Ethan and I are busy getting ready for our very first official travel blogger conference! We were selected among the top 100 travel bloggers to be hosted to attend Travel Bloggers Destination-Italy (TBDI) that will take place in Rimini, Italy next month in conjunction with Italy’s leading travel exhibition event TTG Incontri. Actually, I will be heading off to Italy alone as TBDI only hosts one blogger from each blog, so sadly I’ll be leaving Ethan at home to watch over the kitties while I spend a week in Italy. I have been thinking about how I can put my best foot forward as I head off to meet other bloggers, sit through presentations by travel industry experts, meet travel industry exhibitors, and explore a little of Italy on a post-conference blog tour. While we have not officially attended a travel blogger conference before, we have attended some travel and tourism shows and I have attended dozens of professional conferences in another field. Below are my tips to those preparing for their own travel blogger conference (or any blogging conference really!). Feel free to share any additional tips you may have for us! In honor of my first travel blogger conference, I am also hosting a giveaway of $100 credit to Minted where you can pick up some custom designed business cards, planners, or stationary of your own! Or you can skip the business stuff and grab some of their beautiful wall art, postcards, party decor, invitations, or greeting cards.
12 Tips for Attending your First Travel Blogger Conference
1. Learn about the Conference
This may seem obvious but you should read as much as you can about the conference so you know what to expect when you arrive. Will all the programming take place in one building or will it take place in multiple locations? What is the focus or theme of the conference? What kinds of people are attending? What parts of the conference are most appealing to you and what are your goals for attending this particular conference? Do you want to reach out to some business contacts or other bloggers to set up meetings before the conference? Will there be organized blog tour opportunities before or after the conference? Figure out if there are important deadlines for registering for a reduced fee (many conferences offer early registration prices), making hotel reservations, and/or signing up for meet-and-greet sessions, speed dating, special workshops, or blog tours. Make note of these dates as being timely can save you money and increase your chances of getting seats at the events you want to attend.
2. Prepare Your Stuff
Before you leave for the conference make sure you have all the things you’ll need throughout the conference. Find a professional looking bag or organizer that you feel comfortable carrying around all day that you can store all your daily essentials. Things to consider for your day bag: water, snacks, breathmints, chapstick, compact mirror, comb, aspirin, pens/pencils, jacket or cardigan, paper notebook, laptop or tablet, travel power strip (good when outlets are limited & we always travel with one), an Internet dongle or hotspot (in case there is no wifi or it is overloaded), and, of course, your business cards and media kits. You’ll also want to think about where you will be storing all the handouts, business cards, and brochures you’ll be collecting from people throughout the day.
3. Organize Your Blogger Conference Schedule
Before the conference, you should save or print off the conference schedule and figure out what parts of the agenda you plan to attend as there are often multiple events going on at any one time at larger conferences. You might want to create your own spreadsheet in Excel or another program to make a personalized schedule that just includes the things you want to attend. Be sure to also include social events, organized meals, press tours, and any additional meetings you have set up that may not be on the main schedule. Try to be realistic when setting up your schedule as back-to-back meetings may not be a good idea in some cases as the distance across convention centers can be very large and some events may be in separate buildings. It should go without saying that it is very important to show up to all scheduled meetings on time and if you tend to be someone who shows up late, try to arrive early. Nothing makes a bad first impression like arriving late or missing an appointment with an industry contact!
4. Dress for Success
If you are planning to meet with travel industry professionals, you’ll want to dress in a professional manner. This doesn’t mean a suit, but you should dress in manner that makes you look like someone who can be taken seriously and will actually deliver on your promises. You might think that looking like you just trekked a mountain or came back from a safari is OK, but it probably won’t come off as professional. Most folks in in the marketing worlds are not hard-core travelers and will come nicely dressed to the conference and will expect you to have at least put some effort into your physical presentation. Be yourself while striking a nice balance between dressing up and being comfortable. Comfortable shoes are a must as you’ll likely be on your feet a lot during the day and as a travel blogger, you never know when you’ll be off on some city walking tour or hike. Unless you wear high heels regularly, avoid them at conferences and your tired feet will thank you!
5. Know thy Travel Blog
It is amazing to me how many people don’t know their blog statistics and are not able to give a concise description of their blog’s audience and purpose. You need to know these things before a blogging conference as you will be asked these types of questions over and over. What is your blog about? What are your readership demographics? What is your Google Page Rank? How many page views/unique visitors do you get each month? How many Twitter/Instagram/Facebook followers do you have? Why should I hire you as opposed to another travel blogger? What is your niche? What sets your blog apart from the million other travel blogs? What types of services do you offer (e.g., accommodation reviews, social media promotion, advertising options, press trips, sponsored posts, product giveaways, etc.)? What can you do for me? Do you have any references? If you can’t answer these questions, do some research to find out your blog statistics (e.g., Google Analytics and Alexa rankings) and start thinking about how your blog is viewed by others. If you are stumped about what sets you, your blog, or your readership apart, ask friends, your family, your readers, etc. You’ll need to be able to come up with a concise description of yourself, your blog, and what sets it apart from other travel blogs that can be said in approximately 1 minute. If you are nervous about talking to professionals about your blog, practice giving an “elevator pitch” about your blog to a friend until you feel more confident. This is also a good time to click through your blog and make sure all the pages, contact information, About Me section, etc. are up to date and that your blog is looking its best.
