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What the heck is TBEX?
I’ve been floating that word around for the last few months, and I’m sure many of you are super confused. To sum it up, TBEX is a huge conference for travel bloggers that occurs three times a year: one in North America, one in Europe, and recently, one in Asia!
Last year I had the pleasure of attending the very first TBEX Asia in Bangkok. This was super exciting for me because the conferences in North America and Europe were always too far away and expensive for me to attend.
I can’t even begin to tell you how nervous I was for TBEX Asia last year. I was big enough that I needed to network with brands and have things like a media kit and an elevator pitch, but I still had no idea what I was doing since it was my first time. Thankfully, a few other bloggers had written about their experiences, which helped me survive and make the most of my time.
So this year I figured, why not spread the love and share what I learned from my first TBEX!
1. Don’t Be Intimidated
I remember the first night I arrived in Bangkok. There was a pre-party hosted by Travel Massive, and as I was entering the rooftop bar I spied the “cool kids”. Immediately I recognized Alex in Wanderland, Jodi from Legal Nomads and a few other famous bloggers entering together.
I was so intimidated. None of these bloggers even knew who I was. I’m a nobody! I’m an amateur!
Seriously, stop. Famous bloggers may be a celebrity to you, but they aren’t famous in the real world. Almost every blogger I talked to was incredibly humble and down-to-earth… and if they’re not? They probably need a good reality check.
PRO TIP: Talk to Every Person that Intimidates You
Seriously, this might be my top piece of advice for any conference ever.
When I arrived at TBEX I made a rule that I would introduce myself to everyone who intimidated me. Every person who’s blog I read, or any individual I looked up to. No matter what, I would say hi.
Was I nervous? Of course! Did I almost run away a few times? Yep. Did I have a few awkward moments where I went to talk to someone, right as they were about to talk to someone else? Yeah, that happened.
But you know what? Not only did I make some awesome connections, I’m now friends with some of these people. Seriously, I was scared to talk to Jeremy from TravelFREAK because I really admired his business savvy and writing style. It took me a full day to work up the courage to talk to him! Now we’re actually pretty good friends, so you better not tell him I said this or it’ll go to his head and he’ll never let me live it down.Protip: At a conference or event, introduce yourself to everyone who intimidates you https://www.adventuresaroundasia.com/how-to-survive-your-first-tbex/ Click To Tweet
2. Make Memorable Business Cards
By the end of TBEX you will literally have a bag full of business cards. Remember, if you have a million business cards, chances are everyone else does too! How do you make sure your card doesn’t get lost in the shuffle? How do you stand out and make sure brands contact you and not the other girl with the same exact stats?
Simple. Be unique!
On the spectrum of business cards, I’d like to say mine are pretty memorable. I decided to put a picture of myself on them, so people would remember meeting me. The picture also pretty much sums of my personality and hopefully portrays the tone of my writing: packed with personality and a bit of humor.
The photo of me was also taken in Tibet, but it’s not obvious. So many people ask me where the picture was taken, which allows me to talk about my trip. Since Tibet isn’t a very common travel destination, it sparks a conversation which allows me to hopefully shine.
How do you make business cards? Easy! I use Canva. I bought a beautiful design for the back of my cards for $1 USD, and designed the front myself. Canva is also the site I use to create all of my Pinterest images on every post too!
3. Stay in a Hostel With Other New Bloggers
While the famous and older bloggers all stay in nice hotels, us young new bloggers take over the hostels. Last year I booked a room with a bunch of other female bloggers at a hostel walking distance from the convention center. We had a great time chatting and picking out our outfits before every event. The hostel was also packed with other bloggers who had booked out some of the other dorms and private rooms.
This year the majority of us are staying at Pink Manila, a short jeepney ride away from the convention center. They have dorms and private rooms, a rooftop pool and it’s cheap.
With so many bloggers in town, it can be really difficult to find a hotel to sponsor your stay. Personally, I prefer to pay for my own accommodation when I travel. I like staying in hostels and Airbnb apartments, and I don’t want the stress of writing about a sponsored stay, especially not when I have other things to be focusing on!
Staying in a hostel with other bloggers is also a great way to have an insta-group of friends so that you don’t feel lost at the event. I actually had a lot of acquaintance-friends before I arrived at TBEX, but if you’re super new, this is a great way to make sure you never feel left out, alone, or nervous!
4. Join the Facebook Group
But Richelle, How do I know where everyone is staying?
Great question young Jedi.
… Sorry, I don’t know if you noticed but I’m kind of a nerd.
Anyway, there will always be an official TBEX Facebook group you can join. This is the place where announcements are made, people chat about housing, and it’s also a PERFECT place to ask questions! You’ll also want to sign up for all the emails just to make sure you never miss anything.
5. Go to Speed Networking
I’m going to be a bit honest. The BloggerBridge system used for Speed Networking with brands is pretty confusing and hard to use. But personally, I think it’s worthwhile to make an account and try your hand at Speed Networking. Even if nothing comes of it, at least you’ll have a chance to practice pitching!
