TBEX 2011 Review (Part One): In Need of Some Professionalism and Basic Organization

©KirstenAlana Photography/Galavanting ©KirstenAlana Photography/Galavanting
©KirstenAlanaPhotography/Galavanting ©KirstenAlanaPhotography/Galavanting

Yesterday, I was getting a post-TBEX bite to eat with some of my favorite travel bloggers, Ayngelina of Bacon is Magic, Jenny of Where is Jenny, Gareth of Tourist2Townie and Dylan of The Travelling Editor. We walked up to the street food cart and the guy working there asked, “are you guys travel bloggers here for that TBEX thing??” We told him yes and he said:

I heard it was so unorganized that it was more the intentional “unconference.”

When the guy running the local food cart knows your conference is unorganized, you have a problem.

The food stand guy’s name is Michael and his Twitter handle is @reupbbq.  The food is great and if you are in the area, make sure to hit up his stand for some wonderful barbecue.  And if you hate this post, don’t harass him, he was just passing along what he’d heard.

TBEX 2011 travel blogging conference

©KirstenAlana Photography/Galavanting

First things first — It was beyond amazing to meet everyone at TBEX. The travel blogging community is one of the most talented and interesting that I’ve yet encountered. Meeting people here was great, but I want to talk about the actual conference for a bit.

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Gary Arndt from Everything-Everywhere gave the keynote speech ending TBEX and as usual it was chock full of thoughtful insights, one of which was basically a call for us bloggers to “be more professional.”

TBEX could stand to take a big dose of Gary’s wise advice.

Disorganization is a sign of unprofessionalism. For every talk I heard from amazing travel writers that said things like “misspellings and typos reflect on you as being an unprofessional writer,” I wanted to raise my hand and say…

“Sort of like microphones or AV systems not working in almost every meeting room shows this conference was put together half-assed and unprofessionally?”

For me, the disorganization began long before the actual TBEX conference started. There were speakers that didn’t get the topics they were supposed to talk about until about a week before the event. As a result, no one knew what topics were going to be offered until just a couple weeks before the event.

tbex 2011 conference vancouver

©KirstenAlana Photography/Galavanting

There were also what seemed like a dozen parties that were thrown by sponsors that very few people knew about in time to sign up. Private parties are fine, but it struck me as rude that three parties were listed on the official TBEX schedule where the invites were limited attendance and exclusive events that not everyone was invited to.

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The first thing that struck me on-site was there wasn’t any coffee. Look, I realize this is an incredibly minor point, but seriously — I don’t think I have ever been to a conference that doesn’t have coffee. We asked the poor, overworked interns and volunteers at the front desk about it and they said we should just go across the street and buy some coffee.

Unbeknowst to them, there was a very nice hospitality suite sponsored and paid for by American Express around the corner with coffee and food.

How the hell do you not tell the people working for you that room exists?! Can you imagine how American Express must have thought about that? They paid $25,000+ to sponsor the event, set up a nice room for all of us to enjoy their hospitality, then the people working the event don’t even know about it.

Minor point for sure, but it set the entire tone of unprofessionalism for this entire conference. Some more examples:

  • The opening video making fun of ego-centric bloggers started, the sound didn’t work, and the lead organizer was up on stage awkwardly trying to kill time with “does anyone know any knock-knock jokes,” while someone scrambled to plug everything in properly. Pathetic preparation for your first impression to 500 people.
  • The incredibly talented panel of writers talking about narrative travel writing in my small group started and… the microphones didn’t work. Nor was there any event person in there to help, so the panelists had to sort out getting the stuff plugged in and working on their own.
  • Later, we had meetings of  “niche groups” of like-minded bloggers for networking. Good concept, but it was apparent the whole thing had been made up 3 minutes beforehand. The group announcement went like this: “ummmm, the family bloggers are going to meet outside this main room near the blue couch to the left. Expat bloggers — you can meet over in the corner over there in this room (pointing).” Junior high dances show more forethought and organization.
  • There was barely any staff and what they had needed to be provided with more information, because they had a difficult time even telling people which rooms things were happening in, among other basics.
  • One of the sponsors passed this along about the after-hours event they were hosting. The RSVP sign-up list was done by via the TBEX website. The only problem? Apparently, the TBEX folks lost the list, so the sponsor had to do sign-ups spontaneously on the spot.
  • Another sponsor supposedly wanted to host an after-hours event, but because the organizers never got them a schedule in time, they couldn’t reserve a spot big enough in Vancouver (not a cheap city) to host as many people as they wanted to invite.

To some extent, all of this stuff is minor, but appearances matter. Like misspelling words in your pitch letter to an editor  — you are just telling your audience you don’t take them seriously.  I was hearing from literally dozens of bloggers (and more than a fair share of sponsors and PR people) that were aghast at how poorly the whole event was put together.

This event has now been around for three years and the organizers knew months and months ago that 500+ people were going to show up.

If you are incapable of running a conference of that size, then damn it, go hire a professional and have them do the ground work, while you concentrate on the substance.

Here is why all of this should matter. TBEX is attempting to set itself as some sort of unofficial travel blogger association (and is thought of as just that by far too many bloggers, in my opinion) and its disorganization and unprofessionalism reflects on those us that attend.

TBex 2011 sign up

©Kirsten Alana Photography/Galavanting

I could almost hear some of the PR people I was talking to thinking to themselves, “if the conference putting themselves forward as leaders in this industry is this unprofessional and unbusinesslike…. why the hell would I want to work with the attendees?”

In my eyes, this event just smelled like it was put together during a happy hour by a few people that wanted to make a bunch of money leveraging the appearance of 400 or so travel bloggers to cash in with PR people and sponsors. The disorganization, almost complete lack of planning, and unprofessionalism gave off the strong stench that the primary concern was maximizing profits from the whole endeavor, instead of doing everything humanly possible to make this event worthwhile to bloggers, PR people, and sponsors.

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A couple points that I am sure are going to be made in the comments that I might as well address now:

“We only paid $80 for our ticket, how much should we really expect?”

First, this event makes huge money. Let’s do some math (and I’ll address this more in one of the subsequent posts). 400 bloggers paying an average of $60 per ticket, including the discount prices, equals $24,000. 100 PR people paying $400 per person, again factoring in early prices, equals $40,000. I am told that some sponsorships went for $25,000 per sponsor. I haven’t verified more on that side of it, so lets do a conservative guess and say $150,000 of sponsorship income. That’s more than $210,000 worth of gross income.

Hire a damn professional.

Secondly, most of the stuff I am talking about isn’t money related. Having video, audio and microphones work isn’t a cost issue, it is simply a “give a shit” issue. Having people properly informed at the front desk isn’t a cost issue. Knowing what the damn speakers were going to talk about and having the rooms organized is not a cost issue. Would hiring a conference organizing professional cost some money? Absolutely, but given what I have heard about the huge amount of money they make from this event — it would seem to be a worthwhile investment.

Third, the ticket price isn’t the only cost to people. Many bloggers flew in from quite distant locations, changed their travel plans, and incurred significant costs in food, lodging and plane tickets to get here and stay here.

“We should give the TBEX crew credit for starting this whole thing and giving us all a great opportunity to meet each other.”

Agreed. More power to them. And more power to them for figuring out a way to leverage what they are doing to make a massive amount of money. Business is business and they are doing good business.

But they are delivering a half-assed product when it actually comes to the conference itself. Getting to meet all the travel bloggers was great, but this conference was a stunning disappointment to me. I am in awe of the talent of the travel blogging community, but far less impressed with the product I consumed this weekend here — though that was absolutely no fault of the speakers or participants.

Part II of my review is here. Thanks.

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I’m an attorney that took off on my birthday in December of 2008 to circumnavigate the globe without ever getting on an airplane. After 16 months, 6 continents and 44 countries, I made it all the way back home. Right now, I am back on the road writing about it all. Read more by Michael Hodson and connect on Google Plus.

226 Responses to “TBEX 2011 Review (Part One): In Need of Some Professionalism and Basic Organization” Subscribe

  1. jill- Jack and JIll Travel June 15, 2011 at 7:23 am #

    Sorry to hear about the lack of organization there… must have been frustrating. Hopefully you bring to light your feedbacks to them (and should encourage others to do the same) so the organizers will live and learn for the next conference.

    • Michael Hodson June 15, 2011 at 7:48 am #

      I hope that the mistakes that were made are corrected in the future also. One of the frustrating things though is from talking to a lot of people, this was some of the same feedback from last year’s conference that was privately communicated and not corrected before this year’s conference. Let’s hope the message finally gets through.

  2. Nathan - As We Travel June 15, 2011 at 7:28 am #

    WOW – that is embarrassing for TBEX, thanks for the honesty Michael. People need to know about this, and lets hope TBEX steps their game up for next year, otherwise someone else needs to set up something similar and do it better …

    • Michael Hodson June 15, 2011 at 7:49 am #

      I’d love to have 3-4 travel blogger conferences competing against each other. More conferences, more opportunity, more good product in the end (and more chance to time things with our busy schedules). But I’ve only been to one of them, so I thought I’d give my frank opinion on the one I’ve been to.

  3. Dave June 15, 2011 at 7:28 am #

    This is splitting hairs, but the first TBEX in Chicago was just a one day thing that really was more of a glorified meetup with other travel bloggers. From that grew the realization that something bigger could be made of the idea, and that lead to TBEX in NYC. And yes, there were organization problems at that one, but by and large, I thought it was worth the time, energy and money to attend because of my ability to connect with other travelers all in one place over one long weekend. I have no clue if there was free coffee, nor could I care, but I get your point that the small things are an indicator of the big things.

    It’s sad to hear the 2011 TBEX didn’t seem to progress enough in terms of organization to live up to your expectations, but I also think it’s pretty cruddy to accuse Kim of being in this solely for they money. One of the reasons I respect her is I believe she’s taking all this on because she wants to see travel bloggers’ profile raised as a whole. If she didn’t follow-up on that Chicago experience, who would be putting on these conferences?

    She reads all the feedback and criticism, and I have no doubt she’ll be reading this post and taking to heart what you said. I just feel your tone is overly harsh and critical. Maybe you feel jipped at having made TBEX a priority, which therefore meant you weren’t doing some other cool travel thing instead. Well now you have some idea of what to expect, and skip it next year.

    • Michael Hodson June 15, 2011 at 7:55 am #

      I don’t know her at all, but the opinions formed here were far from my own. I talked to at least 50 travel bloggers over the weekend and a number of PR people and sponsors (and also some prior attendees and prior sponsors). I’ll have a entire follow up post dedicated to why I think this particular effort struck me in good part as a money and power grab (along with the tbex connect project), but I totally appreciate that you disagree. Heck, if things change in the future, I might alter my opinion on it also, but as it stands, this whole thing recks of “profit first.” As I said in the last part of the post, I am totally glad that TBEX got started and has helped get travel bloggers together, but just because it was the first doesn’t mean it was run well at all. Thanks for starting it up — now step up your game….. just like the conference is advising all to do a travel bloggers.

