I have attended or am scheduled to attend a number of travel conferences: Canada Media Marketplace, TBEX, VEMEX, Adventure and Travel, TMX, NMX, SATW, NATJA, Travelcon, etc. Each conference has its own style, but each is also a place for professional networking. Conferences provide an opportunity to hone your craft, pitch to travel PR companies, and try and put together a strategy for making money… or at least that’s the idea. It can also be just an excuse to get together and swap travel stories over a beer. Getting the most out of a travel conference requires some preparation.
You are going to be meeting a lot of new people. What do you want them to remember about you? Are you a Colorado food blogger? Are you a nomad backpack traveler? If you don’t have one now, come up with an “elevator pitch.” What can you tell someone in the time it takes to ride the elevator one floor.
“The Amateur Traveler is an award-winning online travel show that focuses primarily on travel destinations and the best places to travel to. It covers everything from knowing what to put on your Chicago dog when you go to the Windy City to swimming with whales in Tonga. It includes a weekly audio podcast and a blog. Last year the podcasts I produced were downloaded more than 1.4 million times.”
Don’t be too surprised if you hear me say this at least once in the show. It is not off the top of my head. I want you to walk away thinking. “Travel podcast, destinations, the audience”. What is your elevator pitch?
You know what you want people to remember. Now how are you going to help them remember you? If you know me, you know I am all about branding.
I carry business cards with me where ever I go. To make sure, I sometimes use a iPhone Business Card Holder (~$3). I designed my own business cards and ordered them from VistaPrint. If you need ideas for a logo or business cards you can get them designed for you at 99designs or check out this article on designing business cards with style. Much more expensive but popular with photographers are Moo Cards which can feature a set of your photographs on the back.
Always Be Branded
If I were driving to a conference, you might know which car is mine as it sometimes has a magnetic sign on the side (I have had 3 stolen so far, please people, just write down the URL), also from VistaPrint, and license plates with CHRIS2X which is my primary Twitter handle. When you see me at the conference, I will almost certainly be wearing a shirt with either Amateur Traveler or the Amateur Traveler logo embroidered on it. So no how many beers you get me to drink, I will always know at least my URL or my Twitter handle. I get my shirts from Queensboro. You do have to buy 4 items with the same logo in each order.
My latest branding is a tie from Zazzle with the Amateur Traveler URL. I did actually have an experience at the Canada Media Marketplace where I was wearing it, and someone asked me the URL for Amateur Traveler. Seriously? Too subtle?
How will you be memorable?
Why are you attending? Who do you want to meet? Make a list of 5-10 people who you want to have a conversation with. They might be speakers, other bloggers, people whose work you enjoy, companies, or destinations you want to work with. Think about:
- One person you want to thank. Who has helped you in your travels, or who has helped you get started?
- One person you want to pick their brains. Who knows more about something you don’t? Whose blog inspires you? Who is running tours? Who is the best photographer? If you had just 5 minutes with that person, what would you want to ask?
- One person you want to help. Who do you think you could be of some help to or who are you inspired to help? What are you bringing to the party?
- One destination you would like to see. If you only had one chance to pitch to one tourism board which one would you pitch? What would you want from them? What can you do for them?
- One company that you would like to work with. What company, especially a sponsor, do you go weak in the knees when you think about working with them? You love their product or services. How could you work with them? Why should they work with you?
Bring a camera or a video camera for sure but I would also recommend:
- To scan business cards, I use the app FullContact.com which has an app and a web service. I do pay for FullContact, at least for the months that I do a lot of networking.
Your Follow-Up Plan
Before you even go to the conference, plan for how you will follow up with people. Perhaps you will:
- Send actual “put it in the postal system” thank you cards for companies that you want to work with who take the time to talk to you.
- Keep a list on your smartphone or written on your hand of people you will email and what the next step would be.
- Write a note on the business card when you get it that will help you remember who you promised to send a media kit or your new eBook “The Secrets to Washing in Hostel Sinks.”
- Create a calendar or to-do list items for who you will follow up and when.