In March 2017 we attended our first TBEX in Jerusalem. It was our first travel conference, and we weren’t sure what to expect. To help you prepare for and survive your first TBEX, we’ve written this post based on our experience.
What is TBEX?
First, and foremost: what the hell is TBEX? Well, TBEX stands for Travel Blog Exchange. It’s a travel blogging conference, bringing travel bloggers and travel companies together for networking, interesting lectures, and good food. Apart from that, they offer several opportunities to explore and experience the city hosting the event.
Here’s how TBEX is described on the TBEX website:
TBEX is the world’s largest gathering of travel bloggers, writers, new media content creators, and social media savvy travel industry professionals.
They explain why you should choose TBEX as well:
It’s easy. For travel bloggers TBEX is the place to learn. A place to network. A place to take your blog and content to the next level. If you are looking to hone your writing skills or open new doors for your digital publishing business, you’ll instantly feel at home at TBEX.
Convinced? Keep reading to find out everything you need to know before attending your first TBEX Travel Conference.
What’s included in your TBEX ticket?
- Speed Networking
- Goodie bag
- Breakfast, lunch, and drinks during the conference
- PRE-BEX & POST-BEX tours
- Accommodation discount
- Opening Party, including food and drinks
- Closing Party, including food and drinks
How to prepare for your first TBEX?
Every trip needs some preparations, but when you’re attending your first TBEX Travel Conference, you’ll need to prepare conference stuff on top of the regular travel stuff. Here are a couple of tips on things you’ll need to do or take care of before attending your first TBEX.
Buy an early bird ticket
Save some money by buying an early bird ticket for your first TBEX (or any other conference you’ll ever attend). We bought tickets for TBEX Africa 2018 (July 25-27) on March 25, 2017 for $97 per person. Only a couple of days later, the price rose to $127 per person. As the date of the event approaches, ticket prices will only keep rising. When you’ve clicked the “Register Now” button on the TBEX website, you’ll see that the date until which the mentioned price is valid, is written in small print above the price.
Make business cards
You can’t be taken seriously when you’re attending a conference without having business cards. Everyone carries business cards on a conference and they’ll be handing them out too. This means you’ll be gathering quite some business cards. See where I’m going here? You’ll want your business cards to stand out from the rest. Make them unique and memorable.
Here’s what should definitely be on your business cards: your name, your blog name, and your blog url. Some say your social media handles and email address should be on them as well, but you can find all that information on your website as well, no? If not, you should definitely go fix that now.
When prepping for our first TBEX, we finally (after 1.5 years of blogging) decided it was time for our own business cards. So Brecht designed them. We didn’t go with regular business cards, no. We had Wandering the World stickers printed (they’re multifunctional!). To transform them to business cards, we stick them to blank business cards. We always have a pen at hand to write a short comment on the back, so the person we hand it to will remember who we are. Genius, right? Have to say we got quite some compliments on that during our first TBEX. #nailedit
Prepare an epic elevator pitch
You’ll need an elevator pitch to go with your business card. When someone asks you about your blog, you need to have a short and gripping answer, or they’ll lose interest. That’s an elevator pitch, a brief but clear 30 second sales pitch. This is something we kind of forgot about. We found out the hard way, stammering and searching for words when someone asked us about Wandering the World.
Register for TBEX Tours
Every TBEX Travel Conference has a bunch of PRE-BEX and POST-BEX tours. Basically they are a bunch of tours and activities in and around the hosting city, included in your TBEX ticket (read: for “free”). The PRE-BEX and POST-BEX tours are a great opportunity to get to know the city hosting the TBEX event better. For example, during our first TBEX in Jerusalem we joined the Old City Tour and went on a self-guided food tour with the Bitemojo app.
Once you have your TBEX ticket, you’ll be notified via email when the tours are open for registration. The spots are often limited and offered on a first come, first serve basis, so don’t postpone registering for too long.
Book accommodation through the TBEX website
Accommodation is not included in your TBEX ticket, a discount is. Go to the TBEX website and check out the partnering hotels/hostels for the TBEX event you’re attending. If you book a stay at one of these hotels/hostels through the TBEX link, you’ll get a discount and possibly some extra benefits. On top of that, you’ll be sure to be staying close to the event and/or activities will be organised from your hotel/hostel.
During our first TBEX in Jerusalem, we stayed at Abraham Hostel. It was a 10 minute bus ride away from the conference venue, the International Convention Centre or ICC in Jerusalem. However, Abraham Hostel was the location or starting point for several tours and activities. Convenient!
Check out the sessions beforehand
During the TBEX Travel Conference, a bunch of sessions or talks by other travel bloggers and industry professionals will take place. Most of the time several session will be held at the same time, so you won’t be able to attend them all. Make sure you read the session descriptions on the TBEX website beforehand to determine which ones you’d like to attend. Think about what you want to get out of them and maybe prepare some questions to ask the speaker.
