The Business School has always been an essential part of the Convention, and for many photographers it's perhaps the most important event of all, two days of high-quality training in the company of others who are like-minded, ready to get involved and eager to learn.
In the opinion of Catherine Connor, the managing director of Aspire Photography Training, who is now in her fifth year of organising Business School, the quality of the advice and support that's handed out so freely to delegates could be worth up to £4,000 in commercial terms, all of which makes the fact that it costs Society members just £175 to attend both days sound like the bargain of the century.
"All of us who are involved in the Business School are part of it because we want to do something that will benefit the industry," says Catherine.
"It's not about making money: I'm donating my services for free because I want to feel that I'm helping those who are determined to get on and to learn about all aspects of the business they're in. Given the fact that we're in a new venue this year and have more space than ever before, I've made some changes to the whole set-up that should help to make it even more relevant to delegates. They'll have more chance to take on board the points the various speakers are putting across and they'll be encouraged to network with their peers and to come away with lots of new contacts they can talk to, and share ideas with, long into the future." One of the observations to have come out of previous Business Schools is that there is just so much to take in that it can, at times, almost become a little overwhelming. By slowing things down a little and giving delegates more opportunity to pose questions and to debate the points being raised by the speakers, there should be far more opportunity to dig a little deeper into the information that's being put across and to make sure that it's all being taken in.
Meanwhile there will be no excuse for anyone, however shy and retiring they might happen to be, for not getting to know plenty of their fellow delegates and taking the chance to exchange details for future use. "Everyone will be seated at round tables that have room for 10 to 12 people," says Catherine. "We've moved away from the lecture format and there will be cards on the table that contain a list of questions relevant to the particular speaker they're listening to. Each table will nominate a spokesperson and then they will choose questions from their cards to ask, which could cover anything from posing through to the future of the industry or even something that's blog related.
"The idea is that this questioning will lead on to a debate, and everyone will have a chance to get involved and to come away with the information that they are particularly looking for. From a networking point of view there will also be contact sheets on every table and so everyone will have the chance to get the details of the other people they might happen to be sharing a table with. At the end of a particular presentation everyone moves to a different table and so you get to meet another selection of new people, and by the end of the School you should have around 40 or so new contacts that you'll be able to follow up in the future."
Quality of Speakers
Along with Catherine's expertise, there is the usual high-quality line-up of speakers at the 2013 Business School, which consists of Brett Florens, Raven Mathis, Zach and Jody Gray, Katie Trujilo and Jonathan Coleman.
Jonathan spoke at the 2012 Business School and was an immediate hit with the delegates: "I could have stood up and applauded everything he said," says Catherine. "He went down really well because he just honestly and openly told people about the mistakes he had made at the start of his own career and how he had moved on from there and turned things around to the point where he now has a very successful business in Cavendish Studios. It's good to have someone in the mix like that, who is just a normal guy doing the best job possible, and making a real go of it."
Jonathan is looking forward to speaking again at the School and will be explaining how he's managed to create a thriving portrait business after moving across from a previous career as a bank manager. "I would say that, if you want to make any sort of living, then the business side is actually more important than the technical (photographic) side," he says.
"Of course you have to be a competent photographer but unless you also have your marketing, sales, monitoring and administration buttoned up, you are not going to succeed!
The Societies of Photographers Convention and Trade Show at The Novotel London West, Hammersmith ...
You have 94 days until The Societies of Photographers Convention starting on Wednesday 22nd January 2020