    • Christine Gilbert June 15, 2011 at 7:55 am #

      Next year’s conference represents $138,000 in ticket sales alone… not including sponsorships which will likely double that amount.

      When you start running a quarter of a million dollar event and it’s not run professionally, it’s reasonable to ask questions — even hard ones.

      • Dave June 15, 2011 at 8:52 am #

        I agree Christine, and I’ll be the first to admit I know nothing of event organizing. And Michael, I gathered you didn’t know Kim personally, but maybe that’s a good thing because you’ll share your unvarnished opinions as a result.

        Being that they were back to back, it’s hard not to compare the World Domination Summit with TBEX, though I was only able to observe both from Twitter and FB. WDS didn’t result in any public complaints that I saw, but maybe I wasn’t following as many of the attendees.

        I thought it was cool that Chris G shared the fact that the event cost more than ticket sales brought in. He said registration fees were $125,000 and expenses ended up being $145,000 at last count. I’m sharing this because I don’t know how fair it is to make assumptions about the profitability of a big event based on ticket sales alone, nor guesses at revenue generated from sponsors.

        http://chrisguillebeau.com/3×5/wds-2011-the-heart-attack-of-awesome/

        • Christine Gilbert June 15, 2011 at 9:08 am #

          I would ask the same questions of Chris if he charged for an event, ran it poorly and didn’t disclose where the money is going. I just think it’s a natural question. That link you provide shows Chris being transparent. I don’t see the same thing with TBEX.

        • Dave June 15, 2011 at 9:44 am #

          I was at both conferences, and there was simply no comparison on many different levels. I signed up on the Sunday for the pre-registration for next year’s WDS, as did 284 other people. TBEX ( a larger conference ) had less than 70 preregistrations in the first 24 hours, at 1/6th of the price. I think that tells you something,

          The reason that Chris G lost money was due purely to the fact that there was virtually no sponsorship at WDS – a deliberate choice on his part, and one that meant the attendees didn’t have to sit around listening to painfully awkward 5 minute long videos and over-enthusiastic company representatives hyping up their latest offering to a disinterested crowd.

        • Gillian @OneGiantStep June 15, 2011 at 10:36 am #

          I also attended both conferences and agree that there is no comparison. I think Kim is on to a great thing and there is no doubt that we all like to get together but she needs to take it seriously and have it evolve. The issues I saw this past weekend are the same ones that I heard complaints about from last year. I felt it was disorganized, amateur (at best) and honestly think that the way she handled some things was downright crass (she disclosed private information about why a prominent blogger could not attend a panel – I was shocked!). I loved meeting fellow bloggers and learned a fair bit from the panelists but I won’t be returning to her conference. I think there are other up-and-coming opportunities to connect and learn and I’ll be voting with my $$ in the future.

  4. Iain Mallory June 15, 2011 at 7:30 am #

    Damn that is shocking to hear basic organisation being totally mishandled, incredible and as you mention makes the whole travel blogging community look unprofessional.

    Incidentally coffee is NEVER a minor point ;) and that the ‘volunteers’ weren’t aware of a sponsors hospitality & that they had made such a provision is not just unprofessional it is almost criminal. To accept money from anybody sponsor or otherwise and then not give them value for money makes me cringe.

    Finally I promise to try and reduce the number of typos in my posts in future, made a good start by not having any here!

    Thanks for the insight on the ‘unconference’

    • Michael Hodson June 15, 2011 at 7:57 am #

      I cringe at how many typos and other errors I make in my writing also. Then again, I’m not charging anyone to come here and read my stuff. And I’m with ya — coffee is kinda like morning lifeblood.

  5. Katie June 15, 2011 at 7:35 am #

    Great meeting you this weekend and nice post, I agree with pretty much all of your observations (some things I didn’t know about). Interesting about the money, since I was one who commented on Facebook that for $80 we couldn’t expect all that much. I wasn’t aware how much they were getting in cash in sponsorships – I’d be really curious to know how it all breaks down. Based on those numbers, they certainly should be able to hire a professional event planner to handle the logistics.

    • Michael Hodson June 15, 2011 at 7:58 am #

      Really great meeting you as well!! The whole conference at a “chance to meet great people” thing was truly amazing and meeting you was high on that list. And for what its worth, I think you hit the nail on the head. Just hire someone professional to run the thing. So easy.

  6. Christine Gilbert June 15, 2011 at 7:37 am #

    I saw some of Kim’s comments on Facebook. I think she’s trying to defend herself by saying, “Listen I’ve never done this before, I’m a writer not an event planner and so on.”

    She said the same things last year and made simliar promises to fix it. It sounds like it didn’t happen but the conference keeps getting bigger (next year it’s up from 500 to 600 bloggers) and the profile gets raised even more.

    If I was Kim, I would stop. Right now. Stop. Stop making excuses. This isn’t about her ego. She needs to take this on the chin, hard. She should shake up her planning committee. She can’t have friends and people she admires giving her advice. She needs practical people who are going to stand up to her, fight for a better conference and make sure things get done. She should hire help. She should get honest feedback from people and just listen. She really needs to hear this and listen and not make excuses.

    Last year, people said, “If next year is as bad as this year, there will be no TBEX for a follow up year.”

    Well, I’m pretty sure this conference can limp along indefinitely. But I can see already the more established people being driven away in droves — the people you want to meet. It’s too bad.

    • Michael Hodson June 15, 2011 at 8:01 am #

      As usual, thoughtful comments from you. In short, I agree with you. Hire a professional to run the thing. But what you are saying about this same stuff being said last year is exactly what I heard from scores of people this weekend. Mostly people’s opinion seemed to be “well, it isn’t that great of a conference, but it is such a great way to meet people, so I’ll just overlook all the faults.” But I do know that basically all this stuff was said about TBEX 2010 to the powers that be and then in TBEX 2011…. all the same things happened again. Who knows about TBEX 2012.

    • Kelsey June 15, 2011 at 8:31 am #

      Yes, I heard that last year was pretty disorganized as well, so I am really surprised to hear that it sounds like they made little to no progress at all. If she’s organizing an event of this size without any professionals, that’s a big, big problem.

      Not only that, but as Michael said, if a conference like this is managed so unprofessionally, it reflects poorly on the travel blogging industry as a whole, making PR folks and other orgs less likely to work with travel bloggers in the first place.

    • lara dunston June 15, 2011 at 7:02 pm #

      My husband and I were invited to speak about Grantourismo at the International Wine Tourism Conference in Portugal in February. We don’t usually go to these kinds of things – we’re far too busy – but it was a fantastic event, and we met some wonderful wine, food and travel bloggers and journalists, winemakers, and wine tourism companies and organizations, but it was a serious event with a lot of very professional speakers and sessions.

      There were some criticisms of the organization, but compared to those above, they were so very very minor, eg. a couple of (excellent) presentations clashing, and last minute changes to session times. Coffee and breakfast was provided every morning, along with delicious lunches, and post-conference activities – which *all* attendees were invited to. And then, in addition, there were also a few events for invited groups as well as paid events for everyone else. Accommodation was also provided for participants.

      The annual event is organized by Anthony Swift of Wine Pleasures but Anthony also hires local event management companies in each location to handle the on-the-ground work, such as coordinating local admin people/volunteers, guides and transport for the media trips, tech people, etc. If Kim isn’t doing that then she needs to be.

  7. The Dropout June 15, 2011 at 7:38 am #

    Wow, I would be peeved too.
    I don’t think you’re being overly harsh and critical. PR people are professional and to meet them amidst this would be embarrassing.

    • Michael Hodson June 15, 2011 at 8:01 am #

      Some of the PR people I talked to were the most pissed off, which is a shame for everyone.

      • Kelsey June 15, 2011 at 8:32 am #

        I would be too if I paid to sponsor an event and nobody even knew about it!

  8. Tonya of World Footprints June 15, 2011 at 7:46 am #

    Wow! is right. This is a bit discouraging b/c we were considering attending the conference next year. I had heard from another participant who had attended in year’s past, that she was going to see how things progressed this year before making a decision to continue going. She was hopeful that the new conference leadership (that included people who previously cricized the event) would organize a much better experience for attendees. Sadly, it doesn’t appear that happened.

    • Michael Hodson June 15, 2011 at 8:03 am #

      I might go next year just to drink beer and have meet ups with people. That part is great. As to the conference — I hope some major changes are made, but who knows whether they will be.

      • Kelsey June 15, 2011 at 8:35 am #

        Considering that next year’s event appears to be occurring at a relatively self-enclosed resort, I worry that poor organization could be even worse next year.

  9. Jen Pollack Bianco June 15, 2011 at 8:06 am #

    The part that resonates with me most is that middle school dances are more organized. I was irritated after the fake name tags on speakers at the opening reception and my frustration continued to grow. By the time the SEO session was switched back to its original location, I couldn’t take any more.

    • Michael Hodson June 15, 2011 at 8:48 am #

      First, even though it was really brief — great to meet you in person, finally! Second, I didn’t even mention the room switching issue, because I had to cut the length of the post. To put it another way… my list was not exclusive.

  10. Hogga June 15, 2011 at 8:16 am #

    You can be harsh in your words sometimes Michael, and it makes me god damn angry when you do it to me haha. But I know to look past it and up my game when you do because you’re just saying what others are too afraid to say.

    I hope the TBEX people don’t take it personally and just take it as the need to step up because they have something great to work with.

    I’ve worked in the events industry for quite some time and I can tell you that there is always going to be things that go wrong – no matter how planned you are. Something in the venue doesn’t work – specific staff you need show up late – someone grabbed the wrong swag box etc. But that’s why it’s key to organize the shit out of an event before hand. So these things on site are just a hiccup that you can ‘quick fix’ without guest knowing it ever happened.
    I didn’t go to TBEX so I can’t comment on their performance, but I know they have the right idea and I hope they don’t take your post personally, but as a motivator for next year because I plan to be there!

    • Michael Hodson June 17, 2011 at 10:07 pm #

      But I love you! I hope I’m not too harsh… at least NEARLY as harsh as you are back to me ;)

  11. Julia June 15, 2011 at 8:25 am #

    Really interesting to read this because as someone who didn’t attend (but who saw many of my friends on Twitter tweeting about it throughout) the only real feedback you ever hear is how great it was to meet people and get drunk together. Sure, that’s great. I would love to eat and drink with 500 travel bloggers one weekend. In that case, why don’t we all just create a Facebook group and bring a picnic to a big park somewhere?! The reason for creating a conference isn’t just to make the friendships and connections, it’s to get something valid out of it and to be able to take home advice that you can build on yourself. I’m sure you all got that (when you could hear it through the microphones) but to be honest I’d be annoyed at having paid even $80 if the organisation was sub-par. Especially when I think that I potentially could have spent the cost of a transatlantic flight and hotel stay this year to go to it on top of the cost of the ticket. I really hope the feedback is taken on board and that it improves, because otherwise like Christine said above, the people that you actually want to meet up with will stop attending and reputation will suffer, which will be a huge shame.

