Congratulations! You bought your first ticket to TBEX, you’ve made a promise (or at least a purchase) in the right direction to professional travel blogging. Now what? Now it’s time to prepare as you step up onto a metaphoric stage in front of all your peers. No pressure, none at all. Okay, now that your panic attack has subsided, let’s talk about how to prepare for TBEX shall we.
TBEX What is it Really?
So let’s talk about the focus of TBEX -a travel blogger conference designed as a learning, networking and partner environment for bloggers of all stages. This is a place where you can get good instruction from seasoned writers, bloggers and techies on what works and what doesn’t in the industry. For beginners it’s a must, for more seasoned bloggers, it’s all about the partnership opportunities. In their open marketplace you can meet potential partners for future work, but that all depends on how you present yourself. Again, why it’s so very important to prepare for TBEX!
Being a Newb is Tough
Let’s talk about new travel bloggers, affectionately referred to as “newbies”. You guys are like, “What the heck am I supposed to do, with this and that, and traffic that or social media this…” I know, it’s exhausting. Picture TBEX as a place for you to get those “this and thats” answered and maybe even having a brand like your brand enough to say, “Hey come on over!” It’s exciting, but imperative to put your best foot forward. All too many times I have seen bloggers show up and treat TBEX like a party session. Bad move.
So How do You Prepare for TBEX???
I am by no means calling myself a “TBEX expert” I’m simply sharing what I’ve seen to work with my brand and basic business networking fundamentals. Assuming you don’t have to prepare will be your first huge mistake. Assuming you only have to prepare the week before will be your second huge mistake. Assume you need to perfect everything on this list and you will be in good shape. Right down to the extra bottles of water. Behold, how to prepare for TBEX, the do’s and don’ts.
TBEX DO: Get yourself a logo shirt!!!
I can not stress this enough. When I found myself buried under a pile of business cards, guess who I remembered the most? The person with their logo on their shirt! Sadly, this was about 4 people outside of sponsors. This may not be for everyone, you may not care about meeting a ton of people because you’re already so awesome that you don’t need people to remember you… psssshhht. Everyone needs to be remembered, chances are you’re not a superstar public figure otherwise you wouldn’t be reading this.
I have too many connections.” -said no one ever.
Get a few logo shirts made, something that will work well under a blazer or alone, and show off your brand!
DON’T: Make any plans 5 days prior or 3 days post TBEX.
I made the mistake of booking press trips outside of Ireland after TBEX and missed out on some pretty sweet trips. I purchased my airline ticket in June (4 months out) having no idea that there would be press trips open pre TBEX. These trips give you a head start on building relationships with great people who can and will help catapult you into the professional blogger world. EVERY CONNECTION COUNTS!
Building a reputation for yourself is runner-up to building traffic, if not (along with quality content), the foundation for building real organic traffic. As Gary Arndt said to me at TBEX,
Audience, audience, audience, traffic will come once you engage your audience!”
Part of engaging your audience is by building face to face friends, fans of your blog, and interacting with them as you would your friends from back home. Take it from Gary. He’s kind of a big deal.
TBEX DO: Ask people about themselves.
What are they writing about? Where are they headed (physically and their blog)? What are they enjoying the most from TBEX? Try and nail down an intersection where you and that person can come together and brainstorm for the future. Great partnerships are made with bloggers. You all know about that monster DA thing (domain authority), you get it from other sites linking to yours. MAKE SOME FRIENDS!
TBEX DON’T: Show up empty handed.
If all you’re packing is business cards then chances are you’re going to get buried under the pile. Put together a press kit that showcases your badassery (new word alert) and make it accessible to viewers from your site. You’re also going to need a physical press kit to hand out to sponsors (the ones in the open marketplace). This thing needs to rock! I handed out burlap envelopes with my media kit in print last year and guess who was remembered. Guess who grew partnerships. What’s your skill set? Include a few of your favorite photos, an easy to read print out of stats and your brand concept, and make it fun. You need to be unforgettable. If you don’t know where to turn or how to make a media kit, maybe you’re slammed... Check out my friend over at TwelveSkip. She does super sleek media kits for under $30.
I recommend being sleek and having your media kit ready to distribute digitally. I love this company, they put my logo right on the flash drives and boom, I’m balling with the same game the PR reps are bringing. This makes you stand out, keeps your look professional and makes it easy for brands to keep your information and share it!
TBEX DO: Be prepared to network!
Make a list of people you want to speak with and know 3 questions you want to ask them. Maybe they are a speaker or another blogger, maybe they are CEO’s! Who cares! Get in there and make a great first impression. SMILE, MAKE EYE CONTACT, SPEAK LOUDLY and CLEARLY and USE INDUSTRY JARGON! Be sharp. Act like you know what the hell you’re talking about. You are part of the travel and tourism industry, I know that’s hard to commit to because we get to work from hammocks poolside and spend our lives in jeans, but we are! Hooray! Act like it.
TBEX DON’T: Spend your breaks on your laptop.
The time between breakout sessions are a great way to get noticed by sponsors (in your logo gear of course) and media outlets. If you’re noticeable you may get asked to be interviewed. “What do we win Bob? Publicity!” Any publicity is good publicity right? Get your name out there and create a buzz.
TBEX DO: Bring extra water.
Holy cotton mouth Batman! Let me tell you, when you’re drinking at night, eating a ton of extra sodium and yapping your way through the day, you’ll be lucky to pry your tongue from the roof of your mouth. You are going to talk yourself into a coma, that is of course if you’re doing things the right way. If you’re not talking to anyone, you’ve got a problem. Bring extra water. Be prepared. No one wants to see the travel blogger version of Cujo frothing at the mouth.
TBEX DON’T: Assume everyone you spoke to will email you.
Take the initiative and reach out to them first. You’d be in an amazing position if you emailed them that night before everyone else does. They will be dealing with a lot of people post TBEX, they being the sponsors and the bloggers. Be mindful of that, get in their inbox and leave the ball in their court. You may even get the opportunity to see them again before you go, making the connection that much stronger.
TBEX DO: Make a note on every single business card you get.
Take a sharpie and jot down something to trigger your memory of who that person is. I don’t care how good you think you are, 100 business cards later and you’re going to have mashed potatoes for brains. Trust me you’ll thank me later. If you can’t reach out to them that night, make sure you follow-up with them the week after you get home when things settle down a bit. Remind them of who you are (by using your note) and rock on!
And one for the road.
You have to know what your brand concept is before you do anything else today, and you need to say it in under 15 seconds. Once you’ve done that, go in the mirror and say it over, and over, and over again until it has become an extension of your mouth. Once you’re done there, look at all the sponsors you want to work with and figure out why they should care about your brand. No, the fact that you are a travel blogger is NOT the reason. Find out who their audience is and figure out what part of your audience intersects with theirs and BOOOOOOOOM, you will find the “sweet spot”.
TBEX is a lot of fun. If you prepare for TBEX and follow my do’s and don’ts you will be fine. I truly feel that the sky is the limit when it comes to networking. You are in control of your image. Do yourself diligence and be prepared and making a splash. Good luck future TBEX-ers!