I follow a lot of bloggers on social media and was constantly jealous of all of the networking and conferences I saw in the DC area. One day I googled blogger networking opportunities in my area and the first link led me to Travel Massive.
An upcoming event was near with a special meeting with Scott Eddy and Zipkick. I immediately signed up as I am very familiar with Scott since we follow each other on social media. I arrived at the event in Sept 2015 and everyone was nice and it was a great networking time. I learned about a lot of tips and shared some of mine as well. All of the members mentioned going to TBEX in October. I thought it sounded like a cool idea but with little time to prepare I shrugged it off.
Captured by @scotteddy at the Atlanta Travel Massive Event
The month leading to TBEX I kept thinking about it. I started off with ordering cards just in case I decided to go. I watched the flights and saw a few for 180 or less RT from Atlanta. Finally less than a week before the conference I booked my flights and paid for the conference. I was initially afraid because I was not sure the conference was worth the money/time. I was worried I waited to late and missed out on a lot of the pre tours and fam trips. Boy was I in for a surprise.
What is TBEX?
Travel Blog Exchange: is the world's largest gathering of travel bloggers, writers, new media content creators, and social media savvy travel industry professionals.
I arrived two days early and attended the Travel Massive event at the W.
I was worried I would not know anyone as I came solo. While waiting in the line I met a few great people and even chatted with company representatives. It was a cool event with Silent Disco and networking held in the posh Living Room of the W. It was refreshing to connect with other bloggers and learn about different niches.
Pre Bex Tours:
Since I registered so late I wasn’t able to sign up for the pre-bex tours. I wanted to go on the foodie tour but there was no space available. I waited around while I charged my phone and met a fellow blogger Pat. She has been to TBEX before and offered great advice. I also met April of Love Lust or Bust. By the time we finished chatting it was time for their tour and I tagged along to learn about the Black History of Fort Lauderdale.
Each evening there was an event. It gave attendees an opportunity for more networking. There was great food and each venue was stunning. From the cool activities at the Museum of Discovery and Science to the Diplomat hotel which led to an impromptu photo shoot with my new travel blogger and photographer friends.
Captured by Lora Wood of shotsfromtheroad.com
From morning snacks to lunch and dinner provided. TBEX made sure we did not go hungry. There was food for everyone. As someone who doesn’t eat red meat and pork I was pretty pleased and full. :)
The actual two days of the conference were filled with awesome inspiring keynotes and breakout sessions. The sessions were so informative from how to pitch, to how to increase traffic to your blog and how to productivity tools. I left with tons of items to work on. My only complaint is that I didn’t get to go to all of them. There were so many great breakouts going on at the same time.
An opportunity to meet with representatives from airlines, hotels and DMOs. I did not get to make any appointments due to my late registration but I was able to chat with various airlines, Tourism Boards and hotels during breaks and some I met during evening receptions.
What I learned:
1)Pack Light! I received so much great “swag” that I was way over my limit for a checked bag coming back. I received a lot of information about destinations and hotels and tours. I am currently using the books to plan my 2016 travels.
2)Travel Blogging is a business. Initially when I began I just wanted to share travel tips and deals with others. Before the conference and during this conference I became exposed to affiliate marketing and sponsorship opportunities. I learned a lot about how to increase my influence and traffic and how to capitalize from it. I believe TBEX speaker Chris Ducker said it best to not just blog for free airfare or hotel.
3) Branding is key! I read the blog post about how to prepare for TBEX and 3 key things were mentioned for first timers; business cards, media kit and pitch. I sat down and realized I have 0 collateral for my blog. I designed business cards on Vista Print, used a template for a media kit found by googling and developed my pitch. Own your niche and pitch and be proud of what you’ve accomplished and the strengths you bring to the table.
4)Travel Bloggers are really cool! This was my first time meeting a lot of bloggers at once. I realized I already followed a lot on social media, so it was great to see how down to earth everyone is. I learned a lot from everyone and shared with everyone. It was great to just learn about all the niches and tips.
5) Understand your audience from location, to demographics and be able to translate how your audience can fit with the company or destination you want to work with. Be able to give a quick example of how you worked with similar companies, DMO’s in the past.
6) There are a ton of networking and development for travel bloggers. It’s best to look at reviews of a conference and past agendas to determine if you want to book in the future. I would go back to TBEX but maybe an international site. I am also interested in the New York Times Travel Show and the Blogalicious Conference in 2016.
7) Have an open mind. Network with everyone. Don't write a company or blogger/photographer off because you don't see a benefit. Build relationships.
All and all it was a great learning experience. I can never know enough about travel blogging. It has been an awesome journey. It was inspiring to see key bloggers share their personal stories about why they travel and lessons they learned. For my fellow and aspiring Travel Bloggers comment below with some tips that have helped you along the way or any questions.