Takeaways from TBEX Asia
I never seriously considered attending a blogging conference before. I just didn’t have the time or quite honestly, interest. When I was working full-time it was definitely more appealing to use my PTO towards vacationing versus holing up in a conference room.
During our great escapade across SEAsia Eric mentioned to me that he was heading to Bangkok for TBEX the same time that I would be there. I’d heard of TBEX, Travel Blog Exchange, before as a being one of more legitimate travel blogging conferences and was immediately interested. With surprisingly little hesitation, I purchased my own ticket and began nervously scoping out the speaker list. I knew it’d be good for me to go but was anxious about meeting the massive congregation of bloggers also in attendance- many of which were full-time travelers and professional bloggers. Previously the only blogger-ish event I’d attended was a wine-filled ladies weekend in Paris with Jen, Alexandra, Melanie and Jordan. A far cry from a conference but sooo much fun. Ultimately though, I had a lot of questions about this big bad travel blogging world and knew the TBEX would be the quickest way to get answers.
Here’s what I found:
NICHE, NICHE, NICHE. To get ahead, to work with brands, to be successful, it’s important to have and know your niche. It was made very clear to us that generic references to being lifestyle or travel blog were useless. We were advised that it’s important to have a very specific target market, knowing their hobbies, gender, age, family unit, location, etc. (Google Analytics will helps identify this if you don’t know already.) Once you’re aware of this, I was told that everything from content development to hotel partnerships becomes much easier.
Virtual Assistants are fairly common. I didn’t realize this until after having several conversations with ‘big’ bloggers but it does make sense. For example, having a huge Pinterest following requires a lot of work and screen time- not possible for full-time travelers. Most full time bloggers have someone working behind the scenes to grow their various social media accounts. This actually made me feel a lot better because I’ve always been baffled as to how people keep up with it all.
It’s important to know WHY you blog. Better yet, it’s vital to consider why you share each and every post. Jodi from Legal Nomads gave a moving keynote speech encouraging us to share stories that matter or inspire. It incredibly thought-provoking. She shared notes from her speech if you want to take a peek.
Never ask for free things – trips, hotels, tours, etc. Just don’t. I sat in on a number of presentations from brands like Skyscanner asserting that they were sick and tired of bloggers asking for free things. Instead, put together the entire marketing campaign and then throw them your pitch. For example, let’s say that hypothetically you want to work with Diet Coke (bear with me here!). In your email to their marketing/media contact throw them a complete concept: I’m going to be visiting New York City. During my visit I plan to photograph some of the most famous streets and buildings from the Sex In the City show, using myself as a model. Since I’m a Diet Coke lover, I’d love to hold a can in my pictures and will tag it as #DietCokeInTheCity and shared with my XXXX followers. Yes, this example is ridiculous but hopefully you get the drift! Be as detailed as possible in your pitch and then see how you might be able to work together.
Absolutely everyone, the big guys and little, is looking for (better) ways to monetize. Blogging is not a lucrative hobby or job without seriously hustling. I’m not going to delve in further how to monetize because there’s a zillion other blog posts about this out there and quite honestly, I haven’t figured out the answer yet either. I just found it surprising to learn that so many others had the same questions that I did about the finances behind it.
The future of blogging? Many attest that with the short attention span of our society, Instagram is where it’s at. I even met a full time blogger who now only writes to her blog once a month and finances herself fully on Instagram partnerships. Others believe that vlogging is the future. I personally love Instagram but find vlogging a bit awk (like this time), so I have mixed feelings about this forecast.
Have an elevator-speech. I do fairly well off the cuff and figured that if asked I’d be able to quickly articulate The Overseas Escape and what the heck I was doing at TBEX. False. The first night I met an accomplished editor who asked, simply, “So what’s your blog about?” My response? “Well, I have a travel blog… I used to live in Germany <<oh my gosh what am I saying!?>> and I like to document and share my…travels.” Wow. I have a travel blog and I’m attending a travel blogging conference! What a clever intro! Fortunately the editor had a good sense of humor as I proceeded to make fun of myself for my reply but I could still sense that the opportunity was lost.
Was TBEX worth it? Sure. For me the most rewarding part of TBEX was meeting so many others that were like-minded in their interest in traveling and sharing their story. It was genuinely fun in a non-conference-y kind of way. I enjoyed the speeches I listened to and rubbing elbows with photographers and writers that I admire. I even snacked on chicken nuggets with Don George (one of the original writers for Lonely Planet)! To be fair though, by attending TBEX it means that you are, or nearly are, a full time travel blogger without the normal obligations of adulthood like rent or a 9-5 job. Since this isn’t quite me, I felt like topics didn’t always apply to my goals with this little blog. While I attended the conference in Bangkok because I was in the neighborhood, I learned that most others flew from across the globe to attend. I found their dedication and commitment to their craft incredibly inspiring.
1 | Don’t go without: business cards
2 | Dress: If ‘casual cocktail attire’ is a thing, then that. Dress to impress still applies. (Like any lady, I was overly stressed about this and was relieved to see everything from jeans to dresses throughout the conference.)
3 | Don’t miss: pre and post TBEX actitivies and FAM (familiarization) trips. Start following the TBEX Facebook page at least 6 weeks out so you can sign up for all kinds of free activities before and after the conference. True story, I got a 3 and half massage at a beautiful spa (see pic below) for free because I was a TBEX attendee. I literally took a bath with rose petals. Space is limited to sign up asap.
4 | Lodging: It’s a huge event, I wouldn’t worry about staying at designed TBEX hotels for the social aspect. TBEX Asia attendees stayed all over Bangkok.
Questions? I’ll continue to update this post with any other feedback requested! 🙂