Gary Pageau of the Dead Pixels Society talks with Calvin Harrell, board member, and Coree Cooper, SPAC gal, about the SPAC 2023 conference. In this episode, Harrell and Cooper talk about the features and events that make the SPAC conference different.
School & Sports Photographers Association of California (SPAC) is a group of independent volume-based photographers committed to the continued growth of the industry. The non-profit group holds an annual conference and trade show each January at the South Point Hotel Casino and Spa in Las Vegas.
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Produced by Gary Pageau
Edited by Olivia Pageau
Announcer: Erin Manning
Erin Manning 0:00
The Dead Pixels Society podcast is brought to you by Mediaclip, Advertek Printing and Independent Photo Imagers. Welcome to the Dead Pixels Society podcast, the photo imaging industry's leading news source. Here's your host, Gary Pageau.
Gary Pageau 0:18
Hello again, and welcome to the dead pixel society podcast. I'm your host, Gary Pageau. And today we're joined by two guests. We're joined by Coree Cooper, the famous SPAC gal. And Calvin Harrell of My Legacy was a board member of SPAC, and they're here to talk to us about SPAC 2023. Hello, everybody. How are you today?
Calvin Harrell 0:40
Hey there, how are you, Gary?
Gary Pageau 0:41
Doing great excited to talk about SPAC, probably one of the most most packed events on the professional photographers schedule, because there's a lot there. For those who aren't familiar with SPAC. Can you talk about the focus of the conference? And who ought to attend?
Calvin Harrell 1:03
Wow, that's a question that I think both of us might have the tag team on. The focus of the event is large, not even large, but volume photographers. When we speak of volume, we speak of large numbers of subjects going through a process in a controlled environment. It's designed for schools, and sports and dance and a variety of other wherever we can find those large bodies of people that we can photograph for pay. That's who the audience is.
Coree Cooper 1:33
And basically, we are the world's largest high volume photography conference. The organization is a nonprofit group that has started in 1957 55. And it is been around for a long time, all of our all of our board of directors, all of our educators, our volunteers, I'm patient, basically the only one who keeps the train on the tracks. So it's a wonderful community that's really growing over the last few years in demographics. It's for people who are new to the volume business, maybe they've been doing boutique photography, or wedding photography, but now they want to transition into preschools or church directories, or any of those things. And it's an opportunity to get engagement. It's gonna get education, and then enrichment because we have a great trade show with all of our key business partners in the industry.
Calvin Harrell 2:33
And I think I think that you nailed it when you talked about the education component, because while we have an extraordinarily strong social program, you know, the meals are wonderful, the educational opportunity for someone that's new to the business, and the cost that we have for our for our conference, because we keep things at a minimum is absolutely staggering. Nothing was available like this 25 years ago.
Gary Pageau 2:57
So first off, when is the conference, and where is it at
Coree Cooper 3:03
Quarry run that one are January 25, through the 28th and 2023. And we're at the south point in Las Vegas, which is only about a mile or two or about a 15 minute Uber ride from the strip or the airport. And the Conference Center is within the hotel, the casino the arena. It's a really large, large
Gary Pageau 3:27
establishment and there's really everything you want on site as someone who's been to the SPAC conference, that is one of the appeals of it is you can leave if you want to, but you don't have to if you want to see a show, or get a nice dinner, or just hang out at a at a drinking establishment and network, there's really tall they're,
Calvin Harrell 3:50
surprisingly surprisingly, some of us have checked in on a Sunday and not left the building until the following Sunday. It's like where it was sunshine. It comes through the windows. That's it. Well,
Gary Pageau 4:03
if you're going to attend a golf outing, you have to leave the building. Is that right Cory? Because that's a new
Coree Cooper 4:10
our golf tournament we tried last year, we kind of revisited an old idea brought it back. We weren't sure how many people would want to come in another day early on Tuesday. That's the day before the conference starts and golf but we filled all 44 spots, vendors who were excited to participate and they were all ready to have some fun it was a shotgun start there is an additional registration. We have not selected the course yet. However, as soon as we do that with our golf chairs, which is Mike norkin and Chris Garcia. Great guys. As soon as we get that already. We send that information out to our attendees and our vendors as well.
Gary Pageau 4:54
So you recently put out a call for speakers and looking at your I'm sure you haven't got the whole program finalized. But there are there any themes or trends that from an education standpoint, you're going to accentuate this year.
