How to Rock TBEX and Walk Away with New Friends & Business Partners

Speed Dating floor at TBEX in Toronto
Speed Networking floor at TBEX in Toronto

Whenever I’m on the road and meeting a travel blogger who is just starting out or wondering how to take their blog to the next level, I always recommend they come to TBEX – and not just for the sessions.

For TBEX, like many other successful conferences out there, one of the things that keeps people coming back year after year after year is the opportunity to mingle with people in the same profession, trade ideas, and form relationships (a.k.a networking).

At a conference for solopreneurs I attended earlier this year (past TBEX keynoter Chris Guillebeau’s Pioneer Nation), one of the most highly tweeted and repeated main stage talks focused on how the hottest new online business training website came from a relationship struck up at a conference over a mutual love of the esoteric Italian amaro Fernet Branca.

While the speaker, Chase Reeves, happened to be in the right random place at the right random time, the truth is that you can make your TBEX experience jam packed with these business-changing, core relationship-building moments with some advance preparation.

Every successful business, whether a blogging couple team or a multi-national corporation, has someone in charge of “business development,” which, at its core, is building relationships your business needs to grow and thrive through networking. But the difference between the multi-nationals and most bloggers is the amount of advance thought and research that goes into those relationship-building moments.

So whether you’re still at home packing or you’re already building relationships with fellow bloggers with sunset drinks on Santorini or bumpy car rides in Crete, here are 5 ways to walk away from TBEX not just with some new friends and contacts, but the ones you want and need to grow your blog or business.

BloggerBridge Part 1: Let Your Profile Reflect You

Have you set up your BloggerBridge profile already? If not, now is the time. If you have, it’s time to take another look.

Your profile is a static image of both you and your work, but that doesn’t mean it should just be a third person description! It’s the first opportunity people have to understand your personality, and, in the case of bloggers looking for work, your writing style.

Above all, one of the most important things it should do is tell others why you are at TBEX and what you’re looking for. This tweak alone can bring in tons of business opportunities.

After you explain what you’re all about, include:

  • whether you are looking for new destinations to travel to or information on travels you have coming up. BloggerBridge has a way for you to include these as well.
  • if you are available for contract social media, photography, or blogging work, and if so, what type you are looking for.
  • if you are a company, what you are looking to get out of TBEX and speed dating in particular, so bloggers know if they should approach you and about what.

BloggerBridge Part 2: Find the People You Need to Meet

While many have long used BloggerBridge just to set up speed networking appointments, it’s capable of so much more. I won’t recap the excellent recent sessions on how to go about performing searches, but it’s something that you should set aside 10 minutes or an hour (or honestly as much time as you can spare!) to do before TBEX so you know who is going to be there that you want to get to know.

For experienced bloggers:

  • Search by country to find company representatives from or bloggers who specialize in places you plan to visit soon and send them a message. Ask bloggers who have visited both what they recommend and if there is anyone on the ground you should definitely be in touch with.

For new bloggers:

  • Search for other bloggers with a similar focus as you (whether a country or a type of travel like ecotravel or family travel) and use the number of years blogging feature to find someone just a couple years ahead of you. Check out their site, and if they seem like a good match, ask if you can interview them about their experience for your website or just grab a coffee or drink and chat about how they got to where they are today.

For companies:

  • Don’t wait for good bloggers to come to you. Many bloggers who would make great guests or regularly contributors to your site are extremely busy and not able to take the time to seek you out. Search for bloggers who specialize in your area and reach out and ask if they are available for a trip or some blogging work.

You can also look up people you see tweeting on the #TBEX hashtags through BloggerBridge and send them a direct email.

Research Your Speed Networking Partners

After years of speed networking at both TBEX and ITB Berlin, where TBEX also organized a blogger speed networking event, the biggest factor that I’ve seen affecting how useful the event is for both companies and bloggers is how much homework they do beforehand. Here are my recommendations: 

  1. Look up each of the people you’re going to meet on BloggerBridge, and from their profile, decide what you want to discuss with them and what your goal for the meeting is.
  2. Take the time to make a small one-page sheet or PDF you can show on your phone about what you can offer as a blogger (including relevant stats) or company to the people you’re going to meet. Give it to the other party to look at when they first sit down.
  3. When you arrive, first ask the other party what they are looking for, so you can fit that into your goal for the meeting and make the most of your short minutes.
  4. Leave the meeting with a specific agreement, whether it’s to send more information about something or work out appropriate dates for a trip.

Maximize Your One-on-One Time During

It’s always a pleasure to use TBEX as one-stop shopping to catch up with travel friends that you don’t often see, but there are several parts of TBEX that are particularly great for cultivating new connections:

  • short pre-BEX tours
  • lunches at TBEX
  • evening events and parties
  • long post-BEX trips

Looking at the TBEX schedule is dizzying, and if you’re not spending time in Greece before or after the event, it can be hard to figure out times to meet all these people you’ve identified on BloggerBridge to connect with. Use seated times like tour bus rides and meals for one-on-one chats during.

When you’re looking for people to connect with on BloggerBridge, ask if you can chat over lunch, or chat up people who attended the same pre-lunch session as you who asked interesting questions or who are on your “to meet” list after the Q&A so you naturally walk to lunch together. This works just as well for the walks to a bus on a pre- or post-BEX trip.

If you’re in town after TBEX and not on a post-BEX event, organize a dinner out or at your apartment if you have one with some great people you met. Tell them to bring friends. You can have more face time with them and other people you didn’t get a chance to meet during the event.

The Devil is in the Follow Up

There are several great posts here on the TBEX blog about follow up, but the most important thing is this: do it quickly.

In the short days of TBEX, we all meet so many people that no matter how great the conversation, it’s easy to fall off someone’s radar. To keep that from happening:

  1. In the time between speed dating and the evening event, write quick emails to all of your speed dating partners for the day, thanking them again for their time, reiterating what you discussed and rearticulating the next steps.
  2. When you get home, tweet at people you spent time with during the day, or email if you had a really great connection.
  3. In the week after TBEX (since the post-BEX trips make it hard for many to do it right away), go through all your business cards and add people on Twitter and LinkedIn, with a note with your LI invitation on how nice it was to meet them and any follow up about a future meeting or work opportunity.

Author Bio: Gabi Logan is a travel journalist and blogger who specializes in blogging/ghostblogging, content management and social media management for travel companies and destinations. She also coaches travel writers and freelancers of all stripes.


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