We had the wonderful experience of attending our first TBEX (Travel Blog Exchange) conference in Huntsville Alabama earlier this month and met all kinds of fantastic people. Our trip consisted of a few main parts: a self-arranged pre-tour of Chattanooga, pre-BEX classes on writing and photography, TBEX proper and a post-BEX tour to Jack Daniel’s. In our piece “The Game – TBEX and the Art of Networking” we laid out our game plan before attending TBEX. It’s now time to score ourselves and see what we learned.
Playing the Networking Game
Select a Target – TBEX was a target rich environment so this really wasn’t an issue. Everybody was either a blogger or a brand in the building and they all had practiced their elevator speech. It also was anything but exclusive. The culture was to meet as many people as possible. We probably gathered over 100 cards from our interactions. This bit of advice was a non-starter. Just make a point to meet everybody.
Approach and Open – There were a few cases when we were closed out of our approach but that was ok. By and large, this was super easy because people wanted to talk to you (and everybody). Group Theory, where you embed yourself near a target, worked fantastically. We could actually move from group to group fairly easily by expanding social circles. Once we met one group of people, they would disperse to new groups. Then, we could enter those groups by pivoting in with the folks we already met.
Hats off to the TBEX organizers too. They did a fantastic job of finding ways to get people to mingle. From the parties to the press trips, to the classroom, they always got people talking and making friends.
I (Ed) do need to work on my socially acceptable small talk. One time, I picked a story that was definitely off the menu when I was at the writer’s workshop without Jenn. I recovered a bit by saying that Jenn exists to cover me in social situations. For the rest of the convention, there were people coming up to Jenn saying “Make sure Ed doesn’t tell that bird story again”.
Demonstrate Higher Value – We leveraged off our Instagram account liberally at TBEX. It was our trump card. We knew people from Instagram and people actually knew us. We had some good tips and Jenn always takes beautiful pictures. Our Moo cards with fifty original photos on the back helped too. We did the pick a card game and people liked it. Perhaps our best IG hookup came from the delightful Nicky from Little Family Adventure set Jenn up on an amazing dinner at Cotton Row. (if you look carefully you can even see a Jenn picture in the post)
Disarm the Obstacles – To be honest, we weren’t really trying to sell anything. We just wanted to meet people. There really weren’t any obstacles to disarm since everybody there wanted to meet too. Again, this was a non-starter.
Isolate the Target – I don’t think there were very many deals being made at TBEX. Everything was all about numbers close e.g. getting a card. Getting a card wasn’t hard but the next step was super important.
Building an Emotional Connection – Once you get a card, we wanted to make sure that we had at least one personal story to share with everybody when we wrote them back. We also made sure to write everybody we met at TBEX.
Pump Buying Temperature / Blast Last Minute Resistance / Manage Expectations – Again, we weren’t selling anything, we just wanted to make friends and meet people. We succeeded in spades. Here are some of the fantastic people we met. If we left you off just ping us and we’ll add you. We tried to include everybody.
Cotton Row (pictures from Nicky Omohundro)
Chef James Boyce Cooking for the Crew (pictures from Nicky Omohundro)
The Blogger Gals at Cotton Row (pictures from Nicky Omohundro)
Great Bloggers from TBEX Huntsville
Here are some of the cool bloggers we met at TBEX in Huntsville and a short introduction to their blogs. They are all great folks so click in and see what they have to offer.
Nicky – Little Family Adventure is a an active family lifestyle website that inspires families to be healthy so they have the energy to go out and find their own adventure, wherever that may be. From cooking together in the kitchen, to camping outdoors, to traveling the outdoors, they ensure that that “No Child Is Left Inside”.
Rob and Chris – 2TravelDads share stories and travel advice from the perspective of your average American family: 2 dads and 2 kids. Okay, so not the average American family but a totally different perspective than what many are used to. They’re traveling with their kids, teaching them the value of culture and education, experiencing the outdoors, and giving the kids a broad world view.
Cory – Curb Free with Cory Lee is the world’s number one blog devoted to wheelchair accessible travel. As a wheelchair user, Cory scouts the globe for the most accessible cities, hotels, attractions, and more. With six continents traversed already, Cory hopes to inspire others to roll out of their comfort zone and see all the beauty our world has to offer.