Calvin Harrell 5:12
I don't know, if we're really, I don't know, if we want to define it as an accentuation of any one sector, our concern is that we give a much more broad educational understanding of what it takes to enter each of the various arenas that we have access to as professional volume photographers. So it is not a singular focus. And it's one of those things where while we have great people that are speaking, they're all practicing professionals that are in the field getting the work done, or their teams are, and they bring to the table a different type of educational experience, shall we say, we don't have a highlighted speaker, you know, a big name speaker that comes in from the photo world to tell you about what they're doing. Because oftentimes, we find, through experience, there are people that have access to certain clients that can spend a ton of money, which allows you to do a ton of different things, whereas the vast majority of don't have access to those types of clients.
Coree Cooper 6:16
Sure. Okay. Now, I would say that we obviously strive in person pretty main tracks, schools, sports business, which would handle like marketing, hiring employees. And then we have demos. And then we also have like the, we call them the other categories, dance photography, photography, church directories preschools, because it's a little bit different than some of the other tracks. But I would have to say, cow, but I really think that this year, after having our board meetings in our discussions and looking at the amount of proposals we got, we got well over 70 proposals for education. So we have really access to top notch information, a lot of current updated information about new shopping trends and marketing ideas. But we're also going to make sure that we don't lose sight of some of our longtime SPAC members, we want to be able to give them something that they walk away, you know, they don't need a school's one on one or sports one on one or maybe a demo on posing, but maybe they need some high level things. So I'm very excited when we can talk about our pre conference tracks. But I think we're identifying a track really specifically for those CEOs of their business. Okay,
Calvin Harrell 7:40
sure. And you know, one of the things that she spoke about people that have been coming for a long time, and one of the things that virtually everyone will tell you is we get information, certainly in our classes, but we get so much information at a table when we sit for lunch, write a table when we sit for dinner at a table with, you know, breakfast, or even in the hallway. There's so much engagement and interaction. And it's a open and welcoming environment. It's not I have not found it to be cliquish. Everybody is accessible. And we're just it's a sharing environment, which is very unusual. When you come right down to it. I think there's a recognition that while we are all in competition, we have to collaborate, not collide.
Gary Pageau 8:26
Yeah, that was one of things I ran into actually, I ran into some folks actually from overseas at the shows because there is an international presence. And they were and they were very much impressed. I think one of them gentleman was it was there. It was his first time. And he was very impressed with the sharing. And he was looking back to like, Hey, how can I get more people from the UK to come to SPAC because they just didn't have that there? And he was looking to grow that?
Calvin Harrell 8:51
Yeah, well, you know, a couple of years back pre pandemic, there was actually a spin off to a was it's back Europe, or something of that nature. And we brought together people that had never even spoken with each other before they actually came to the came to the same conference. And guess what they found out? We got the same problems as they do. We need to be in competition with our problems not with each other. How do we collaborate and work things out? You know, in a more malleable manner. Right?
Gary Pageau 9:24
So let's stay on the the social side of it because one of the things I think is interesting is you've got you know, the usual you know, dinners and lunches and things networking opportunities. You also have what I think is kind of interesting, the hospitality suite parties on the schedule, and also a big kickoff social mixer. So you've really built in a lot of time for people to socialize, which is an A lot of times I've seen conferences, they kind of overscheduled the education and don't even have time for people to network.
Coree Cooper 9:56
We always keep in mind the first e which is engaged. Engagement is our first key and it's there for a reason. And that's because without that, nothing else can happen. Right. So we do have the kickoff party on Wednesday night. We also have the Thursday night social event, which is changed throughout the years. We always keep it new last year was dueling pianos. And it was a huge success. We also have roundtables built into our schedule, which are really like good roundtable discussions with lead topics. That's engagement. Again, meals I you know, when I first got involved with SPAC I wanted to see what the other competition was doing. And the first thing I noticed immediately was SPAC was very, very important to them that they sat down and ate meals together as a family, and they did not want to lose that. So I found out quickly that these guys you know, steak and salmon, it's a real dinner. It's not just a piece of toast in the morning and a cup of coffee. It's a it is food to keep you sustained so that you can then engage, educate and enrich your business.
Gary Pageau 11:11
And tell me a little bit about the crams awards luncheon because I tell us a bit about you know, who is named after? And because Gary Kranz of course, is a legend, and what's that? What that does highlight the profession. What's that?