    • Roy | cruisesurfingz June 15, 2011 at 3:40 pm #

      Actually why not? Maybe instead of conferences, we should do Facebook events to meet other bloggers…

  12. Melvin June 15, 2011 at 8:25 am #

    Interesting article!

    I have to watch out, as I haven’t attended. I think it’s great to get bloggers together & to meet up. But I’ve heard similar concerns from the TBEXs before. If getting such a bad feedback, you should really do it better the second time… not even speaking off, that this was the 4th (incl. the European event).

    There is no problem to run an un-conference. I’ve been to a hostel owner un-conference & loved it.

    But if you charge so much money, you should really throw an amazing event. Very sad to hear that it wasn’t one. My first blogger event was in Manchester for TBU and I can only say, that it was just the opposite. It was very well organized and Oliver leaned out pretty much in front of the event, how nice it would get. I was a bit sceptical, but he was right. It was great! Now he is preparing the TBU in Innsbruck (August) and says it will even get better. I’m sceptical again, but also know that he will be right. :)

    I’m looking forward to Innsbruck, but also to join TBEX next year, so that I’m able to really speak of my own experiences.

    • Teresa G. June 15, 2011 at 8:34 am #

      Very well said! I couldn’t agree more! I was nervous about TBU only because I was crossing the Atlantic to make my way! Looking forward to some great convo with you in Austria!

    • Paul June 15, 2011 at 11:05 am #

      Sad to hear about the organisation of TBEX.

      Like Melvin, TBU was my first blogger conference but as it was on my doorstep in Manchester it wasn’t a big loss if it turned out badly.

      However It turned out to be extremely well organised and though I will be spending more to attend the Innsbruck conference I know what will be on offer will be well constructed.

      On the other hand if I’d just flown across the Atlantic and spent hundreds of pounds on flights, accommodation and a ticket I would be furious and would never attend a TBEX conference again.

      With the numbers involved it would be wise to get an organiser who’s used to handle conferences that size. Hopefully they’ll learn from the mistakes and make a better event next time

  13. Marina K. Villatoro June 15, 2011 at 8:25 am #

    I’m actually relieved to read this. It breaks my hear to keep missing TBEX since I live way too far and never getting to really connect with bloggers outside the internet.

    On the other hand, it would have infuriated me if I had to leave my kids behind to experience what you did! I am a bit anal on professionalism, living in Central America too long, you realize how UN PROFESSIONAL people are here and how much you crave it and over exceed it in your own ways.

  14. Jul June 15, 2011 at 8:30 am #

    Sounds like things were very similar to the TBEX event in Copenhagen last year, which was also packed with fun, interesting people but very poorly organized. I was hoping that things would improve from conference to conference, but doesn’t sound like anyone’s learning from their mistakes.

  15. Christina S. June 15, 2011 at 8:32 am #

    A really interesting post… this was my first TBEX. I’m not sure if I’ll attend again, but I know I won’t attend again next year because it’s just too expensive for me to haul myself out to the west coast for a big networking session (don’t you usually vary annual conference locations by region? How about Dallas? New Orleans? Memphis? Minneapolis? I could go on…). I found one of the TBEX workshops helpful – ONE – and, probably not coincidentally, it was the only one that didn’t have av and technical issues.

    They could really, really, REALLY benefit from hiring a professional meeting planner. They take care of the seemingly minor details for you.

    Might try out TBU next year if it’s in a decent location…

    • Kelsey June 15, 2011 at 8:38 am #

      Last year it was hosted in NYC, but I heard it had the same problems.

  16. Teresa G. June 15, 2011 at 8:32 am #

    Refreshing post; I love the honesty and facts. Especially to hear someone speak about the event itself as opposed to the awesome networking. I did not attend TBEX this year, nor have I bought my ticket for next year. It will be interesting to see what other attendees say and how the feedback will be digested towards next year.

    • Michael Hodson June 15, 2011 at 9:28 am #

      The meeting people part…. fabulous. Thinking about organizing a series of tweet-ups and FB meetings like that from now on. Totally worth it to sit with a dozen good bloggers and swap ideas. The conference… we’ll see next year, I suppose.

  17. Scott - Quirky Travel Guy June 15, 2011 at 8:47 am #

    I wasn’t in attendance but the things that irritated you would irritate me as well. I like how you not only address the problems but offer realistic solutions as well. Hopefully those in charge will take these words to heart because there’s nothing worse than disorganization. I want to go next year and I’d love to see it run more smoothly.

    • Michael Hodson June 15, 2011 at 9:01 am #

      I sincerely hope things improve in the future — I don’t think it is asking too much.

  18. Akila June 15, 2011 at 8:51 am #

    Okay, so I’m going to disagree just a bit on this front. I didn’t mind the A/V issues because every conference I’ve been to has had A/V issues. I accept A/V issues as one of the problems of any large conference. What I minded MUCH more was the lack of information, namely:

    – not telling conference attendees that we had FREE passes around Vancouver except in one tweet. That was an amazing offer from the City of Vancouver tourism and very few people knew about it.
    – not telling conference attendees about the hospitality suite early on. That also was a fantastic benefit that very few people knew about.
    – not telling people under the night before in an email that the conference would be held on the west wing rather than the east wing —- if I hadn’t run into other travel bloggers who checked their emails before arriving, I would have gone to the wrong center. [And, given that most of us were at the party, they could have had a big sign or something letting us know where the conference would be.]

    These are just a few examples but I personally felt that the lack of information was the biggest negative. One of the VERY simple solutions to this problem is to get more volunteers out there —- and they don’t need to even be physical people — but get more volunteers out there tweeting, FBing, and emailing information to the attendees.

    • Michael Hodson June 15, 2011 at 8:57 am #

      Thanks for the feedback, Akila (and fracking fabulous to meet you, by the way). On the AV thing, I look at it this way. I have done video and audio and photo presentations in open court a number of times. What is the first thing I do every single time I have to do one of those when I arrive at the courthouse? I run through the entire thing on their system to make sure it is set up properly. The opening video at this conference…. if they’d just have done minimal work to run through that at 8 a.m…. its working fine. And have someone from the hotel go with a TBEX employee to each room beforehand and make sure the microphones are working. For me, that’s a basic.

      As to your list — totally agree on all of them. Like I said on an earlier comment, my list is FAR from exhaustive. I just hit some highlights (or lowlights). From talking to folks all weekend, I could have done a 5,000 word post just on this topic alone.

  19. Jeremy Branham June 15, 2011 at 8:54 am #

    First of all, it was nice meeting you Michael. This was my first TBEX experience and one of the things I enjoyed the most about this was meeting people. I’ve had many connections online for a while and it was nice to finally meet people in person. I think that is the biggest thing I took away from this.

    As for the positives, there were things that really helped me. I loved the Robert Reid speech on writing and research talking about jourblists and not pissing on your own posts. The brand/niche thing really helped me as well. I think as bloggers and writers we continue to evolve, grow, and learn more about ourselves through this process. So like any writer, we get better and more polished as we continue to do this.

    Hopefully, the same can be said of TBEX. I look forward to going next year because I enjoyed meeting people and was challenged by some things. I am not going to disagree with any of your points above because you are correct. However, I am not as upset about these things as you are. Like we do as bloggers when we first start out, we make mistakes, learn, and get better. This is only the third year of TBEX so hopefully they will do the same.

    Criticism like this is good because if there isn’t any, they won’t improve. I hope things are better in Colorado next year but I think we are far more important to the long term success and maybe we should take more ownership as well? With your comments and thoughts, maybe every day travel bloggers should be part of the planning for next year because we bring a different perspective. That may be a good way to improve next year’s conference.

    • Michael Hodson June 15, 2011 at 9:35 am #

      Jeremy, my next post is going to focus on the content, some of which (including Robert’s amazing speech) I found quite good. Frankly, there is a lot to be critical about though on the content side also.

      As to bloggers taking a more active role in this…. most professional groups (lawyers, doctors, various writing groups, journalists) have non-profit associations that run conferences like this. Takes the profit motive out and puts the members of the whole association in charge of the content. Just sayin’…..

      • Jeremy Branham June 15, 2011 at 10:21 am #

        Without a doubt, there is stuff to be critical about in terms of content. I didn’t like everything that was done and considered some of it a waste of time.I really feel this could be improved if we were a part of this planning process. I know there were a bunch of people that were part of this from Kim to PR reps, Gary, and others. However, some of us who aren’t as big could be good to have as well.

        I didn’t say this earlier but I do like your idea of someone else handling the logistics while Kim and her group handles the content. I think that’s a good idea.

      • Theodora June 17, 2011 at 11:59 am #

        I think this is a fair point, Michael. However, most professional groups have sufficient members with sufficient income from their profession to pay professional dues to run non-profits which cover more than just conferences. I’m honestly not sure travel blogging is at this stage of its evolution yet.

        There are also, within the journalism sector, endless for-profit conferences, and for-profit courses, targeted at aspiring journalists, where the revenue stream comes from the wannabe journalists, not from anyone else, ditto photography, ditto other “dream careers”. And I think a lot of the activities around blogging currently fall into those kind of for-profit activities, and will do for a while yet.

  20. bethany June 15, 2011 at 8:58 am #

    Wow. Thanks for putting up your opinion hear and to me it doesn’t read as harsh at all – just what you really felt. I wish more people would write like this when they have strong feelings.

    I’m so glad we didn’t go. We almost did but I wrote to a couple of other bloggers who had gone last year and they both said the same thing ‘Don’t waste your time or your money.’ They told me they felt the whole conference basically sucked (except the part of meeting other bloggers).

    Yeah $80 isn’t that much but it would have cost us at least a couple grand to fly there, stay there, etc. So it does add up and if TBEX can’t take that cost into consideration then it’s going to die a painful death I’m sure. People will only go if it is local to where they are and that will cut out a lot of people. Sounds like they’ll have to do something really big to get everyone to take a second chance on them.

    I’m sure I would’ve been upset if I was there too because I am into the details as well and all the little issues would’ve driven me crazy. Who knows maybe they’ll hear what people are saying and pull out all the stops for next year and change it completely. It sounds like it could be a really awesome event if they paid some people to help them out.

    • Michael Hodson June 15, 2011 at 9:38 am #

      Well, I did plan my entire 2011 schedule around being here. Flew back from the Middle East to attend — so, I understand what you are talking about.

      I am really glad I attended, but only because I got to meet 50 amazing people in person that I think will be lifelong friends and colleagues. I could have done that at a series of tweet-ups.

      The conference itself needs help (not just my opinion obviously, from looking at the RTs and comments). Pretty much the universal comment I got from bloggers was “really glad I came, because it is a great way to meet people, but……”

  21. Nick June 15, 2011 at 8:59 am #

    As someone who has been on the planning committee for events larger than this, the problem is that the event is being organized by a very small core group. While this can work for an event of ~100-200 people, whenever you get larger than that, the event planning needs to be broken up into Committees. For TBEX there needs to be a committee for each of the following areas: Speakers, Parties, Facilities, Sponsor Services, Logistics, and Scheduling (balancing the various requests and capabilities from the other committees). Just doing something as simple as that keeps the event organized, and also helps keep people from getting overworked (Which I saw Courtney and Joey being completely overworked during the event).

