Aside from the fact that I forgot to take my passport to the airport for my NYC-FLL flight…
…which resulted in me feeling like an absolute idiot and going through some rather intimate security checks at the airport, everything went fairly smoothly for my first TBEX conference.
But, with TBEX round 2 coming up in a few months (bring it on, Stockholm!), there’s definitely a few things that I’ll be doing differently this time around.
I’ve been to a few conferences before, but TBEX was unique. As most travel bloggers are scattered around various points of the globe, we don’t often interact with each other in real life situations. Shoving us all into the same room is not something that you can easily prepare for.
So, if you’re planning on attending this travel blogging conference for the first time, take a few tips from my past experience! Here are 7 mistakes I made at my first TBEX conference, and how to avoid them.
The TBEX Facebook page
1. Not setting up notifications for TBEX Facebook posts
Did you know that Facebook’s algorithms mean that if a business page posts an update, it only goes out to 5% of its followers? So you can imagine that my act of liking the TBEX Facebook page was not very helpful for receiving information from it.
I figured that most of the info on TBEX news and events would come to me via email, but guess what – it didn’t! Most of the information for the conference came through the TBEX Facebook page, and as I didn’t have notifications set up, I missed many crucial updates.
This time, I’ve set up notifications so that I don’t ever miss a post, and I’ve also joined the official Facebook group for the Stockholm conference (and again, turned on notifications for this group). So far, these have made a huge difference to how much I know about what is going on.
2. Not having a killer elevator pitch
I’d thought a little about my elevator pitch and had come up with a vague idea of what I would say, but I wish I’d thought about it more. When you’re in a room full of bloggers, ALL of them will be asking you “What’s your blog about?”. It’s crucial to have a good answer.
There’s no point saying “Oh, it’s just about my travels, mostly to Europe…” because that answer is as interesting as you telling them about the process of you shaving your legs that morning. So before you go, put together an attention grabbing 30-second spiel on your blog, its niche, and your readers.
3. not Doing enough to stand out
I read that some bloggers get custom t-shirts printed with their blog name to wear to the conference, which is a fabulous idea… except that my figure is not even vaguely flattering in tees, especially if there’s text written along the bust which will get awkwardly stretched out as soon as I slip it onto my torso.
Instead, I slipped one of my business cards inside the plastic sleeve of my ID tag. This meant that when anyone looked at my tag to see my name, they would also see a little piece of my branding. It kinda worked, but this time I think I can do better.
At our on-site registration, we were given a welcome tote filled with a few gifts and goodies from the conference sponsors. Many attendees carried around their totes throughout the entire conference.
With this in mind, I’ve just ordered my own branded tote from Printful, which will hopefully look much less ridiculous on me than a branded tee, and which I can also use to cart around my gear! Genius, right?
The Everglades excursion before TBEX NA 2015
4. Not leaving enough time for sponsored trips
Due to my lack of Facebook notifications, I didn’t realise that there would be excursions and fam trips (ie. familiarisation trips, which are usually sponsored by a local tourism board) available for conference attendees to apply for until very close to the conference date.
I managed to get a spot on 2 half-day excursions, but I wish I’d planned some extra time to apply for some of the longer TBEX fam trips.
This time, I left a few days open either side of the conference in anticipation for the extra activities.
As a result, I managed to secure a spot on a day trip to Sigtuna, sponsored by Visit Stockholm and scheduled for the day before the conference. I was also offered a spot on a 5-day trip through the Finnish archipelago (which I’m incredibly excited about!) starting the day after the conference, sponsored by Visit Finland.
5. Staying in an awful AirBnB/hostel
Now I’m no stranger to hostels, and I know that some of us need to be super stingy with accommodation, but TBEX is one of the times where I wished that I’d splashed out a little.
I mentioned in musings on my time in Florida that I had a pretty awful experience with an AirBnB hostel/house. At the time, I couldn’t afford anything better as we were pretty tight on cash after our move to USA, but the place was filthy and filled with a bunch of guys who spent their entire days hogging the lounge area to play video games with the curtains closed and a musty smell in the air.
My conference experience would have been more enjoyable if I had stayed in a place where I could come back and chill in between conference activities. I’m still travelling on a budget, but this time I’ve booked myself a single room at a hotel very near to the conference so that I have somewhere nice to relax.
6. ASSUMING THAT BLOGGERS WOULD BE SNOBS
I’d read accounts of other people introducing themselves to well-known bloggers at past TBEX conferences and having them be rude or just turn away without a word. How awful!
Knowing this made me expect that some people would have superiority syndrome, and as I’m not a naturally confident person, this probably made me wary about approaching bloggers that I recognised and some of the speakers.
Luckily, I didn’t have anyone act like a snob to me. In fact, everyone I met was amazingly nice. Now I wish that I hadn’t read that before I went as I probably would have been more confident about approaching people.
7. Printing media kits
I had heard that printing out a few media kits might be a good idea in case anyone asked for one, so I spent a large chunk of time putting together a kickass media kit and then printing out 10 copies to take along.
At the end of the conference, I returned to New York with all 10 copies. Even though creating a media kit is definitely not a waste of time, I think that printing it out was futile. I gave out plenty of business cards, but I felt weird about handing out my media kit to people I just met.
Some people might disagree with me on this one, but I think it’s probably better to reel off your stats from the top of your head and then email your media kit to someone if they ask for it.
Now it’s true that I made a few mistakes the first time I attended TBEX, but I also did a few things right!
1. Taking a large stack of business cards
I’d already designed myself a business card to take along with me to events such as this, which was a good thing seeing as I ended up handing out around 15-20 of them over the conference!
If you don’t have business cards yet and are planning on heading to TBEX, get them now. You don’t want to be in the situation where you didn’t get to order them in time.
2. Looking sharp
Don’t get me wrong, I don’t wear heels (like, ever), own any designer handbags, or wear flashy jewellery, but I do like to think that I dress in an acceptable manner for any occasion.
This is definitely a great thing when you’re networking at a conference – especially if you’ll be speaking with companies for potential sponsorships. The conference could be considered kind of like a casual job interview, so you don’t want to be caught in dirty sneakers and short shorts! Keep it sharp, friend.
3. Attending every one of the events
I am definitely classified as an introvert and therefore tend not to socialise with groups of people more than one or two times a week, so you might imagine that gathering energy to go out every day and night for 4 days straight took a monumental effort on my part.
But I did it, and it was worth it, even though it resulted in my imminent collapse from exhaustion afterwards. I felt like all those events and parties were where I made the best friends, where I did the best networking, and where I had the most fun.
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