Education: The X-Factor
There are people who KNOW and people who DON'T KNOW. The people who know will always have more power and influence than those who don't. Therefor, one of the best things you can do for yourself and your business is to constantly seek out new educational opportunities and sources of information. Here are a few different ways to go about expanding your education..
These days, every industry has a trade show and conference. For us photographers, the two largest tradeshows are Imaging USA (currently underway) and Wedding & Portrait Photographers International. If you can only afford ONE trip in a year and you've never attended these conferences, be sure to budget one into your calendar. Included in the cost is countless free workshops and speaker sessions. Add to that, many tradeshow booths are now also offering educational vignettes featuring key people in the industry during tradeshow hours. The education never ends! If you feel like you've seen it all when it comes to your industry's tradeshow - why not check out a tradeshow in another industry?! It's amazing how completely abstract fields and ideas can spark and inspire new ideas for your own business.
Workshops are some of the most intensive experiences you can have. They give you the opportunity to participate in real life experiences and one-on-one and discussions with the opportunities to ask questions and get feedback that aren't possible through DVDs and Books. Workshops also provide a community of peers with which you've shared an intensive experience, creating stronger friendships and a kind of community that you can draw on later if you ever need help. Because they are so intensive, there may be little time to process everything that's being given to you at once, so I suggest keeping a journal and referring back to it at a later time. Also, it's highly likely that not EVERYTHING is going to be important or applicable to you at that time- and if you're receiving information that isn't immediately important or applicable, than you're more likely to simply forget that information all together.
VIDEOS & BOOKS
Enter: educational books and videos. You can always go back to it. It's not a once-in-a-lifetime experience, and what may not be applicable to you today, may be useful after you've mastered some aspect of the process you set out to learn. Another benefit to videos and books is that they are often much less expensive than attending a tradeshow or workshop and you can read or watch them at your convenience in the comfort of your own home. There may not be the live support that you'd get in a workshop experience, but you may be lucky and have the author answer some of your burning questions over email. ;-)
MESSAGE BOARDS & BLOGS
The internet has revolutionized information sharing, so I would be a fool not to acknowledge its strong role in helping people educate themselves. Most message boards and blogs are free, but there are added benefits to paid message boards such as exclusivity, privacy, and an environment in which to establish a tighter community. Blogs are similar to books in that it's primarily a one-way form of communication, although there is an exchange of ideas through the comments section. Message boards are really the ultimate web 2.0 experience with many different users sharing their experiences and knowledge in a conversational format.
Whatever your source of education, I firmly believe that it is the x-factor that separates those who grow from those who simply go with the flow. The best place to look for educational materials and workshops is through your professional organizations and affiliations who often allow presenters to advertise. My best advice when deciding which workshop to attend would be to start with someone you trust and respect who offers something you're interested in. You're much more likely to get something out of it if you're excited about the person presenting the info. An investment in yourself will go a long way toward an investment in the future of your business.
Afterthought: Learning is twice as effective when you take the information you've learned and then SHARE it with others. Some of my best ideas have come from sharing what I know with others and receiving their feedback or advice on my ideas. If you're only absorbing information and not finding ways to share that information with others, you're only learning half as much as you could be learning.