How to Get a Date
After you make an account, go through the list of brands. I suggest checking back every few days in the lead up to TBEX to see if any new companies have been added. Then go through and privately message all of the brands you want to meet with. Give a small pitch, stating who you are and why you want to meet with them. Personally, I created a template email and then customized it so that the brand knows that I know who they are and why I want to meet with them. Then send them an invite!
Not everyone will get back to you, and that’s okay! I think I only had two or three official Speed Networking dates last year.
You Don’t Need an Appointment
But, not everyone shows up to their Speed Networking appointments, and many brand tables are empty. If you see an empty table for someone you want to meet with, feel free to stop by and introduce yourself. Ask first to make sure they don’t have an appointment, and if they’re free most will be willing to have a little chat!
I did this with almost every single table last year.
What’s a Media Kit?!
This is probably what stressed me out the most about TBEX. What the heck is a media kit and why do I need one?
Well, I’m not an expert, but a media kit is basically a PDF document that explains who you are, what your brand is, who you’ve worked with and all of your stats and numbers. Even if you’re a super new blogger you can still make one! Just stalk your favorite bloggers and copy them, or look for templates online. I made my own media kit using Canva!
Most brands won’t want a physical copy of your media kit, so I had 5 printed on nice paper with the original saved on a USB. Many will ask you to email it to them later, which you should definitely not forget to do!
Don’t Expect Too Much
TBEX Asia has received some criticism for not having many brands that know how to work with bloggers. TBEX North America and TBEX Europe seem to be much better for Speed Networking from what I’ve heard.
Last year I didn’t receive any concrete benefits from Speed Networking, BUT it was great practice for me to get comfortable pitching in person. I had to be confident describing my site, my brand and what I could offer.
If you’re super new to blogging and this whole section is stressing your out, just skip the Speed Networking. There’s no point in pressuring yourself if your blog is a baby and you just came to learn.
6. The Sessions Are Hit and Miss
A few of the sessions I went to were extremely helpful, while others were a waste of time. Personally, if you want to learn about blogging, I recommend Travel Blog Success or the Travel Blog Virtual Monetization Summit which will be coming this Spring.
Definitely, bring a notebook and a few pens to take detailed notes, but don’t be too disappointed if you don’t learn as much as you were expecting. Personally, I learned more from just chatting with other bloggers!
Everyone who has been to TBEX will tell you that this conference is for having fun and networking with other bloggers. If you want to learn about blogging, take an online course or summit. If you want to network with brands, try going to a travel industry conference where you’ll have less competition.
That said, you can get a lot out of networking with other bloggers. I received so much advice on my blog from other professionals. Your new blogger friends may recommend you for Press Trips and other opportunities down the road, or teach you valuable monetizations skills. Having friends and connections in your industry is always a good thing!
7. Don’t Drink Too Much
What happens when you get hundreds of Travel Bloggers in one place? Alcohol. Alcohol happens.
I definitely think you should relax, have fun and enjoy TBEX, but try to watch how much you drink and don’t get too sloppy. Especially if you’re at a networking party like Travel Massive, or the Opening Night, be sure to stick to a few drinks so you can actually network.
When you do go out to a bar or club, feel free to let loose, but don’t drink so much that you won’t be able to function the next day! Or do… I won’t judge.
8. Dress Your Brand
Are you a nomadic backpacker that doesn’t have any nice clothes? Don’t worry! If you’re a backpacker, dress like one! Wear that cheap dress you bought on the beach in Thailand, or jeans and a (clean) t-shirt. On the other hand, if you’re a luxury blogger you better dress the part. There’s no need to wear a suit, but try to dress up a little bit if you can.
If there’s one thing I learned from sorority recruitment, it’s that you should dress in a theme, and try to have one thing about yourself that’s consistent and memorable. Last year I wore a different blue dress every day of the conference (yes, I have a lot of blue dresses). Since I’m an expat blogger, I can afford to dress up a bit, and blue is also my favorite color. You’ll see blue on my website, my media kit and my business cards.
I also wore cool earrings I’ve picked up on my travels, and every day I wore the bangle I bought in Tibet. If anyone complimented my on my jewelry, I always had a fun story about where I bought it.
9. Go Early and Stay Late
Seriously, there’s so much that goes on before and after TBEX. There are FAM trips, pre-and post activities, parties, networking, masterclass sessions and more!
This is the one piece of advice I can’t follow myself, which is extremely frustrating. Since October is a very busy time for my college counseling job, I can’t afford to take much time off of work. That said, I always arrive a full day early so I have time to participate in one pre-TBEX activity. Last year I did a muay thai class, which was so fun! This year I decided to forgo the pre-activities and take an e-book making class instead.
FUN FACT: I’m making an Ultimate Guide to Teaching Abroad in China for anyone who is interested.
10. HAVE FUN.
Seriously. TBEX is a ton of fun. Sure, it’s a business conference, but it doesn’t mean you should be nervous and stuffy.
Relax, have a good time, make new friends and enjoy the experience. Trust me, TBEX isn’t as scary or intimidating as it sounds. Everyone is there to help one another, and there’s no shame in attending with a small (or even non-existent) blog. Ask questions, make new friends and enjoy your experience!
Do you have any questions about TBEX? Anything I forgot to address? Let me know!
Heads up! There are a few affiliate links in this post. If you purchase something with this link, I make a small commission at no cost to you.