After the social whirlwind that was my first TBEX conference, I have to say that I was pleasantly surprised. Driving over to Keystone with no (to low) expectations, I honestly wasn’t sure how I would feel on the return trip on Sunday.
Tired. Exhausted. A bit queasy.
That’s how I felt when I headed home.
I have to admit, I approached TBEX like a new kid looking for a seat in the cafeteria: “I’ll just come in quietly, survey the scene and set down my lunch with a group of normal looking folks.”
I didn’t realize how many people I would know–or, as is the case in the world of social media and avatars–how many people I felt like I knew.
Tip 1: Just because you follow a person’s Twitter feed, blog and/or other outlets and you immediately recognize their face, they don’t necessarily know you. Reign in the effusion when meeting Beth Whitman as she has no clue who you are.
The sessions, for the most part, were interesting but not necessarily helpful to me, an extremely new travel blogger. One exception was John O’Nolan‘s session on Advanced Web Design: How to Build the Best Blog on Earth. Not necessarily because I now know how to have the most awesome blog ever, but for the insight into audience behavior and some tools and references that I can use right now. Plus, he has an accent.
Tip 2: It’s okay to get up and leave a session if you’re not getting anything out of it. Even if you have friends in the session that will see you sneak out. Life’s too short for meaningless (to you) sessions. Go take a walk or find someone cool to talk to.
I also quickly realized, though it wasn’t a total epiphany, that I know NOTHING about being a travel blogger at a travel blogging conference.
Sure, I know the basics: I like to travel. I have a blog. Good enough, right?
In the first session that I attended, the nice man to my right said, “so what’s your niche?” It wasn’t a pick-up line, it was a serious question. For which I had no answer.
Tip 3: Do your research. Be prepared. Think long and hard before you stride into the conference. Pitching yourself is no different than pitching a client, but just as I have all my talking points and interesting stories set before I attend any other conference as a PR representative, I needed to do the same for TBEX.
TBEX was, for me, a terrific learning experience and a great way to connect and reconnect with friends and colleagues. I have approximately 47 sites bookmarked on my computer, 72 articles clipped to Pocket and Evernote and a head full of thoughts and ideas that I have to organize into a manageable plan.
I have some new goals, thanks to TBEX. I also have new allies and mentors that are willing and able to help me reach them.
If you’d like to read other thoughts and comments on TBEX, check out the following posts:
Three Questions Travel Bloggers Must Address Now by Matthew Barker of HitRiddle
Travel Blog Exchange Conference Grows Up by Jen Miner of The Vacation Gals.
Travel Blog Exchange 2012 Recap Vlog by Rob of Stop Having a Boring Life