You’ve been creating travel-related content for a while or perhaps you are just getting started.
What is certain, is that you want to take your craft to the next level.
By now, you know for a fact that you’ll grow your brand much faster collaborating with fellow bloggers and industry professionals.
TBEX, also known as Travel Blog Exchange is one of the best ways to build relationships in the field. Attending the conference means surrounding yourself with hundreds of like-minded professionals and industry experts.
Your first TBEX experience should serve as a light bulb. One that inspires you to create more valuable content that will be distributed to a much larger audience.
I attended my first TBEX in the summer of 2016. The 3-day event was held in Stockholm, Sweden. I’d been hearing raving comments from other bloggers. I’d gone through the event schedule to see how packed the program was. So much so, that it almost felt a little overwhelming. I wasn’t exactly sure what to expect and how to prepare for it. I pretty much went with the flow. Knowing what I know now, I’d take a much different approach.
After all, attending a conference means investing in yourself and your brand. As with any investment, you’d want to maximize its returns. Doing so requires preparation and a solid strategy you can put into action.
If you are planning on attending your first TBEX, this guide will help you make the most of it!
The plan consists of 3 main sections. Actions that need to be taken before, during and after the conference.
Let’s get started on what you should do before attending the conference.
WHAT TO DO BEFORE ATTENDING TBEX
Set up notifications
You’ll want to stay up to date with the latest news about the event. TBEX prefers to use Facebook as their main channel of communication. So don’t expect regular updates via e-mail.
Get started by liking the TBEX Facebook page. Facebook’s algorithm is set up in a way that it will only show new posts to approximately 6% of a business page’s followers. That said, liking the page won’t suffice. Make sure to turn on notifications for the page. This way you won’t miss any crucial updates about the upcoming event.
Also join the official Facebook page of the conference you’ll be attending. Again, don’t forget to turn on notifications.
Head to TBEX’s website and check out the companies that are attending and sponsoring the event. Select the ones you are interested in working with. Start thinking about what you can offer them and ways in which you can collaborate.
The same goes for fellow travel bloggers and content creators. Hit them up through the conference’s Facebook page or on social media. Snapchat, for instance, is a powerful tool you can use to say “hi!”
Don’t be shy. Everyone’s aim is to learn, share and connect with other bloggers through the event. Just go for it. You’ll thank yourself later when you’ll have plenty of people to talk to on your first day.
Have a clear elevator pitch in mind
This one is crucial. No matter where are you are on your journey, you should know exactly how to position your brand and how to promote it. You should be as clear and concise as possible. Everyone, especially companies will be meeting hundreds of bloggers. And your “me” time will usually be limited to a few minutes.
Develop an elevator pitch that tells others in 30 seconds who your audience is, what problem you solve and how you help them solve it.
Create a media kit
To convince potential sponsors that your blog is the right investment for them, you will have to create a media kit.
Having a professional media kit that highlights your brand, your audience, and your reach will help them understand the value you are bringing to the table.
Include details about who you are, what your niche is, who your audience is, how you reach them and how you serve them. Also, add examples of previous blog posts and videos you’ve created. Make sure to mention past collaborations with brands, DMO’s and fellow bloggers. Add links to your social media accounts and emphasize on your reach (social media and blog stats).
Tip: Having a PDF version at hand will come in handy when going through the speed-networking event.
Attend pre-TBEX tours
Consider coming a day or two earlier to attend the pre-TBEX tours organized by local tour agencies. These excursions are a great way to learn more about the culture and history of the destination. More importantly, you’ll get the chance to network with fellow bloggers in a fun and laid-back setting. This will also help you get rid of the “I don’t know anyone” feeling. Quite the opposite actually, it’ll give you the bravado to reach out to anyone you want to meet.
Get ready to pack all your tools
First, make sure to have enough business cards with you. Personally, I find the practice of exchanging business cards quite old-fashioned. But that doesn’t seem to be everyone’s opinion. So for the time being, pack at least 100+ cards.
Tip: For everyone’s sake, keep it standard and simple. Trying to stand out with small sized square business cards usually doesn’t do the trick.
You’ll probably think of packing an Ipad, laptop or cell phone but it doesn’t hurt to have some pen and paper too.
Finally, don’t forget that you’ll be using your phones and tablets throughout the day. This also guarantees that you’ll be running out of juice pretty quickly. Just remind yourself to bring a power bank to cross that problem off your mind.
Choose your accommodation in time
I used to be very bad at this. My only criteria for booking a place (whether a hotel room or an Airbnb) would be solely based on price. This meant completely disregarding the accommodation’s proximity to the city center. Having had my share of trial and errors, I’ve since learned to negotiate deals on Airbnb that get me 50% off the listed price and work in collaboration with hotels that will capture the city’s cultural vibe.
In Stockholm, I had the pleasure of staying at Nordic Light Hotel. The hotel was located just a few steps away from the railway station that brought me from Arlanda Airport. It was also only at a 10-minute walking distance from the venue, which made it very convenient.
