14 Tips for Attending TBEX
I nervously stood in line for the catamaran that was taking us to the welcome party for TBEX Europe 2015 in Costa Brava, Spain. I had an eerie flashback to my freshman year of high school, standing at the foot of the cafeteria with my tray, not knowing where to sit or who to talk to.
I started to measure myself up against others. Was I over or underdressed in my khakis and casual white button down? Did I stand out or blend in too much? Friends who hadn’t seen each other since the last TBEX exchanged hugs around me. Did they know I was new? Should I introduce myself or let them catch up on the journey between?
I immediately recognized a few faces from travel blogs that I follow. They were mostly the A-listers like Derek from Wandering Earl, Jodi from Legal Nomads, and Gary from Everything-Everywhere. They were the cool kids, and they all knew each other, forming a little pow-wow. Should I introduce myself or would that be too fan-boy? Would I be immediately shunned for trying to enter a space I hadn’t earned a spot in yet?
I kept to myself and boarded the boat finding the first seat that I could with somewhat of a view. I began introducing myself to the people around me. I’m a nervous talker so that’s what I do in uncomfortable situations. The young lady sitting next to me was attending her first TBEX, too. The guy in front of me was an A-lister himself, although I didn’t know it at the time (Kash from Budget Traveller). We exchanged pleasantries and commonalities as the boat ferried us to the beach party.
As the night and weekend progressed, I found the experience similar to that boat ride. I had nothing to be nervous about. If you’re attending your first TBEX, you have nothing to be nervous about either. Nevertheless, here are some tips for attending TBEX.
1. TBEX is a lot like high school. Fortunately, navigating the crowds is rather easy.
You’ll find that travel bloggers will quickly segregate themselves within their niche – A-listers, budget, family, adventure, luxury, backpackers, food, etc. Reminiscing back to high school, that aspect of TBEX can be quite daunting at first when the various cliques were nearly impenetrable. You knew your place and stayed in it.
Not so with TBEX.
The cliques happen because these folks know each other from following each other’s blogs. For many, it’s their first time meeting in person. They’re just as nervous within the groups as you are on the outside. If you find yourself standing alone, introduce yourself into the nearest group. You’ll find everyone to be equally friendly.
2. Bring business cards and a tip on designing your business card.
Yes, this is a blogger’s conference, so it’s not quite as formal as your typical industry conference. However, you still need a business card since you’ll be meeting a ton of people. Travel bloggers and the industry reps that are present are all about networking. Without a business card, you’re at an immediate disadvantage. I suggest bringing about 250 business cards as a minimum. Trust me, you don’t want to run out.
I also suggest not getting too creative with the shape of a business card. Pick a standard sized business card. This is coming from the former industry side representative in me. Nothing annoyed me more at a conference than a business card that wouldn’t feed in my portable card scanner or fit in my business card holder. Any odd shaped ones ended up in the trash. You don’t want to end up in the trash.
Some things to include on your business card – a way to reach you and what you do! You’d be surprised how many cards only have social media and blog web addresses. A potential sponsor or client isn’t going to go out of their way to reach you. There are too many other bloggers they can work with instead. On the flip side, I found a card in my stash with just a name and an email address. This is buried in the hundreds of cards I collected. I have no idea who this person was. Their card was trashed.
3. Design and bring a media kit for your blog.
In addition to your business cards, you also need a media kit. It’s a nice touch for networking and makes it easier for sponsors to search for your site info and stats without logging into a computer. Your media kit should provide your bio, blog stats, blog niche, list of previous companies you worked with, etc. I went a little overboard and printed out 50 copies. This was way too many. 25 color copies is enough.
4. Skip a breakout session to meet with sponsors.
TBEX has some amazing breakout sessions. In fact, as compared to other bloggers conferences that I’ve attended, this is where TBEX excels. You’re learning from some of the best in the industry.
However, it would behoove you to skip a session, especially if you’re a newbie TBEXer. Your stats are most likely not high enough to land you a “speed date” with one of the more sought after tourist boards or travel companies. (Speed dates are a form of networking where bloggers have 3 minute dates with vendors.) Thus, you need to go out of your way to land time with them. During breakout sessions is the perfect time to network if you couldn’t land a speed date.
5. Stalk TBEX’s blog, Facebook page, web site, and Twitter feed in the months and weeks leading up to TBEX.
TBEX does a lot of things well. They put together one of the best blogger conferences I’ve attend with plenty of educational panels, ample time for networking with travel industry reps, and a few epic parties. They do not, however, communicate announcements, FAM trips, pre- and post- tours, etc to attendees well.
