Last Updated on July 13, 2023 by Christine Kaaloa
TravelCon is around the corner and my anticipating is building with excitement. If you’re planning to attend, use code: CHRISTINE for $50 off.
Attending a travel conference is perfect for mingling and rubbing shoulders with fellow creators you’ve followed online, industry experts, and marketing and PR in the travel and tourism industry. Conferences are the best (and sorta only) way to meet your industry, aside from being on press trips and brand campaigns.
It’s also a way to get your foot in the door of press trips and campaigns!
If it is your first time attending a travel conference, it’s understandable to feel shy and awkward walking into a room of strangers. You may not know what to do, how to act, or how to connect, so I thought I’d share networking tips for beginners.
17 Networking Tips for your first Travel Conference
Travel conferences are fun because all attendees tend to be travelers and travelers are known to be friendly, open, and non-judgemental. But we’re also a business trying to gain as much opportunity as we can and that can make social exchanges awkward. I know it does for me! Hope these pointers help.
1. Define your goals and objectives.
Plan your networking strategies and review the list of registered participants and speakers before attending the conference. If you want to meet and connect with specific people, prepare ahead of time by reading what they are about, their work and social posts.
2. Prepare your elevator pitch as well as any supporting materials.
Make a personal pitch plan. Identify the most important things you want sponsors to know you for. For travel conferences, prepare an elevator pitch of what travel niche and platform you are known for, what you can offer and are seeking.
Keep it short – the time it takes to ride an elevator. No one wants to listen to a self-involved resume that takes up the entire session (please don’t sound like a bad date). If the conference has five or twenty-minute networking sessions, consider stepping up your game and taking your laptop to show them your media kit. I did this at a couple of speed dating conference sessions. Images are worth a thousand words and they are memorable.
Tip: Remember this is a chance for you to learn about sponsors. Listen to their elevator speech as well. It takes two to tango, so learn to tango.
3. Bring *lots* of business cards.
Take lots of business cards because I burned myself in the past. My first conference, I got MOO cards which are lovely but pricy, so I got 50 cards thinking that was more than enough. I attended two conferences that year and by the second conference, I was out of cards! To improvise, I created cards from torn pieces of paper and wrote my information on it. Not the best impression but it will do in a pinch. Bring lots of business cards (I use Vistaprint – it is cheap and you can get it in bulk quantities)!
Tip: Fancy and well-designed cars leave an impression which are a few seconds more than someone with sterile boring cards. Both still end up in the trash. So these days, I carry a simply designed Vistaprint card and let my personality handle the being memorable part.
4. Take notes on the cards and follow up later.
It’s easy to collect a lot of business cards at conferences and moreover, to forget who they belonged to or why you got them! Make notes on the back of the cards to remind you why you spoke to the person. Note anything of importance they might have told you. If an interested sponsor tells me to send them my media kit or they will be doing a campaign in November, I scribble that on the card so I don’t forget to follow up.
5. Prepare a schedule by studying and planning ahead.
You are paying for this conference opportunity, so to make the most of your time, plot events strategically on your itinerary schedule. You want to attend sessions that impact your business, set up meetings, and attend social events mixers, and parties. Meanwhile, don’t forget to sign up and schedule time to go on FAM tours to expand your content!
6. Be nice and approachable to everyone you meet.
Kindness matters. If someone wants to meet you and you don’t think they’re a good fit, give them a bit of time and listen. You never know when you’ll cross paths or you’ll cross networks and they can refer you to an opportunity. Always leave someone with a good first impression.
7. Have fun but be professional
You are the face of your brand and business. A travel conference is there to elevate and refine your travel content creator game. Your professional presence and actions leave others with an impression of whether they’d want to work with or know you. It’s fun to go to social events and parties to network and have fun.
The travel influencer industry is large, but our grapevine is rather small and people talk. We hear about bad seeds on press trips and influencer actions that left a stain on the brand or sponsor. We know who’s snooty, has off-color humor or is a constant complainer. Make your impression a fabulously professional one! Every sponsor is looking for someone responsible and reliable in a partnership.
