TBEX: Travel blogging conference hits new highs
In my ongoing quest to be a better travel blogger, I attended the annual travel bloggers conference, TBEX, that took place over the weekend of June 14-16 at Keystone Resort in Colorado, about an hour outside of Denver — and about 10,000 feet above sea level! My altitude adjustment problem and introverted personality type made it a challenging and tiring conference — but also educational, exciting and rewarding. These are some of my favourite moments.
10. The Rockies. It was my first time in the American Rockies, and though I’m not sure they are quite as rugged as those found in Canada, they were nevertheless a spectacular setting for a get-together. (Unfortunately, though, I had a lot of trouble with the high altitude and felt short of breath, dizzy and tired the whole weekend.)
9. Listening to Deb tell it like it is. When Deb Corbeil of The PlanetD told the audience in the Working with Brands seminar to “approach brands with proposals when you feel confident!” I nearly started clapping. This is a very important message and I’m so glad Deb said it. There is no magic number of followers, nor set rules or guidelines; no cookie-cutter approach nor specific goal or target to becoming a successful travel blogger. There isn’t even one, definitive definition of “successful” (you should have your own!). Deb made the journey personal, and humanized it, when she made that statement. Follow your own bliss. Do it when you’re ready. Right on. Thanks Deb.
8. Keynote by Rand Fishkin, founder of SEOmoz, who basically told the audience to BE YOURSELF. This is exactly what my mother told me, but to hear it from an SEO expert was really something. Rand’s advice was to:
- build something that you love
- make it unique and
- make it memorable
He had the best slide of the weekend, which he showed when he started talking about SEO tactics. Note: Do NOT stuff your posts with keywords.
7. Talking to to keynote speaker C.C. Chapman about INSPIRATION after his speech about “content rules.” He said during the speech that content should educate or inform readers. I got up to ask a question, but they closed the Q&A period before I had a chance to ask in public, so I asked C.C. my question right afterwards: “What about inspiration,” I said. “Shouldn’t content also be inspirational?” I wish I had a picture or video of his beaming face, as he enthusiastically said, “Of course!”
6. Meeting travel bloggers and others I have only met online before, and there are too many to name, but I will single out Amy Moore, MJ Manzanares, Michelle Duffy of Wander Mom, Beth Blair and Jen Miner of The Vacation Gals, Spencer Spellman, The Traveling Philosopher; Natalie Bahadur; the No Vacation Required guys; J.D. Andrews, EarthExplorer; Matt Gibson; David Stern of Hartmann Luggage, Vivek Wagle of airbnb, tech wizard Michael Tieso of Art of Backpacking, Dave Dean, Tim Leffel of Perceptive Travel, Andy Murdock of Lonely Planet, my soul mate Wil Klass of SpotCoolStuff, Kylie Robertson of Australia’s Outback, Laura Pitlik of Room Key, Katie Hammel of Viator, among others.
The highlight for me was meeting Dan and Audrey of Uncornered Market. I have long felt a strong admiration and affinity for their blog and their values, especially around cultural respect — and they were just as nice and just as erudite in real life as I hoped.
5. Decoding the chocolate tacos. The opening night was a great party. The TBEX organizers, Keystone / Vail and Colorado pulled out all the stops. The chocolate dessert tent alone was the stuff of dreams. Oh my. Along with great food, a great mountain-top setting and rooms filled with fascinating, warm and wonderful people, the best thing about it was the message it imparted: R-E-S-P-E-C-T. I think it was at that fabulous party that I realized I was watching travel blogging arrive. Companies, organizations and the travel industry in general is now starting to take notice, and starting to value the work we do. And I saw all of this in a plate of chocolate tacos. When they make you chocolate tacos, it means they care!
4. The seminar on travel writing by Spud Hilton and Stephanie Yoder. A good story is the basis of good travel writing and blogging, so to me this was the most important seminar on the conference agenda.
3. The John O’Nolan experience. I loved John’s presentation on designing for humans. It’s always great when someone stands up in front of a room and recognizes that humans are emotional, irrational and driven by psychological factors that are often beyond our control or understanding. Especially when it is someone like John, who has more than a little geekiness in his soul. John’s background is design: he was a designer for WordPress; he has designed sites for many major brands; and he is also the founder pf Travel1111.com, a site that’s all about travel blogging and has lots of great tips and advice. His TBEX presentation was fun, entertaining and thought-provoking. Here are a few of his main points:
- Deliver happiness! If your readers don’t feel happiness, they won’t remember you.
- Being average is much worse than being bad or good.
- If people complain or criticize, this is good! It means they care. Talk to them. Angry people are profitable.
- Your blog site should: load fast, have a specific tone and feel to it, have a purpose, be easy to use and navigate.
- Decide on an end goal for your readers, and “funnel” them through your site to your end goal.
2. The Expedia Party and especially
1) their support of Passports with Purpose (PwP) and
2) their new “Find Yours” campaign.