If you follow me on Facebook or Twitter, you saw the incredible time that I had at TBEX in Minnesota just a week ago. Well it’s time for TBEX to grace the posts of my blog. This first post is all about things I wish I would have known (or benefited from learning!) at my first TBEX. And trust me, I've gathered quite a few TBEX tips. I know a couple of you are headed to TBEX Stockholm in about a month, so definitely take a peek at this one!
…What Is TBEX?
Let’s back up a bit before we get to the TBEX tips. "What the heck is TBEX?" I hear you ask. Fast facts: TBEX stands for Travel Blogger Exchange. There’s a conference in North America, Europe, and Asia every year. And heck, you can go to all of them if you’re so inclined! It’s a place for those in the travel industry to come together, make connections, and talk about all things travel.
So yeah. It’s basically the dream.
It’s also a time to learn about the host location. I gained so much exposure to the Twin Cities area that I have a newfound appreciation for Minnesota. TBEX and host tourism boards do a fabulous job with this. So if you see TBEX is in an area that sparks your interest, get on it.
Is TBEX Worth It?
I flip flopped back and forth numerous times about whether or not to attend my first TBEX. I don’t know if you’ve gathered by now, but I am extremely protective of my money. I was originally planning to go to TBEX in Stockholm this year, but it just seemed out of my budget. Thanks to a birthday Southwest gift card and an amazing friend with an offer for a place to stay…I was able to make it happen! And now that I’ve been to one, I think I’m addicted. It is definitely worth the money for me. In fact, I’ve already tried to rationalize heading to Stockholm or the Philippines.
So TBEX can 100% be worth it, but I really think you’ve got to do some work on your end too. TBEX and co can set up a great experience, but if you’re going to get absolutely everything out of it, get ready to keep reading.
TBEX Tips to Make You Look Like A Pro
Prepare: TBEX Tips for Before You Go
Create Your Elevator Pitch
There’s a reason I’m putting this tip first. Do as I say, not as I do, and write out a bit of an elevator pitch before you go. During a three-hour layover in the Chicago airport is not the most opportune time in the world to do this, but it can be done. Everybody and their mother will be asking you what you do and what your blog is about. You want to be prepared with something to say other than, “Well. I blog about travel!” Try to set yourself apart at least a tiny bit more than that.
The reason why you might want to do this before the airport? Practice saying it out loud! As you say it, you’ll realize what sounds like you and what isn’t quite right. You can also practice saying it to willing friends to get their feedback. Heck, say it in front of your mirror so you just get comfortable speaking the words! And if you do wait until the airport? Just whisper it to yourself and ignore your fellow passengers questioning your sanity. But do it before you get to the conference!
Make A Trip Out of TBEX
This is also a pretty important tip in the planning department. Sure, the conference is a two-day affair, but there is so much more than those two days. They have tours before and after the conference that are totally included in your conference registration. These tours give you the chance to explore the area a little more, instead of just sitting in conference rooms during the day. They also allow you to interact with other attendees on a much more personal level. There’s nothing like seeing a familiar face once a giant conference starts!
Super-tip: Join the Facebook group for the TBEX even that you're going to. That's where most of the updates pre (and during, now that I think of it) come up.
Choose Where You Stay Wisely
As a traveler who loves AirBnB, I kind of just assumed that not everybody would stay at the hotel where the conference was taking place. It was a smidge out of my price range and I was seeing a friend anyway, so it was never really an option for me. But, WOAH. I was blown away by the number of attendees that stayed at the hotel. There are pros and cons for each, of course.
If you want to stay at the hotel and don’t mind paying a bit more, you seriously have all of the convenience factors. Do you need a nap? Or just need to take a minute to yourself? Boom - you’ve got your room. All of the transportation to the pre- and post- tours, as well as the parties, is designed with a hotel attendee in mind as well. It’s so easy! And cost doesn’t have to be a huge factor if you split a room.
If you stay elsewhere, sure. You’re going to have to factor in some travel time. And for some of those tours, you might have a really early start. In Minnesota I rented a car, which totally ended up being less costly than staying in a hotel. But I also couldn’t enjoy more than a drink and a half at the parties. It wasn’t a problem for me, but is definitely something to think about if the metro system isn’t convenient for your location. I don’t know, I liked having a little buffer between “conference mode” and “relax mode,” but you should definitely take some moments to think about it. If you DO happen to rent a car, don’t forget to ask the hotel to validate your parking so you don’t have to pay!
Business Cards are a Thing You Should Have
I read a couple of posts before I left suggesting business cards, and I was lucky to have mine on the way from Moo cards.
Sidenote: Moo Cards are my FAVORITE. And I can 100% tell which business cards in my “other people” stack are Moo Cards because they feel fabulous - and I only paid for the original stock. Do yourself a favor and grab some - get 10% off your order here!
As for how many you want to order? I saw suggestions of up to 250, which seems just a tad excessive to me. Granted, I’m not a giant blogger, but still. I placed an order for 50 and thought it was the perfect amount. I didn’t give them out willy-nilly, but gave them to people I truly connected with and brands I met with. You don’t want to be caught empty handed, so don’t go and give them all out the first day! If 50 makes you nervous, I think 100 would be more than fine.
Also, you’re going to be getting a lot of business cards in return. Pick up a pen and jot down one thing you learned, chatted about, etc. on their card before you tuck it away. It makes remembering everybody a LOT easier, that’s for sure.
