Takeaways from TBEX Asia

TBEX Asia - The Overseas Escape-3

Takeaways from TBEX Asia

TBEX Asia - The Overseas Escape-2

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.

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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. 

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TBEX BASICS

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! πŸ™‚

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  • TBEX sounds like a very interesting and informative experience, but to be honest I wonder if attending would leave me more inspired to taking blogging to the next level or rather just encourage me in my current decision to not pursue blogging professionally (no matter at which level) at all. I mean, I find the blogging world and what other people do to make this their living fascinating and I give major props to anyone who manages to make it their career, because I can only assume how much work and dedication it takes, but for me personally there seem to be so many things involved that don’t really interest me.
    Do you feel as if TBEX changed your goals for your blog? Since I’m curious how it would affect me, I’m also curious how it affects other people! πŸ™‚

    • Mel, your question is a great one- of course. In all honesty, my own goals with this blog swung wildly during the conference – at one point I decided that I wanted to work on the marketing team for Skyscanner and give up this blog all together, then the next minute I was thrilled to share a bunch of ideas on here, and then after Don George’s speech I decided that I wanted to be a professional writer. It was definitely a mixed bag. For now I’m hoping to move forward with sharing a ton of back content on the blog while Dan sorts his career and ultimately our final destination.

      • What you’re saying makes so much sense! I think that when you’re around inspiring and passionate people, who clearly love what they’re doing, it’s easy to get swept away by their excitement about their job! I mean, when I talk to someone who is really stoked about his work in the law, I’m suddenly super stoked to become a lawyer as well. And when I read about someone who has turned his love for travel photography in a career, I’m suddenly super stoked about that as well! And the list goes on! πŸ˜‰ This makes it so hard, though, to figure out what you yourself are truly passionate about! But I’m sure you’re on a good path! πŸ™‚

  • This sounds like a great experience, and these are awesome tips for when I finally get to go to a blogging conference – hopefully soon!

    • Absolutely, dear! Please let me know if you have any questions about conference stuff when you’re ready to go to one! I’m happy to help you prep! πŸ™‚

  • Excellent recap! It was great to meet you in Bangkok. I’m at TBEX in Florida this week – totally different feel. Really good brand presence here. Off to a pre-bex trip now!

    • Oh yay, have fun! It was great meeting you, Eric. Glad you’re no longer just a virtual friend and know me well enough to make fun of me! πŸ™‚

  • HandLuggageOnly

    Cool! Sounds like it was a good time then. Might have to make an effort to attend the next one. πŸ˜‰

    • Yep, it’s somewhere in Scandinavia next summer so you guys should absolutely go! πŸ™‚

      • HandLuggageOnly

        Sounds like plan!

  • Thanks so much for recapping it for those of us who’s never been to one of these blogging conferences! I would be so nervous to mingle with pro-bloggers, and I would definitely feel like the smallest fish in the pond. I really admire those people who are so dedicated to making blogging their careers too. I just blog as a hobby and I don’t have plans to monetize it. Maybe some year, I would consider attending one in the future if I happen to be in the same city as one!

    • Absolutely – I felt exactly as you described with a lot of ‘what am I doing here?’ moments. I totally understand. Attending a blogging conference is definitely a great kick in the pants for your (our) blogging hobby so if you’re looking to make something more of it, TBEX is a great place to start. πŸ™‚

  • TBEX has been on my radar from the first time I saw it as a travel blogger. I’ve always wondered if it would be a good thing for me to attend, even as a new travel blogger. But, like you, I’d only go if I were in the area. I’m not even close to a full time blogger so it was great to see the conference from your perspective! I would 100% have to work on my elevator pitch!

    • Absolutely, my dear! I’m happy to pass along my experience. I think most bloggers are exactly like us, so no worries. Maybe we should host on own virtual blogging conference? Ha

  • Thanks so much for the recap! I’ve been wondering what TBEX is like, since there’s one happening in London next year. I’m not sure I’m there with my blog yet though.

    • Fortunately admission isn’t all that much (less than $200 USD for the weekend, plus all the free tours before and after) so maybe it could be a game time decision? Let me know if you have any other questions. πŸ™‚

  • TBEX has been on my radar for a while and I would love to go to a future one so thank you for sharing your recap!!!

    • absolutely, dear! glad to share some of the the knowledge I got from the weekend. Have you ever been to a blogging conference? I’m sure you have! πŸ™‚

      • I have been to a blogging conference (2 or 3 of them) but I would really like to go to a travel conference because I think it would be more specific to what I blog about instead of hearing speakers share about photographing food πŸ™‚ I looked up TBEX 2016 and saw that the one in Europe will be in Stockholm next summer…

  • The slow pace

    Last April I went to The Hive, a blogger conference, and loved it. It’s funny because I thought/ saw/ experienced most of the things you talked about. The truth is that I would love to go to TBEX, but I think we are not good enough or travel-y enough!

    • oh dear, I am 100% sure you’d fit right in at TBEX! You all definitely have enough travel content on your blog. So I’ve heard of the Hive and would definitely be interested to go. Keep me posted if you guys go again! πŸ™‚

  • Veena

    Interesting about the virtual assistants. I’ve always wondered how some people manage to keep up with posts / comments on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, and whatever other social media networks there are out there that I don’t even know about — mystery solved! πŸ™‚

  • Wow, so many interesting infos in your post! Can only imagine how helpful TBEX must have been then! But would you say it’s more for bigger bloggers? I mean, I’m far from your 30k followers on Bloglovin but would love to improve my blog of course πŸ˜‰

  • There’s something about monetizing my blog that feels so awkward to me. I’ve been asked how much I charge people for my posts and I was like YIKES I DON’T DO THAT. Not that I wouldn’t want to get paid for my time and effort but how do you put a price on your blog? I don’t know what anything is worth πŸ™

    http://www.thelunchcompanion.com

  • TBEX has always been on my radar and your post made it more clear that it would be a good investment! Thanks for all the helpful tips and info!

  • This is so interesting! I’ll definitely have to look into going next time. Thanks for sharing your takeaways!

  • Thanks for sharing this! I just discovered TBEX earlier this year and would love to attend one of the conferences!

  • I felt the same way at TBEX that some of the content didn’t quite apply to me as such a beginner blogger. However, I felt the most important influence TBEX had on me was from the passion I felt from all the other bloggers. All travel blogger works soooo hard, most people don’t realize how hard. It was very motivational to hear peoples’ stories about their triumphs, things they need to work on, etc!

  • Great post! I attended TBEX North America and had many of the same take aways — in general the best part was meeting bloggers I already knew from online community or who were completely new to me. Also — Don George gave the best speech :)!