6. Know Thy Conference Audience
Once you can recite your social media statistics, explain your blog’s niche, and have a good 1-minute elevator pitch about your own blog down, you need to focus on getting to know your conference audience. Head to the conference website and begin researching who else will be there (bloggers, speakers, exhibitors) and make a list of the people who you would like to meet and why. Learn a little about the person, destination, or tourism board before the conference and come prepared with what you’d like to ask them or how you think you might be able to collaborate with them. You need to think about what you can realistically offer a business partner and how you can help best promote their product, service, or destination. In many cases if it is not already part of the itinerary (e.g., “speed dating” or meet-and-greet sessions), it can be a good idea to try to set up meetings with those you are most interested in meeting before the conference so that you are sure to get a chance to talk with them. Remember that people are very busy during conferences, so be respectful of people’s time and only ask for short meetings (10-15 minutes) and just know that they may need to take place while grabbing coffee or walking to a meeting. This is why having a very concise description of yourself, your blog, and the purpose of the meeting is so vital!
7. Promote Yourself as a Travel Blogger
Along with the prior tips about knowing yourself and your audience, you need to be a good salesperson. Think of yourself as a one-person marketing-sales-cheerleader team for your blog as you will need to promote your blog and yourself throughout the conference. If you just sit around and don’t take the initiative to go up and talk to people, you’ll likely find yourself missing out on a lot of potential relationships and collaborations. If this is your first conference, you might want to start with just initiating conversations with other bloggers to build your confidence in order to approach the marketing directors, press agents, and travel industry experts. Most people feel anxiety about approaching strangers (it’s totally normal!), but once you get over the first awkward few seconds to introduce yourself, you’ll begin to feel a lot better. Just know what you plan to say before you cross the room and you’ll be fine. During conversations, remember you are there to sell your blog and promote it, so remember to be confident and point out the strengths and unique aspects and don’t let yourself get pulled down into saying things like “well I don’t have a lot of followers yet” or “my blog isn’t as big as his”. It may be true that you don’t have a big social media following yet and you want to be completely honest about your statistics, but you want to try to focus the conversation on the highlights and what you can offer rather than the areas of weakness. If you get a sense that the person is not interested, start ending the conversation, hand them your business card, and thank them for their time. Move onto the next person and don’t dwell on conversations that don’t go as well as you planned as you’ll likely be surprised by how well most conversations do go.
8. Be Professional at all Times
You know that girl at the conference who got really drunk at the hotel bar and everyone talked about the next morning? Yeah, you don’t want to be her, especially among a group of people perpetually connected to their Twitter, Instagram, and YouTube feeds! Remember you are at a conference and this is not a vacation and it is likely that people you want to work with are eating in the same restaurants and drinking at the same bar as you after the conference. This doesn’t mean you can’t be relaxed and have a bit of fun, but you might want to save your partying for after the conference ends. Blogging is still a fairly new profession and there are many people who don’t take bloggers very seriously, so try to be a good ambassador for the good of bloggers everywhere. It is also important to play well with other bloggers, even the annoying ones who like to boast about their fabulous statistics, well-known partners, big media campaigns, and exotic travel destinations. You won’t make friends or collaborations by being antagonistic, snide, or arrogant and just know that the professional travel blogging world is fairly small. You might also consider joining the Professional Travel Blogger Association if you have not done so already as membership demonstrates to contacts that you take blogging seriously and it can help you learn about upcoming travel blogger conferences and connect with other travel bloggers and industry contacts.
9. Make (or Update) your Travel Blogger Media Kit
All professional bloggers should have a media kit or press kit. If you do not have a media kit, I would spend some time learning about them and looking at some examples so that you can create one of your own. These are often created by bloggers using Photoshop, Publisher, PicMonkey, or some other image service and then converted into a Adobe Acrobat PDF file. You can check out some good introduction posts to creating media kits (and lots of examples) from both the Blog Maven and Being Reese. Briefly, media kits should include an introduction section that briefly describes yourself and your blog, your website statistics, readership demographics, social media follower numbers and links, your contact information, services you offer, and any examples or testimonials from past partnerships/sponsorships (if you have them). The media kit should be visually appealing and reflect you and your blog so do put some time into it as it might be the main factor that a potential partner uses in deciding whether to work with you or not. For those who already have a media kit, make sure you look it over carefully and make any updates to your graphics, website statistics, contact information, etc. as needed. Bring along plenty of paper copies to the conference and also have a digital copy ready to be emailed or viewed online. Be sure to print anything you need at home as hotel printing and copying services can be very expensive.
