7 lessons learned from TBEX 13 … so far

It’s been 4 days of activities, food, drinking and networking at TBEX ’13. It’s been inspiring to say the least – even though there has been a lot of hot air spewed by many a travel blogger this weekend (You can’t help but overhear a lot of side conversations and just roll your eyes). A couple bloggers even took over a Q&A session to basically promote themselves … #dotheythinkpeoplearestupid … they know who they are … I’ll mention no names though. All that being said, it’s still inspiring to go. You don’t feel like a freak, when everyone else around you knows about Google Analytics, traffic stats, followers and takes pictures of everything they see and eat. Here’s 7 lessons learned from TBEX 13 … so far.

  1. Networking and working a new room is brutally intimidating
    As a consultant, I’m paid to walk into a new client, credentialize myself and lead from the front. As a consulting manager, I’m paid to walk into the client’s office and coach them on best practices within the marketplace. This is an excellent mindset for the business world. So what happens when you’re in a room where you’re NOT the expert and more importantly, no one knows who the hell you are?
    Networking in a cold room is one of the psychologically intimidating actions that most people will attempt- it’s socially terrifying to walk into a crowded, warm room, where appears to be highly engaged in conversation and seems to know everyone – except for you. I am not a stranger to this feeling and in fact – while I appear to be the social butterfly, working a crowd is among my least favorite items in the world … along with dairy. I didn’t know anyone TBEX ’13, in fact my first conversation was with Lauren and Kenin of the Constant Rambler. It was good to see another Trini face … and that helped get me into a conversation and I moved around from there.
    Lesson : See new people and faces as a challenge not an obstacle. They’re contacts and friends you haven’t made as yet. If they don’t like you or think you’re weird, you didn’t lose anything by saying “Hi!” – and they lost out on knowing you.
  2. The answer to every question you don’t ask …. is NO!
    This is a consulting and sales axiom, yet people are afraid to ask questions, as though there is some financial, social or emotional cost to asking questions.  I came into TBEX ’13 with two clear goals in mind

    • Meet 40 travel bloggers
    • Get a part sponsorship for my trip to Antarctica.
    • Discover, create and build a relationship with Canadian travel organizations

    I thought meeting 40 travel bloggers would be the most difficult task on my list – since I’m not the warmest, most fuzzy person around. In fact, I’m a bit of a grouch. My first night at the G Adventures event ended up with 3 people. My second night at the Travel Massive event at Irish Embassy went much better and got that count up to 24 and by the third night at the Tourism Toronto event at Roy Thomson Hall, I had reached my target.
    My second target of sponsorship was successfully enroute with a 90 second elevator pitch at the Irish Embassy event and my third goal was done by networking and pitching at the TBEX marketplace before the speed dating event – which leads me to point #3
    Lesson: Have clear, precise, reasonable and actionable goals for your time at TBEX. Having a plan in your mind about getting to those goals will help tremendously. You’ll be happier and if you’re smart about things, you’ll achieve them.

  3. Travel Blogger speed dating is a complete and utter waste of time
    In it’s current iteration, it’s a complete crock of shit. It creates unnecessary stress on people who aren’t used to pitching on the spot. It creates a completely false sense of urgency and provides little or no value added communication. My better half mentioned that it’s only good in a scenario leading to second stage interviews, for example: At international teacher job fairs, which I agree with. If organizers evolve it, where speed dating on the first day leads to longer time on the second day … then fine. As of right now, I would advise any travel blogger who is new to TBEX – to completely avoid speed dating. You’ve spent countless hours and written tons of content – why should you have to distill this into 3 minutes of shilling. F$!$ that …
    Lesson : Don’t stress about getting your agenda filled with people wanting to meet you. They don’t know you, and there could be a lot of external circumstances that prevented them from contacting you.
  4. Pitching is a skill and an art. Practice with a friend.
    Selling yourself and your brand is hard. We’re taught that self promotion is no promotion … in the islands, the cliche is “self praise is no praise”. I call bullshit! There is a fine line between thoughtful self promotion and shameless self aggrandizement. If you don’t know the difference, then definitely don’t expect to learn the difference at TBEX … there will be a lot of shamelessness on display. Companies want to work with you but if you can’t answer the following three questions appropriately, then there might be some work to do …

    • What can I do for you?
    • What can you do for me?
    • What can we do together?

    Lesson : Do practice your elevator speech – if you can’t articulate what you’re about in 90 seconds, then another person won’t get you, in 5, 10 or 30 minutes, and more importantly, they’ll get bored and move along mentally.

  5. You don’t need a 1000 friends in real life, you also don’t need 1000 travel blogger friends at TBEX
    My social and networking goal was to meet 40 travel bloggers in person, which I did. That being said you’ll never have time to chat with everyone equally. Get to know one or two or three people well during your time. Everything will come naturally from there. I was very lucky to meet up with Melissa, Kate and Erik … and it was nice to have a base of people to roam around TBEX with.
    Lesson : Quantity is nice, but you’ll need quality over time. Just like real life!
  6. PR people need stats, but PR people are looking for personality too … they’ll personality over stats
    Consultants all talk in terms of ROI and Value Proposition. It’s quite easy for me to talk to PR people … I’m in sales. That being said, I don’t have gigantic numbers and nor do you need to. I do have a niche and focus though. Everyone starts small, so don’t worry if you only have 1000 page views a month, still come and pitch and try.
    Lesson : Personality and relationships will always get you a start, but do have some stats, however small to back up your words.
  7. Travel Bloggers definitely enjoy themselves … but
    After years in consulting, the only people I know who are amazing after drinking till 5am in the morning 5 nights in a row and still can present a 40 slide deck on Benefits Administration or Oracle OLAP cubes are consultants. BOOM!
    I’ve seen many faces struggling into the conference looked brutally hungover at noon.  I wondered how they would be able to sell themselves. Obviously, I love having a good time too, but to be taken seriously, one has to look the part … never mind how terribly fat I look 😛

    Damn Guy Theriault’s twitter!!!

    Lesson: Do as you please, but unless you’ve had years of drinking, flying and working within a 18 hour span for a couple years, then get some sleep or don’t party as hard, if you want to be taken seriously.

About Rishiray

Rishi Sankar is a Cloud HRMS Project Manager/ Solution Architect. Over the past 15+ years, he has managed to combine his overwhelming wanderlust with a desire to stay employed, resulting in continuing stints with 3 major consulting firms (IBM, Deloitte, Accenture). He documents his adventures around the world on "Ah Trini Travelogue" with pictures and stories from the road/tuk-tuk/camel/rickshaw. You can follow him on Twitter at @rishiray and on Facebook at "Ah Trini Travelogue . He doesn't like Chicken Curry but loves Curry Chicken and is always trying to find the perfect Trinidadian roti on the road. He also doesn't like cheese and kittens ... and definitely not together. E-mail from his blog is appreciated like a 35 yr old Balvenie at rishi@rishiray.com

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