Calvin Harrell 11:27
You know that that comes with some emotional stuff that it pulls up. You know, when you when you speak of somebody like Gary Kranz Gary Kranz was a photographer in the school photography industry in the Los Angeles market. He'd gone through successes and failures in business prior to, and then he went into the school volume business, and he found significant and extraordinary success. He built his business up through hundreds and hundreds of schools. And he sold the LifeTouch a number of years ago, and he passed last year. So that's part of the reason we renamed the luncheon in his honor. Gary, was instrumental in our sustainability. A number of years ago, we had a structural change in the people that were eligible to run or to, to work as board members. And there was some, shall we say, some ways that they chose to do business that did not result in profitability or in sustainability. And so Gary asked me, he said, Calvin, I'm going to go back in as president, you come in as secretary treasurer, and let's go ahead and run it. Because this is not working, and we'll be dead in less than a year. We came back on board. That's when I think we brought Corey into the mix. And we said, You know what, we're not gonna be able to run it where we want to make it happen. So I have somebody that I think can do this. And that's when I introduce Cory and, and the rest is history.
Coree Cooper 12:56
What we cover on Thursdays luncheon is we do have a photography conference contests, every Yeah, yeah, different categories, people can submit their photos. And at that luncheon is where we recognize our award winners and give them their kudos, bring them up to the stage, we also award our golf winners. They're a little tokens, and it's actually a plated seated awards luncheon. It's very nice. And obviously we named it in Gary's honor, because it was just so fitting.
Gary Pageau 13:30
So so so just to kind of review the format for someone who hasn't attended, right. So you would come in on the 24th. If you weren't golfing, there's pre conference activities, but that's a separate registration. So SPAC proper from an educational standpoint, starts Thursday the 26th and goes through Saturday. So I get that right.
Coree Cooper 13:53
A little bit off. Okay. So basically, the best way to lap lay it out is Tuesday, you want to golf, you need to be there Tuesday, Wednesday, if you want to do a pre conference track, which is a one day all intensive, you stay in the same track. For a majority of the day. It's an intensive class. There is an additional registration for
Calvin Harrell 14:14
that, then what what's the cost of that registration? Coree
Coree Cooper 14:18
Calvin Harrell 14:20
Thank you. Okay.
Coree Cooper 14:21
Then at four o'clock is when we do our kickoff party. We first start with taking our first timers. So if you are a first timer, don't be scared. We have a social chest for first timers. You'll get to meet our engage advisory group play a little networking game. So that way when the rest of the doors open and the kickoff starts at 430 You already have a friend. kickoff party is just a really great time to get those conversations out of the way. Hey, how are you? How is your season, blah, blah, blah. So that way Thursday morning, you can Wake up fresh and ready to hit classes at 830. Okay, so run primarily all day on Thursday, Thursday afternoon is the awards luncheon, then we turn to class, then we have our great roundtables, and then we break for the afternoon around five o'clock. But that's when the hospitality party start upstairs in the luxury suites. And that's from five to seven.
Gary Pageau 15:27
Okay. And then, and then Friday is,
Coree Cooper 15:32
for me, 830, except for at noon, is when trade show is open. So we serve lunch in the middle of our trade show, as well as an also in another dining room. And that is when trade show is open, we do not run education to compete with our trade show, we want our vendors to have their one on one time, we don't want our attendees to ever have to choose between going to a class and getting education or engaging with a vendor. So and also during that time period, there's smaller rooms near the tradeshow room, and a lot of our vendors rent them out to do demos, because a lot of them are, it's not just picking up a camera and holding it might be a software demo, right. And that is when the side show schedule is also running. So you can get a demo on something. Isn't that great?
Calvin Harrell 16:27
It's a lot, it's so much that we've recommended for a very long time, you know what, you can come by yourself. But the investment you make in that second person is going to bring you so much greater value, right? You know, so bring it to say, and this is not about you know, we want more people attending because we want as many individual separate entities attending is possible. It's about the quantity and the quality of information that you'll be able to bring back is just increased when you have a partner. And plus,
Gary Pageau 16:56
you can divvy up the sessions, right? You don't want to go you don't want to be sitting in the same session with your coworker. Because, you know, this way you can hit on so because as I understand it, your your sessions are not available afterwards, right? I mean, you're correct,
Coree Cooper 17:09
correct? No. And I can touch on that. Oftentimes people ask me, Why Cory? Why aren't they recorded and put online? You guys could make more money, right? The reason is, is our speakers are volunteers. They're volunteering their time. They're also volunteering their knowledge. And I'm not sure they would want or be as open is if they gave all the secrets to their business away. And then it was up on the web for anyone to see it. Right. So to keep in getting good information, we allow our speakers decide what they would like us to share. And then we just move from there.
