United 2019 is right around the corner and I couldn’t be more excited! This will be my 5th year attending and I noticed a lot of people in the FB Group are asking, “What can I expect?” And I know the feeling… all those tiny little questions like, “How will I get to the dinner?” and “What if I miss a keynote?” and “How will we know where to go?” So I thought I’d take a blog post and set all your worries at ease.
The thing you have to first understand about Showit: They REALLY care. And that’s kind of rare. I think it’s why I love them so much. They totally care about making this week amazing and magical and inspiring and motivating and educational and all the things you’d hope for in a conference. So ultimately, they make it easy as heck to get where you need to go. There are volunteers everywhere who will give you a hug and then point you in the right direction if you get lost. There are attendees everywhere who you can walk with to the next thing. It’s really hard to actually “miss” an event.
The First Night:
The first night you arrive, you check in and they hand you a swag bag and a lanyard with a name badge. Then you can check into your hotel and head over to the welcome party where you can mingle with everyone! There’s usually an awesome food bar provided and a cash bar for drinks. In past years, Shoot Dot Edit has sponsored drink tickets so make friends with Nathan if you see him! 😛
Pro Tip: SAY HI to your fave photographer at this event!!! I’m a total fangirl and being able to hang out with your favorite photographers is so much fun! If you see Amy and Jordan or Natalie Franke or any of your photo heros, go say hi! Trust me, they want to connect with you! This is one of the things that makes United so incredibly special. You get to build memories with people who have played a huge role in helping you build your dreams! <3
Day 1 Morning Session:
The next morning, you can head over to the main area. There is a large conference room, a large hall space just outside of the conference room and a terrace outside. Usually there are muffins and juice out there in the early morning, so you can go grab a bite and chat with other attendees or stop by some of the booths to talk to business sponsors. Getting out there 40 minutes early is a good call since you can mingle and relax before the day starts.
When the conference room opens, find a seat and get ready! The hosts will open and usually introduce Showit CEO Todd Watson to open with a killer speech. We’ll hear from keynote speakers who will knock your socks off and then we’ll be released for a breakout session.
While the larger keynotes are all together in the main room, breakout sessions are smaller groups and you can choose which one you go to. For example, in one room, Makayla Jade will be talking about Marketing while in another room, Vanessa Hicks will be talking about creating content. There are usually 7-ish breakout sessions to choose from and sometimes you want to go to like, all of them. But they usually post the videos later for you to access for a month or so after the conference. So if you miss one, no worries, you can watch at home later. Breakout sessions are about an hour long.
After the morning breakouts, we usually have lunch, provided by Showit. In years past it has been food trucks or food from the hotel. It’s always good!
The afternoon sessions are much like the morning. You attend another main session followed by a breakout and then, if you signed up for a styled shoot, one usually happens that afternoon. Styled Shoots are very guided so just follow the signs or ask someone or check the app to see where you’re supposed to meet and show up with your camera in hand!
Pro Tip: Styled shoots are awesome but they also really depend on everyone to be kind and courteous to each other. If you’re the lucky one in front with the best angle, shoot your heart out and then let someone else squeeze in there! Also, ask questions! You probably signed up for your styled shoot because “Oh my God I get to shoot with Lauren Fair?!” (*Totally me*) so take advantage! They’re there to guide you so don’t be shy!
Five Minute Fuels:
Mixed in with the afternoon session are five minute fuels. These are little five minute talks given by speakers and oh my goodness! They’re my favorite because it’s a ton of great information packed into a small amount of time. So they rapid fire their BEST at you and afterwards, your hand hurts from taking so many notes! I absolutely love five minute fuels and I hope you do too!
After our styled shoots, we take a shuttle to dinner. Last year it was at the Zoo where we ate barbecue and walked around looking at Zoo Lights. It was lovely. Zoo Lights is a local favorite and we were lucky to have (I believe) the first Zoo Lights event of the year! In years past, they’ve hosted a line dancing class and had photo booths and games… I know this year is at a new place and I’m excited to see what they have in store cause it’s always good!
After the dinner they shuttle us back to the hotel where we have dessert and sing karaoke. I’m gonna throw this out there. I semi credit karaoke being a thing to me and Mary Marantz starting a Pitch Perfect style riff off in 2015. JUST SAYIN’! It was epic and karaoke might be my favorite part of the entire week.
