I attended my first WEVA Town Meeting in Arlington Heights, Illinois, on March 23, climbing aboard the WEVA train for the third stop of their annual five-city barnstorming tour. This was actually my second WEVA event—I attended WEVA Expo last August in Las Vegas—which means I was really going about things backwards. The not-so-subtle message of the WEVA Town Meeting is a resounding call to attend WEVA Expo, which is fair enough; after all, they just fed you a free dinner, and they've got a powerhouse program to promote.
If you've never attended a WEVA Town Meeting, you may not know that it's actually a two-part program, spread over two days. The heart of the event is the Town Meeting itself, a free-of-charge evening of good food, networking, and individual and panel presentations. This is where the real Expo pep rally happens, although there's plenty of valuable content in the meeting as well. Flanking the Town Meeting evening program is the two-day WEVA Institute, a collection of a la carte workshops (the vendor presentations are free, others cost $35-$50) that represent a sort of mini-Expo. Featured presenters include some of WEVA Expo's star attractions, including Creative Video Productions' Brett Culp and PixelPops' Lance Gray, who were both on hand for the Chicago event; the tour's remaining two stops, New York (March 31) and Las Vegas (during NAB) will feature EventDV columnist John Goolsby, Mark and Trisha Von Lanken, and others.
At the Chicago event, Brett Culp—who's become to the WEVA Creative Excellence Awards what Stevie Wonder was to the Grammys in the 1970s--gave an inspiring presentation on his favorite topic, inspiration. In his four-hour seminar, Culp discussed ways to bring new, invigorating ideas into all phases of videography, from image and marketing to artistry and production. "I get tired of people being embarrassed about what they do," said Culp at the Town Meeting. "We extend the memories of families. The video we do becomes more valuable to the people we make it for with every year that passes. So you'll have to excuse me if I sound a little passionate about wedding video."
Vendors on-hand for the Chicago meeting included Sony, who offered seminars on HDV for wedding videographers, and Adobe, whose presentations focused on integrating video editing and DVD, and making inventive and effective use of audio in wedding video post-production.
WEVA Chairman Roy Chapman kicked off the Town Meeting portion by drawing attention to a recent U.S. News & World Report article on the flourishing of wedding videography, hooked with the line, "Tell Uncle Bob to leave his camcorder at home." Quoted in the article was Illinois Videographer Association president Kris Malandruccolo, who was also a panelist at the town meeting.
"Wedding video has come of age," Chapman said. "The sophistication of videographers is so far above where it was five years ago. Changes are happening, and the major media is recognizing it."
The highlight of the evening program was a well-balanced "Special Bridal Industry Q & A Panel," which combined videographers Malandruccolo and Culp with three local wedding consultants and party planners, and the editor of Chicago Style Weddings, a leading Chicagoland bridal magazine. The panel examined the dynamic between videographers and the consultants/planners who provide invaluable referrals and event vendor support when the right networks are in place. Culp and Malandruccolo discussed how they work to build relationships with other area vendors (Culp by making lunch dates each week with local vendors, Malandruccolo by establishing herself in the Association of Bridal Consultants, for example), and the wedding consultants talked about the inventiveness they look for when videographers send them demo reels—essential stuff, if you're trying to build a client base in the wedding video business.
Other topics included the value of the Web as a marketing tool—"At this point, if you don't have video up on the Web, you're getting beat by people who do before a client even gets into your studio," said Culp—and the importance of aggressive marketing in a challenging economy.
For more information about the remaining Town Meetings on WEVA's schedule, visit www.wevatownmeeting.com.
Photo: David Chandler-Gick, a deveraux film (www.adeverauxfilm.com)