Gary Pageau 17:47
Well, plus, I mean, you know, there's there's been a lot of studies in the event space about just how, how much how many times when people actually go back and look at those things, if they don't have the interaction there. And the ability to ask the speaker a question or chat afterwards. I mean, it's, I've come to the conclusion that there's not a lot of, you know, real real value worth the effort unless you said you're able to charge board or you know, recompensate, but I think in your format, it would be kind of a dead end.
Coree Cooper 18:22
I agree. I agree. And I really love the integrity of that idea, too.
Gary Pageau 18:28
So talk a little bit about the trade show. It's a big ballroom style, it's not it will make your feet hurt too much. But you know, there's so which has its advantages. So it's, it's, it's kind of convenient for the exhibitors because they don't have to lug a bunch of crazy stuff around. But there are some decent sized booths and and you're in there. You know, tell me a little bit about it, like the type of companies who were there maybe some of the major folks and how many vendors you'd expect to see.
Calvin Harrell 19:01
Cory You have the specs on all of that.
Coree Cooper 19:03
I do I do. Okay, so basically, yes, our tradeshow is in the ballroom. So it's carpeted. It's not an exhibit all that echoes. It's actually piping drapes, so it does look very professional. And we have our booth set up in a beautiful way so that we can also have our family meals in the center of the trade show. We have about 99 vendors who have been with SPAC for many years. I'm proud to say that we have a waiting list to get into our trade show, which is exciting. But we might have some movement this year we've had some couple of some companies merge. So therefore we are going to have some new space available. Some of our big hitters that everyone wants to know on the equipment and it's Panasonic, it's canon. It's Fuji it's some of those with some of the big names I always think that but then we got the software side the photo latency Image quick the E commerce the photo merchant the photo day got photo all of those e commerce platforms there as well as yearbook companies studio source district, I mean entourage I could go on. We cover all aspects even down to some gear, you know, tether tools is there. Sony is there, we'd have all the big hitters, we have everything that you need to name, streamline your business and get you in touch with the best resources as well.
Gary Pageau 20:32
So you've also got scholarships available for attendees? What how? How does that work? How do you become eligible for a scholarship?
Calvin Harrell 20:45
So go ahead, Coree
Coree Cooper 20:47
how you can tell them about the worthiness of it, Calvin, because you obviously are a hero of this one. But basically, our scholarship application opens up the same day as early bird registration, that link will be on our website, it will be on our Facebook page, you'll find an email, I'll make sure you get it. Any person who has never attended SPAC qualifies, we give you a free registration, you do have to cover your own travel expenses. And basically, you get a free pre con as well as the whole everything. And what I want to mention real quick here is our ticket price includes everything, the meals, the awards, lunch, and everything. The only thing that would be extra is your pre conference track if you chose one, or
Gary Pageau 21:36
golf, and of course, your hotel, your lodging hotel,
Coree Cooper 21:39
your travel expenses, but other than that your ticket price will cover all of our events, people will say is it extra for me to get the one on one coaching? Nope, it's not extra. It's all included.
Gary Pageau 21:51
Okay, so Calvin. This sounds like the scholarship is near and dear to your heart. Can you tell us a little bit about where that came from?
Calvin Harrell 21:57
I think that it came from a it ended up with a name that we applied to it from a longtime historical family. The Strawbridge family lost a son. And we decided to name it after after him. But it came from the premise that we have to engage and encourage people to come into the industry to understand that, you know, it's one of those things where turbulence in the economy of any industry, in any industry, or in any part of our world causes friction, which you have to capitalize on now that capitalization can come monetarily, or it can come in in education and generating membership. And so we took the opportunity and said, Wait a minute, why don't we give away scholarships to some people. And it started out with a very small number, maybe four or five scholarships that we were giving. And the number of applications was extreme, or by our measure was extreme, because we had never considered it and we had never heard of any other organization doing it. Right. And so we said, okay, what are the parameters that we should establish, and it became one of well, then they should never have attended SPAC before, it needs to be a new offer. It shouldn't be somebody that's already in, in, in in the industry of volume and having success. But let's help them move down the path, we can reduce their their overall cost to come. They pick up their own personal expenses. And this is how we give back. Additionally, shall we say how we give back to the industry?
