Inspire Speaker: Leah Haydock

In this series of blog posts we are introducing the faculty at Inspire 2015. Today we’d like to introduce you to Leah Haydock who will be leading the class on Use Your Words : Efficient and Easy Client Communication

1200 Headshot Leah Haydock

Last week, I was driving to a monthly photography group event and I was thinking about how excited I was to catch up with photographer friends I haven’t seen in a while. Just last night I went to a fellow Maine photographer’s holiday party and had a blast chatting with old and new photographer friends.

For some reason that got me thinking back to the first photography networking meeting I attended maybe 7 years ago.  I didn’t know a single other photographer at the time. I had a corporate “day job” and I remember feeling a bit of an imposter heading to a meeting full of “real photographers”.  I agonized for days over what to wear and tried to come up with a few back-up topics of conversation. In my head I imagined making all these cool photographer friends who I could talk to about everything weddings and photography.

I arrived at the location and gave myself a little pep-talk in the parking lot before entering to see small groups of people standing around chatting and a couple of lone awkward people pretending to read notices on the wall.  My hands were clammy and my life turned into a Bridget Jones movie scene as I slowly made my way over to a group, hovered awkwardly and then actually blurted out “Ummm, do you know where the restrooms are?”

After spending a good 10 minutes hiding out in the restroom telling myself I shouldn’t have come and then awkwardly hovering around the snack table I was relieved when the lights dimmed and the presentation started. I can’t even remember who was presenting or what the topic was. I really wanted to cut out and run at the end but I forced myself to make conversation with a few more people.

After a couple more stilted interactions and a fairly horrific one where someone told me that they were “kind of a big deal” with the implication I shouldn’t have even tried to talk to them, I admitted defeat and went home. My husband asked me how it went and I shrugged thinking that maybe I just didn’t fit in with other wedding photographers.

A short while later I stumbled across a local wedding photographer forum. I somehow finagled my way in and made my first online photographer friend. When we finally met in person (hi Kate!), she insisted on me coming to another photography meet up and introduced me to a few people.

Fast forward to the present day and I have a ton of photographer acquaintances and some really good photographer friends. In fact, their photographer status is kind of irrelevant, they’re just really good friends who happen to be photographers.

So why am I rambling about this? Because although Inspire has some pretty awesome learning opportunities - classes by Anne Amalsy, the always entertaining Ned Jackson, personal work with Cig Harvey, branding talk with Spencer Lum, advanced concept shoots with David Jackson, the opportunity for one-on-one mentoring by all faculty and more - it’s also the most inclusive and ego-less photography retreat I’ve ever attended.

I first attended Inspire in 2011 and I’ll admit to a healthy amount of cynicism going in. I’d heard the rumors about Inspire just being a big old hugfest so I was pleasantly surprised by just how much actionable content I got out of the retreat. I was also incredibly impressed by the opening talk from Enna asking everyone to take a minute to think about their fellow attendees and if someone is new or sitting alone, ask them to join your table for lunch or pull them into your group at the bar. 

So if you’re in any way worried about attending Inspire, you’re feeling shy, you’re worried you’ll be Billy-no-mates (does that translate?!?) then rest assured, you’re going to be just fine. I, for one, can’t wait to meet you. 

My Top Ten Tips for getting the most out of Inspire if it’s your first time:

1. Don’t be shy! I know it can feel super weird walking into a room full of people who seem to know each other but a simple “Hi, my name is _________ and this is my first time at Inspire.” will work wonders

2. If you see someone else who looks like they don’t know anyone else, remember we’ve all been there at one time or another. No one is born as a sociable photographer with a ton of friends.

3. Once you’ve signed up, take advantage of the Inspire facebook group to say hi or look for a roommate or car share.

4. Take a minute to think about areas you’d most like to improve on or areas you struggle with. Find topics/classes that work with these areas and set out your schedule accordingly

5. It’s OK to skip a class if you’re feeling overwhelmed. Take a little alone time to review what you’ve learned so far, go out for coffee with a new friend or hit the spa for a massage

6. Take note of the sign-up times for mentoring and get ready to keep hitting refresh if there’s someone you really want as a mentor

7. If you don’t get the mentor you originally wanted, there’s a good chance you’ll be able to catch them at breakfast or over drinks at the bar

8. Bring business cards and a pen. If someone gives you a business card then jot a little note on the back to help you remember who they were when you find the stash of cards a few months later

9. When you get home schedule at least 2 or 3 hours to read over your notes and make a list of actions with feasible deadlines. Consider sharing your list with a new Inspire buddy and hold each other accountable.

10. One last practical tip seeing as we’re in my home state of Maine, wear lots of layers (the temperatures can fluctuate in the conference rooms) and bring snow boots, hat, scarf, gloves and a brush/scraper for your car!

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