In case you missed it, this past weekend the second Travel Blog Exchange (TBEX) conference was held in New York City. Over 300 travel writers, bloggers, editors, podcasters, videographers and photographers gathered in the Cantor Film Center and various other locations all over NYC for networking, learning, talking, listening, and yes, dancing, drinking, and partying.
The weekend was a whirlwind of discussions on SEO, improving your writing skills, working with public relations people, and learning about podcasting and video. There was even some talk of porn…travel porn that is. It was this year’s very best opportunity to connect with and learn from other people in the industry, to put faces to Twitter avatars, and to talk to people doing just what you are: sharing their passion for travel with the world.
Held over two days, several sessions, and countless cocktails, TBEX 2010 had its highs and lows. It wasn’t perfect, but it was an unprecedented event for the travel blogging community, and one that likely will only be bigger and better next year. Here are some of our thoughts on the event, along with a selection of our favorite photos of attendees at the Saturday night BootsnAll/EuroCheapo party.
One of my favorite aspects of the event – aside from the fantastic sessions and chance to meet so many people I know only online – was the affirmation that there is room in travel for some many different styles of writing and blogging. From the beautiful narratives found on World Hum and in the San Francisco Chronicle, to the practical service information offered on sites like Journey Woman, The VacationGals, and EuroCheapo, to the brilliant niche-focused content of blogs such as Travels with Two and Delicious Baby, to the entertaining and informative personal travel blogs like Nomadic Matt and Everything Everywhere, one thing is clear: great travel writing comes in many forms.
I loved the Community Keynote, hosted by Pam Mandel and Mike Barish. Perhaps scheduling it right after lunch wasn’t the best idea, and maybe it would be better broken up throughout the conference (one piece read before each session) or held as an optional, more intimate event outside of the regular sessions, but I was thrilled to see the public recognition of great writing. I’d definitely like to see this session come back, in some variation, next year.
Above all else, TBEX was about learning from your peers and experts in the field. Each of the sessions provided at least one “take-away” lesson or tip, though some were more basic than others, and some were more applicable to certain styles of travel writing. Next year, I’d love to see a few different “tracks” offered so that attendees can pick and choose the sessions that are most applicable to them. I was enthralled by Gary Arndt’s “Travel Porn” presentation and by the session on “Upping Your Game” hosted by Allison Wellner, Don George, Michael Yessis, Jim Benning and David Farley, but less interested in the session on Podcasting. Being able to pick and choose would allow each attendee to maximize their return.
If you didn’t meet at least 30 incredible people at TBEX, you must not have been there. There were networking opportunities galore. With an opening party, plenty of breaks, two lunches, a Saturday night happy hour and – ahem – a rockin’ Saturday night party sponsored by BootsnAll and EuroCheapo, there was lots of time to socialize. Next year, I’d love to see a few more options for networking – and not in a crowded, loud venue – added into the schedule. Small group discussions or tables for sitting and chatting during lunch would have been ideal. I would have also enjoyed a closing event. Whether sponsored or unofficial, I think it would have been a nice way to wrap up the conference.
I could go on and on about the people I met, and am now even more in love with after getting to know them in person. But despite being able to connect with some many people, I still felt like there were so many more than I didn’t get to spend nearly enough time with. If I didn’t get the chance to talk to you, know that I wanted to, and you can always drop me a line, or get in touch if your travels bring you to Chicago.
TBEX sponsors not only brought the swag, the sponsors kept the cost low so more people could attend. We all know travel writing isn’t exactly the profession of millionaires, so an affordable price tag was much appreciated. The swag bags were well stocked as well. Of course, I’m partial to the Moleskines given out by BootsnAll, but the other freebies – water bottles, USBs, and travel fitness kits – were pretty great as well. Giveaways like iPads, art, and even free trips, also added to the excitement.
Public relations companies were well represented and I was grateful for the chance to connect. I had high hopes for the panel on working with PR, though I was a bit disappointed. PR people can be a great resource for travel writers, but it seemed to me like that session got off to the wrong start with the focus on “getting free stuff” rather than on how travel writers can and should approach PR for help with a story.
Every attendee should be giving huge kudos to the TBEX team – Kim Mance, Maren Hogan, Shanna Quinn and Courtney McGann. They worked their butts off putting this conference together, and did a superb job. But, there is room for improvements in the execution of the conference. Like most travel writers, this wasn’t always my full-time job. In my “previous life” I was an event planner, and a small part of me couldn’t help but critique a few issues, like the distribution system for the nametags. I also would have liked a printed schedule to follow along with during the conference and a bit more communication on where various events where held, and I know many people were distressed by the lack of wi-fi. I thought it was quite inventive though, that it was possible to keep everyone informed of the World Cup scores by projecting the World Cup Blog live blog of the game.
And of course, who could forget one of the most exciting moments, when the location for TBEX 2011 was announced as Vancouver, BC! No doubt the TBEX organizers will be bringing us an even bigger and better event than this year’s, learning from both the minor missteps and the major successes. We’ll be there, with more cool surprises in store, and we’re looking forward to seeing you all there!
More TBEX roundups on the web:
Reflections on TBEX ’10 and Travel Blogging – The Vacation Gals
TBEX10 Report – Bearshapedsphere
TBEX10 Conference Recap – Travel Writers Exchange
Here Comes Everybody – Chris Around the World
The 10-plus things I learned at TBEX – Writing Travel
Seven Things I Learned at TBEX 2010 – Travelojos
The top 10 things TBEX attendees love besides TBEX – Art of Backpacking
The one about the Travel Blog Conference – See Paul Go
In Pictures: Travel Blog Exchange 2010 – Geotraveler’s Niche
A Travel Blogger’s State of The Union – Travels With Two
Hype, help, hope and hangovers: The weekend that was TBEX10 – theseboots.travel
Messy Thoughts on TBEX 10 – Nerd’s Eye View
My Entirely Personal TBEX Roundup – Miss Expatria
Did we miss any? Send us a link to your roundup or your event photos and we’ll add them, and don’t forget to sign up for the BootsnAll Traveler Connect to help plan your trip to Vancouver for the 2011 event!