To be totally honest, being a poor travel blogger I had a few misgivings prior to attending this get together and commented on this quite publically on twitter. With hindsight this was ill advised, especially as the weekend turned out to be such a great success!
There were a huge number of interesting topics covered, usually in both an extremely entertaining and informative manner. The subjects covered included everybody’s favourite; Search Engine Optimization (SEO), branding, and WordPress, much of which I must admit went way over this novices head. If knowledge is power I may not have enough to a illuminate a single LED, refreshing to have my suspicions confirmed for me, honest! It was probably a lot clearer to many of the others present however.
Keith Jenkins from VelvetEscapes provided some much needed insight into the success of his own site and, its evolution from a hobbyist blog for family and friends whilst travelling into a site that is now providing him with a living. A very revealing, polished and professional presentation, with advice about both the pitfalls and some great tips too, especially various on revenue streams, almost certainly leaving most with some food for thought.
This was followed immediately by a panel session with the usual suspects, Melvin from Traveldudes, Kash from The Europe Budget Travel Guide, Matt at Travel With a Mate and Karen from Karen from Europe A La Carte and chaired by Keith. There was some lively debate, especially regarding the sensitive subject of editorial integrity when attending paid or sponsored blog trips. There was some polarisation on how this should be handled when the trip turns out to be less than great. There is not any definitive answer of course; ultimately it is a decision the individual blogger needs to make for themselves.
Comment of the day was probably made by Kash “bloggers are amazing people” no surprise it struck a chord with those both present and online. A feature of the conference was how many delegates were tweeting the pertinent points to their followers and to other bloggers throughout the weekend.
After a second night of some fairly heavy drinking and the untimely changing of the clocks the following day most of us were extremely grateful for a late start and gently being eased into the day. An extremely worthwhile presentation on travel writing by Lola Åkerström from Matador and an entertainingly informative one on podcasts by Andy White was just what the doctor ordered if not the barman.
The eagerly awaited presentation on public relations and how companies are looking at the travel blogging community by Dru Bryan of goshpr followed lunch. It was interesting and slightly refreshing to hear that the PR companies consider bloggers to be a major force to be reckoned with. Dru came up with plenty of interesting points and keywords too. Nicheness may have been my personal favourite though.
Our panellists joined by Dru reappeared for a second extremely lively session, this is obviously a topic of great interest to the community and some extremely interesting viewpoints were expressed. What struck me was at least the companies seemed genuinely keen to work with us and did not try to talk down to anybody. They seem genuinely keen to embrace the ‘new media’ and to build lasting relationships with us; it seemed to me quite positive and left me feeling cautiously optimistic about these potential ‘partnerships.’
The whole conference was a total success and I definitely got a great deal from it. Not everything was totally new, but it did confirm many things I already believed and it was great to have that affirmation from my peers.
Writing with transparency and without fear, having a voice and opinion are paramount. Managing to retain editorial integrity whilst managing to make a living may not easy but the level of compromise this may entail is a matter for the individual to resolve for themselves. There was a great quote on the travel writing presentation:
“Be pro-active in eliminating lazy travel writing!”
There is a great community of awesome bloggers out there and we need to maintain our links and develop our relationships if we are to get ahead of the ‘game.’ This is another area we need to be pro-active and not reactive. Travel and PR companies are beginning to take notice now, if this ‘new democracy’ pauses too long to see which way this all unfolds perhaps some of the opportunities to control our own careers and futures may have already been removed.
There were a great many highlights but probably the main one was just meeting and mixing with so many fantastic and positive people. Meeting these very special people behind the ‘handles’ that have been so engaging for so long just made the whole weekend so much more enjoyable. Leaving all these ‘new’ found friends was certainly a wrench for me and there is little doubt that many others felt exactly the same.
You may be wondering where the pictures from all those nights out are? “What happens on tour remains on tour!” Enough said.
Oliver Gradwell the brains and organiser behind Travel Bloggers United has done an amazing job, putting together such an event is not an easy task. We all appreciate the effort involved, it takes a great deal of co-ordination, liaison and juggling of agencies and resources, he handled this extremely well and the whole event went without a hitch.