10. Invest in a Good Set of Business Cards
While some people may think that business cards are fairly antiquated, they are still the primary way to get your contact information into the hands of other professionals at a conference. It is a wise idea to invest in a set of business cards for your blog and keep these handy at all times during the conference. At minimum your business card should list your blog name and web address, your name, and your contact information. Other things you might want to include (you’ll have to pick and choose with limited space): blog logo, a photo of you, your primary social media links, a QR code to your website or media kit, and any other vital information. The cards should be a good representation of you and your blog so you should try to choose a design that matches your blog or custom design your own. Some people prefer to give out postcard size cards instead, but just remember that business cards are designed to be small for a reason (your media kit is the place to elaborate) and are easier to store than postcards. Depending on where you will be and who will be at the conference, you might want to get some bilingual cards printed if it makes sense to do so. There are a number of online companies that sell customizable business cards and VistaPrint or GotPrint are great for cheap and fast cards and we’ve used these services in the past. However, recently we upgraded our business cards by choosing one of the high quality designs from Minted. They have so many creative designs that come from independent artists and designers all over the world. In fact the design we customized was the “World Traveler Business Card”—how perfect is that for a travel blogger?! We were able to edit the information, customize the color scheme to match our blog colors, and we even put our logo image on the back side of the cards for no additional cost. Minted business cards also come with a free card holder to help store your cards (and other peoples) in your bag. I can’t wait to hand these out at the conference!
(Note: My last name is blanked out in the image below for privacy reasons, but my full name is in fact centered on the actual card.)
11. Take Good Notes
Travel blogger conferences are often filled with talks, presentations, and workshops as well as plenty of time devoted to meet travel professionals and socialize with other bloggers. Chances are you are going to be meeting a lot of new people and being exposed to a lot of new information and ideas. You might think at the time that the social media tips, cool SEO tricks, and name of that French blogger you just met are pieces of information that you are going to remember without any difficulty. But if you are like most people, after a few days of constant information overload, you are bound to begin forgetting things so take down notes. Take down notes during the presentations about things you want to remember and who said them. When you meet someone at a conference, jot down something to help you remember them on the back of their business card or on your notebook. Ethan and I dumped out three bags worth of stuff from our last tourism show and there were so many papers and business cards that is was quite overwhelming! Luckily I had written short notes on many of them (sometimes “red-headed lady by the food stand” is all you need)!
12. Follow up After the Conference
Conferences are a whirlwind of events and activity and you’ll likely be exhausted. Often there are post-conference meet-ups with other bloggers and blog tours to head to as soon as things are over at the exhibit hall. However, you’ll want to take some time when you have a break to go back through your notes and send out thank you emails, follow-up on business ideas, and get in touch with new blogger friends. Remind busy industry folks of the potential projects you discussed. Connect with new blogger friends on social media and start following their blogs as they’ll likely return the gesture which can help you stay in touch. If you think that they’ll take the initiative, you’ll find out that most people are as overwhelmed with information as you are and they are hoping you’ll take the initiative to further the business partnership or cultivate the connection!
Don’t Forget to Celebrate!
Don’t forget to take a breath after the conference, relax, and be grateful for all the good things about the conference. Take stock of all the new information you’ve learned, business contacts you’ve made, new places you’ve seen, and new potential friends you’ve made! These are the reasons we go to conferences so don’t forget to appreciate them before running off to the next press trip or travel blogger conference!
Minted Giveaway – $100 for Free Business Cards (or whatever else you’d like!)
Minted was generous enough to not only give us $100 in credit to try out their designer business cards, but they have also allowed us to giveaway $100 in credit to one of our lucky readers. Sign up to win $100 in free credit to use however you’d like at Minted. You can use it to order 250 free business cards (like we did) or use it on any of their other products. Minted has a vast collection of greeting cards, banners, stationery, party decor, wall art, wedding invitations, day planners, Christmas cards, etc. I love the fact that independent designers can submit their design ideas and get votes and comments by the community. If you have never checked out Minted before, I urge you to visit their website and check out their great products.
The Minted giveaway beings September 25th, 2014 and ends October 9, 2014 and is open internationally. One (1) winner will be randomly selected and after confirming the winner’s giveaway entries, the winner will be notified of the giveaway by email. The winner will have 48 hours to respond (so please check your email regularly!) before a second winner will be chosen. To enter, just complete at least one of the Rafflecopter activities listed below!
THIS GIVEAWAY IS NOW CLOSED – Congrats Brittany B. for winning the $100 Minted Credit!
Have questions about attending your first travel blogger conference or want to share some tips or advice with us? As always, we love to hear from you!
**Disclosure: We were provided Minted credit in order to review the business cards; however, this post contains only our honest opinions. The links in the post for Minted are affiliate links and they do not cost you as a reader anything, but we do receive a small commission if you do decide to purchase a Minted product using these links. If you do plan to make a Minted purchase, we’d love it if you supported us by using these links.**