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8. Meet other content creators and mingle with them.
Meeting other content creators is the one thing I loved about attending conferences. Often we creators are in our caves creating content and dealing with business; this is an opportunity to step outside and meet others like you who know what you’re experiencing in frustration and obstacles. This is your community from whom you’ll get advice and learn about the business. They’ll stand up for you when injustices to your brand happen. When one of us is wronged, others rally to support. I’ve had fellow bloggers notify me when someone used my name for their blog or used my youtube video in an ad. They also left comments to let the offender know they were wronging me. The community has your back when you recognize its existence and make yourself known.
9. Use social media to connect with others.
Let people know you are on social media and how they can reach you. Connect with sponsors on LinkedIn, where it’s all about business and professionalism. Meanwhile, if we like their content or want to connect with them in the future, we like to follow influencers.
Contrary to popular belief, we are picky about who we allow into our personal feed. We seek high-quality content that is relevant to our work and industry. Please don’t expect others to like your work or follow you. Someone who begs for a follow or requests follow4follow or sub4sub is in a sub-category, and it comes across as desperate and misguided. People will support you if they want to. If they don’t respect their decision.
10. Follow up after the conference
Following up after the conference, especially if you had an interesting conversation is a way to keep it going and to be remembered. Send a simple thank you email and a question about how the event went for them.
11. Join the event’s Facebook group and participate in conversations.
Before attending your next conference, join and participate in the conference Facebook group. Bloggers like to throw pre-conference meetups to break the ice and start mingling. It’s a terrific way to get together, discuss conference information, plan itineraries, and look for shared lodging.
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12. Travel the conference solo
It can be scary to network with strangers at a conference. Attending an event with someone you know can or hugging next to someone you met on the very first day can be a life-raft to you from feeling awkward. However, staying in your comfort zone limits your possibilities to network, make contacts and meet new friends. Consider attending the conference on your own or set aside time to set sails on your own.
Tip: Make a game of it and make it a goal to pass out a certain number of cards by the end of the conference. It will help motivate you to strike out on your own and network.
13. Register for events as soon as possible.
It’s crucial to know if the conference offers FAM tours, workshops, or speed dating. They are frequently first-come, first-served, and if you wait too long, you may miss out on a fantastic opportunity. As I’m solo busy and in Hawaii time zone (I’m asleep when the world is awake) I have a bad habit of registering for events late and when I finally do, they’re sold out. Register for these events as soon as they become available.
14. Use the conference hashtag
Our role as content makers is to be present on social media for every exciting event which pertains to our brand lifestyle. Announce your attendance by using the conference hashtag in your postings. It’s free self-promotion because your post appear in the conference hashtag feed when guests search for attendees. It will be greatly appreciated by the conference. Tip: Don’t overuse the hashtag; keep it relevant at all times.
15. Be professional with your personal Facebook profile.
A common mistake I find with creators in my community is not having your brand name listed on your personal Facebook profile. We recognize each other by blog handles and when we don’t see a person’s brand, it speaks volumes of how see their professional entity. List your blog URL, blog name and please, Dear God, put a photo of your face on your avatar’s profile so we can see what you look like. A photo of your face builds trust. Don’t let your profile look like a cat or scam account.
16. Have conversation starters
Learning how to network at an event can feel awkward so it’s best to have conversation starters prepared. But don’t just skim the surface with “How’s your day?” and “Great weather, huh?” are small talk that doesn’t encourage deeper engagement. I use these as a last resort when I really cannot think of a starter question. Instead, use:
How are you enjoying this conference? What sessions have you found beneficial? Is this your first conference?
Each of these questions will reveal more talking points and possible similarities that you could have in common.
17. You’re not alone
Whether it is your first, second, or third time attending a conference, networking with strangers in a business context always feels awkward. If you’re new to networking, you’re not alone. Even speakers and experts can feel awkward mingling socially. We are all there to create opportunities and investigate what others possess which might be of a future win-win partnership or friendship.