I’ve also always had a fascination for Sweden’s sense of architecture and minimalist design. The hotel’s impeccable interior decor and comfortable room setting was a match made in heaven for my artsy yet exhausted soul.
So all in all, take the time to find a proper accommodation that is located close to your venue and one that gives you a taste of your destination’s culture.
WHAT TO DO DURING TBEX
Dress in a way that conveys your image
Generally speaking, the fashion vibe is somewhat business casual. Or at least that’s how it was in Stockholm. I can imagine it being a little different at times where the conference takes place in other parts of the world.
The only thing to keep in mind is that you should dress the way you want people to perceive you. Yes, you’ll be meeting tens of industry experts and companies. You might even pitch them collaboration ideas. But if you are a GEN-Y hippie, backpacking with a 5$ a day budget, there’s no reason to wear a suit to impress people. Be yourself and wear something that will make you feel both comfortable and confident.
Take advantage of the TBEX perks
TBEX does a very good job partnering with local tourism boards to get you the best perks. During the Stockholm conference, we had been given city passes that gave us free access to many museums and local attractions.
The welcome bag also had a 72-hour valid metro pass that let all attendees get around for free.
Make sure to check the goodie bag. It’s actually got value!
Attend all the parties
Don’t miss the parties. The opening party is a great way to familiarize with the setting and form early friendships. These informal and alcohol induced chats will help you get your feet wet and feel comfortable. You might end up being exhausted but it will all be worth it.
Network in an efficient way
Everyone is there to meet and learn from one another. I can’t stress that enough. Also, most attendees feel just as you do. They don’t know many people and they are looking for friendly folks they can talk to. Don’t forget you’ll be surrounded by an enthusiastic bunch that shares the same interests as you do. So you’ll have many common interests and grounds to get started on.
Tip: If walking over to a group of people seem daunting; Start by initiating a conversation with people who sit right next to you during the sessions or people who are seated on your tables during lunch.
One-on-one networking is at the core of a successful TBEX experience. Connections you make in real-life have a much higher chance of turning into fruitful collaborations in the future.
This said, don’t be the person who goes on a business card delivery frenzy. It’s not a competition and there’s no prize to be won. Take your time to make real connections rather than distributing a maximum amount of cards. At the end of the day, people will throw out most of the cards and will only reconnect with those they’ve made real connections with.
Overall, be genuine. Listen more than you talk. If it’s your first TBEX, it’s likely you’ll benefit more from listening than talking. Also, people love talking about themselves and helping others. So chances are they’ll feel closer to you and will remember for how you made them feel.
Tip: Take a selfie with people you’ve talked to. This will be a great way for them to remember you when you reconnect with them weeks or even months down the line.
Tip 2: If you want to be certain about making a lasting good impression, help them connect with fellow bloggers and/or industry experts you think they can benefit from. They won’t forget it. Even better, they’ll start thinking about how they can return the favor.
Find buddies to share breakout session notes
Remind yourself that you’ve invested your time and money to be there. You want to get the most out of the sessions. That being sad, since there are about 5 breakout sessions running at the same time, you won’t be able to attend all of them. Unless you found a way to get Hermione’s time-turner necklace!
Pick the sessions you think you can benefit the most from, and find “buddies” that will attend other sessions. Following the sessions (or the event), share all your notes and takeaways from the sessions you both attended. This way, you’ll get to have a more comprehensive overview of all the sessions that took place.
Tip on taking notes: After taking your notes for the session, finish it off by adding one, most important takeaway you got out of the talk. This is a “hack” I use in every meeting/talk I attend to. Usually, you end up forgetting most of the details and are left with a vague memory of the talk. So remember one key element you can take away from each session.
Tip for TBEX organizers: How cool would it be to be able to login to an interactive platform (or a private Facebook group) where attendees can share notes, ideas and feedback about the sessions they’ve attended. This would not only benefit everybody, but it would add serious depth to the conversation, making it a lot more valuable for everyone involved.
Get results with your speed networking sessions
The TBEX event is the one place where you won’t have to hustle to find a representative to whom you can pitch your brand and ideas. Brands and sponsors are there for you. Literally. They attend the event to meet content creators they can work with.
That will actually be very reassuring for you to see. Many new bloggers have the tendency to wait for the right time to pitch or apply for certain opportunities. The earlier you start, the more headway you’ll have.
Don’t be scared to approach companies. If you are a beginner you’ll start by getting deals that are more suited for beginners. The more you grow your brand, the more leverage you’ll have to negotiate and structure better deals. But first, you have to start.
Start by logging into BloggerBridge and creating a profile. This is the platform you will use to set up speed networking dates. Quite honestly, the platform looks a little outdated, but you’ll have to work with what you have. Fill in your profile extensively and start requesting appointments. Make sure to send requests in advance before their schedule fills up.
