‘Wow, Traverse13 just gets more AWESOME every hour…’ an overheard loud whisper was hissed in the main hall of the Clarendon Centre in Brighton where a new Travel Blogging Conference, Traverse, has just exploded on the blogging scene. Like the Big Bang, Traverse grew and grew to epic proportions from the moment of creation all thanks to blogging dyamic duo – Michael Ball and Paul Dow of TravMonkey. Riding on the crest of energy and enthusiasm, 150 bloggers, speakers and partners (sponsored by MSC Cruises and VisitDenmark) attended the event taking place on a beautiful sunny April weekend taking in 12 atomic workshops, a galactic Question Time Session, Cosmic Pro Bar one on one sessions, all kicked off by a starry TravelMassive inspired Welcome Party, a SuperNova AfterParty and finishing off with a supercluster of a Working Breakfast and a PhotoWalk around Brighton that electrified Bohemian Brighton to explode on the seafront causing protests.
Simply put, Traverse13 did get more AWESOME ever hour.
Travel Blogging Conferences in the past has been dictated by the parallel universes of TBEX, TBU and the Social Travel Market within WTM, but Traverse has broken in a new appeal – this is a Travel Blogging Conference for BUSY Travel Bloggers who are working in other jobs and cannot afford to take time out to attend week-long events. Needless to say, tickets ran out at the speed of light.
So what are the elements of the Traverse Big Bang Theory?
Traverse Welcome Party
Taking on a well-tried and tested format of a TravelMassive Event, the welcome party at the Terraces Bar achieved one of the main goals of the delegates: Networking. Business Cards found their way into new hands over several (or perhaps many!) drinks from the free Open Bar and many people swiftly glanced at delegate passes to make sure they knew the twitter handle they talked to often. ‘Oh, it’s nice to put a face!’ Quite simply, these classy event had ensured the conference went to a good start. Perhaps not for Dylan Lowe of TravelingEditor who sampled the £2.50 Chicken on his way home.
If there was anything to complain about the workshops at Traverse, it was that you were spoilt for choice! 3 workshops taking place at the same time over 4 time slots, it meant that you could only attend 4 workshops out of 12. These sleek workshops including Writing, Creative Travel Photography, Digital Storytelling and Social Media definitely created a buzz that would last for a light year.
So let me review the workshops that I did attend.
Going Freelance: Opening up the workshop, Frankie Thompson of As the Bird Flies, freely admits that if ‘she can do freelancing, then so can you.’ Pressed by her boyfriend, she has been in the game for 18 months and throughout that time, she has picked up valuable tools to help you decide if you can make the jump from your 9-5 job to being your own boss. Keeping her attendees (some albeit hungover) rapt, she inspired them to make use of productivity, time management, profitability, and as important ‘staff morale’ to gain credibility as a freelancer. Closing with her advice on how to pitch and negotiate on freelancing sites, she advises us to watch Pawn Stars. You just have to. For this travel blogger, she couldn’t have come at a more perfect time to advise on my budding determination to strike it out alone as a freelancer.
SEO (More Advanced): Adrian Land, Head of InBound Marketing at MyDestination, explains that even though SEO has received bad press recently, you should still view it as one of the most valuable tools of your website. Demystifying the Panda and Penguin Google Updates much to the relief of the travel bloggers in the room, he then led us to be practical through 5 Social Media and 5 SEO tips before explaining why Google Authorship is very important for the Travel Blogger. This stimulating workshop teaches us that to further improve our websites, we need to understand further the intricate relationships between SEO, Social Media and Content.
Pitching/Media Packs: ‘Never underestimate the Power of the Media Pack,’ Ruth Haffenden, Travel PR of Four BGB, points out plainly to her packed room. Using examples from Wild Junket and Travels of Adam, she tells to her popular event just exactly how and why statistics in a media pack is important pitching to a travel PR, that immediately met some discord from budding travel bloggers. Using her valuable knowledge as a Travel PR, the other side of that all important pitch, she immediately answered deftly that despite some travel bloggers having significantly much lower following than others, travel PRs will look more favourably on information being readily provided.
Mobile Photography: Kirsten Alana, of Aviators and a Camera, a celebrated photographer, made a startling proclamation that she doesn’t even own a camera. She only relies on her iPhone to create the inspiring shots so readily shared around the globe. Encouraging her attendees to whip out their smartphones, she explained in fantastic detail the best apps to create that perfect picture. Instagram was well discussed and she provided her inspired attendees to further use their instagram profiles as a portfolio and a social network through well thought out techniques. Unfortunately, this session had to be cut short for me as I had to go to a ProBar but Kirsten Alana will be followed with keen interest.
However, I was unable to attend the very well received workshop on Writing led by Steve Keenan. Monica of The Travel Hack, enthusiastically reviews this.
If the workshops speakers didn’t already have enough to do, they were available during the rest of the day in the Main Hall where you could sit down one to one with them to go through any unanswered questions. Getting real value from tapping the knowledge and experience of each speaker, the travel blogger can walk away feeling incredibly inspired from each 10 min slot booked through by roving Traverse volunteers armed with their smart tablets. For me, I wanted to trouble-shoot my issue in my writing skills with Steve Keenan of the acclaimed Writing Workshop. Becoming increasingly lost in my blog direction and worsening engagement with my readers, Steve was on hand to give extremely valuable advice. Walking away, a washed with new-found confidence, this travel blogger knew what to do.
Kevin May compered, with the BBC format event, taking in questions submitted over Twitter ( #traverse13 ) to be discussed between 4 panelists – Jodi Ettenburg (@LegalNomads), Carol Driver (Group Editor, TNT Multimedia), Ruth Haffenden (Travel PR, 4 BGB) and Will Peach (@willpeach). Stimulating as the Question Time was, every person was immensely buoyed when Michael Ball introduced a twitter drink ordering service by tweeting to #traversebeer, #traverseredwine, #traversewhitewine, only to receive your request within 2 minutes. Question Time proved to be a first, as Kevin May, rightly pointed out that this is the only conference Travel Bloggers and Travel Journalists agreed together on everything.
After delightful Thai food served at dinner, everyone was encouraged to attend the AfterParty at The Basement Bar. Networking abounded and MSC Cruises and Visit Denmark competition winners were announced among the glamorous affair as each delegate dressed up for the occasion. The Picture says it all.
Within such a short timescale for a Conference, there will be burning questions that every delegate may have forgotten to ask each speaker. Enter the Working Breakfast at the aptly named Regency Restaurant that served an English Breakfast generous helping as you buzz for answers.
Storming the Brighton Sea Front, picsnappers were soon caught up in the EDL Protests and their Anti-Fascists nemesis. Dylan Lowe, leading the pack, swiftly brought us to a very pleasant courtyard to dance along to a Frank Sinatra smooth crooner before setting our places in the nearby pub for Lunch. Please check out the Traverse Instagram for those snaps.
The Traverse Conference has definitely made its mark on every delegate and no one could say a bad word about it. There were cries of protests as it was inaccurately announced that Traverse would be returning in 2 years time, now correctly to early 2014, and it was keenly observed that no one left without a smile and of course, that all important goodie bag.
Inspiration is the word used plenty in this article but that’s the simple truth. Traverse was indeed inspiring that all started with a Big Bang on the Travel Blogging Calendar. This is the Travel Blogger place to be.