    • Michael Hodson June 15, 2011 at 9:42 am #

      I do want to make it clear that there were some people working really hard there (Courtney and Joey being the two that I saw). It was NOT their fault that things went poorly and such. Hell, I felt amazingly sorry for them, partly because it was obvious that they weren’t given the tools to be as effective as they could have been…. and that it was so amazingly understaffed.

      Great idea on subcommittees and such. That is how all large conferences I have been involved in do it. Then again, all big conferences I have been involved in are also non-profit professional associations, where the membership has a lot more say in everything.

    • Kim@TBEX June 15, 2011 at 12:05 pm #

      This is a really good, helpful idea Nick, thanks.

  22. Melvin June 15, 2011 at 9:02 am #

    Michael… whenever I should run an event, remember me that I won’t invite you! I love feedback, but only positive one! :) lol… But I’m sure that I will never run a conference, but an un-conference with coffee & beer! ;-) And then I would invite you again! :)

    Getting more serious now. I know that getting feedback like your article is tough. But it can also be helpful, if you suck that info in, get angry about posts like yours, but then learn from it for the next event.

    If Kim got no experience with events, then I would still like to congratulate her. She started something really nice. But I would also recommend her, to leave the tough part to proffessionals from now on. I mean like organizing the small/big things and just be the one who manages from the top. It would be a shame, that blogger events start nicely & would stop for reasons like these.

    We are all in social media & have a great travel community. The PR people and others should know about that. It’s amazing how events like The Travel Talk on Twitter (#TTOT) are such a success, which are run by the community.

    • Michael Hodson June 15, 2011 at 9:45 am #

      Melvin, I would be HONORED to be un-invited to any organization you were running. What is the quote… “I don’t want to be a member of any group that…” ;)

      I give the TBEX group total props for getting a great thing started. But like all things (including our blogs and our writing, as the speakers said time after time)… there is always a lot of room for improvement.

      Physician, heal thyself.

  23. Saadia June 15, 2011 at 9:10 am #

    I was there for the first time and though I enjoyed what it was bringing to the table: the ability to meet other bloggers of all levels and caliber and the POTENTIAL to REALLY LEARN (I was really hopeful about the workshops), I was disappointed in the exact same things you were (except the coffee, didn’t even think about it).

    5 things that struck me as “FIX THIS NOW” moments:

    1. When we attend an hour long workshop, we expect it to start on time, not waste 15 minutes trying to figure out if the projector will work or not. The worst part of it: happened in more than one workshop.

    2. When we have to move three times from room to room trying to figure out where the SEO workshop is being held, that’s less than acceptable and a loss of another 15 minutes. Assign a room to a workshop and DON’T CHANGE IT!

    3. Don’t advertise after parties and then make it invite only. Is there really any reason for telling us BLATANTLY that we are not “cool” enough or high up on the ladder enough to attend the party? How pathetic is that? Preaching that we are all friends and equal in the conference and then segregating us when it comes to after parties is really shallow.

    4. Just because one is a great writer/editor, doesn’t mean one makes for a great moderator. Moderators for a couple of those panels needed to be chosen more wisely. They spent more time talking about their thoughts and less time allowing the panel to speak.

    5. Poorly conducted niche break out sessions. You said it felt like it was thought out in three minutes, it WAS thought out in three minutes. The fact that we had to scream out suggestions for niches and they weren’t concretely thought of was such a disappointment. We should’ve been given a list of niches and then the option to break out into more. By the time someone thought of “budget travel” as a niche, half the room had already disappeared. Announce the niches and give us the option to suggest others PRIOR to so that we can decide which one to be a part of.

    That’s my 2 cents. I’ve registered to attend TBEX 12 and sincerely hope that it will be a much better product. I believe in giving things a 2nd chance, attending TBEX 12 will be just that.

    • Michael Hodson June 15, 2011 at 9:49 am #

      You should have written this post, not me. I wish I could have been this concise about specific problems. Another example to me that I need to work on my writing and editing skills.

      Chris Christensen and Robert Reid should moderate every panel. Can we just clone them and make them into a dozen moderators for multiple sessions?

      • Saadia June 15, 2011 at 9:52 pm #

        lol! you’re too funny. =o)
        I liked Robert the most!

  24. Beth Whitman June 15, 2011 at 9:16 am #

    Thanks for this roundup, Michael. Great to meet you but I’m sorry we didn’t have more of a chance to chat over the weekend.

    I, too, was disappointed in the organization of the event.

    Rather than list all that was wrong (and I definitely have my own list), let me tell you that it was indeed awesome to meet so many bloggers, webmasters and PR peeps in one place. I had amazing conversations and learned a tremendous amount but only because I didn’t attend sessions but rather scheduled my own meetings weeks before the event (because weeks before the event, there still wasn’t a schedule).

    The Passports with Purpose gals (me included) hosted a cupcake party prior to the start of TBEX. We had a lovely crowd of about 100 people, bloggers and PR folks. They were all eager to help promote PwP with their blog or provide prizes for our annual fundraiser. The buzz around PwP was so big that it’s obvious people want to do something positive.

    It’s for these 2 reasons, the connections I can make with a large group of people and a forum to promote PwP, that I’ve registered for TBEX 2012. (I’ve registered and can always not go…)

    In the meantime, I’m eager to hear how TBU goes in Innsbruck (heard Manchester was awesome this year) and I believe that TBU will be coming to the US as well. I would love to attend a really well-run travel blogging conference where content (i.e. the panels) is king, everything runs smoothly and there’s coffee in the mornings :-)

    • Michael Hodson June 15, 2011 at 9:53 am #

      Arrrrrgggggg, I missed the cupcake event. Damn it. (1) Really, really great to meet you in person and (2) sign me up for anything I can do to help Passports with Purpose. Non-profit, group effort to make the world a better place…. all the check boxes for me.

      And I totally agree on the opportunity to meet great bloggers here. That part was great. Didn’t need to hit the conference for it (and I might do just that in Colorado next year), but totally fabulous. As to effectively meeting PR peeps, I will address that in one of my next review posts here. I thought that part of the whole thing was also amazingly half-assed… and have a really good case study story to talk through it about.

  25. pam June 15, 2011 at 9:17 am #

    When I read hatchet jobs like this, I want to extract the hyperbole so I can get down to what the real issues were. There’s malcontent ranting and there’s reasonabie criticism, and this feels like a messy cocktail of both.

    AV stuff not working?
    Private parties presented as public events?
    Poorly labeled caffeine distribution centers? (I share your addiction.)
    Late schedule? (WAY late. Honestly, that made me CRAZY.)

    All true. Not good. Agreed.

    It’s likely some of the heresay stuff is true, but it’s heresay, I wouldn’t base criticism on it, too risky, I don’t know the full back story.I’m not above a little hallway gossip, but I won’t be blogging it. I also wouldn’t base criticism on wanting to make money. I have pretty mixed feelings about some of the tactics that bloggers use to make money, but I won’t fault them for wanting to turn a buck or taking advantage of an opportunity, attempting to make money at it, and stumbling along the way. See also: Sean Keener. “I did a lot of stupid things while trying to figure it out.”

    I was frustrated by a number of things, the same things that frustrated you — and by the content of the most of the sessions I attended. It’s interesting to hear traditional, established media types talk about their knowledge, but I don’t get great takeaways from that. (I did think Robert’s research talk was aces, but I was really annoyed in the editors panel session.) I wanted sharper focus in the subject matter, and maybe a beginner/advanced division, too. While I like to be at the front of the room, no lie, I also really want to learn. I’m not, today, sure what I learned.

    But I also had an incredible time at TBEX. It was great for me. I loved the excitement around quality writing, I enjoyed everything I did as “work” and the time I spent with people I adore. This year was SO much better than last year, exponentially, and I really hope that trajectory continues.

    • Michael Hodson June 15, 2011 at 10:01 am #

      First off, great to meet you in person (well, technically in Seattle right before, but wouldn’t have met without the conference happening). You are one of my writing ideals and I wish I had half the writing talent you’ve got.

      If this is a “hatchet job” that you generally agree with, as it appears from the tenor of the rest of your comment, then I suppose I am proud to wield the hatchet. I hope I presented it as a list of things they could improve on in 2012 — a very specific list of things. I’ve been publicly berated for being an idiot and incompetent by federal judges in open court and I know that critique can always sound horrible — though to be clear, I have nothing but good things to say about you and the other speakers here at the event.

      And like you, I loved the social aspect of the event, but that is a sidelight to things. This was a conference. A professional conference. I hope I can love the fact I meet people in person and also think the conference part of it…. needs a lot of work.

      Your points on the content and the needs for multiple tracks and speakers that are more geared to actual blogging are spot on. And will be talked about extensively in Part Two of my review, which deals with the substance of the conference.

      • pam June 15, 2011 at 10:45 am #

        Two things. Okay, three.

        I’m not sure what I learned… today. Last year I wasn’t sure either. The big payoff came months out.

        I agree with portions of your hatcheting. Not all of it. And I want clear delineation between facts and opinion and heresay, because I’m an editorial fascist. I want a slightly more refined hatcheting, whittling, perhaps, with details, so I can really focus on the facts.

        I am so glad we got to meet. I really enjoyed your company here in Seattle.

        • Michael Hodson June 16, 2011 at 6:11 pm #

          Totally love your company also, of course. As to the heresay, I can’t give any more details. The people I talked to weren’t willing to go on the record. I did the best I could on double checking things, and when I heard stuff from sources I trusted (and/or heard similar things from multiple sources), I went with it. This isn’t a NY Times piece, nor was it intended to be, but I do like the discussion that it and other pieces and comments has started. Best way to improve a product or performance is know what you do wrong…. as you so elegantly did in checking out one of my pieces a few months back. Damn it — still owe you drinks for that. Arrgggg….

  26. Saadia June 15, 2011 at 9:18 am #

    p.s. you started quite a stir on twitter. lol every other tweet is your post being retweeted =o)

  27. Kirsten Alana June 15, 2011 at 9:27 am #

    First of all, thanks for using the pictures Michael. That’s what they were intended for – so you could sit back and enjoy the conference and not have to worry about covering all of it. I was happy to do that for bloggers and hope to see the images used by more people.

    Second, good to finally meet you in person :)

    Third, on some points – you are right on. There was a lot of disorganization. Even my class on photography being without AV struck me as pretty wrong. It certainly harmed by and Peter’s ability to properly teach. But as someone who was involved behind the scenes a bit and has just a little more information … you’re actually grossly unfair on a few points. Again, not that I don’t agree some things could have been better. I simply am of the stance that it’s sad such a strong negative opinion has been formed by so many including yourself when so little of the truth is available to you. Maybe the thing to argue for most strongly is simply for more transparency. And … coffee ;)

    Lastly, I’m working at TBU this year and will be really curious to see the difference between the two. As to Dave’s point about WDS – it was far more organized than TBEX in this its first year and yet even it had a lot of issues. For instance, the WiFi didn’t work there either, at all!!!!