Register for Speed Networking
Or not. We didn’t, because we didn’t think our blog was big enough for that yet. But hold up, what is Speed Networking? Well, it’s like speed dating, but for bloggers and sponsors. Industry attendees can buy a Speed Networking table, and bloggers can register for a time slot of 8 minutes for a short meeting with that sponsor. Unlike us, you should probably just go for it right away. What’s the worst that can happen?
Join the TBEX Facebook group
Every TBEX travel conference has an official Facebook group. You’ll receive an email about joining (if you signed up for emails). Join! All TBEX attendees use it to ask questions and the TBEX organisation uses it share information and make announcements.
What to bring to your first TBEX?
You really don’t have to bring much to your first TBEX. The most important thing is your enthusiasm. Business cards can come in handy too (we only handed out somewhere around 30), and something to take notes (your phone or laptop for example). We have a pen on us at all times as well, for notes on our business cards, but you can surely get hold of a sponsored pen during TBEX.
Attending your first TBEX
You can prepare the sh*t out of your first TBEX, and still screw it up during the conference itself. To prevent this worst case scenario, here are some tips to keep in mind on how to behave during your first TBEX.
Attend the first timers session
Even if you have read a bunch of blog posts on how to prepare for your first TBEX, we still think it’s worthwhile to attend the first timers session. Albeit just to check out who’s a first timer too and maybe make some friends. During our first TBEX in Jerusalem, you didn’t have to attend the first timers session for that though. They put as many star stickers on our TBEX badge as TBEX events you’ve attended. It just took a quick glance to know if you’re talking to an experienced or newbie TBEX’er.
More importantly though, you’ll get some great tips on how to get the most out of your first TBEX. The key takeaway from our first timers session was: don’t be shy! One of the speakers, Vicki Winters, certainly wasn’t. Her main advice was to be memorable. She was overly enthusiastic about everything, but certainly memorable. We didn’t forget about her, so I guess she succeeded in her intentions!
Another great tip we took to heart was to take notes on the business cards you receive to remember who it was that gave it to you. Handy when you’re looking through the tons of business cards you brought home from your first TBEX! And when you want to ask a question during a session, first introduce yourself (name and blog name) when you get the mic, before asking your question.
Find yourself a buddy
Like mentioned before, several sessions take place at the same time. It’s impossible to attend them all. That’s where the buddy system comes in handy. Find yourself a buddy (or 2) and divide the sessions that are happening at the same time between you 2 (or 3). Swap notes afterwards. I was attending TBEX with my travel buddy and we split up too. Just for the sessions, of course.
The talks by big time travel bloggers and industry professionals are great and all, but we believe it’s really important to socialize with fellow travel bloggers in between the sessions. Learn about the way they handle their blog and social media and share your experiences. We can help each other!
Don’t forget to exchange business cards as well. We only did that with people we really connected with though. Don’t waste business cards by randomly handing them out to everyone you see. Your card will get lost in their stack anyway.
Attend the TBEX side events
The TBEX host city always throws a big opening and closing party for all TBEX attendees. These parties are great opportunities to mingle and get to know some fellow travel bloggers in a more relaxed atmosphere, with a drink in hand. Food and drinks are usually free.
Honestly, the opening party of our first TBEX in Jerusalem wasn’t all that, but we still got to know some people we regularly spoke to again in the next couple of days. The closing party on the other hand had a bunch of food stands, free cocktails, and a fashion show. Fancy! We didn’t stick around for the DJ though, we’d had an exhausting couple of days.
After your first TBEX
You came prepared and rocked it during the conference, but what happens after your first TBEX?
Implement what you’ve learned
After attending your first TBEX, you’ll surely have learnt a thing or two. Now implement that into your blog!
We learnt, for example, that YouTube is the second biggest search engine. Maybe we should create some more video content after all? Brecht really liked the Hyperlapse session by Scott Herder, so that’s what we’ve been trying lately: making hyperlapses. One of them already made it to the blog. You can watch it here.
Keep in touch with your new friends
Even if you’re not really trying to be social, you’ll definitely meet some people on your first TBEX. If you really had a connection, it’s important to maintain that relationship, whether that person is a fellow travel blogger or an industry professional.
We met, for example, another travelling couple: Rob and Taiss from Together to Wherever. Too bad we’ll miss each other by a couple of days in July when they’ll be coming to Belgium and we’ll be heading to Chiang Mai!
The people we met weren’t all travel bloggers though, some were company representatives, like Denisa from GetYourGuide. A week after we met on our first TBEX, she sent us an email introducing her company. Now, a couple of months later, we’re part of their affiliate network and waiting for the first commission to roll in.
We can only give you some tips and pointers, but you’ll have to experience your first TBEX (or other travel conference) to truly understand how it works. You can’t really do anything wrong. Just make sure you enjoy the trip!
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