I used to go to Seattle with my best friend and we would go to a karaoke bar called The Crescent. The Crescent was amazingly fun because the crowd was SO supportive when you sang. They would sing along with you, dance, make you feel like a total rockstar. It was completely different from the typical karaoke bar where people only pay attention when their friend is singing. The Crescent was awesome because the people were awesome. Showit Karaoke puts The Crescent to shame. If you have a song in you, friend, you have to sing it! (You can see a quick clip of me singing karaoke in the 2017 highlight reel below!)
And that was day one.
Well, I suppose day one and a half if you count the welcome party. But the first *full day*. Day two is very similar. Styled shoots, main session, breakout session, lunch, five minute fuels and overall awesomeness. Day two is also when the Gala happens. They don’t usually host an afternoon styled shoot to give you time to get ready for the gala. If you’re thinking about going to the gala but you’re not quite sure, I’m casting a vote for you to definitely go!
Last year we started with a fancy cocktail hour with live music and llamas dressed up as unicorns. Everyone looks stunning and it was so much fun to go around and connect with all the new people you met over the last three days. At the dinner, they serve amazing food and announce awards like best website design, Showiteer of the year, and best Karaoke performance. After dinner, we dance, we hop into the photo booth too many times, we make the rounds and chat and we leave with the best memories. There’s also definitely something to be said for partying with a bunch of people who are usually working at events like these!
Day 3 is a half day. We attend a breakout session, followed by a morning main session and a styled shoot and then it’s goodbye until next year! By this time, you’re a total pro!
I hope this helped! I’m going to leave you with some more random pro tips though!
Download The App: There’s an app that has the schedule and you can post photos and comment and like other’s photos. It’s a good thing to have on hand.
My favorite opener: If you’re not sure what to say to someone or how to start a conversation, I have loved asking people what they would talk about if they had to give a five minute fuel. We all have at least one area we shine in and sharing those pieces of knowledge can be really valuable and make for an interesting conversation! We learn from each other just as much as we learn from the speakers!
Find your name tag people: On the back of your name tag, there are three names. Find them, hug them, and post on IG with #UnitedHugs. It’s just fun to find your destined friends!
There is a Starbucks downstairs: If you need a caffeine fix, there’s a staircase in the lobby that leads directly to a Starbucks. You’re welcome.
You make United special: I recently did my first storytelling slam and on the way there, my partner asked if I was nervous. I said that whether it goes well or not is largely dependent on the audience. If they like me then it’ll probably go well. If they hate me, it’ll probably go really poorly. An audience can make or break the confidence of a speaker. They can cheer a speaker into the best keynote in history or blank-stare them completely off their axis. This applies to the entire week in all the events. If you get silly and join in on dancing and cram into the photo booth with ten people, then you’re probably going to have the best time. If you stay in a shell, not really participating, you’ll probably have a less good time. Break out of your shell! Literally no one bites. They just hug. So laugh loud for Jordan, throw an AMEN out to Jasmine, and give your best “OOOH AHH” when Jeff asks for it.
Stay Hydrated: Most of us work from home. So an action packed week can physically throw us for a loop. Drink water, bring your vitamins, relax when you can and take care of yourself.
The Weather Will Be Nice: This is Arizona! Arizona in the fall months is absolutely beautiful. You can bring a safety sweater but jeans and a Tshirt will be justfine!
Bring a Book: FRIIIIEND, let me tell you! Last year, I asked Todd if I could create a Showit Book Swap and I got the green light! I was so inspired by Amy and Jordan giving Dave Ramsey’s Total Money Makeover to EVERYONE last year that I am in the process of creating Showit’s first ever Library. So this year, there will be a bookshelf filled with books on business, marketing, creativity, etc and you can take one! Additionally, you’re encouraged to bring one to swap out and leave for someone else! Write an inscription on the inside cover for the next person if you want and definitely reach out to the person who donated the book you pick to connect! If you’re interested in sending books early or if you’re in the Phoenix area and want me to come pick up, send me a message and we’ll make it happen!
Embrace the Hug Life: United Hugs are a thing. I mean… just watch this video!
Are you excited?
Awesome! Me too!
I’m definitely available if anyone has any questions and I can’t wait to see you in November!
|Denise Karis is an Arizona photographer who enjoys musicals, Doctor Who and breakfast burritos. IG @denisekaris|
Hey. Do you mind if I tell you a story? One you might not have heard. All the elements in your body were forged many many millions of years ago in the heart of a faraway star that exploded and died. That explosion scattered those elements across the desolations of deep space. After so, so many millions of years, these elements came together to form new stars and new planets. And on and on it went. The elements came together and burst apart, forming shoes and ships and sealing wax and cabbages and kings. Until, eventually, they came together to make you. You are unique in the universe. There is only one of you. And there will never be another.