    • Michael Hodson June 15, 2011 at 10:04 am #

      Wonderful to meet you in person, though you were working so damn hard that it was impossible to pin you down for more than 2 minutes! Great job with all the photos.

      I heard about your AV problems in your photo workshop, but never got the whole story tracked down, so I didn’t include it.

  28. Camels & Chocolate June 15, 2011 at 9:29 am #

    Michael, I sincerely appreciate your honesty and unbiased view. I’ve never been to TBEX (not really my thing at all), and I’ve always thought the recaps I read were way too rosy—as if these bloggers were being paid to say nice things and doing so with blinders on—when all the in-person feedback I heard from bloggers who went was far from favorable and very similar to your thoughts. I’ve gotta wonder, though: Why does something so unprofessional continue to thrive? Why are people going? I know a core group of bloggers who refuse to return after the boondoggle that was TBEX in NYC, but why are the rest of them still going? Is it the fear of “missing out” or that you can’t excel as a travel blogger if your name isn’t on that TBEX roster? I for one have had a successful career as (print) travel writer and a decent go as a travel blogger without a bit of help from TBEX. For those who are in it for the social aspect, why not simply organize some cool meet-up elsewhere on the continent for travel bloggers to get together and shoot the shit, without the intention to make a profit?

    • Oliver June 15, 2011 at 9:34 am #

      People are going because they love to meet people I believe. Yet there aren’t many alternatives either.

      That is something TBU are working towards with our conferences and we’ll be stateside next year to show what we are all about.

      And we are profit making, we don’t hide that. But we have a firm belief that if we are to make a modicum of profit, our customers and their needs absolutely have to come first.

    • Michael Hodson June 15, 2011 at 10:06 am #

      It is a great collection of people and talent. Simple as that. Kudos for TBEX for getting that started. Total props to them, but….

      Run a good conference. This seemed more like an excuse for an extended happy hour to hang with old and new friends. Don’t get me wrong, I am ALL FOR happy hours, but that’s only part of running an actual conference.

    • Chris @CAroundTheWorld June 15, 2011 at 10:20 am #

      Kristin – I’ll tell you why I went and why, ultimately, the conference was good for me even though I share the complaints and concerns that Michael had.

      First, my editor from New York was there and we had a meeting where we worked out content for an ebook that I’ll be writing for them..I solidified plans for another story with an editor in the hallway. That in itself was worth the drive up from Seattle.

      Second, I had serious sidebar conversations in the halls with some bloggers who are actually making money (none of whom were on the panels, btw) and came away with some great tricks and tips. While we all have relationships through email and Facebook, this conference was probably the only time that I would see them all in one place.

      Third, I did make some PR contacts, although not nearly enough as I wanted. I really hope that future conferences have a Media Marketplace, where bloggers and PR reps can make appointments to meet each other. Way too hard to find them in the crowd.

      My prediction, if Kim doesn’t switch up the panels and become more organized, is that TBEX will become like South by Southwest, where many people don’t pay the registration fee and go for the outside networking, parties and deals.

      • Camels & Chocolate June 15, 2011 at 4:47 pm #

        Thanks, Chris. You answered some of my lingering questions, because I’ve often wondered what such established journalists such as yourself get out of a novice conference. Sounds like you have to create your own conference of sorts in the wings, eh, to get something out of the weekend? =)

        Having lived in NYC and SF and worked at a number of magazines, I don’t feel the need to meet anymore PR people (and if I did, I’d just email an intro or plan to meet up with them when I’m in their city…not try to do so surrounded by 500 others when I’m just another nameless face), but what you said is the sentiment I’ve heard echoed from other travel bloggers who have been the last couple years, and that’s: The conference just isn’t set up to actually network; it’s far too chaotic to try to squeeze in all the meetings you want. Plus, from what I’ve read online last year and this, the panel topics themselves could have been a little more in depth if the aim was to teach people.

        Still, I’m happy that you did get some of what you wanted out of it!

  29. Michele June 15, 2011 at 9:41 am #

    Excellent post! Like Melvin I wouldn’t have an issue with un-conference, but it’s a question of expectation. Attending an event at its 4th edition, paying for participating and may be even travelling from overseas… well even missing coffee might turn out into a major issue. TBU in Manchester was outstanding. Great people, great workshops, location was good and the city of Manchester, surprising.
    I can only recommend to join the next TBU event in Innsbruck (Austria) in August 2011.

    • Melvin June 15, 2011 at 9:54 am #

      And we’ll also make sure that we’ll have an un-conference after the conference at TBU, right? Viva #Club91! ;-)
      https://www.facebook.com/pages/Club-91/200626183290928

      • Oliver June 15, 2011 at 9:56 am #

        No you wont!

        You’ll be on your FREE blog trips around Austria Melvin! :-)

      • Chris June 15, 2011 at 1:18 pm #

        Viva #club91 indeed

  30. ActionJoJo June 15, 2011 at 9:45 am #

    Hey Micheal,
    First thing’s first. Wish we had a chance to meet at TBEX but I’m sure our paths will cross in the future.

    This is my first TBEX and I’ve been to other professional conferences in other capacities many times, both at the regional and national levels. I think a lot of improvements definitely can be made and I totally agree re: the lack of clear and/or timely information as outlined by Akila, for example.

    I applaud Kim and her team for bring us all together. There is definitely something powerful in convening us in this way. However, there is always room for improvement even if an event runs like a well-oiled machine. In my past conference attending experiences, attendees always received a feedback survey immediately at the end of the conference. In it would be questions about organization, content (topics), speakers, etc. If they haven’t done this for past TBEXs already (again, I don’t know), then I would encourage Kim and the other organizers to do so now. This survey for both attendees and sponsors allows us all to leave constructive criticism and offer ideas for future workshop topics. Finally, it informs organizers on how to plan future events and programs so that topics and formats don’t get stale year after year.

    Cheers,
    JoJo

    • Michael Hodson June 15, 2011 at 10:11 am #

      I wish I could have meet everyone. Arrggggg.

      Perhaps there is a survey that is going to be emailed to everyone. Would be a great idea. You’d have thought if they wanted the feedback that they’d have done that at the actual conference, but who knows. I do know there was a pre-survey done and I have a sneaking suspicion what that was all about and will address it as part of a future post.

      Let’s hope they listen and improve for 2012. The only discouraging thing is that I think almost everything people have mentioned here was mentioned in 2010… and little improved from there to 2011. Let’s cross our fingers.

  31. ehalvey June 15, 2011 at 9:48 am #

    I really agree with pointing out the dysfunction of the event. I really only met you while walking to the event on Saturday, but I know from that short time that your personality is very take it or leave it. That’s the personality that shapes change and is necessary for events like this. You can’t please everyone, so you need to make hard decisions on what needs to happen to be effective.

    The hidden AMEX room was irritating, but the party after party of invite-only leaving hundreds of conference goers with nothing else organized is idiotic. I’ve crashed a few science conventions, and even scientists can plan better social events. It seems that they got double-booked with some weddings so they were forced to look elsewhere for evening event locations which reduced the number of people they could accommodate.

    This was my first travel blogging convention, and while I enjoyed meeting so many bloggers, I felt like I could have got the same nuggets of info from a webcast. Which would’ve at least included the slide shows that speakers prepared but couldn’t present due to AV issues. I think many of the speakers were restrained and held back by their panelists because they couldn’t stay on topic in a focused way. They had to keep going back and forth about particular niches or styles of writing that works for them rather than general concepts.

    I didn’t even have a chance to attend the second day. Looks like I only missed free booze.

    • Michael Hodson June 15, 2011 at 10:15 am #

      A series of webcasts… Damn it. I seriously might steal that idea.

      Great to walk with you… I think we had coffee for that walk, didn’t we? ;)

      • ehalvey June 15, 2011 at 2:29 pm #

        We did! Hahaha, I think we abandoned someone else who went back for coffee.

        I’m open to you stealing my webcast idea. I can pitch ideas, but I never want to be in front on the camera. We can talk about it :)

  32. Dave and Deb June 15, 2011 at 9:54 am #

    Hi Michael, Thanks for being so honest about TBEX 11, I am not surprised though considering last years event. You raise a very valid point about why this should matter “TBEX is attempting to set itself as some sort of unofficial travel blogger association” By giving them constant second chances, travel Bloggers are giving TBEX the power to speak for us all, and to represent us, to be our liaison between PR agencies and to even start a data base of travel bloggers that we have no idea what the criteria is.
    TBEX has had 4 chances to organize conferences (including Europe). From what I have heard through the grapevine and in your post it wasn’t much better this year. If they can’t organize themselves after 4 years, how can they represent entire community effectively.
    I think that they would be wise to take your suggestion of hiring a professional.
    I understand that meeting and networking with other bloggers and PR agencies is an important aspect of the event, but I need to come away from a conference with more than just “Happy to meet you and great to meet all my favourite bloggers.” While the cost of the ticket is small, the travel to the event itself is large and to fly out to a location for nothing more than a large tweet up is not my idea of value.
    We’ve made amazing connections with Tourism Boards, PR agencies and fellow Travel Bloggers during our travels, as I am sure others have as well. During our own meet ups we’ve gained valuable information and inspiration. While it is great to have many people together at one time in a venue like TBEX, I again need something more than what I can do on my own. I look forward to hearing from experts in their niche and listening to presenters share their knowledge on stage. The networking should be a bonus to the event, not the only reason to go to a conference.

    • Michael Hodson June 15, 2011 at 10:21 am #

      Well, I got to meet you two in exotic Jordan, so I just want to say… hello! And we need to meet up again soon, with more time.

      Thanks for your thoughts. Like most things, I am hopeful on improvement. It worries me that I hear these things haven’t seemed to improve year to year yet, but Joey’s comments immediately below give me hope they have a good idea what needs to happen in 2012 — probably starting with more staff.

  33. Joey Hernandez June 15, 2011 at 9:55 am #

    It’s tough to read criticism—good, bad,ugly—without reflecting on what you could have done differently, as far as the above points are concerned. It’s especially tough striking a balance between defending the work of a team of three (count ‘em: three staff members, only two full-time), or sounding like a simpleton, complaining about hurt feelings. That said, I can understand any frustration at overall impressions of disorganization, but being called unprofessional is just beyond the pale.

    Without making excuses, and filtering all this criticism as feedback to improve what is (in my obviously-biased opinion) a great event, I just wanted to address a few of the above comments (both in the post and, well, the comments).

    In the last few years, TBEX has experienced significant growth from the single conference Kim started in Chicago. New York had some 300 attendees; this year, numbers capped at 645, give or take. The staff has always remained the same: three. Try to do the math if you must, but even a sponsored event such as TBEX has back end operating costs. I’m not full-time staff, though as far as I’m concerned, that doesn’t matter: when it is conference season, I know for a fact Kim, Courtney and myself work 17+ hours a day to ensure a quality event.

