Taking a rare moment to myself, I sat down in one of the plush armchairs in the lobby of the Dublin DoubleTree Hilton Hotel and the people passing by would notice a look of astoundment on my face. After two full days of networking, breakout sessions, keynote speeches, parties and making new travel best friends (Helen, I’m looking at you!), I couldn’t believe how thrilling #TBEX (Travel Blog Exchange) has been.
In fact, if anything, #TBEX was utterly and madly inspiring.
Along with media content creators, travel brands and travel companies, 600 travel bloggers from around the world descended upon Dublin in the first week of October 2013. This was the prestigious annual European #TBEX event and their main sponsors, Failte Ireland, did not disappoint anyone at all. Not even the rain that lashed upon the capital of Ireland succeeded in dampening the spirits of new and established bloggers a like.
This was my first time at #TBEX and with a list of expectations as long as my arm, I would grow to love what #TBEX was really about. Part of my time at this travel writing conference, I would be asking everyone from different backgrounds to give their thoughts on this conference. The most repeated word was ‘inspiring’.
And I couldn’t agree more. #TBEX has really inspired this travel blogger. How? I give you five comprehensive reasons.
1. Inspired to Listen to My Readers
One major epiphany I had was to listen to my readers as told in several sessions namely ’21 Tools and Technology Tips to Dramatically Grow Your Following Online.’ There’s no point second guessing the readers to decide what they want from you. There’s a much more simple solution: Ask your readers. Create surveys, tweet to them, or create a poll on facebook. They will tell you what they want. I couldn’t believe this was so easy for me. As soon that euphoric realisation clicked in my inspired brain, bazillions of ideas flooded in how I could interact more with my readers. This is what I really wanted as my main expectation was to find out how I connect more with my readers. Maybe this is a fantastic way of improving your traffic and following online? I just got to get this done when I return home from #TBEX. Just get your readers involved in your travel blog. Let them have the responsibility of creating content. Let them be your muse.
2. Inspired to Find My Niche
‘Last year, I probably couldn’t even get more of a handful of budget travellers in one room and now look at us now,’ Kash of BudgetTraveller told a large room of said budget travellers in his breakout session – ‘Finding the Money in the Budget Travel Niche’. At first, this pained me. All throughout the last year, I identified myself as a budget travel blogger and as I sat in this packed room staring evilly at my competitors, I realised that the ‘niche’ I thought I could class myself into has become too broad. Would I have to eject myself out of the budget travel blogger camp? No. Because throughout #TBEX I realised I can find my very own niche in two ways. The first, I would have to dig deeper in the budget travel blogger niche. Why not become more specific? I had an idea floating around for the last year (I don’t want to say what it is in case those pesky other budget travel bloggers steal it from me) and through the Budget Travelling breakout sessions, I become more and more inspired to undertake that idea to become a niche within the budget travelling community. The other way is to diversify my website into more websites. I’m a deaf travel blogger, why not write about deaf travelling? I like being challenged to do things around the world, why not have a website all about it? I love photography with my iPhone, why not set up a portfolio? To be honest, #TBEX really made me discover the potential in myself. For that, I’m inspired to go big in my identified niches.
3. Inspired to Write Better High Quality Content
Without a doubt, the person most inspired me was Don George in his breakout session – ‘The Quality Quotient: Ten Tips for Creating Content that Engages and Expands Your Audience’. As an author of the Lonely Planet’s Guide to Travel Writing and a 25 year veteran travel writer, it was pretty easy to see how inspiring he was having the packed out conference hall captivated by every single word he uttered. Claiming high quality content is the foundation and the most important aspect of any article, he is passionate in saying that you do need to write when you are in the zone. At that travel moment, record your sights, feel the atmosphere, blend into the sounds swirling around you and smell the food you seek. Relay all of that to the readers. Make them feel they are there. Record everything as possible, you’ll never know when you’ll need a titbit of information you thought wasn’t important at the time. Do your research before and after a trip, it’ll make a world of a difference. With every passing minute, I became more and more inspired. No longer, I’ll rock up to a destination, experience it and be expected to write about a few months later. I just need to do it there and then. Don relays a funny anecdote that a fellow travel blogger overheard an amusing conversation in a destination and rushed to the bathroom to write everything down. As a result, Don wants to reassure everyone that if he’s in the bathroom a lot longer than expected, don’t worry…he’s writing! With such a profound breakout session, I became more and more inspired to write even better high quality content using my senses and backed up with the relevant research.
4. Inspired to Get the Confidence to Speak to Travel Brands/Companies/Partnerships
Before #TBEX, I would wince every time I sent an email to any travel brand/boards/companies/partnerships. I didn’t sound myself and it definitely showed. I wanted to give a great professional first impression but I didn’t know how to get a dialogue going. I would try using different approaches to gain a partnership. Most of the time, they don’t even respond back. This is clearly disheartening and probably knocked my confidence down. I wasn’t saying, unlike some travel bloggers, ‘please give me a free press trip and I’ll write for you.’ Of course, everyone wants that but that wasn’t going to happen. I just wanted to open up a dialogue and see how we could help each other. But how would I go about it? Luckily for me, I attended a great session on ‘Best Practices: Bloggers, Travel PR & Tourism Boards’ by Michael Collins of TravelMedia, a PR company based in Ireland. His directness possibly shocked some travel bloggers in the room but it was definitely the case of telling us to ‘wake up and smell the coffee.’ Giving us advice and tips especially in understanding from your desired contact’s perspective, I feel a hell of a lot more inspired to get the confidence and open up a dialogue. Employing his tools upon my return from #TBEX, my response rate has more than quadrupled. This is inspiration at work here.
5. Inspired to Keep On Networking
Running out a plentiful supply of my business cards, enough to stock an IKEA Megastore, by the end of the second day must mean that I’ve had a completely successful networking strategy. 200 RexyEdventures business cards are now in the hands of bloggers and travel brands. Yet at the same time, I had felt so utterly inspired meeting every single travel blogger throughout the numerous networking opportunities. This made me want to keep on networking. Before, I was discouraged to network as I felt many people wanted something from me and quite frankly a waste of time if they weren’t responding to my follow-up emails or tweets. Even so, I probably didn’t make a ‘connection’ at any other event. However, #TBEX completely changed all that. Every person I met, I felt a connection, a brimming wave of enthusiasm ready to crash in me creating pools of realisation that networking is key to every good business and personal relationship. Since coming back from #TBEX, my voice destroyed from talking too much (sign of a great networking), I was very pleasantly surprised to see waiting in my inboxes, messages from travel bloggers and brands saying how great it was to meet me. This truly had me touched and inspired to keep networking.
I just really want to say thank you to everyone who made #TBEX possible. Each of every one of you really have inspired this travel blogger and I cannot wait to start planning my new RexyEdventures strategy to start my world domination plans for 2014.
All I say, I hope Inspiration will still be key for future #TBEX events.