Walking into a conference hall full of people you don’t know or have only met via the internet can be overwhelming and kind of intimidating. It may be awkward and uncomfortable at first, but once you start meeting people, the rest is history. There are a lot of elements that you can’t prepare for with a large-scale conference like TBEX, but from one newbie to another, I will do my best to make sure your first time at TBEX is an enjoyable one.
My first experience at TBEX, having nothing to compare it to, I felt like they really knocked it out of the park. Overall, it was a very positive, inspiring experience and should you choose to attend in the future, I hope you will have an equally if not more amazing time.
People from all over the United States and even some international destinations gather for a weekend full of networking and panelist sessions to learn all about the art of travel blogging. You will most definitely leave with new friends of all ages that share a love and passion for travel. With such a diverse crowd, you’re bound to encounter some quirky, nice, fun, and laid back folks who may just be starting out or have managed to make a name for themselves in the industry through consistent hard work and relationship management. It’s a refreshing feeling to put names with faces of all the people that inspired you to travel in the first place. It’s truly an environment where people put their egos away and really help each other grow personally and professionally.
Depending on location, cuisine options will vary. Opening night of the conference will typically include the most exquisite meal and desserts so don’t skimp out. Throughout the conference itself, food is fairly standard, sandwiches, hotdogs, chips, coffee, water, soft drinks, nothing too overly fancy. There are vegetarian options as well to accommodate for different appetites and diets. Obviously, when you’re on your own for meals, you have more freedom and variety in the foods you choose.
Because TBEX is typically hosted at the beginning of the summer (June), you’re guaranteed to have nice weather for outdoor minglings and activities. Again, depending on where you are, you may encounter some rain or cool nights which can provide some much-needed contrast to the hot summer days so don’t forget your sunglasses and umbrellas.
The Dress Code
Whether you’re coming out for the weekend or on your way around the world, dress for all occasions. Business casual is the standard because you’re going to be meeting a lot of people and you want to make a good first impression. Step it up a notch to let people know you’re a professional blogger. However, many do show up in much more informal clothing such as jeans which is completely fine.
Bring a pair of jeans, a pair of shorts, and a couple of t-shirts or tank tops for post-conference festivities. Girls, pack a couple of nice blouses, casual dresses or skirts, and leave the heels at home. My suggestion would be to bring some flats, flip flops, and a pair of tennis shoes. Guys, jeans and a nice shirt will work for you as well. Plaid and polos were very popular this year. Most important thing is not to over-think it and make sure you’re wearing something you feel comfortable in. With everything going on throughout the weekend, attire should be the least of your worries.
The Elevator Pitch
When you’re talking to people, be prepared to open with where you’re from, what your blog (name) is, what your twitter handle is, and what your blog niche is (if you have one). Other questions to be prepared for include where you’ve previously traveled, where you’re going in the future, where you work/worked, and a bit about your hobbies and interests. It’s important to make sure you’re having two-way conversations so anything someone asks you, get the answer to the same question from them. It’s a golden opportunity to learn about one another and start building those relationships that could pay off down the road.
Most important thing to keep in mind is to keep your spiel short, and as the conversation progresses, recount engaging stories from your travels to let your personality shine through! If you’re speaking with a company rep, tell them a bit about how they would benefit from partnering with you in the future, and don’t forget to follow up with them after the conference.
The conference schedule usually consists of an opening keynote from TBEX founder, Kim Mance, and other TBEX staff, 2-3 sessions each day broken up by a long lunch period, networking time, and a closing keynote & thank you that includes information on the next TBEX conference whether it’s in the U.S. or Europe.
Upon arrival of on-site conference registration, you will be greeted with a swag bag full of goodies and information. In addition, many industry experts, PR reps, and companies are available to talk to and potentially partner with.
Throughout the conference, it is completely acceptable to use your computers and smartphones to document the weekend in real time via social media. Take pictures, post your photos on Facebook, share your thoughts and ideas on twitter using the #TBEX hashtag, and be sure to write about all of your amazing experiences. Travelers are a community who thrive on sharing the most up to date information so keep up with other bloggers who sit in on different sessions to get their personal take on the weekend.
For the most part, the specific sessions are very beneficial, and they run an hour long. You may have one or two that end up being a bit lame, but you can always take away something valuable. Sessions typically cover topics such as web design, writing content, videos & podcasts, working with brands, press trips, legal issues, building an audience, engagement, email marketing, and much more. While some topics may overlap, each has something unique to offer.
During the sessions, be sure to take good notes and use them to make improvements towards your blog, content, and future goals.
The companies at TBEX tend to be really forward thinking (or at least on the verge of being so), travel related in some way (obviously), and embrace bloggers as an invaluable resource. They’re there to talk to YOU so don’t be afraid to start a conversation to get your name out there. Who knows what it could lead to? Here is a brief list of companies who were present at TBEX12:
- G Adventures
- Southwest Airlines
- Tourism Boards (Canada, Nevada, Switzerland, Berlin, Jordan, Croatia, Italy, and many more)
- Room Key
- Hartmann Luggage
The Activities & After Parties
TBEX hosts a couple of shindigs at the end of each day at local venues, and even individual attendees host their own meetups. Be sure to look for event invitations on Facebook. Whether it’s a casual dinner out, bar crawls, or a rodeo, there’s always something to look forward to after a formal day of sessions. It’s meant to be a more relaxed atmosphere where you can get to know others on a more personal level rather than talking business all the time, and that’s where the real magic happens.
- Bring your business cards
- Follow up with everyone you meet (yes, everyone) via email even if it’s just to say “It was nice to meet you.”
- Stay hydrated
- Don’t sweat the small stuff
- I 100% guarantee that your face will end up in photos, videos, and blog posts so SMILE BABY SMILE!
- Above all, have fun!!!
For more information on TBEX, visit their website. Early bird tickets go on sale about a year before the scheduled conference date with public ticket sales following shortly after.
No matter what your status is as a blogger or industry expert, it’s an incredible learning experience. Even if you can’t go every year, it’s definitely worth checking out at least once. Good luck and happy blogging!