    As far as AV problems go, they will always be a problem. Part of the contract with the convention center required the AV team to check all of our equipment needs; that they were needed at the other events throughout the weekend (Eat! Vancouver, anyone?) was unforeseen and unfortunate, but that is the nature of events. (I’m trying really hard not to make excuses, so I apologize if they come across as such.) Cost of the AV equipment wasn’t the issue; it was signed and paid for. Tracking down the AV staff from their other duties was.

    Additionally, our volunteer interns were told in advance about the AMEX Lounge. If the only complaint is that they didn’t know coffee was available, well: I call that a good day. Being caught in the fire of registration, where questions, comments, concerns, complaints etc. are a dime a dozen, and not knowing much more beyond their limited tasks (which in no way pertain to direct organization of TBEX, but rather, production minutiae) is enough for any intern. Some of you say you’ve worked in events before; when has a volunteer ever known much more than what they should reasonably know with regards to the event? I commend our interns for doing well on the job, in the line of fire, whether or not they knew the right answer. I’ll shoulder the blame for their lack of answers, but at the end of the day, Courtney and I tried to give them as much information that we assumed reasonable given their stations.

    As far as Akila’s comment about the free Experience Vancouver passes go, that information was readily available beyond one tweet: http://www.travelblogexchange.com/profiles/blogs/tourism-vancouver-tbex-blogger. It was tweeted to by both the sponsor and myself, across multiple channels. It’s no one’s fault it was overlooked; a lot was going on throughout the weekend. Lots of hashtags bandied about, communication lost.

    I suppose there is more I could say, but I’ll refrain from making redundant points. I just want to clarify that we work hard as a staff (and try to meet as many expectations as possible, from PR to sponsors to bloggers), and to experience growth in a community such as ours is a wonderful thing. TBEX takes into consideration all of this feedback, and yes, we could do some hiring (ahem), but Kim has addressed these points and more in various other forums. I speak for myself here, and may get in trouble from addressing this, but I wanted to defend the hard work we did. I understand entirely the frustrations addressed above, but experiencing a nearly 100% growth in attendees, sponsors and costs since last year is not an easy feat, nor is it one we take lightly. The feedback and criticism is entirely appreciated and not lost in the chatter, but at the end of the day, we as an organization are hardworking and committed to bringing together such amazing bloggers and communicators, “unprofessional and unorganized” as you think we are.

    • Kelsey June 15, 2011 at 10:04 am #

      It sounds to me like the problem stems from the fact that you’re trying to pull this off with a staff of three, none of whom are professional event planners.

      • Joey Hernandez June 15, 2011 at 10:09 am #

        For the record: I am, as far a coming from an arts non-profit background. You learn something new everyday, and I’m happy for the opportunity to grow.

        • Akila June 15, 2011 at 1:50 pm #

          Joey: Thanks for letting me know that this info was available on the TBEX site. I think many of us were using the Bootsnall “official” info site and this wasn’t on there but maybe I should have looked at the TBEX site itself. Either way, if you need volunteers next year to disseminate info, I am happy to do it.

    • Michael Hodson June 15, 2011 at 10:19 am #

      Joey, I am completely honored that you took the time to read through everything and put up a thoughtful and non-passionate reply, not just to my points, but to many of the comments. Says a lot about you as a person. Kudos and thanks.

      And next time we meet in person — drinks on me. Hopefully when you are far, far less hectically running around ;)

  34. Kelly Ladyga June 15, 2011 at 9:56 am #

    Hi everyone,
    On behalf of the PR team at Vail Resorts and one of the original sponsors of TBEX, we’d like to respond to some of your concerns as it relates to next year’s conference. First and most important, we believe in the concept of TBEX and fully support Kim Mance and her vision for bringing travel journalists and PR folks together to further advance the profession, share best practices and make important connections.

    Second, I’d like to assure you that, as a very large Company that owns and operates Keystone and five other premier mountain resorts along with the RockResorts collection of hotel properties, real estate development division, retail division and a media company, we’re no strangers to organizing and hosting very large events. At Keystone, we have a large, state-of-the-art conference center and a highly professional conference services and hospitality team.

    As with any start-up event or organization, there are always ways to improve and that’s why we encourage and invite your feedback directly so that we can make sure next year’s conference is extremely successful. We’ve taken note of your comments posted here and from our own observations of having attended each TBEX conference (including Copenhagen) and will work hard to address them with the TBEX team.Meanwhile, we’re thrilled to be welcoming all of you to Denver and Keystone, Colorado next year. We’ll be putting together all of the details on lodging and transportation options for you very soon. If you’d like to provide us with comments directly, please feel free to email me at kladyga@vailresorts.com or Amy Kemp, director of corporate communications at akemp@vailresorts.com.

    See you in 2012!
    Kelly Ladyga
    VP of Corporate Communications
    Vail Resorts, Inc.

  35. Andrea June 15, 2011 at 10:03 am #

    I tend to write these (and letters of complaint) when something I’ve spent money and/or time on doesn’t live up to my reasonable expectations. I haven’t attended a TBEX, but have been somewhat active in the online community since John and I started our blog. I’ve found it very helpful for networking with other bloggers and have wanted to attend the conference as well. We’re in South America so we couldn’t justify flying to Vancouver this year. I doubt we’ll be living in North America next year so we’ll probably miss out on Colorado as well. This is the second or third time I’ve heard negative things about the conference and it’s interesting to read your feedback.

    Disorganization really pisses me off. And it sounds like most of the major problems here are communication problems. Considering we all work in comms, this seems ridiculous. Just hearing that there wasn’t a professional in charge (or at least consulted) is surprising. I can’t imagine taking something like this on board when I have other obligations and doing it alone. Not when sponsors and attendees pay so much to attend.

    A/V problems should probably be directed at the venue (unless the venue was provided for free – in that case you get what you paid for). But the rest of it really puts me off. All that said, I wasn’t there and am only taking what you said as fact. But I think, especially being such a high-profile blogger yourself, that you have every right to put this out there for information and discussion. And I hope that it gets taken on board because if this is the primary conference for travel bloggers, then it puts a mark of unprofessionalism on all of us, whether we attend or not. Perception is everything.

    • Michael Hodson June 15, 2011 at 10:25 am #

      Thanks for you guys reply. Well thought though and we need to find a way to meet up, even if not in North America ;)

      Here is my particular problem with blaming the venue on AV problems (someone else brought this up last night). Do the advance work with the venue to work through the problems. And if the venue screws up, hell, cover your ass and announce it was there problem.

      In this case, the video problem in the opening wasn’t a venue problem. They just hadn’t pulled things in properly, since they did get it to work after 5 minutes simply. That is 5 minutes they should have spent at 8 am and not a 10 am with 600 people in the room. Same for the mics. Walk around with the venue people the morning of or the day before and make sure everything works. It ain’t rocket science.

      • Dave and Deb June 16, 2011 at 7:41 am #

        I am with you Michael. Blaming the venue for the AV problems is ridiculous. We’ve done a lot of speaking engagements and we show up a couple of hours before the event to test the microphones and video. Of course there are unforeseen circumstances that can occur like a computer crashing or freezing, but a simple mic check and a quick hit of the play button to make sure the video works before the event is basic Event 101 Planning.

      • Andrea June 18, 2011 at 2:13 pm #

        Defintely have to meet up at some point. We’re in Europe and Japan the second half of the year if you find yourself that way. Maybe our paths will cross during your train challenge? =)

  36. Dalene Heck June 15, 2011 at 10:24 am #

    For us it was a choice of spending precious few days with our family or attending TBEX – glad I made the choice I did and am with my family. Definitely missed out on meeting so many people I admire, but I have no doubt that this can happen without TBEX at sometime. I will even buy the first beer, and not
    hide it in a room around the corner and tell you to go buy your own. :)

    We are debating attending TBEX Europe though as we will roughly be in that area at that time. Any idea if it is the same organizers/agenda?

    • Michael Hodson June 16, 2011 at 5:55 pm #

      well, if you are buying beers… ;)

  37. Lori Henry June 15, 2011 at 10:30 am #

    Thanks for this. I attended for the first time this year and, although going in with pretty low standards, was disappointed with the experience. (Thankfully, I live in Vancouver, so it didn’t cost me much to satiate my curiosity.) Yes, yes, the networking was great and I was happy to meet so many people I only knew through Twitter, etc., but everything else was really hit and miss. Other travel writing conferences I have been to are not even comparable in terms of how unconference-like this weekend was. I knew it would be pretty loose, but factoring in all the sponsors and PR people who paid big bucks to be there, I’m curious to get their feedback. Did they think it was worth it? I think I’ll stick to the travel writing community (rather than blogging community), pay more, but get a professional conference that helps my career and lets me network with colleagues who are doing this as a career. I appreciate your honest post!

    • Michael Hodson June 16, 2011 at 6:08 pm #

      I haven’t been to any traditional travel writing conferences yet. Don’t really know if I’ll go to any, since I’m not sure I have too much desire to do any traditional print travel writing, but I am sure the learning at those conferences would be interesting.

  38. Leslie (Downtown Traveler) June 15, 2011 at 10:42 am #

    This was my first time at TBEX and I was also surprised by the technical glitches. I brought my iPhone to live tweet during the conference, and was unable to log on to the “free wifi” set up for TBEX. Everyone I spoke to with an iPhone had the same problem; however, attendees with iPads and laptops had no problems. In response to complaints, we were told to log on to a different wifi account, which did not even appear on my phone. This was a major oversight, since tweeting should be encouraged at a blogger conference!

    I think some simple changes would make this a stronger event. For example, get audience questions ahead of time so the moderator knows how to guide a panel discussion and focuses on hot button issues; if you are creating a “mystery panel” via a random drawing, do it in advance of the conference so panelists have time to prepare.

    The seminars I found most helpful provided practical tips for time management and creating video content. They mentioned specific products and websites. I found this to be much more helpful than general discussions of the direction of blogging. The monetizing discussion was not useful, except to confirm that it’s nearly impossible to make a living solely off of blogging (which kind of goes against the spirit of the conference).

    That said, I think the main value of TBEX is networking. I appreciated the opportunities to meet other bloggers and PR contacts. The events/happy hours I attended were all well run, although not necessarily well advertised. (I had no idea there was a TripAdvisor party until it was already sold out).

    I think the problems you pointed out could be fixed easily and without much additional expense to the organizers. Hopefully they will be resolved next year!

  39. Kim@TBEX June 15, 2011 at 10:44 am #

    Mike, thanks for your candor. Would you like a job? We’ll be hiring two more full-time staff and making Joey (above) full-time too. One full-time event planner. Plus, I’m really loving some of the suggestions in comments here. Have also had tons of emails from people who attended offering help on the organizing committee next year — who knew so many bloggers

    Today we’re sending out a post-event survey with a feedback form. We’ll also have a new way of pitching speaking/workshop/networking event ideas this year so it is easier to find new voices and ideas. The sponsors for TBEX ’12 actually own the conference center, so we’ll be able to spread out a lot more. And they swear the wifi will work.

