pay structure, to how we resolve issues when they arise.
I loved meeting so many of the photographers who included me in their WPPI schedule. My talk wasn't one that maybe appealed to the masses, but my hope is that it met a need for those who find themselves at a unique crossroads in their businesses and are ready to consider this leap.

Thanks so much to my friend Jordan Demos for brining along his camera and capturing these photos of me in action!
Last year after WPPI I got asked by many photographers if they could somehow get the info from my talk because they were unable to attend for one reason or another. So this year I planned ahead! Stay tuned -- tomorrow I will be announcing a new Associate Photographer Program Coaching Package that I am excited to roll out! It includes a video of my entire talk along with some other fun goodies! Can't wait to share!

Thanks again to everyone who came out to WPPI this year! I had such an amazing time reconnecting with old friends and making new ones! And not only did I learn a great deal from the other speakers whose talks I attended, I also learned that if I find myself speaking on the last day of a conference again, opting to pay for an extra night in the hotel, even if I don't end up sleeping there, might be wise. Especially if it keeps me off the bathroom floor.
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