Part 1: My first travel blogging conference – TBEX Toronto

Today our July Blogger of the Month, MeLinda Schnyder, shares her recent experience attending a blogging conference.

TBEX_bizcards

I decided how I wanted to position myself at the conference and had business cards printed.

 

 

Back in November 2012, I followed the oft-spoken advice to jump before you’re ready: I registered to attend the annual Travel Bloggers Exchange (TBEX) conference scheduled for June 2013. At the time, I did not have a live blog. I also didn’t have a published travel writing clip from the past decade.

By the time my flight departed Wichita, Kan., for Toronto, Canada – site of this year’s TBEX North American conference – my blog had been up for six months … but I still hadn’t worked on getting that recently published travel writing clip.

TBEX_sign

 This year’s Travel Bloggers Exchange conference was held in downtown Toronto, Canada.

So I went to TBEX feeling like an imposter. The event bills itself as the world’s largest gathering of travel bloggers, writers and new media content creators – I worried I’d be the only person there who didn’t consider myself a professional travel blogger or who didn’t have a regular gig writing travel articles for a print or online publication.

I shouldn’t have worried so much {story of my life}. In fact, there were people like me – freelance journalists who either currently write about travel or want to and people who blog about travel but not to make money directly from the blog. We weren’t the majority but we were there, along with a wide variety of others: purely hobby bloggers, bloggers making their entire living from a travel blog (very few of these!), people trying very hard to make their travel blog their sole source of income, public relations/marketing folks from brands and destinations.

TBEX_kayak

 Ever try to kayak with bloggers? Nobody wants to paddle, we all want to take photos!

Most importantly, all of the goals I’d set for myself were met: continue learning about the travel & tourism industry, develop more contacts within the industry that could lead to writing opportunities, learn more about blogging, discover a new city.

Because not everyone – including the session presenters or keynote speakers – had the same background as I do or similar career aspirations, I continuously reminded myself to keep my goals in mind and determine how the content/concepts discussed could work for me.

TBEX_me

 Me kayaking during one of the three Toronto tours I registered for as part of the TBEX blogging conference.

I was able to do this a little easier because I’d spent quite a bit of time in advance of the conference deciding how to position myself while there. While my lifestyle blog is fun to write and includes a lot of travel posts, I ultimately decided to focus on my journalist and content creator skills and point people to my online writing and photography portfolio. From that site or by connecting with me on Twitter, I knew the contacts could also find www.NextDoorToNormal.

With the anxieties I had before the conference, there were a few other things I did to prepare: I read as much as I could about past TBEX conferences (bloggers be blogging about blogging conferences), I followed the #TBEX conversations on Twitter for several months leading up to the conference (this actually freaked me out even more because it felt like everyone knew everyone else), I befriended the few folks who outed themselves as TBEX first-timers through Twitter, I made a short list of attendees I definitely wanted to meet and made contact with them in advance.

TBEX_syrup

 Maple syrup poured on a bed of snow, then wrapped around a cube of artisan cheese. Just one of many new experiences at a travel blogging conference I attended in Toronto.

One of the smartest things I did: I registered for the free pre-conference tours and workshops. I signed up because the activities looked fun and educational (they were); what I hadn’t realized is that this would give me a chance to meet other attendees in small groups before going to the official conference launch event with 1,300 people! (The 2012 conference in Keystone, Colo., drew 700.)

In next week’s post I’ll share some of what I learned about blogging and other TBEX takeaways.

TBEX_favspot

 There might not be a better way to experience a city for the first time than by attending a travel blogging conference there. This ended up being my favorite Toronto spot: kayaking among the Toronto Islands just across Lake Ontario from the city. 

4 thoughts on “Part 1: My first travel blogging conference – TBEX Toronto

  1. Jenny Truong says:

    Hi Melynda,

    I enjoyed reading your post on the TBEX. I also wanted to participate but because of schedule conflicts was unable to attend.
    I have a few questions for you.

    1) What was the most useful thing you learned at the conference?
    2) Do you think it is worthwhile going to another one? Or did you learn enough from your first one?

    Lovely photos by the way!
    Cheers,
    Jenny

    • MeLinda Schnyder says:

      Hi Jenny, thanks for the note.
      1. I can’t say there was one specific tip that was the most useful thing I learned at the conference, it was more of an broader issue that I got more clarity about: spend time figuring out who you are or who you want to be in the blog world. Being immersed in the world of travel blogging/writing helped me see that (1) I need to have a niche (or two) that will help shape the content I write & it confirmed my initial belief that there’s more room for people writing about what there is to do in the middle of the country, and (2) I don’t want to create some huge online publishing empire (I’d be just as happy writing guest blogs for established travel sites or publications) so with that goal in mind, I have to filter out the noise surrounding blogging that doesn’t apply to me.
      I wrote about some of my favorite lessons in the second part of the post & shared a link to some of the presentations (unfortunately not all the speakers provided them for TBEX to share).

      2. Would I attend another TBEX? I would if there were speakers/topics that specifically interested me AND if it were in a city or region that I wanted to explore. The conference fee is super reasonable ($77), the main expense was a hotel in downtown Toronto (btw, worth the money to stay near the conference site) and a plane ticket from Wichita to Toronto wasn’t cheap but I was able to use frequent flyer miles.

      • MeLinda Schnyder says:

        I wanted to add one more note about the logistics of attending TBEX. I think this is a conference best attended by yourself or with blogger friends. My husband didn’t go & that ended up being a good thing. So much of the networking happened on the tours and at the evening events — if I’d had a spouse and/or kids to try to spend time with, I would have missed out on these opportunities.
        You had to register for the tours & they were limited on space, so you couldn’t bring a tag-along. If my husband had decided to go, I think it would have been wise to pay the $77 registration and attempted to have him register for the same three tours I went on so we could have at least did some sight-seeing together.

  2. Jenny Truong says:

    Hi MeLinda,

    Thanks for the feedback. Hopefully I’ll be able to go to one that fits my schedule, and at a cool destination. Definitely like the idea of going with like-minded folks. I know that if I were to go, I’d want to see, and do as much as possible while I’m there and meeting all the folks.

    Cheers,
    Jenny

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