    On money: With the feedback survey, I’m also happy to provide details of exactly where money went this year. Not sure if anyone here has ever rented a Convention Center, but it’s frighteningly expensive (over $30,000 just for the rooms). And I’m super glad the wifi investment of $7,500, and $10,600 in a/v really paid off. Sigh. (PS: AMEX paid nowhere near $25k). I did this as a volunteer until after last year’s NYC event. At that point a bunch of people told me to raise prices for sponsors so I could hire staff, and it seemed fair to pay myself too (since I was working basically full-time on it).

    I won’t go point-by-point on things above because I’m not sure it’ll help make you less upset, but will say that we BEGGED the one sponsor who had an invite-only event not to put it on the schedule, or to open it to the first to RSVP (like all the other parties were). Didn’t think that was cool either, but as part of their sponsorship we were obligated to include it in the official schedule, and didn’t know until a few weeks before it’d be invite only (and no-one lost the list, they just decided to fill remaining spots at their table during the event).

    • Christine Gilbert June 15, 2011 at 10:50 am #

      Kim,

      I think you should give Michael a job — and other people who have complaints — start a travel blogging committee for planning oversight with regularly scheduled updates available to all attendees and interested parties.

      I don’t think the feedback form should be private. I think it should be a public discussion.

      Because you are representing Travel Bloggers, then travel bloggers should have more say and control in how their name is being used.

      Also, totally not helpful to provide excuses to line items at this point, IMO. If I was doing this as crisis management for a client, I’d tell them to be gracious, admit faults and listen. Anything less sounds like you’re not listening, but defending.

      Maybe this is all moot at this point.

    • Michael Hodson June 15, 2011 at 12:59 pm #

      First, thanks for the tenor of your reply. As someone conducting a public event and wanting public participation, I truly do appreciate your willingness to listen to some things that I am sure you completely disagree with. Like Joey before you, kudos to you for a thoughtful and well reasoned reply. I haven’t met you in person, but I think it speaks well of you that you are willing to discuss these issues without going ballistic.

      Second, I appreciate your job offer, even if tongue-in-cheek, but hell, I’m a travel blogger, which means I am incredibly overbooked and need to be on the road all the time. I’d just end up hating travel and blogging and writers after sitting in an office all that time and be pissed with myself ;)

      Lastly, the numbers are the numbers. I don’t know what to think on all of that completely and fully because I do trust the sources I got on it and wouldn’t have mentioned them without being fairly confident I had good back-up (and obviously don’t have access to the full breakout numbers), but whether the income amount was this or that or whether the outlay amount was this or that… I do think enough money was made to hire people to run the conference in a more organized fashion.

      Thanks for listening to all of us. I will give you this unsolicited advice that is separate from the line-by-line stuff I am going to post here in my reviews from my first career as a political consultant. You obviously have a fair number of customers that are not fully happy with your product. I’d suggest this: do a point-by-point post of things that YOU think were done incorrectly, improperly, or not up to the standards you want for TBEX. Don’t make any excuses why for these (meaning the things that YOU agree weren’t good enough), but acknowledge them, take responsibility for them, and come up with a public list of ways you are going to improve on them for TBEX 2012. Put the post up on your website and then email it out to every person that went to TBEX 2011 (and TBEX 2010 for that matter). Own the things that weren’t done well, come up with a plan to kick ass on them in the near future, accept any blame without recrimination or excuses because the buck stops with you, and publicize the crap out of your specific plans to improve — and ask everyone to hold you to your action plan for the future and call you on it if you don’t deliver.

      You’ll get a lot of fans back, I bet.

  40. Kit Whelan June 15, 2011 at 10:58 am #

    Wow. I was bummed I couldn’t make it TBEX, and hope to attend next year to meet my fellow bloggers, but I certainly hope they fix this egregious lack of organization. I agree it would be great to have many conferences to attend throughout the year. We all know how friendly competition brings out the best in us :)
    Thanks for the insight Michael!

  41. Emily June 15, 2011 at 10:58 am #

    I am SO glad I didn’t go this year after hearing that. I went to the NYC one last summer, and was happy to go partly because I have good friends who live there, so I had somewhere free to stay. I disliked to many things about it–unorganized, WiFi was broken the whole time, it was unprofessional (starting very late the first day and leaving everyone locked outside in the hot summer sun, last-minute emails about events, Kim making many jokes about too much tequila the night before, nobody knew how to get to the lunch, etc.). I was so put off by it all. I had a strong feeling I wouldn’t want to spend money on it again, but I bought a ticket to the Vancouver one right when they went on sale just in case. I loved the concept of TBEX and am impressed at the gathering they have, so I was hoping they would get their act together. I ended up deciding to save the money for a leisure trip since it would be really expensive for me to get from Texas to Vancouver and pay for a hotel room. I sold the ticket to someone else. I’m sorry to hear that it was still a mess, and I’m glad to know that I didn’t waste my money.

    I loved meeting travel blogger friends in person, making new connections, meeting PR folks, etc. That’s what everyone raves about. But a conference is so much more than that, and it sounds like there wasn’t good organization or communication this time, either. They can defend themselves by saying they only have a staff of three, but I’m going to echo what everyone else is saying–why is a staff of three trying to coordinate such an enormous event themselves? Especially when one of the three says that she is a writer, not an event planner? With so many people expected to show up next time, they absolutely have to get outside help, or at least an army of very well-informed interns.

    Sorry to rant. I just can empathize very much with you, and I truly hope that it’s better next year since the idea of all of us getting together and learning is great. I am not sure if I will go or not, especially since I just went to Keystone in December. We’ll see…

    • Kelsey June 15, 2011 at 11:04 am #

      Indeed. It’s a bad sign when your excuse is actually the problem. “We only had three people!” Well, that’s your problem. This can’t be done with a small staff.

    • Caroline in the City June 16, 2011 at 5:28 pm #

      I felt the same way as Emily last year at TBEX 10. I was a newbie, so I learned a lot and I think my content is better for having gone, but it seemed the schedule was pretty similar this year (ie. niches, video, ethics). I couldn’t make it to Vancouver from Sydney for obvious cost reasons, but the more I thought about my time at TBEX the less I was interested in repeating it. I found that it was cliquey (which obviously the organizers can’t control) and had the same people as “experts” on most panels. I hope things will only go up from here and I will be able to attend another one in the future, if not just to meet some of the amazing bloggers who have commented on your post.

  42. Matt June 15, 2011 at 11:17 am #

    Well said, mostly, Michael – I know you and I have talked a lot about all of these issues.

    I’ve definitely been over passionate on these issues in the past, and have regretted that, and I think many others have as well. I think we need to step back and ask why that is. I have attended hundreds of conferences and even planned a few, and I know what to expect. What I have never seen is such a rich discussion about the merits of a conference, be they good or bad, at any point in time. I think we need to ask ourselves why that is.

    My guess is because we, as a community and industry, are incredibly committed to our craft. I’m not in this for the money, it started as a hobby and even though it is now much more, it is not my full time job. Why then am I so passionate? Because in the short year since I joined this strange, slightly incestuous family, I have come to love it. A lot. And I love the people even more.

    Kim and Joey – this may not be AT ALL your intention, and I’m sure it’s not, but a lot of the criticisms and complaints here and elsewhere are written by people who feel personally offended by the lack of organization. The trip for all of us was a significant outlay of money and time. It’s the only conference I attend with my personal money, and I know that I felt like that fact wasn’t taken into more consideration. As I said, I’m sure that’s not your intent (can’t imagine anyone intending for that to happen) but that is the perception by many of the attendees.

    I have volunteered to help and, in spite of differences, I hope that I will be able to add something to both TBEX and TBU in future years. Not just me though, the travel blogging community contains people with CONSIDERABLE expertise from which we can all learn.

    I don’t know how to end this suddenly long comment except to say that I personally felt great about the weekend, but it was for the networking and opportunity to meet others. After attending TBU and TBEX next year, I want to also be able to say that those conferences both helped me professionally as well.

    • Michael Hodson June 16, 2011 at 6:16 pm #

      Good to meet you in person, first off. I had a great week up there. Was amazing meeting bloggers in person. Came away with a number of friends I bet I have for years to come. And a hell of a lot of good ideas (and two formed business partnerships in after-hours talks) from a bunch of people there. Just hoping the conference itself improves in the future, for everyone’s sake.

  43. Andrew June 15, 2011 at 11:25 am #

    All valid points Michael. If I could add one thing that I would like to see at future TBEX events, and other blogging conferences, is panels for beginning bloggers and advanced bloggers. Many of these workshops left me sitting there feeling like I just started blogging a few weeks ago and I walked away learning nothing from them.

    I want to be small groups of bloggers that have been doing it for years like myself and are looking for answers on how to take it to the next level. I did learn a few things from the photo workshop with Peter and Kirsten. Plus I loved the segments featuring Robert Reid’s live research, Benny from the Irish Polyglot and Gary Arndt’s speech at the end.

    I came away with way more networking and catching up with friends than learning. Hopefully this will change if I attend TBEX Europe, TBEX 2012 or an alternative conference like TBU.

    • Jade June 15, 2011 at 1:36 pm #

      First- really fantastic meeting both of you in person. (finally, after reading your blogs for so long)

      And, I completely agree, Andrew. A couple of different voices and levels would have been nice. It’s great to hear some people are making 25,000 a month- something to aspire to- but I’d also like to meet the people making 2,000 a month. (and same with visitor counts, etc.)

    • Michael Hodson June 16, 2011 at 6:17 pm #

      Andrew, the follow-up post I’ll do up for Monday is going to address some of these exact things. Multiple tracks are a must, I believe.

  44. Tim L. June 15, 2011 at 11:26 am #

    “I might go next year just to drink beer and have meet ups with people.”

    All the feedback I got last year after NYC was that this was the one positive. The conference itself was pretty useless. I skipped it again, as did many others who make a real living at this instead of doing it for a hobby. If you’re going to attract professionals–or those aspiring to be–it has to be a professional event.

    • Michael Hodson June 16, 2011 at 6:18 pm #

      Then I need to find a different place to meet up with you and pick your brain. Where ya gunna be the rest of 2011?

  45. Amanda June 15, 2011 at 11:26 am #

    First of all, it was so great meeting you this past weekend! You were high on my list of bloggers to meet, so I’m really glad we got to hang out as much as we did (despite everyone “warning” me how “terrible” you were ;) )

    I can appreciate all the points you made. Organization was definitely lacking in many areas, and really took away from some of the better parts of the conference. There’s clearly a lot of room for improvement, and I really do hope Kim and her team pay attention for next year.

    But, that being said, I still really enjoyed myself and did come away feeling like it was worth my time to attend. No, I didn’t learn anything life-changing, but I learned enough to get me thinking a bit differently about how I blog and where I want my site to go. That, to me, was valuable.