Know what you want
Now that you are ready to meet brands, DMO’s and sponsors, remind yourself what you want and what you can offer in return.
By now, you should feel very comfortable with your elevator pitch. There’s no point in adopting a “fake it until you make it” attitude. There will be many different ways in which you can collaborate with brands. Don’t forget that established bloggers who have a renowned authority in their field will have higher requirements too. Try to leverage your flexibility. Think of creative angles you can take that will make you unique and memorable.
Talk to seasoned bloggers
Ask seasoned bloggers about their experiences connecting and working with brands. They’ve all been there and most have managed to land opportunities that have lifted their brand. Understand what companies are looking for. Learn about how bloggers manage their relationship with brands and sponsors. Ask them how they optimize their content to attract more deals.
There’s no better way to save time and effort lost on mistakes than learning from others’ experiences.
Take notes on key takeaways and steps you’ll take following the event. You’ll refer to your notes when contacting them back.
Show don’t tell
A mistake I see many doing is that they talk about themselves, way too much and for way too long. I’ve had company representatives complain to me about this trend. One after another, bloggers come and give a 10-minute monologue on who they are and what they do. Sure, you’ll have to present your brand and pitch it to them too. But instead of “telling” try to “show” what you’ve done so far, and the results you got out of it.
An Ipad, for instance, can come in really handy. Everyone talks but few people show. Show your content (video content is a winner) to attract their attention.
Listen and ask
The easiest way to work with a company is to ask: “What does it take for you to work with me (or content creators)?” and then execute perfectly on their answer.
Most bloggers “push” way too hard to land opportunities. Just ask what is it that they are actually looking for. Then go execute and show them.
By asking, you get a complete blueprint on the steps you need to be taking in order secure collaborations and partnerships.
Make it easy for them to say YES. Or even better, make it impossible for them to say NO.
Meet brands during downtime
Due to the high number of requests, it will be difficult for you to get scheduled appointments with every single company. If you don’t like to take NO for an answer, meet them during their downtime. This could be during or right after lunch.
Also, most company reps don’t attend sessions so consider skipping sessions to meet some of the companies.
If you feel like you connected well with a certain company representative, go and meet them more than once. It’ll help you build and strengthen your relationship.
Organize a meetup/mastermind
This one is for A players. Very few will act on this advice. But doing so will increase the value of your investment exponentially.
Hundreds of fellow content creators are already present and fully open to connecting, collaborating and learning from one another. By setting up a standard meetup, or even better, a mastermind on a specific subject you can maximize the value you get out of the event.
Set up a simple Facebook event for the meetup. Pick a location. For a standard get-together, you can choose a bar or café downtown. To set up a mastermind, you can book the meeting room of a co-working space. Then go ahead and promote your event on TBEX’s relevant Facebook pages.
This will boost awareness to yourself, as a content creator but more importantly, it’ll help you gain a much deeper understanding of the industry and its players. You’ll also be able to connect at a more personal level than you would in any other setting.
WHAT TO DO ONCE TBEX IS OVER
Attend a FAM trip (post-TBEX tours)
After every TBEX, there are sponsored FAM trips organized by local tourism boards. Transportation, accommodation, and activities are all comped. This way, no expenses are incurred by bloggers. These tours are a great way to explore the destination and to bond with fellow bloggers.
Make sure to apply to them in advance. There’s a selection process so you’ll have to be picked among other bloggers who will also be applying for the tours. There’s no guarantee. But what have you got to lose?
Get back to your notes
Exchange notes with other attendees once you are through with the sessions and get back to your notes while it’s still fresh in your mind.
Think of how you can apply the acquired knowledge to your work. Try to implement some of it to your routine as soon as you can. This way it’ll stick.
Follow up with your contacts
You’ve met tens of bloggers, brands, industry experts, DMO’s and companies. Now is the time to get back to them to strengthen your relationship and to pursue potential collaboration opportunities.
Prepare a 100% personalized message. Copy-pasting a template email, which you send to tens of contacts, has no value. You are playing a long game. You want to build long-lasting, valuable relationships. Keep it simple, but make it about them.
Be very clear and precise in how you met. Remind them about the conversation you’ve had and lead the conversation to a point where you can start discussing ways in which you can work together.
Tip: If you attach a personalized video to say “hi” you’ll be among the top 1% of people of reaching out to them. Very few people are taking their time to do anything remotely similar. This will definitely shine a bright light on you!
Stay in touch with fellow attendees
Chasing business opportunities is great. But that shouldn’t be your only goal. Don’t underestimate the long-term gains of having a solid network of real friends in the industry. In the long run, it will be worth a lot more than landing a short-term “gig”.
So hit them up from time to time. Given the nature of your passion, it’s likely your paths will cross again at some point.
Go for it!
It’s time for you to put your foot on the gas pedal and to get in high gear. Bank on the momentum you’ve created for yourself and take your business do the next level.
-Crafted in Istanbul, Turkey