Thoughts from a #TBEX first-timer

Welcome to Toronto!

Welcome to Toronto!

I attended my first ever TBEX conference in Toronto last weekend. I’ve had about a week to process all that I learned and to reflect on all the new connections I made with others, whether it was with bloggers or with tourism industry folks. Here are my thoughts on:

The Sessions

I attended the ones that seemed most interesting and most valuable to me. I have been blogging for more than nine years, but it’s been within the last two that I’ve gotten really serious about this travel blogging gig. So I stuck with the more introductory sessions and came away with pages and pages of notes. The most valuable session I attended was “Building your audience with social media management tools” presented by Ian Cleary. Ian went beyond the basics of sharing via Twitter and Facebook and explained, in detail, sites like HootSuite and SocialOomph, and other tools I had never considered using. Ian also explained SEO (search engine optimization) in a way that I could (finally) understand. Thank you, Ian; I am no longer afraid of SEO.

The Speed Dating

Great concept, imperfect execution. Actually, Saturday went quite smoothly since the company reps and bloggers were held to the ten-minute appointment time limit. But on Sunday during the Open Marketplace, it was quite chaotic at times and a bit stressful. Why allow people to schedule appointments when others can just walk right up to the tables and talk to the reps without appointments? I think it should be one way or the other. It was annoying to arrive at a table where I had an appointment only to find someone else sitting there, taking up my appointment time.

The Social Scene

I know this is a big draw for many TBEX-ers, and very well it should be. It’s during the sponsored parties and the impromptu gatherings where important networking connections are successfully made. This is where I think I missed out. There are several people I didn’t get to spend enough time with and others I didn’t get to meet at all. It’s no one’s fault; it’s just difficult to party-hop and keep up with everyone while thirty-two weeks pregnant 🙂 I did make it to one party and made many connections during the actual conference with bloggers I’d previously “met” online. So I wouldn’t say it was a total wash but I know my networking would have been more successful if I’d been more mobile and able to enjoy some cocktails!

The Summary

I’m glad I made it to TBEX. I think once I put into use all that I learned and all the connections I made, I’ll realize just how valuable the conference was. I’ll give TBEX another go. I know I, along with many other bloggers, are anxiously awaiting the announcement of next year’s North American host city. We already know that TBEX Europe will take place in Dublin this October. Perhaps I’ll see you there? (I wish!)

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28 Responses to Thoughts from a #TBEX first-timer

  1. Adrienne June 10, 2013 at 8:41 am #

    Great post! I was bummed I couldn’t make it to TBEX, especially since it was in driving distance. I’ve so enjoyed the feedback from all of the bloggers who attended. Best of luck with baby #2!
    Adrienne recently posted…Photo Friday: Erie Canal and Shoen PlaceMy Profile

    • Francesca June 10, 2013 at 6:24 pm #

      Thanks, Adrienne! Hopefully you can make it to the next TBEX!

  2. Lisa Goodmurphy June 10, 2013 at 8:48 am #

    It was great meeting you at TBEX! It was my first time too and I wasn’t quite sure what to expect but did get enough out of it to definitely make it worthwhile. I’m also looking forward to the announcement of next year’s conference because I think that knowing what I know now will make attendance even more beneficial the second time around.
    Lisa Goodmurphy recently posted…Book Review: Las Vegas: An Indie Travel GuideMy Profile

    • Francesca June 10, 2013 at 6:28 pm #

      I agree, Lisa. I think we stand to benefit even more with each conference we attend. So great to meet you, too!

  3. Kiera @easytravelmom June 10, 2013 at 9:51 am #

    I had the chance VERY last minute to go and opted not to because I knew it would be totally overwhelming to find people, figure out last-minute invites to the networking parties, etc. Plus we had other stuff going on at home! However, I hope to go next year or maybe even to the Europe one next year (not this year) as I may just have to make a trip out of it! Thanks for your feedback on TBEX – it definitely helps in the decision to go!
    Kiera @easytravelmom recently posted…Making life and travel easyMy Profile

    • Francesca June 10, 2013 at 6:29 pm #

      Thanks, Kiera. So glad to know that my thoughts on the conference will help you decide whether you should attend one in the future. Hopefully we will run into each other at the next TBEX!

  4. lola dimarco June 11, 2013 at 10:56 am #

    Glad you enjoyed yourself! It is a great experience and next year you won’t be 32 weeks pregnant and can take full-advantage of the social scene! 😉
    lola dimarco recently posted…kickin’ off summertime with seaside mini-escapes!My Profile

    • Francesca June 11, 2013 at 12:33 pm #

      I plan on it, Lola!!!

  5. Dale June 12, 2013 at 12:09 pm #

    I’m glad you decided to hold back on your initial thoughts by giving it a few days to sink in as from time-to-time there’s just the odd occasion where the only information that comes out is far too “yay, yay, yay!”.

    There seems to be a lot of mixed reviews about TBEX at the moment, some say it was too busy, some that it was perfect.

