If you are a travel blogger looking to make some headway in a pretty saturated market, this post will likely either intrigue you or be a life-saver as you consider whether attending TBEX is right for you. If you are an avid traveler but currently have no blog, after reading this post you will have a greater appreciation of what we do and why we are so inspired to share our stories with everyone. Our TBEX review will hopefully share some insight into the benefits of attending what has now turned into a truly global conference.
We arrived in Fort Lauderdale, Florida heading to our third TBEX conference so in many eyes we were now considered to be experts. This is far from the truth as we still believe we have a lot to learn in terms of managing our time, getting the best out of this conference and of course, meeting a myriad of new people from around the world.
However, we now feel like we have a better grasp as to the whole purpose of TBEX and we want to share what we consider to be ‘A Beginner’s Guide’ to the experience and hopefully provide a few useful hints and tips that you can take into future conferences.
What is TBEX?
Before attending TBEX Cancun in 2014, we had no idea what TBEX was all about. So you are right to be questioning…what on earth are they talking about here with this weird acronym TBEX?
TBEX IS THE WORLD’S LARGEST GATHERING OF TRAVEL BLOGGERS, WRITERS, NEW MEDIA CONTENT CREATORS, AND SOCIAL MEDIA SAVVY TRAVEL INDUSTRY PROFESSIONALS. (TBEX)
Quoted directly from the TBEX website, this emphasizes the importance of such a gathering and a way in which people from all corners of the globe can network together to help promote this industry we all love…travel!
Let’s take a look at 5 different components that will help you make the most of your future TBEX experience. I want to add the caveat right now that not everything about TBEX is perfect, but we will go into a little more detail later on that.
The format of TBEX is pretty much as follows:
- PreBEX Tours – Offered prior to the two days of conference
- Opening Keynote Session – Both days generally offer an intriguing topic relating to the travel industry and frequently a recognized travel blogger will present their opinions.
- Breakout Sessions – two sessions in the morning before lunch and another after. Each last 50 minutes and there are four distinctive tracks (Content, Community, Commerce and TBEX Business) with different topics available.
- Speed Networking – A period of two hours in the afternoon is allocated for bloggers to meet with DMO’s, tourism boards, CVB’s, travel brands etc. Each meeting is segmented into 10 minute intervals.
- Post-TBEX Tours – Frequently available depending on the host location and what they offer. TBEX Fort Lauderdale preceded TBEX at Sea, the inaugural event where bloggers had the opportunity to take a cruise and continue the networking.
Networking with Fellow Bloggers
I want to start with what we both believe to be the best aspect of TBEX – the networking with fellow travel bloggers. As bloggers, we are always networking virtually through the vast array of social media platforms we are accustomed to but actually meeting these individuals in person is what really helps you take your blog to the next level.
Co-mingling with fellow bloggers is a great way to share ideas, learn the newest and greatest technologies that will help advance your blog and find out some of the most beautiful destinations around the world that you never even knew existed.
TBEX Fort Lauderdale certainly didn’t disappoint and we were fortunate to meet a variety of bloggers from around the world that we had previously only connected with online. Individuals like Lauren from Justin Plus Lauren, Brianna from Casual Travelist and Brian and Amanda from Eat-Work-Travel were all great folks to chat with.
The list is endless and we apologize to everyone else for not naming them but we appreciate all of the networking opportunities we had.
TBEX offers ample opportunities to network. Whether you are networking over the luncheons provided during the conference, bonding with your fellow bloggers during a preBEX tour or enjoying a couple of late night beverages at one of the after-parties, you will always find time to meet new friends.
Travel bloggers are a friendly bunch…as you are walking around the convention center snacking on one of the delightful delicacies (how cool are those cookies and milk), there is always someone willing to say hi or welcome you into their networking circle. Even some of the top echelon of travel bloggers that are sometimes renowned as being difficult to approach, offer their expertise and show a willingness to offer advice.
TOP TIP – Even if socializing is not your strongest asset, be friendly and show a willingness to want to get to know everyone. It will definitely prove fruitful in the future.
Speed Networking with Brands
For many ‘newbies’, the most nerve-wracking aspect of TBEX is the speed networking where you have just ten minutes to sell yourselves and your brand to tourism boards and other travel entities that are in attendance.
As this is our third TBEX, we are both pretty comfortable now but I will say that every meeting is different. We generally find that the opening two minutes is our intro spiel where we try to ‘sell our brand’, the next two minutes will be the brand sharing their position on working with bloggers along with their destination/product and then the rest of the time is an interactive conversation depending on if either of you have questions.
Each meeting is unique, but you can frequently get a solid idea as to the potential of the partnership and whether there will be opportunities moving forward to work together.
Please DO NOT visit with a brand expecting to receive something for free! I can’t emphasize this enough that as a travel blogger, you should not be expecting to receive ‘freebies’, instead if an opportunity arises where a press trip/FAM (familiarization) trip becomes available, you are expected to provide a substantial ROI (return on investment) to the brand you are working with.
All too often travel bloggers are stereotyped as just seeking free hotel nights, free products etc. when the reality is we are working incredibly hard to provide coverage with whomever we are working alongside.