During: TBEX Tips for While You’re There
Be a Real Person - But Not A Cliquey Highschooler
First and foremost, let me talk about being friendly. Luckily, you’re with a group of people that loves to chat about travel. So even if you’re going at this solo, you WILL find people to talk with. Don’t worry. If you’re at a session, reach out to the people next to you and introduce yourself. You never know who you’re sitting next to!
I know as the conference goes on, you’re going to find a group that you really mesh with - I know I did! But what I really loved about all of us is that we didn’t spend every single second together. Network the heck out of this conference! Meet all of those new people! Even if you do stick with your group, don’t you dare exclude somebody from your mingling. This might just be the anti-high school in me, but let’s all be open to each other, okay? Luckily, I would say 98% of people I met at this conference were really good at this.
Also a quick note about big bloggers: you all have those bloggers you adore and totally love, I know. Don’t be afraid to say hello! They are, in fact, people too. But you can still say hi! This is coming from a piece of algae in a giant ocean of travel blogging: you got this! Let me give a quick shoutout to Jackie for not thinking I was a total crazy person when I fangirled pretty hard told her how much I loved her and her podcast.
Also something you should throw in your bag? Snacks. But you know I’m a snack kind of girl. TBEX has a lot of opportunities to eat, but it does seem to be a mixed bag. Lunches I felt were always substantial and I was fine there. Coffee was abound, but the breakfast was lighter. Which means BETWEEN breakfast and lunch, I could have really used a snack. I’m not saying TBEX starved us by any means, but I’m apparently a very needy eater.
Also, a quick note on dinner: you might want to eat something small before the parties. Some parties had a ton of food (read: food truck paradise), while some were definitely lighter fare. I never had any issues, but one of the parties allegedly ran out of food. Snacks or first dinner to the rescue.
Schedule Your Time Wisely
TBEX, I love you. But you are NOT built for planners like me. It is NOT easy to find information on the sessions very far in advance. I ended up taking it day by day. But if you can manage to find it, check out who the sessions are more geared towards. There are some sessions more focused on brands wanting to work with bloggers, bloggers wanting to stand out, intermediate bloggers looking for some income, etc. And if you get stuck in a session that’s not the right fit for you, just leave. But maybe don’t sit in the front and do that. Because that is ANNOYING.
Super-tip: with all of your new friends, you can split up the sessions and share notes! The grad student side of me really loved this.
As far as the location of events, download the Eventbrite app because it’s going to keep all of your tickets in one spot. Not that you actually needed your tickets to get into any of the events, BUT all of the address info is on Eventbrite. TBEX actually didn’t tell us about that night’s parties until the day of. So if you like more information than less, keep it organized on there.
Go to All of the Parties
Speaking of keeping track of all the details…RSVP to those parties and put them on the list.
I know, I know. Conferences are exhausting and you just want to sleep. But let me tell you something, TBEX really does their parties right. We had an opening night party, a first day party, and a closing party. We somehow managed to have complete free-rein over an amusement park in the Mall of America one night, take over a night club the second, and have a food truck and riverboat paradise the last night. You don’t want to miss out on these.
Meet With Brands & Sponsors
Okay, okay. But if you really want to get asmuchasyoupossiblycan out of this conference it can’t be ALL fun and games. Different brands and sponsors will set up tables for you to come by and chat throughout the conference. They also have what they call “speed networking,” which is when you sign up for 8ish minute slots with a brand to chat. Going into it, I had no intention of speed networking because I didn’t think any brand would want to talk to the blogger behind this little old blog.
DON’T BE LIKE ME.
Speed networking dates are set up through Blogger Bridge. Go on and sign up for it when TBEX e-mails you about it. Fill out your profile, put in all of your social media, etc. Then research some brands that will be there and request appointments with them and/or shoot them a message. If they don’t pick you, don’t worry, you’re not out of it yet. The sponsor tables are set up during all of the sessions as well. So use those friends for some notes and take some time to stop by the tables you’re interested in during a breakout session. Although if you are really shooting for one specific table, be warned: sometimes they are not manning the table even though it is set up! This is why you should 100% at least try to set up a speed networking session.
Regardless of how you meet: make sure to follow up and say thank you!
Don’t Forget Social Media
I know, I’m telling bloggers not to forget social media. That might be like telling you not to forget your nose when you leave the house. But remember to spread the love on social media throughout the conference. I personally loved checking out quotes from various presentations I didn’t get the chance to go to. And also, lots of people put a lot of work into making sure you have a fabulous time. So let them (and the world) know where and why you’re having a fabulous time.
— Amanda Folk (@SunshineChasing) May 31, 2016
There are hashtags for the event, of course. TBEX does a pretty good job of posting them during talks so you have easy access to them. But I had a little spot in my notebook where I recorded all of the hashtags I came across during the conference. It just made things a bit easier!
There’s all of it. My not-so quick and dirty guide to making the most of your TBEX experience. You are going to have a fabulous time, I’m sure. I tried to go in with absolutely no expectations so that I was really able to just soak it all up. I have to say, that was an excellent way to do things.
If you’re on the fence about TBEX or putting yourself out there at another conference, DO IT! And then come back and tell me all about it. As I said, I’ve already thought about when I’m returning to TBEX. And actually while I was still at TBEX, I signed up for another travel blogging conference: Women In Travel Summit. I am SO excited. And yes, definitely addicted.
- Have you attended a blogging conference before? What about TBEX? Any TBEX tips to share with us?