Daily, you need to check their blog, Facebook page, web site, and Twitter feed to see what was recently announced. If you don’t, you could miss out on FAM trip announcements, contests, or new sponsors announced to speed dating.
6. Don’t cry when you’re not instantly re-followed on social media.
I had someone come up to me and say, “I followed you on Instagram during the last breakout session, and you didn’t follow me back.”
I was actually paying attention to the presentation and taking notes. Sure, I may have snapped off an IG, but then it was back to business.
Want to take your travel blog to the next level and learn to earn Sponsored Travel? Sign-up to participate in my upcoming e-course, 15 Steps to Sponsored Blog Travel!
7. Quit blogger networking and start sponsor networking!!!
Yes, it’s awesome to meet travel bloggers in your niche. You may have formed a bond online already. Meeting in person is even radder.
But are you there to meet other bloggers? I wasn’t. I was there to network with travel industry insiders. There are plenty of tourist boards and travel companies present who have spent their money to meet you. Don’t be nervous. Approach them! You might land a freelancing gig or score a sponsored trip.
8. Don’t send out a form “nice to meet you” email to other bloggers.
True story. I’m on my FAM trip bus the day after TBEX. Everyone on our bus gets a ping on their phone that an email arrived. One of the blogger attendees sent out a generic “nice to meet you” email to everyone, asking us to follow his blog and social media.
His disingenuous tactic backfired on him. Everyone on the bus immediately unfollowed him on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, etc. It was a group effort.
Sending out a generic email like that shows that you don’t care. That you think you’re better than everyone else. If you collect another blogger’s business card, either send them a personal email or don’t email them at all. I collected close to a 100 cards and emailed everyone individually. It may have taken me months, but I felt it was important. It showed that I cared, which I did.
9. Just because I gave you my business card doesn’t mean I want added to your email list.
I can’t believe I even have to write this, but yes, several bloggers added me to their email lists after TBEX. Not only is this unethical, but it’s also illegal in many countries like the United States. Spamming others in this way gives all bloggers a bad name. Don’t do it.
10. Don’t sign up for a FAM trip, pre- or post-tour, or speed dating appointment and miss it!!!
This is rude on so many levels. It’s rude to event sponsors, it’s rude to the tourist boards going out of their way to show us their region, it’s rude to your fellow bloggers who were turned down for a spot. In Spain, it happened a lot. I understand that things come up. Tell someone though so the organizers can fill in your spot with another blogger.
>>> Just getting started blogging? Check out my guide on How to Start a Blog!<<<
11. Stalk sponsor tables during speed dating for missed appointments.
Read my note above. Bloggers will skip their speed dating appointments leaving sponsors sitting alone at their tables. I made many connections by sliding into those missed appointments.
12. Get over yourself with photos and be courteous to other bloggers.
Yes, there are a lot of bloggers on pre- and post- tours and FAM trips. And yes, we all have cameras and are taking photos. Take your photo and move on to allow others behind you to snap an uninterrupted picture. Just because your camera is bigger than mine doesn’t mean that my blog doesn’t deserve the same damn shot.
And don’t complain about the amount of bloggers on tours and trips. If you want a less crowded experience, go by yourself.
13. Get out of the way when somebody else’s niche is being featured.
I almost punched a blogger on my FAM trip, and I’m not a violent person. We were rearing the end of our last day with one more stop at a rice mill. I’m a food travel blogger so this was important to me. One of the photographers asked if we could skip the rice mill so that they could spend more time photographing a village.
I immediately voiced my opinion that I put up with him over the past few days hogging every photo opportunity. He was going to a damn rice mill for my niche.
You know what? He was the first one in there with his camera and the last one out, not caring that this was a good story for my blog. I’m still a little bitter.
14. Dress code.
I read some great advice when I was planning to attend my first TBEX: “Dress your brand.” (I wish I remembered where I read this to reference her blog.) Luxury bloggers should obviously dress up. Backpackers should dress a little more rugged. Since I’m a food travel blogger, I opted for more modern attire – jeans, trendy button down, and blazer.
The only caveat I would add to the “dress your brand” advice is to remember that you will be meeting corporate representatives from tourist boards and travel companies. You want to look respectful to be taken seriously. If your brand is rugged, you might want to substitute those cargo shorts for cargo pants.
Have an awesome time at TBEX 2016!
I’ll plan be at TBEX North America in Minneapolis and look forward to connecting with fellow travel bloggers there! Please don’t hesitate to introduce yourself if you see me in the crowd.