A final tip I would add here when going through the speed networking phase is that there will always be further opportunities to meet with brands. Just because you didn’t get an appointment with the brand you really want to work with on Bloggerbridge, that doesn’t mean you can’t setup an impromptu meeting.
Perhaps during one of the coffee breaks or if you choose to leave lunch early, you can hop over to the speed networking booths and grab your chance at forming a partnership.
TOP TIP – Be yourself and remember, the DMO’s/travel brands want to work with you just as much as you want to work with them. Don’t undersell yourselves.
After attending three TBEX conferences, I have to say that the breakout sessions are a little ‘hit and miss’ though the sessions offered at TBEX Fort Lauderdale were the most beneficial so far. We have found that many of the sessions are repetitive which is understandable given that each TBEX welcomes a large number of first-timers.
We learned about the best productivity tools available, how to use audio books to improve your blog and how to build a high-traffic blog! Whether TBEX has received enough presentations for the breakout sessions, I am not sure but overall it was probably the least beneficial aspect of the overall conference.
We also found that sessions vary in terms of quality. Many of the presenters are well prepared and offer interactive sessions, whereas others appear to be poorly prepared which makes it difficult to take anything positive from the session.
TOP TIP – Topic headlines are not always the most helpful as sometimes the content of the sessions are different.
There is a lot of scheduling and planning that goes into the organization of any conference so TBEX is certainly no different. However, I would strongly encourage all attendees to be prepared to be well organized prior to attending because sometimes the organization at the conference is lacking.
Here is a quick 10 point checklist that you should consider following:
- Bloggerbridge – Setup your speed networking schedules before TBEX using the Bloggerbridge website. If you have any issues creating your schedule, reach out to founder Chris Christensen.
- Business Cards – take plenty for both speed networking and passing around to fellow bloggers.
- Chargers – Be sure to bring a charger with you for both your laptop and phone because you will be tweeting, snapping and periscoping the whole time you are at TBEX. By the way, the official hashtag is #TBEX.
- Dress Code Attire – Business casual is generally the recommended attire at TBEX. You will see both ends of the spectrum, so be sure to wear comfortable shoes and be confident in your attire because at the end of the day you are there to sell yourself and your brand.
- Elevator Pitch – How well do you know your brand? You need to be prepared to give a shortened version to really sell you and your brand.
- Hotels – We have had a couple of issues with booking hotels using the TBEX discount code that is offered (i.e. hotels not always familiar with TBEX). Do plenty of research in viable hotels and check to see what rates are available and whether the TBEX rate is the best option.
- Media Kits – Consider (not necessarily mandatory) taking a printed media kit. Be prepared to e-mail post-TBEX.
- Statistics – Know your numbers in terms of unique views, total page visits etc. to your website. Google Analytics will be your friend.
- TBEX Tours – Communicate directly with the host of the TBEX tour if possible because sometimes the arrangements (times, location etc.) can be a little disorganized.
- Transportation – Be prepared to handle all your own transportation to and from the conference especially if you choose to stay at a hotel outside of the convention center.
TOP TIP – If you follow our handy checklist of items, you should have a great time at TBEX.
Enjoy the Entertainment
TBEX really knows how to throw some great parties! From Cancun to Lloret de Mar to Fort Lauderdale, we have been fortunate to experience some awesome parties with a wide variety of local cuisine available. Entertainment and buffet style cuisine is generally available along with an open bar (yes, you read that correctly).
Unfortunately, we missed the opening night party at the Museum of Discovery and Science in Fort Lauderdale, but the party we attended on the second night at the Diplomat Resort in Hollywood was amazing.
Despite the adverse weather conditions which ensured the extravaganza was moved indoors from the planned event by the infinity pool, we all had a great evening.
Being in South Florida, Cuban cuisine was at the forefront accompanied by Indian and Mexican flavors to satisfy everyone’s pallet. A delicious looking ceviche bar, a huge dish of seafood paella and an intriguing dessert bar with enough selection to keep you salivating for days was waiting for everyone to indulge.
We even had the opportunity to experience Cuban cigars being rolled and take one away with us as a souvenir.
TOP TIP – Make the most of the parties and use these as another opportunity to network. Have a few beers and let your hair down because the events are over before you know it.
TBEX is a great event with a number of positive aspects that will make you want to return. Of course, there are areas that could be improved but we have noticed over the last year vast improvements on the three TBEX’s that we have attended. Each venue is different and definitely has an impact on your overall experience. Hopefully this TBEX review will help you as you decide whether this type of conference would be beneficial.
TBEX Fort Lauderdale, held in the Greater Fort Lauderdale Convention Center, was by far the best that we have attended. We are already looking forward to TBEX North America 2016 to be held in Bloomington, Minnesota at the Mall of America between May 28 – 31.
Hopefully we will get to see you there but if not, here are the upcoming TBEX conferences that have been announced for 2016 around the world.
Future TBEX Venues
TBEX North America 2016 – Bloomington, Minnesota (May 28-31, 2016)
TBEX Europe 2016 – Stockholm, Sweden (July 14-16, 2016)
TBEX Asia 2016 – Manila, Philippines (October 13-16, 2016)