Here it is, barely 24 hours after I left Quebec City from my first travel conference and I’m sitting down at the keyboard. While I wish I could’ve taken a full day to recover (i.e., sleep in, unpack and look over all the business cards and brochures I received), I was back to work at 8am on Monday morning. However, I did have nearly 8-hours with nothing but the open road ahead of me on Sunday night, and that’s where I initially recorded my thoughts. Call it advice, tips and tricks, or simply my experiences as a newbie, but hopefully, it’s helpful to you as you prepare for an upcoming conference. Also, the Women in Travel Summit is pure awesomeness and I encourage you to follow the parent company, Wanderful, on Instagram. Better yet, join us at WITS in Portland, Maine next May.
Pack and dress comfortably, preferably in layers! Additionally, stay true to who you and your brand are. For example, if you’re a luxury travel blogger and a high fashion person, then, by all means, dress that way. But for me, staying true to myself means a pair of jeans, a top with a cardigan and some cute flats.
Bring business cards, but don’t feel like you have to bring 400 of them so that you can give one to every single person that comes within a 3-foot radius of you, including the wait-staff. I only brought 100 cards with me and came home with leftovers. Having the contact info of other bloggers is great, but I’d much rather connect with them on social media, as opposed to having their card sit in a pile somewhere, forgotten about after the conference.
Bring a charger and/or power bank. Whether it’s taking surveys, using social media or checking the conference schedule, your phone battery will drain fast. I packed a power strip and my cell phone charger on the first day and found that only the charger was really necessary.
Bring a reusable water bottle. If you’re like me, you struggle to drink enough water when traveling and conferences are no different. Although I love my stainless steel Hydro Flask, I don’t love the weight of lugging that around in my bag all day. Enter store brand bottled water. Simply drink, refill and recycle when you’re done.
Pack some snacks. You never know what will be on the menu for breakfast or how long you’ll have to wait until lunch. I always try to have some type of quick snack in my bag, just in case. Gum and mints are nice to have on hand as well.
Break the Mold
Know yourself. I can be quite extroverted, but even still, I need time to myself to recharge after I’ve done all the peopling, all day long. Don’t feel guilty about this. Maybe you decide to skip a session or call it an early night and bail on dinner plans just so you can have some quiet, alone time. This is okay. There are a lot of awesome opportunities at conferences, but they are also exhausting.
Take advantage of pre and post-conference tours. They are a great way to see areas of the city that you otherwise may not get to. Furthermore, you’ll likely get to know a few ladies much more in-depth since you’ll be spending several hours with them in a more relaxed environment. However, do not feel like you have to fill every day with tours. Like I mentioned above, they are great opportunities, but they can be very tiring, especially if you do them back-to-back. (I did an AM and PM tour on one day so that I could have the following day to myself. This worked out nicely and I would do it again in the future.)
Do things that you would typically do when visiting a new destination. (I know this may sound controversial to some, but hear me out.) If you don’t enjoy drinking beer and you don’t blog about beer, then why would you go on a beer tour of the city? Instead, I think your time would be better spent doing something, even if it’s on your own, that aligns more closely with your niche. The benefits of this are twofold. First, you are being authentic and true to your brand and what your readers expect from you. Second, by visiting a different place, you may be experiencing something that nearly every other blogger missed simply because they stuck to the pre-set tour options.
On my second full day in Quebec, I did just that. I skipped the architecture tour in lieu of my typical travel style: simply getting out and exploring on foot. I spent my day wandering the streets of Petit Champlain, eating duck confit in an upscale restaurant, buying ice wine at the market in Old Port, reflecting on life while sitting in a pew at the Basilica and even driving out to the Montmorency Falls. Although I’m sure the architecture tour was nice, I doubt it could top this! (Please do not read this as me dissing the pre-organized tours, because it’s not. This is simply a different approach.)
Be discerning. In keeping with knowing yourself and your brand, have an idea of what you’re looking for before you start talking with tourism boards, companies, etc. Case in point: I’m a budget minded traveler. I know that Five Star Hotel Brand caters to, wait for it…luxury travelers. Why would I spend my time trying to schmooze with them when I know that’s not who I am? That’s like Cinderella’s stepsisters who try to shove their big ol’ ugly feet in the glass slipper when they know darn well it’s not going to fit. Ya feel me, ladies?
And finally, stop selling yourself short. (This is a hard one). Introduce yourself, state your blogs/company’s name and say it with confidence. None of this, “Um, well, I just sort of started a blog. I haven’t written that many posts yet. But, well, I’d like to write about this but…” NO. Just no. You need to own your worth and shout it from the rooftop! If you don’t believe in yourself, then who will?
I hope that you found this helpful. If you have any tips or tricks for attending a travel conference, leave them below. I’d also love to hear from you if you’ve been to WITS before or if you’re planning on going to Portland for #WITS19. As always, thank so much for reading!