Ann – Ann got started with her blog anncavittfisher.com in 2015 because there were lots of things she wanted to say as a mom and as a cancer survivor. She loves traveling, and writing about trips favorite places became a central theme for her. What started as a hobby has turned into a passion, and now Ann is writing and traveling full-time. Whether she’s heading out on a road trip or crossing the Atlantic on a tall ship, she wants to share those experiences and to celebrate being alive.
Jen – Jen on a Jet Plane is written by a solo female travel blogger taking 12 trips in 12 months while employed full-time. Jen specializes in budget, adventure and long weekend travel.
Juliann – Browsing the Atlas. I have an insatiable desire to explore and be inspired. I need variety and a change of scenery. I don’t think I could survive without it. Luckily, I don’t have to. I became a travel blogger and combined my two passions, writing and travel, into Browsing the Atlas. Come with me.
Blogger Party at Space Camp (photo Adam Morris)
Carol – GirlGoneTravel.com is a travel and food blog that touches on everything from family travel to solo travel. Publisher Carol Cain shares helpful travel tips and insights, as well as more personal stories on how travel has impacted her life as a woman of color, a mother, and a wife. Her hope is make her adventures around the world not only inspirational but also relatable to her readers.
Donna – Empty Nestopia is about helping mid-life empty nest travelers discover adventurous, authentic experiences in cuisine, cocktails, and countries – from beach bars to five-stars. You are never too old to try something new.
Chris – HKTravelBlog offers resources, tips and tricks to travelers in Hong Kong and Asia. They provide information such as on how to get around Hong Kong, visa information and services to China and Vietnam, and insiders guides on local hotspots such as the best happy hours in the city.
Adam – TheSterlingTraveler is all about using points & miles to travel inexpensively without going cheap – aka the “Sterling Standard”. Using the Sterling Standard, Adam has been able to travel well with minimal out of pocket expenses. He likes telling people how he does that, but even more, he loves hearing about how others have learned from him and done it too.
Kim – Kimberly Tate is the founder and content creator of Stuffed Suitcase, a family travel & lifestyle website. Her blog is packed full of tips for family travel and life between trips, to help encourage others to create lasting family memories. In addition to Stuffed Suitcase, Kimberly also co-produces Vacation Mavens, a family travel podcast, and recently published her book, Wanderlist, a travel planning workbook.
Adam – People Helping People is a travel blog and podcast for inspiration on how you can make a difference around the world, exploring topics in culture, social entrepreneurship, the environment, and great projects around the world where people are helping people make awesome stuff happen!
Michelle – Michelle Marine authors the green lifestyle blog SimplifyLiveLove where she shares organic gardening tutorials, farm-to-table recipes, green living tips, and family travel posts. She lives on five acres in Eastern Iowa with her husband, four children, 20 chickens, dogs, cats, rabbits, and a turkey named Tarzan. In addition to blogging, Michelle loves traveling the world with her family, sunsets, photography, good food, and wine.
Erin – A blog for the culinary explorer in all of us, The Epicurean Traveler shares where to eat and drink as you travel the world. Based in Grand Rapids, Mich., Erin predominantly travels within the United States and loves to showcase the American Midwest’s culinary scene. Coming this year, you’ll find more international content from Canada, Ireland, Peru, Mexico, and Costa Rica as Erin and her taste buds continue to “research” culinary travel experiences near and far. You can follow along with Erin’s travels and foodie adventures on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter.
Nicole – Founder and owner of SAHMReviews.com, Nicole has been involved in social media marketing since 2007. She has worked with a number of major corporations who utilized her skills to improve their social media outreach and online presence. Nicole works as an ambassador for brands such as Netflix, U.S. Cellular and K’NEX, has been featured in McDonald’s videos as well as Maria Bailey’s book “Power Moms”. Always a SAHM (stay-at-home-mom) and mother of two beautiful teenage daughters, if you can’t find Nicole, she is probably somewhere playing board games. SahmReviews.com provides real, authentic, honest and engaging stories-based reviews focusing primarily on entertainment such as movies, TV, travel and heavily on board games. While you’ll find other family-friendly content on the site, bookmark it to learn more about games you’ve probably never heard of and the advantages of incorporating games into your routine.
If you have dreams of wanderlust dancing in your head and are looking for some inspiration, we suggest you check out any of these sites, we promise you that there will definitely be a few new entries on the bucket list ♥
TBEX mission accomplished.