I often receive solicitations by email to work for foreign clients coming into town for an event they are hosting. The type of events range from a few hours of a global sales meeting to full multi-day conferences, and every kind of networking / cocktail / gala / awards reception you can think of in between. I’ve noticed that many of these out-of-country clients work with very specific mandates and shot lists, sensibly, since they are typically the same kind of organizations that mount events worldwide and need to ensure a consistent quality across their global portfolio of events.
Here are some tips to make the process smoother and easier for event planners looking for creative contacts in a city they are unfamiliar with:
A little known fact about Montreal, aside from being home to beautiful architecture, parks and people, is that it is an increasingly popular destination for scientific and medical conferences. Often these gatherings take place in downtown hotels and span 2 to 3 days stuffed with keynote addresses, breakout sessions, buffet meals and cocktails at the end of the day. Over the past few years as an event photographer in Montreal I’ve had the pleasure of covering a number of these events, including a recent conference hosted by NAEM on environmental, health and safety and sustainability management issues aimed at its professional members. The keynote address by John Englander, author of High Tide on Main Street: Rising Sea Level and the Coming Coastal Crisis made for some sobering morning discussion, but as a speaker, John Englander managed to convey a sense of urgency and provide a compelling call to action, without paralysing his audience with an overdose of doom and gloom. It takes some skill to bring a drop of humour into a conversation about catastrophic flooding and his book, which all members were given a copy of (including this lucky photographer) makes for gripping reading that anyone who cares about their children’s future should take the time to read.
As a photographer covering these events, I am often hired by clients from other provinces in Canada, the USA or further abroad who may or may not have much experience with Montreal. I greatly value and appreciate these clients and take my role seriously, not just as their dedicated photographer whose job is to capture key moments throughout the day but also as someone who lives and works in Montreal and knows the city very well. I am always happy to chat with my clients about good places to visit on any off times during the conference and can provide restaurant and going out recommendations.
The photos from these conferences (typically annual or quarterly gatherings) are often used for the organizing committee’s websites, brochures and email callouts to help spread the word about next year’s event. As an experienced conference and trade show photographer, I get that the images have an implicit marketing and promotional purpose without being overly obvious about it. My mandate is often to capture genuine moments of connectivity and networking (ie. people handing our business cards or gathered together in impromptu conversation), as well as the standard presenter shots, photos of awards handed out, rooms full of attentive participants in working sessions or breakout areas, and any end-of-day cocktails where guests get a chance to mingle and get to know each other socially.
I’ve been working for over 15 years as an event photographer in Montreal and appreciate this growing trend of Montreal as host city for an increasing number of out-of-town professionals (many of whom speak little French) who choose our city as a place to run their conferences. Montreal has much to offer a visitor, including fantastic restaurants, a lively nightlife and well-functioning, commodious event spaces most of which I have worked in throughout the years. If you are planning a conference in Montreal in 2014, don’t forget to ask your photographer for tips and advice – you may be surprised at how much information you can gather from just one phone call.
It’s also great to get feedback from clients who send me emails after the event like this one:
Thank you for doing such an amazing job! These are, by far, the best images we’ve ever received.