Gary Pageau 23:30
So you mentioned early early bird dates what when when it when are the early bird registration start and what are the other kind of cut offs or decision dates that need to happen?
Coree Cooper 23:42
So basically, Early Bird means this is your lowest price that we offer is actually below our cost per person. So I always like to mention that early bird opens on August 15. And it runs until October 31. Halloween, the ghost okay. It'll appear just like the ghost. It's $329 $329. Okay,
Gary Pageau 24:09
but there's more. No, that's at a rate.
Calvin Harrell 24:12
What is that? You know, you're talking about $106 $108 a day. Yeah. For your for your meals and education meals? Yes. What?
Coree Cooper 24:20
Yeah, right, then the price does go up to 399. And that runs all the way until our room block ends, which is January 3 this year. Okay. So you have until then to make if you had not made the decision early on that you knew you wanted to go or you need to work on your schedule, you can still get in for 399. Then after that it goes up to 499 and then on site because yes, some people just don't plan ahead and they walk up to the counter. It is 599 if you walk if you walk up to the counter, we'd like to to be a little prepared. We'd like to give you some information. Again $75 for a pre con there is but limited spaces on that. So as soon as those classes fill up, they do clothes. Other than that, I mean, seriously, we even have a room discount block. So
Gary Pageau 25:12
I was gonna ask about that what is what is the discount there because the South Point is huge. I don't know if it's ever sold out. But um, but but you really want to take advantage of the room block.
Coree Cooper 25:23
Exactly, because I believe our room during the week day is like $75 and 129 129 for Friday and Saturday night. So that's really, really reasonable a discounted price. And we do have a room block, and we do sell it out every year. They won't give me any more rooms at a discounted price. So again, planning ahead is your friend right now? Well, good. Oh,
Calvin Harrell 25:48
Gary, before you go further, I just want to say something for on behalf of all of the organizations that put on conferences, and whatnot, and that's for the attendees. conferences have to make guarantees to hotels, for rooms, the number of rooms they will occupy. It is it's it's let's play in the sandbox. Nice. You know, we recognize that people might want to stay in a hotel over here or over there. But when you stay at the hotel that the conference is that you help to ensure the success of the conference. So do your part. And we'll continue to do our are we asked you and we request that you do your part, not only for SPAC but across the industry, it doesn't matter what the conference is, if they have if they have hotels that are listed as these are conference hotels, please use those hotels first and foremost.
Gary Pageau 26:41
Yeah. And in the case of the South Point. Like I said, like we said, everything's right there. Yeah. I mean, you could probably rack up the difference if you're saying at the budget hotel, or whatnot, probably with your Uber.
Calvin Harrell 26:56
That is correct.
Gary Pageau 26:57
So in my opinion, there's no advantage to saying anywhere else. But that's just me.
Calvin Harrell 27:01
That yeah, we're on the same page. We say that's what we've designed. Well,
Gary Pageau 27:08
thank you, Calvin and Coree can where can people go for more information about the SPAC conference,
Calvin Harrell 27:15
we have a website. It's SPACYU.org. That's S P AC, dash, U S A dot O R G.
Coree Cooper 27:29
And we will be seeing a brand shiny new look to our website on August 31. So I'm excited the same time that early bird registration launches, we got our new website going up. And then some of the information is there not the detailed schedule of who's speaking at what time about what yet, that comes in about a month or two. But you will get lots of information, you can always email me at SPAC s PAC, Gao ga firstname.lastname@example.org, I can add you to the email list. So that way, you're always the first to know anything.
Gary Pageau 28:07
Well, thank you folks for your time. Looking forward to checking out the new website. And seeing you in January at the South Point.
Calvin Harrell 28:15
We really look forward to seeing you Gary.
Coree Cooper 28:17
Yes, Gary, if you're not doing anything Tuesday at two o'clock Pacific Time, feel free to jump on our Facebook page and join us back chat. We have a weekly broadcast, we talked about various topics.
Gary Pageau 28:30
Yep, that's right. I forgot to forget to mention this back tech, which is the way you engage with folks every week. Thank you much.
Coree Cooper 28:37
Calvin Harrell 28:37
Thank you. Yeah, bye bye.
Erin Manning 28:41
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