I am still new to this the whole travel writing business. When I started exploring the field, I was suffering from burnout after six years of covering news for major media organizations. I loved traveling and started putting together a few words with my photos, which led to the creation of Being Abroad.
I quickly learned about TBEX; an event held several times a year across the world. The Travel Blog Exchange hosts the gatherings and says they are the largest gathering of travel bloggers, writers, editors, and industry professionals. Below are some of my thoughts as a first-time attendee and the articles I found helpful when deciding and preparing to attend TBEX.
Be open to every part of TBEX
As I get older, I feel myself becoming more of a recluse and dread the idea of making small talk with strangers at a dimly lit party. When I registered for TBEX, I promised myself I would attend as many events as possible. Sure, I met a few gentlemen who had spent too much time at the bar. I also met former journalists who, like me, had started in news writing before focusing on travel. Plus, you meet no one sitting alone in a hotel room. It is a professional event so avoid drinking too much alcohol and get to bed early enough that you can make it through the next day.
The conference is short so be ready to have 16-hour days for a week. TBEX offers pre-conference tours, which are trips around the host cities that you don’t have to organize or pay to attend. It is up to the attendee if they want to write about the experience or just gather inspiration. I attended two pre-conference tours and left with new friends, contacts in the South Florida tourism industry, and great material for future blog posts or articles.
Once the conference is underway there are three components – keynote speeches, classes, and speed networking. Participate in each of these because they all have different benefits.
Industry celebrities give the keynote speeches. I had the pleasure of hearing Don George and Carol Cain talk about what inspires them to write award-winning travel stories. They both have written for major media organizations. Their presentations were personal, inspiring, and valuable. Attendees talked about Cain’s keynote all week, and several cried listening to George read passages from his newest collection of travel writing.
Classes? Who wants to attend classes as an adult? No one, I suppose, but the classes, which TBEX calls sessions, do two things – teach you new ways to reach your audience and remind you of writing and technology tasks that you forgot to put into practice. I am a professionally trained journalist with a degree in journalism, but still attended the “Self-Editing Tips for Bloggers.” It was a great refresher on why and how writers can create quality content instead of just click bait. I also attended “0 to 10 Million: Behind the Scenes of Building a High Traffic Blog,” which provided a list of technical tasks for Being Abroad. In total, there were 29 different classes.
The last part is likely the scariest for you, dear reader, as it was for everyone else attending the conference – speed networking. I met several attendees that didn’t sign up for any meetings ahead of time.
“My blog isn’t big enough. They won’t want to speak with me,” one person would say.
“I’m just getting started so I don’t even know what to do,” another person would say.
These meetings are your chance to talk with companies that could hire you in various capacities. Some companies sponsor press trips while others hire bloggers, writers, and photographers to create content. You won’t know how your work would fit with a particular company’s mission until you meet with them. I was pleasantly surprised to receive tremendous feedback on my photography, which I have always considered a hobby.
If you are reading this and thinking, “Okay, great, but should I attend?” My answer is yes. I have attended several professional writing conferences, camps, and workshops over the last 10 years, but I had the most fun at TBEX. I also left with the longest list of actionable items than any other conference I’ve attended. Plus, the cost to attend is incredibly small compared to other writing conferences.
When I was deciding and preparing to attend, I found the articles below to be very helpful.
- 14 tips for attending TBEX
- Tips for travel bloggers attending TBEX
- The Newbie Guide to TBEX
- How to create a media kit for your blog
And here are a few more from bloggers that attended TBEX North America in Fort Lauderdale.
- 9 Tips for Travel Bloggers Attending TBEX for the First Time
- TBEX: Reflections on my First Travel Blogging Conference