#TBEX One Week Later: What I didn’t get out of it

The first panel I attended - more about branding yourself than creating good content

The first panel I attended – more about branding yourself than creating good content

I figured I’d start with the not-so-stellar parts of TBEX before ending on a high note with the great stuff. This was my first time attending the event and I will admit, I did have some preconceived notions. Most of those notions became realities, starting on the day when I went to the convention center to register:

     I picked up my badge and received my swag bag. A colleague of mine and I gleefully went through the goodies and talked about how awesome the stuff was.

     “YES! They have one of those collapsible water bottles!” I said out loud. I was super excited because I was super parched, and had left mine at home.

     “Oh yeah,” a man I’d never met came up behind me. “It’s only the seventh one I’ve gotten…” he said, in a sarcastic tone.

     Like, seriously dude? I’m sorry your life consists of receiving free stuff and traveling the world. Tough life.

     Unfortunately, I was met with more pretentious attitudes as the conference went on. I’m not into that. As travel bloggers we should be proud of our profession but seriously? We don’t need to be bragging about it to other travel bloggers. We don’t really need to brag at all…

Aside from some sour attitudes, here are a few things that also fell short at TBEX 2013:

Connecting with others. I found it incredibly difficult to connect with the awesome people I talk to on a daily basis online. Without proper cell service/wifi access, the most I could do was tweet “Meet me outside the door of your lecture!” and hope someone recognized me. Even when I met up with people I knew, it was a quick “Hey! Great to see you in real life! Whoops! Gotta go meet with this DMO/attend this workshop!” and I never saw them again.

Solution: Make a better effort at organizing outside plans. Next time, I’ll schedule a meet-up for dinner, or sit with different folks each day for lunch. I’ll also try to meet up with people and travel with them to the parties.

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Networking. Two things happened that discouraged me from networking at TBEX. The first thing was my TBEX badge – people would walk right up to me, look at my badge, look at my face, and then walk away, blatantly disregarding me because I was someone unfamiliar and therefore had nothing to offer them. This happened so many times that I stopped making an effort to reach out to others. And it bothered me a lot.

At other conferences, attendees usually network via open conversation. We exchange ideas, we find things in common. But we have to talk to each other first. It’s rude and a total turnoff when someone doesn’t even give me the chance to open my mouth and say “Hello” before turning around to find someone who can pay them to travel somewhere.

Speed dating was also…weird. I don’t think it’s a good model. Most of the people I met with during speed dating didn’t even really want to meet with me, and spent half the time explaining how I didn’t “fit their demographic.” Nice waste of my time, really.

Solution: Reach out on my own. I made WAY more connections and secured offers during the open marketplace, while everyone else was listening to the workshops. I sat down with vendors and had genuine conversations. They liked my personality and it gave me a chance to discuss what I do at Matador without the pressure of those ridiculous “You have one minute left” announcements. And now I know how to properly pitch so I can network outside of TBEX as well.

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CN Tower from afar - I didn't even get to go up to the top! Boooo

CN Tower from afar – I didn’t even get to go up to the top! Boooo

Time to explore the city. I was in Toronto for four days, and I barely saw the city (which is totally not my style). If the convention center wasn’t right next to the CN Tower, I’d never have seen it. I enjoyed the areas I walked through and it was definitely enough for me to form a desire to come back, but I didn’t do anything touristy, and I missed out on so much like Chinatown, Kensington Market, riding the trams and more.

Solution: Make a plan of places to see ahead of time. I’d also like to do at least one of the free press trips – my schedule didn’t allow for it this time which was unfortunate. Also I would arrive early or stay late to hang out before the chaos occurs.

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Didn’t get anything out of lectures. This is a common theme I’ve seen in other post-TBEX reports. And like everyone else, I thought they were very commerce/brand based. I wanted more informal discussions, round table events, places where I could genuinely exchange ideas with people from all walks of life. Some were over my head and some were just pretentious. That’s not my style.

Solution: Skip the lectures and hang out with the DMOs. The marketplace was EMPTY while everyone attended the lectures, giving me some great one-on-one time with some awesome vendors. That’s where I made connections and scored my first press trips. I’m also going to suggest to the TBEX powers-that-be to do more of what the CEO of Matador Network, Ross Borden, did during his ninja-style workshop on Sunday – more conversational discussions instead of panels of people talking TO us, not WITH us.

Don’t fear!  My next post will be MUCH more positive, I promise! 

But while we’re at it, did you experience any TBEX shortcomings?  How will you remedy them for future conferences?

4 Comments

  1. Myrna Oakley
    Jun 14, 2013

    Katka, Thank you for your candid comments. I agree, it’s better to meet face to face with DMOs, a much easier way to connect and begin developing positive working relationships with these travel and tourism professionals. We use this model at our regional conference TravelandWords.com. The writers love it. The travel and tourism folks love it. But we are also a much smaller event so in some ways it’s easier to make those connections. But the connections tend to expand and grow for many months beyond the conference. If your time allows you can check us out @NorthwestWriter @WildAboutTheNW @RavenousTravelr and, soon, @TravelWordsConf. Best of travels to you and happy writing!

    • Katka
      Jun 18, 2013

      Thanks! Yes it was definitely a learning experience. I will check out your links!

  2. I agree with so much with what you wrote. I haven’t written a post TBEX report because I am still actually still simmering on it. I attend tons of other trade shows and conferences but nothing like this. I was given a warning about what it might be like. Perhaps this is what all blog conferences are like? Everyone says TBU and smaller things are better. I do prefer round table and open discussions rather than lectures.

    Thanks for writing this!

    • Katka
      Jun 27, 2013

      No problem! I think this was just a very large TBEX event and there is always room for improvement. The ones in the past have been MUCH smaller (between 300-500 people) so it’s usually a lot more intimate. I’d be willing to go back though!

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