At the end of May, I was excited to head to Toronto, ON Canada for TBEX 2013 in North America. As it turns out, I was among about 1,200-1,300 travel bloggers to descend on the city; perfect for networking. Here is a recap of my adventures:
I made my way to Toronto from New York City, NY on Tuesday night after an all day .com)/via Rail train ride through upstate NY and southern Canada. After looking at many places to stay, I had pre-booked a room in the dorms at the University of Toronto’s New College Campus conveniently located on the edge of downtown. This place is open for rentals from May 4 to August 4 when most of the students are away. It’s cheap at 35 CAD/night for a single room and 29 CAD for a shared double with shared washrooms with individual shower and bath units. No, I did not take a bath there. Plus there is a common room (kitchen included) as well as a washer and dryer (1 CAD each).
Over the next few days, I had managed to snag a tour of the Ontario Wine Country near Niagara Falls as well as a craft beer tour, a photo walk, a bike tour of Toronto Island and a tour on the 501 Tram down Queen St. All courtesy of Tourism Toronto, so thank you. These tours allowed me to get a good flavor or was it flavour of Toronto’s offerings so I can share with my audience and be intelligent when they ask about Toronto/Ontario.
I ensured I attended all the parties, well most of them anyways; even the Travel Massive one where myself along with a few others drank beer at a local pub while we waited to get in as we had not RSVPed. It was well worth it as I got a chance to meet more bloggers and industry professionals while trading stories over a glass of something.
You see TBEX is all about networking; at least for me anyways. You have to sharpen up those skills, say hello to everyone, be polite and respectful and network. Work on that handshake and 30 second answer to “What do you blog about?” Give, give and give some more. And if your friend is speaking, try your best to support them although sometimes this may be really tough.
It was great to meet many people from all over the world who blog about all kinds of topics. I challenged everyone I met to tell me why they blogged and what they wanted out of the conference. Most people had an idea, but some did not as it was their first time, so they knew not what to expect. But it was great to hear them try to come up with something though :-).
It was equally great, well somewhat more so to meet “old” friends. Some I had just seen a few weeks ago on the other side of the Atlantic at TBU Rotterdam and others whom it had been a while. So TBEX is like a class reunion of sorts at times.
By the time I got home to my dorm room on Friday night, my birthday, I knew I’d be late for the keynote on Saturday morning; I was not drunk or anything like that, but I was tired. By now, I’d been going nonstop since Wednesday a.m. Travel Blogging is hard work, but fun rewards, so, its totally worth it.
It was 9:26a when I arrived at The Metro Toronto Conference Centre so I just went straight to the exhibits and chatted with the exhibitors that interested me and some of the new ones I’d not seen before. It was great, as I got to spend about 0:45 minutes almost uninterrupted with the folks from google talking about the Flight Explorer as well as the hotel application and where they see themselves in the travel vertical. They have great plans, but are really looking for the masses. This disturbed me as I’m concerned about using some of the tools they acquired from ITA; but we will see what happens.
By the time I was done, it was about 12:30p and lunch time. Since it was Saturday and I wanted to see the St. Lawrence Market in action (a local recommendation), I ditched the complimentary lunch (sorry TBEX) and headed there. I’m so glad I did as it was special; future post coming.
It was not until 2:30p that I returned to the Convention Centre, just in time for the Dave & Deb Show where they did a recap of the travel blogging business so far, thus providing us with vigor to continue on. Thanks guys for the inspiration. It’s always great to hear you both speak.
I skipped the Speed Dating as I did not sign up and I hate just having a few minutes to talk to people about what they are up to and how I can help them get their word out. This is why I took the morning to make acquaintances. Of course it meant missing the sessions, but it was a worthwhile sacrifice. A TBEX Tip is to always say hello to everyone you meet at the parties, in the hallways and/or sit next to at a presentation. You never know who you are interacting with so be professional and cordial. I’ve met great people that way; its the art of networking.
Later that night, Expedia threw their big shindig on Centre Island providing us with food, drinks and yet another opportunity to network which I did. They also launched their Expedia View Finder opportunity where they are working with several bloggers to bring different perspective in travel; congrats to all. I spent a good time with Stefan from Rapid Travel Chai and his wife, Tess getting to know them a bit more, then hopped around meeting others. A Fun night! Oh, I had forgotten to download my pictures before coming over, so I was out of room to take additional pictures. Hence I had to delete some old ones and only took a few pictures. I had all my batteries charged though; oh well. I did get a picture of the non-working clock on Centre Island though.
At TBEX, there’s always another party and tonight (june 1) did not disappoint as I think it was Matador had a party at a local Club. With directions in hand and following a bunch of people off we went. More networking, but mostly partying. One blogger, Luke I believe (he was completely covered and I did not recognized his voice) even showed up in a morph suit, to the delight of the ladies with whom we were hanging out.
On Sunday, I was late again, but I did catch the tail end of Erik Lindbergh’s (yup, related to the one and only Charles Lindbergh the trans-Atlantic flyer) talk about electric aviation. The aviation geek in me peaked, so I was excited about it. Sadly, Erik disappeared behind the curtains after his speech and thus I was unable to find him later to say hello. I’m following him on twitter though, so I’ve acknowledged liking his talk.
I did attend a session by Ian Cleary about social media tools to increase your reach and then hopped around the next set of sessions, picking and choosing as I went. I thoroughly enjoyed Ian’s talk and did record it. So will work it out with Ian when/where to post it as its pretty long, but very informative. There was a talk by Matador that I wanted to attend, but was told by a guy at the door that it was now being held at a bar around the corner. Thinking it was a prank, I did not go; but apparently it was true. Not sure what happened there. Anyone know?
I networked with some new bloggers during lunch, then attended another afternoon session held by Katja Presnal (@skimbaco) about instagram. I’d not heard of her before but wanted to learn more about the topic. I enjoyed her presentation and so did others as they were busy on their electronic devices during her presentation. She also wrote the book
After that I listened to Gary Arndt and the folks from This Week in Travel before heading out.
Of course there was a final meet up at a place called Lou Dawg’s. The poor guy there had brought his computer so he could chill, not expecting about forty travel bloggers to descend on the place. He soon sent for backup after I told him what he was in for. Another great networking and just getting to know people and finding out what they are all about it. The next morning I had the 501 Tour so no rest for the weary at all. No worries, such is the life of a Travel Blogger.
So if it sounds like I had way too much fun at TBEX, it’s ’cause I did. Now I have a ton of cards to go through and re-connect with people. If I met you, you’ll more than likely get an email soon or a tweet or some acknowledgement of our meeting. Following up after TBEX with the folks you met is very important, so ensure you do that.