A few months ago, I made the decision of converting my personal travel blog into a cultural diplomacy project. I signed up for the TBEX Stockholm Conference in order to get feedback on my project, learn new skills and network/collaborate with like-minded bloggers. It was fortunate to have the conference exceed all of my expectations. TBEX is a semiannual conference bringing together entry-level and well-seasoned travel bloggers as well as travel companies and industry professionals.
This conference was held in Stockholm, Sweden, from July 14th to 16th, 2016.
Each day began with a keynote speaker, followed by three 50-minute break-out sessions. The sessions were broken down into categories of Content, Commerce, Community and Business and were led by successful travel-industry speakers. You can see the Full Agenda here. I was lucky to follow a variety of video content and community-themed breakouts.
Here are the 9 Most Important Things I learned at TBEX Stockholm 2016.
- Plan to Arrive Early. Every blog I read suggested getting to the host city at least 3-5 days before the conference. TBEX offers free day and overnight tours with local operators that not only allow you to take in the host country but get to know some of the conference attendees. You also do not want to miss the kick-off party.
- Sign Up Early. When I signed up for TBEX 2 months before the event, nearly ALL of the free tours were completely full.
- Stay Late. There are also post-conference tours that TBEX offers. Unfortunately for me, my 2-month sign-up found all of them full. Regardless, I stayed 1 extra day in Stockholm and had a great time hanging out and getting to know some of the other travel bloggers better.
- Stay Close. I stayed in a moderately-priced hotel that was a 15 minute-walk from the conference site. This was MUCH cheaper than the Radisson Blu hotel that was practically on-site but there were times when I needed to drop off conference swag or change clothes for going out to events right after the conference that would have been really difficult if I had stayed further away.
- Network! This seems obvious but I was surprised at how many people were often eating lunch alone. I jumped at every opportunity I had to talk to somebody new, whether it was tea, lunch or on the evening events. Just don’t chat someone up in the bathroom! (true story).
- Talk to the Breakout Presenters. I showed up early to a breakout on Live Streaming with Shawn Smith of The Mobile Pro and had a really helpful conversation with him. Outside of presentations, most speakers are happy to meet new people so don’t be afraid to hit them up before or after their presentations.
- Bring 100 Business Cards. I brought 200 business cards and handed out only 60 or so. There’s just not enough time to meet that many more people. Having space to write additional info on your card or including your photo is really helpful for helping people remember who you are and what your blog is about.
- Do Speed Networking With Sponsors. Every afternoon, TBEX offers 10-minute “speed networking” sessions (think speed-dating for organizations looking for blogger talent). Although my site was not ready for sponsorship, I met with several sponsors to pick their brain on what they might be looking for in the future. Though I had only set up one appointment beforehand, I managed to talk to other sponsors because most are there all day and constantly have open times during speed networking.
- Don’t Rely On Any Meal But Lunch. I chose my hotel because I knew it had a killer breakfast buffet. The lunch at the conference was good and they even provided special meals for those with dietary restrictions. Although for evening events where people expected a more substantial dinner, there were often only appetizers and did NOT provide any dietary substitutes. (Opening party had a ton of dairy stuff I couldn’t eat). The best thing you can do is make sure you get a filling breakfast and dinner on TBEX conference days.