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As 2014 draws to a close, I look back – and forward.

This year has been a big step forward for One Weird Globe and life as a travel blogger While the front-end received switched hosts and received a makeover in November, one big thing I learned in 2014 was that conferences are great places to network with businesses seeking to work with bloggers.

In 2014, I spoke at the ITB Asia panel in October (on the subject of “Building Your Online Community – Tips from Travel Blogging Pros”) and at the Digital Innovation Asia in June (on the subject of “From Outreach to Engagement – Top Tips to get the most out of working with bloggers”) – and yes, I want to brag a bit =)

Until I went to a conference myself, however, I hadn’t realized the power of attending a conference first-hand. While slides and livestreams are great, technical gremlins can and will pop up at any time – if it can happen to Apple, it can happen to anyone).

It’s time for the next level of your travel blog.

To be frank, I was skeptical at first. A few of the questions I had:

  • Is it worth the time / effort / money to attend?
  • What do I say to the people I meet?
  • Was I becoming a sell-out by focusing on the business side of the blog, instead of the travel side?
  • What do I offer them?
  • How do I follow up with them?

For now, let’s start with the most basic questions.

What makes a travel conference worth visiting?

It’s a way to connect – first-hand, face-to-face – with people within the industry. Whether they are other bloggers (fellow travelers with great stories and connections), potential clients and partners, or government representatives, that face-to-face contact facilitates future chats. In short, that first handshake and meeting is the stepping stone to working together.

What should you do to prepare?

Start by understanding the nature and purpose of the conference. Every single conference on this list, while focused on travel, blogging, or travel blogging, is different. Some conferences will feature ‘speed networking’ sessions, something you may want to sign up for ahead of time. Other conferences will feature the opportunity to make appointments with other business types – again, you may want to sign up for this ahead of time. Scour the website and any e-mails you receive after registering.

What should you expect once arriving?

A mix of chaos, action, and an overwhelming amount of info! One big goal at the conference (which can be partially done before you arrive) is to narrow down which speakers, events, or people you specifically want to make contact with. A bit of research will do wonders here – read up on the speakers or panels to discover the ones most relevant to your blog.

How much time should I spend networking?

How much time do you have? Seriously – for better or worse, minutes spent away from networking are minutes not spent on the primary reason you came to the conference. Take some downtime when needed, but getting lunch or dinner is a great excuse to chat someone up on a more casual level.

The parties, by the way, are another great place to chat people up. Be they the official or the unofficial types (e.g. the sort you’ll hear about at the conference), make it a point to show up. Drink water or something non-alcoholic if you like, but let the different venue (and alcohol) shake things up a bit.

What if I’m an introvert?

You mean showing up to talk with hundreds – or thousands – or people for days on end doesn’t just thrill you?! OK, seriously. Get away from the crowds is one common tip, but take it to the next level – consciously schedule that downtime when there isn’t an interesting speaker or something else going on. When it’s time to socialize, asking lots of questions redirects the conversation to them – letting them do more of the talking takes away the need for you to. Practice some responses about you and your blog – sometimes, knowing what to say if half the battle.

Enough from me. Here are some other reasons to go.

I asked some other travel bloggers about their thoughts regarding conferences. A few of them:

“There were times when the convention room of the Women in Travel Summit (WITS) felt a bit like a stock market- information was being traded so fast and furious! There was such an incredible energy in the air and it was so refreshing to ask for hotel recommendations (without having to double check that it was well lit and safe at night), photography ideas (without needing to explain why you wouldn’t feel comfortable in a certain neighbourhood) or technology tips (minus the fear of being talked to “like a girl”). Travel writing and travel blogging is different for women – it just is. The geo-political, socio-economic, and cultural-linguistic mazes of the world require us to march to a different beat and there is such an utter relief to find yourself surrounded by colleagues who really, really get it.

Last year, I was a part of the budget travel panel at WITS and it felt like the conversation could have gone on for hours. There were so many eyeopening discussions, like should solo women try Couch Surfing, and so many valuable resources put forward – like how to sleep in convents! The room was packed and the crowd lingered long after the time was up, which for me is a solid sign of a great discussion. There were so many women participating from so many different walks of life and it was so motivating to see how we all shared common goals.”

Vanessa Chiasson – TurnipseedTravel.com

What I learned from attending travel conferences was how to network with other bloggers and agencies via Twitter, engaging on Instagram via hashtags, and where to find PR agencies. I knew very little about Twitter prior and how hash tags are great for networking and expanding your audience. It’s not just about putting great content out there, but making others notice it. Plus, meeting PR agencies in person help you learn about others that exist in the world.

Angelica Wilk – BrooklynChickTravels.com

I attended my first blogging conference this year, the Problogger training event. I went mainly to connect with others in the industry, but I was shocked just how inspiring the whole event was. I met and listened to so many different successful bloggers who not only had fantastic advice and tips to share but interesting stories about how they have been able to make a full time living from blogging. The sessions were very informative and I learned a lot from industry experts in areas where I have struggled, such as email marketing or using G+, but for me, the biggest plus was learning all the different ways bloggers had successfully monetised their blogs. I no longer think its all about advertising, affiliates, eBooks and sponsored posts. They really opened up my mind and changed my direction and focus. I would not think twice about attending again.

Sharon Gourlay – digitalnomadwannabe.com (also authors the blog Where’s Sharon?) 

Attending travel conferences for me has been an amazing way to meet other travel journalists, get education about my craft and allowed me access to business opportunities I would not have otherwise had. Specifically, meeting the editor of BBC.com/travel and learning her insights into the latest travel trends and how to market my small business.

Dr. Cacinda Maloney – http://www.pointsandtravel.com

The list

Bear in mind this is a living document, which can and will be updated over the coming months. If you have any changes to suggest, please contact chris AT oneweirdglobe DOT com. To share, edit, or to see this Google spreadsheet outside this post, use this link.

For another list of 80+ Business, Online Marketing, and Tech Conferences, see http://kristihines.com/blog/80-business-online-marketing-tech-conferences-2015/, and note there might be some overlap there.

Which conferences are you going to? Share in the comments.

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