    I think you hit the nail on the head that it’s all to do with how “mobile” you are. If you can get out-and-about amongst everyone and interact then you’re onto a sure fire winner. If you’re a bit shy or just not feeling your best it looks like there’s the possibility of getting left behind.
    Dale recently posted…The Blueprint Bar, TainanMy Profile

    • Francesca July 2, 2013 at 1:50 pm #

      You’re absolutely right, Dale. I sensed that it would be quite easy to be left behind at a conference like TBEX. Luckily, I knew a handful of folks prior to arrival and planned to meet a few more while there. Overall, TBEX was worthwhile for me and I’ll probably attend again in the future if the host city is one I’m interested in visiting 🙂

  6. The World Wanderer June 12, 2013 at 9:22 pm #

    Completely agree with a lot of this! Sessions, I can’t say much for since I only attended one…too much partying…but, I didn’t like the open marketplace. I hated having to share my scheduled appointments! Same feelings on the social scene – there were people I wanted to meet up with that I didn’t see until the last day, and I would have loved to have spent more time with you, but that just didn’t happen. 🙁 Guess that’s what happens when there are 1,200 bloggers in one place…
    The World Wanderer recently posted…Music Monday: Brooklyn.My Profile

    • Francesca July 2, 2013 at 1:51 pm #

      Yes, it was insane trying to find and keep up with everyone. I am glad that we at least got to say hi and share a quick hug!

  7. Traveling Ted June 12, 2013 at 11:06 pm #

    I will have to look at your TBEX notes. I hit the social scene a little too hard and missed out on the seminars. I regret it a little bit, but not much since I had such a good time.
    Traveling Ted recently posted…A Son Volt head road trip in ArkansasMy Profile

    • Francesca July 2, 2013 at 1:53 pm #

      Just like in college, Ted. I was the nerd who went to all my classes and shared my notes with the partygoers and the jocks…. What’s in it for me?? 😉

  8. Anita Mac June 13, 2013 at 10:07 am #

    Interesting observations – I think I found mostly the same things! Missed the social media management seminar – sounds like a good one. I know that I am not making the most of hootsuite and could be doing better. Always something to learn and improve on. Have to say I also agree with you about the speed dating sessions, and it seems I am not alone. Was so excited to be connecting with the person from South Australia only to have my appointment totally highjacked by not one by 3 other bloggers! Lesson learned for Dublin – don’t count on the open market place times for actually business. Can’t wait to catch up again – met so many people so fleetingly that I can hardly keep track! First TBEX was super overwhelming – next one, I will be a pro! If you do make it to Dublin, can’t wait to catch up with a little more time!
    Anita Mac recently posted…Adrenaline Inspired Bucket List -for the Adrenaline Junkie in youMy Profile

    • Francesca July 8, 2013 at 6:48 pm #

      Thanks, Anita. I know, we didn’t get to spend any time together in Toronto. It was a whirlwind weekend! Don’t know that I’ll make it to Dublin in October. I’d like to but we’ll have to see 🙂

  9. Vanessa (@Turnipseeds) June 13, 2013 at 10:13 am #

    Sending out huge hugs to you and everyone who also found the Open Marketplace a bit of a cat-herding exercise. If you are going to have both set and open appointments, you should have two staff members. If you are all booked up with pre-set appointments, you should have a sign indicating that. If you have people drop squeeze in between set appointments, they should be limited to 5 minutes (not 15!!). Sorry for the rant!!!

    • Francesca July 8, 2013 at 6:50 pm #

      Rant on, Vanessa! I am in complete agreement. If I’d known the Open Marketplace was going to be such a cluster, I would have skipped it and spent some time exploring Toronto with my family instead.

  10. thelazytravelers June 14, 2013 at 12:39 pm #

    it was SO NICE to finally meet in person! meeting and seeing everyone in person was definitely the best takeaway for me. also, this just means that the next time we see you, you’ll get to drink EXTRA beer to catch up 😉
    thelazytravelers recently posted…style spotter: greeceMy Profile

    • Francesca July 8, 2013 at 6:51 pm #

      I know, I can’t wait!! We need to see each other again soon. I’ve got only eight more days til baby is here!!

  11. Ian Cleary June 14, 2013 at 5:15 pm #

    Hi Francesca,

    Thank you for your super nice comment!!! Glad I helped with SEO 🙂


    • Francesca July 8, 2013 at 6:52 pm #

      You are so welcome, Ian. Thanks again for the superb presentation. More than a month later, it still stands as the most useful information I obtained at TBEX.

  12. Pola (@jettingaround) June 25, 2013 at 2:43 pm #

    Nice summary, Francesca! Ian’s session was great and I agree with your assessment of the speed dating setup. I’m glad we got to hang out a bit a TBEX, though I wish I’d met your family!! We’ll have to do it in Chicago. 🙂
    Pola (@jettingaround) recently posted…Photo of the Week: Montrose Beach in ChicagoMy Profile

    • Francesca July 8, 2013 at 6:53 pm #

      We’ll plan a little family meet-up soon after baby #2 arrives. I still have to meet Mr. JA!

  13. Leah June 25, 2013 at 3:38 pm #

    I was so happy to see you at TBEX, but I wish we’d gotten more time together. Next year?
    Leah recently posted…Ridiculously Bad 80s Movies & How they Inspired me to TravelMy Profile

    • Francesca July 8, 2013 at 6:55 pm #

      Yes, not enough time spent together, Leah. I hope to attend TBEX again next year (especially if the host city is super cool ;-)) and then we’ll definitely catch up some more!

  14. Adam Sommer June 25, 2013 at 5:59 pm #

    It was great seeing you again at TBEX! I agree with what you said abbout the open market place – that was a mess. They should’ve done two days of the Speed Dating, and encouraged more CVBs to participate (maybe lower the fee!).

    I really liked TBEX, though not sure if I’ll go again or not. Depends on the location I suppose.
    Adam Sommer recently posted…Chattanooga, TN: Point Park at Lookout Mountain BattlefieldMy Profile

    • Francesca July 8, 2013 at 6:56 pm #

      Great to see you again, too, Adam! I agree about next year’s TBEX; totally depends on the location.

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