On one hand you have the potential to learn a lot, make industry connections, meet other professional travel bloggers, and hang out with friends you probably haven't seen since the last conference. On the other hand you have absolutely zero clue if you will take home anything valuable for the hundreds, if not thousands of dollars you will spend to attend them.
When it comes to TBEX I have mixed feelings, and my overall outlook isn't so great.
TBEX Conference Topics Are Good for New Bloggers
If there is only one thing I could say about TBEX, it is that the sessions often seem heavily skewed to new bloggers. A consistent theme in many of the sessions in recent years has been how to improve your travel blog, how to find a community, and how to monetize your blog– so if you know nothing of these you will learn a thing or two and should consider going.
But what if you've been around for a while? Those who have already attended a few conferences about travel writing or blogging probably won't be blown away.
I'm not claiming to be an excellent writer, the master at finding a community, nor the best at monetizing, but I do know enough to get started and succeed to a certain degree. So when I spend money to attend conferences, I set the bar high. I want my butt kicked, and I expect nothing less. If I do not walk away with so many new ideas that I feel like I'm still just getting started then I don't consider the conference to be a success.
Unfortunately, and there is no easy way to say it, I learned nothing new at my second TBEX over what I did at my first. The only benefit I took away from the sessions is that I actually gave one myself, and that was about it.
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Even worse, in looking at the talk summaries for the TBEX conferences I didn't attend, they seemed to be quite similar to talks I had already seen. With no interest in attending for the conference sessions themselves, I kept finding myself asking if it was worth it to spend thousands of dollars to fly across the world just for a speed dating session.
Attending for the Speed Dating
One of the best parts about TBEX is the Speed Dating sessions. These are set up where you can have a brief discussion with many industry professionals from around the world over the span of about two hours each day. In both of my TBEX experiences this has been my favorite part, and Speed Dating may in fact be the sole reason that makes the conference worth attending.
These sessions are quite valuable for bloggers of all levels because it gives you the ability to practice your pitching, generate contacts within the industry, and even work out promotion deals.
After my first TBEX in Toronto (as a much smaller blog than we are now), I walked away with many contacts that would end up being great partners down the road. After my second TBEX in Cancun the same occurred, albeit to a lesser degree due to fewer matching industry members being present. At that one, however, I did come away with several contacts resulting from my talk and I am very excited about what is happening with those. Unfortunately, that wasn't from speed dating.
Overall, attending conferences to meet industry members through sessions like speed dating is incredibly important. In many cases partnerships are formed based on these face-to-face meetings, and those cold pitching the same exact person may not get a response even if your idea is incredible. It is just how things work and I do not see this fact changing any time soon.
But what if your blog is brand new? While you may not walk away with any partnerships, practicing your pitching, meeting industry leaders, and generating contacts you can reach out to months or years down the road is something all bloggers should do. So if you do not envision benefiting from this feature in the near-term, you never know what will happen in the future.
Is TBEX Worth It?
Overall, my opinions of TBEX are mixed.
For new bloggers I would say this conference is currently one of the best blogging resources you can find and is worth attending at least once in your career as a travel blogger. For established bloggers I am not so sure.
If you do decide to attend, your next step is to determine which TBEX event you will participate in. In this case you have to evaluate your choice based on what destination you can reach the easiest and what industries/brands you want to get in touch with the most.
I only list these two qualifiers because when it comes to the sessions they will probably end up being too similar to matter (I'd be happy to be proven wrong on this one, though).
Will you see me at any future TBEX events? Maybe, but I'm not going out of my way to make it happen. If the drive is close (or I am invited to speak), I am in. Otherwise, I may look elsewhere.
As I mentioned in the earlier portion of this article, I want my butt kicked when I attend conferences, and I don't think TBEX can do that for me anymore- even with the incredibly low ticket prices that are offered. So if I find my way to a TBEX event it will be because I am attending for the business connections and figured out a way to get there without spending that much money.
Instead of TBEX, I plan on attending other conferences that are more entrepreneurial or business oriented as that is the direction I need to focus on more for my future projects.
…those presentations can still kick my ass, and I will happily pay more money in order to have that happen.
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