Location: London, UK
A little bit of a different kind of article from me today. For once – I won’t be making an appearance in any of the images and that is true music to my ears! This article is all about my experience at WTM – a travel b2b trade show that I was lucky enough to get a press pass for. It was incredibly overwhelming and after a straight three days worth of networking, I thought I would share my experience, particularly as I know a lot of my readers are interested in travel, travel writing or blogging or just want to make a career from travelling. I had attended Borderless Live back in September, but WTM was just a whole other level! The sheer scale of it was huge and I definitely learnt a few tips for the next one I attend – read on to find out what they are!
I’ll start with why I attended to begin with. I’m learning that the world is full of people who want to make a career out of travel and social media. Whilst this is not my personal end goal (and one day I might reveal what they actually is) I can totally appreciate that I need to share content with others that is different and actually adds value. To do that, the world doesn’t need any more pictures of Santorini – although I admit I am guilty of this. I attended the fair to meet and learn about new and interesting countries I never thought about visiting. Importantly, I wanted to network with individuals that want to promote themselves to the rest of the world. I wanted to meet with hotels and tourism boards that were open to working with content creators who want to raise their profile. Did I get that? Absolutely. Other than that, I wanted to learn more about the travel industry overall and where it is heading. I wanted to understand what travel-related brands are looking for from people like me.
And this leads me to my next point. What did I learn? Fellow travel content creators, take note. The most important point I really want to stress is that brands are no longer interested in someone posting an image just for the sake of it or for getting likes. The content needs to add value and educate whoever is consuming it. The second key take away was that Instagram is definitely not the be all and end all – in fact, it ranks below YouTube, blogs and Pinterest in terms of priorities. I actually wrote an article about this a few weeks ago and it made me so happy to hear that I am not alone in thinking this way. As my self-employed life continues, I am spending increasing amount of time on my website and Pinterest and a decreasing amount of time on Instagram. I don’t particularly enjoy it, it doesn’t always make me happy and so I’d be quite happy to place it lower on my priority list. That being said, it remains an important platform so I obviously won’t be shutting down my account any time soon.
Moving on to how I approached the conference. I spent the majority of the last ten years working in finance and I cannot suddenly shake off habits I picked up during that time. So just like I used to do for finance conferences in my old life, I got my business cards ready (even though 50 was not enough!) along with my pitch book. My pitch book was about 6 pages long, had a little info on me and who I am, my stats, previous brand testimonials and my rates. I used the online event meeting planner to look through the hundreds (if not thousands) of attendees and selected the people I wanted to meet. Some accepted, some declined, some never answered. I kept sending out personalised invites until my three days were full. During those meetings, I used my pitchbook to run through the services I can offer and across what social media channels.
Which brings me to what I would have done differently. After three days of pretty much back-to-back meetings, I was dead exhausted. So exhausted that I couldn’t really get out of bed on Thursday morning as my whole body ached. I can definitely plan a lot better for next year. For a start, I’ll pay more attention to what panel discussions are taking place, rather than just packing back-to-back meetings. I do feel as though I missed some panels that I really would have liked to sit in on. Luckily, my friend Livia (@livandwander) attended some of these and could share the information with me. Tip 1: have a look at the panels taking place, see which ones you want to attend and book your one-on-ones around those.
Secondly, I would allow myself more time between each meeting. I assumed that each one would not take more than 30 minutes. Most of the time, this was correct, however there were some that went on a lot longer and whilst I was just late for one, it was only because I literally sprinted between the stands. Tip #2: give yourself 30 mins extra between meetings so that you can have a breather and locate where you are next heading. This is especially true if the event you are attending is absolutely huge – just like this one. I admit that the stands were not clearly labelled and it did take some time to work out where you were meant to be.
Thirdly, I want to put more emphasis on materials next time. Aside from the fact that I underestimated how many business cards I would need, I also kept my pitch book on my iPad. I wish I had printed these in glossy booklets. It may have costed a little extra money, but when there were so many content creators present, I felt as though I needed something that would stand out. I feel like leaving my pitchbook with whoever I was meeting would have left a bigger impression. In addition to that, they pretty much all took notes on their own notepads. I would have preferred for them to take notes directly next to my stats or testimonials as that way, they wouldn’t need to go to through the hassle of looking me up and matching the notes to the person. So therefore: Tip #3: put effort into your materials and find ways to stand out amongst the crowd!
I really hope this was useful to anyone heading to WTM next year or any industry-related conference soon. I’m thinking about writing a more in-depth post on preparation for conferences and how to navigate them. Let me know in the comments if this is something you would be interested in!