Yesterday was a momentous occasion for travel bloggers- it was the first really big, sponsored travel blog conference. The brain child of Debbie Dubrow and Kim Mance, TBEX off started as an “add on” for all the bloggers in Chicago attending Blogher, but soon took on a life of its own and provided a great venue for travel bloggers, website owners, and travel companies to meet, network, learn and interact.
The response to this event was huge- over 100 people from around the world came to meet the faces behind the sites, learn about building a successful website, and network with each other. I have a very large stack of business cards to prove it. While 100 people might not seem big to many people, when you consider the fact that by our nature travelers tend to be always traveling, it’s impressive to think so many of us could make our way to Chicago at the same time. People even came from as far as Chile and Laos.
The day was divided into four panels: building a successful blog, working with PR, journalism vs blogging, and podcasting. I spoke on the first panel with Heather from Gadling, Sean from Boot’s N’ All, and Michael from World Hum. It was exciting to be up there with such impressive people from such large travel sites. We spoke for about 45 minutes on building an audience, marketing, and connecting with people.
The other panels were interesting discussions about how to approach PR representatives, the ethics of accepting freebies as well as whether or not blogging was journalism. These conversations were interesting esoteric food for thought and have inspired many future blog posts on the site. As I plan to start using video in the coming months, I was especially interested in learning about podcasting and video on blogs. It turns out most people won’t watch a video longer than 3 minutes. As I wanted 10 minute videos, I’m going to have to rethink my strategy.
But, while the panels were very thoughtful, I felt a few important conversations were skipped over. Panels on social media and monetization would have been very interesting and helpful to many of the new bloggers in the room. During my panel discussion, a number of people asked about making money from their blog and I think it warranted more discussion than it got.
However, the first time anything happens it is never perfect. As Debbie said the event was only the first part of a long conversation. Moreover, when you do something like this it is hard to know what to expect exactly- Who will come? How will people react? Will advertisers see value in sponsoring? You just don’t know. Having this first event too look back on will make for a bigger and better TBEX next year. But don’t mistake this as real criticism- TBEX 09 was an amazing event and something I wish even more people attended.
And what was really exciting was meeting travel bloggers and site owners from around the world. All these people I read about, twitter with, and email with were finally going to be there in person. People are a lot taller than their Twitter avatar! What was amazing to me was how many people came up to talk to ME! People sought me out to let me know how much they loved my site and how much they look up to all that I’ve done. There are many bloggers and site owners I look up to and aspire to be like and I never thought the reverse could be true. It was a humbling experience and I really appreciate it.
TBEX was a wonderful event and I think we all walked away from it with things to think about, new connections, and excitement for next year. Thanks everyone who came- it was exciting meet and speak with all of you. See (more of) you next year!