    I registered for next year’s event, and may try to check out at least one more conference next year, too, just to see how it compares. We’ll see, I guess!

    • Michael Hodson June 16, 2011 at 6:20 pm #

      Online you are one of my favorite happy people and in person…. even more. Just seeing you makes me feel better about the world, which was one of the many reasons I had a great time during the week also. Here’s hoping the next conference is a great time — and maybe is a little better organized to boot.

  46. Trans-Americas Journey June 15, 2011 at 11:32 am #

    Great honest writeup Michael. We’ve really wanted to go to the past 2 TBEX events, but we’ve been on the road and haven’t made it work out.Our main motivation for attending would be to have the opportunity to meet so many of the bloggers and friends we have developed a relationship with over the past few years online. Of course, that doesn’t mean that the content and organization of the conference is not important. It is very disappointing to learn that the organizers have taken such a lax approach and don’t treat this as a professional conference, especially after eliciting similar complaints in previous years.

    • Michael Hodson June 16, 2011 at 6:20 pm #

      the opportunity to meet everyone really is amazing — total highlight of my summer

  47. Geraldine June 15, 2011 at 12:00 pm #

    Michael –

    I appreciate your candor (I always do) and while I really didn’t mind the disorganization (it’s a fledgling conference and I did only pay $80, so if it takes me three times to get a proper nametag, I don’t really care), and found it SLIGHTLY amusing that people kept asking if I’d be at parties where I wasn’t invited, there was one session that truly upset me: the PR pitch session that took place in the main hall.

    People put their ideas out on the line, and had them rebuked or rejected in front of EVERYONE. It was so demoralizing. And truly hard to watch.

    • Kelsey June 15, 2011 at 12:01 pm #

      Wow. I hadn’t heard about that. Can you explain a bit more about what happened?

      • Chris @CAroundTheWorld June 15, 2011 at 12:21 pm #

        @Kelsey – There were some good things from that panel. Kara of the Vacation Gals, who has vast experience building partnerships with PR, talked about some innovative projects that she’s done. Reps from Expedia, Tourism Australia, American Express and Diamond PR also talked about their willingness to work with bloggers. Then the floor was opened up to pitches.

        Problem was, many bloggers have no experience pitching themselves to a company. And it showed – in a very public manner. Some of the pitches were wacky, others were incredible (the blogger who wants to get passports for young girls was particularly moving).

        Overall, though, the session made the blogging community look inexperienced and unprofessional. And as Geraldine points out, it was heartbreaking to see their ideas shot down in front of everyone.

        How to fix: Have panels and workshops for newbie bloggers about HOW to pitch. Have a marketplace where experienced bloggers CAN pitch to companies one on one. And have some way that PR people can find the bloggers who fit their niche so they can help them WITH a pitch.

        • Kara @ The Vacation Gals June 15, 2011 at 1:12 pm #

          Thanks for the shout-out, Chris. :-)

        • Jade June 15, 2011 at 1:47 pm #

          I pitched one and actually had two different PR companies and three tourism boards come up to me afterwards… I didn’t get the AMEX or Expedia people… but I did get great contacts who have already reached out about V3 doing a press trip there. Maybe not all that bad :)

          That said, a panel on how to pitch would be greatly appreciated!

        • ehalvey June 15, 2011 at 2:09 pm #

          THIS! This would have been a much more helpful panel. Showing us how to craft a pitch and the right sponsors for our niches would have been a more effective version of the concept.

      • Geraldine June 15, 2011 at 12:31 pm #

        Kelsey –

        Sure – I probably won’t do a great job of describing it, and it sounds like Michael will go into more detail about it at a later date, but essentially it was a panel of potential sponsors (AMEX, Expedia, etc) sitting at the front of the stage, and people were invited to pitch their travel ideas to these sponsors, to see if they’d be interested in funding said trips.

        Now, keep in mind, pitching basically meant standing up in front of the entire conference, and nervously speaking into a microphone about what you wanted to do. And for almost every person who put their heart out there, there was a rejection. Now, there’s no reason why the sponsors should have accepted the ideas given (after all, sponsorships are rare, and not handed out lightly) but it seems like the format should have been different all together. Since no one really knows how to pitch a PR exec, why not have the session be “How to pitch for travel sponsorships.” People could learn exactly what they’d need to say about themselves and their trip in order to increase their chances of getting sponsored. Instead, it was, “What’s your idea? No. We’re not interested.”

        Further more, for me it brought up a huge ethical issue that was not addressed at all: is it okay to accept sponsorships? I receive offers all the time – for free hotel rooms, shoes, you name it, and I refuse them because I don’t feel that I could objectively write about a place or product if I haven’t paid for it. This never came up, and that troubled me.

        • Michael Hodson June 16, 2011 at 6:50 pm #

          Yea, I was glad I missed that session. I heard a lot about it (anyone else know the Prince of Albania?), but think I would have had the same reaction as you. I am not one that deals well with cringe-worthy embarrasment things, even to the extent of not liking that kind of comedy on TV.

  48. Kymri June 15, 2011 at 12:15 pm #

    Thank you for penning the undercurrent of thought amongst most attendees.

    This was my first TBEX, but not my first such conference for travel writers (bloggers are writers, right?). A few others have been mentioned in these comments, but there was one I attended last year in London which really set the bar, and has yet to be named by anyone else. Traveler’s Tales Festival (http://www.travellerstalesfestival.com/). I was glad to have picked that over last year’s TBEX. I will do so again in 2012, pending dates and venue. The measure of professionalism was a standard that TBEX would do well to aspire to. The main sessions of TTF were inspiring, engaging and stimulating, without a single technical glitch. Panel debates included audience comments and participation. The break out sessions were a conversation, the debates were powerful. Attendees had the opportunity to schedule one-on-one feedback sessions with editors and publishers (for the writers), and portfolio reviews and critiques (for the photographers). None of it was about monetizing blogs, SEO traffic, or how to get free press trips. It was about quality of content. Pure and simple. If that’s what we need to up our game and find success as bloggers, then perhaps that’s what’s needed to up the game for a successful blogging conference.
    The parties and peripheral events at TBEX were fun and it was great to network with peers, PR, and sponsors (if you were lucky enough to be invited), but at the end of the day, how effective can you really be with a 72 hour hangover?
    By the way, did anyone else catch the typo in Gary Arndt’s presentation about professionalism? He shot himself in the foot there, and didn’t even acknowledge it glaring away on the screen as he spoke. I opted not to call it out in a tweet because, in all likeliness, he had to scramble on short notice to prepare his presentation anyway. And his was a rare instance in which the value of content over rode the poor form of presentation. But only just. Instead, I laughed quietly to myself and thought if there’s any word to misspell when it came to this TBEX event, he found it. There was something just a little bit askew with the entire TBEX demographic.

    • Jeremy Branham June 15, 2011 at 12:36 pm #

      First of all, it was really nice to meet you! I enjoyed hanging out and talking with you this weekend and like most others I met, wish I had more time to do so!

      I did check out the Traveler’s Tales Festival and it looks interesting. However, I think our focus is a bit different than theirs. It seems TTF is for travel writers and photographers – professionals. Their job is to write and produce excellent content. Seems these are already established or work for companies so they don’t need to know anything about SEO or money. That’s just what I noticed from reading the site.

      As for Gary’s typo, are you referring to the word ‘demographics’? If so, I noticed that as well! :)

      • Kymri June 15, 2011 at 2:16 pm #

        Likewise Jeremy!

        Anyone can attend TTF, whether they are making millions or making zilch.

        And yes, that was indeed the word! ;)

    • Gary Arndt June 15, 2011 at 10:44 pm #

      Mea culpa, mea culpa, mea maxima culpa.

      • Michael Hodson June 16, 2011 at 6:54 pm #

        Bonus points for good use of foreign language ;)

    • Michael Hodson June 16, 2011 at 6:54 pm #

      I will have to check out that conference schedule when I get a chance. Thanks for posting it. And I saw one tweet about the typo, but must admit that I missed it myself, since I was just listening to him (really good and interesting speech) and didn’t look at the screen at all.

  49. Steph June 15, 2011 at 12:39 pm #

    Maybe it’s just my optimistic-nature but the more of these responses I keep reading about how awful and unprofessional TBEX was, the more I keep thinking to myself “come one, it wasn’t THAT bad.” Nothing you said is untrue Mike (and I know we did some whispered bitching together in the corner), but jeez people, it’s not like Kim Mance stomped a puppy to death on stage or anything.

    I think Matt is right when he says people are extra-passionate about this conference and i think it’s because most of us do have to pay out of our own pockets to attend, and often fly in from very far away.

    I didn’t go to Copenhagen, but I did think this year’s conference was much more professional and more put together than New York’s. The space was bigger, the activities more interesting and there was wifi (albeit slow). Maybe I went in with low expectations (and yes- an invite to most of the exclusive parties), but I found the weekend to be mostly satisfying, even if the sessions didn’t really do much for me. What I most appreciated, as I anticipated, was the opportunity to network and work with a whole bunch of awesome people- I came away with a lot of ideas and some really good contacts.

    Was there a lot that needs improvement? Absolutely. I’ve already gone off elsewhere about wanting more diversity of speakers, tracks by ability and more time with the PR people. There were a lot of things that didn’t work- like that weird PR pitch session and the oddly unorganized niche time. and I still have concerns about TBEX connect. But there wasn’t anything that happened that couldn’t be fixed next year by listening to feedback and hiring a good event planner.

    Guess what I’m saying is I’m not ready to give up on the conference just yet. There’s a lot of potential there, hopefully the organizers can really mold it into something useful.

    • Amanda June 15, 2011 at 2:42 pm #

      No, it was @WheresAndrew who was all about hurting puppies. ;)

      I’m with you, though, Steph. Sure, there’s room for improvement. But I wouldn’t classify it as the worst conference ever held on the face of the planet or anything…

      • Michael Hodson June 16, 2011 at 6:56 pm #

        Damn, you beat me to the @WheresAndrew reference!! I was in that conference. Well played.

    • Michael Hodson June 16, 2011 at 7:00 pm #

      Steph, one reason I wanted to break my review out into multiple posts is because I DID find a whole heck worthwhile here. Some of the content I thought was really interesting, and I’ll touch on that stuff in the 2nd post I am going to do. But I didn’t want to do a 5,000 word missive on my entire thoughts, so I broke it out into one post on organization, which is what I heard an incredible amount of people talking about, and then another on the substance of the conference. The latter was far better than the former, but personally I hope everything improves before TBEX 2012.

      Just like I hope everything improves in my writing and my blog and my income stream before TBEX 2012. Personally, I don’t learn nearly as much from people telling me “you are doing this well” as “you are doing this poorly and can improve in these areas.” I have spent two week long conferences where I was video taped doing every part of a criminal trial for days upon days in mock courtrooms and for me, it was nice hearing I did this and this well, but I got to be a hell of a lot better lawyer when I heard what I did wrong and was made to try again and correct it and get better. And if you think these comments are tough… try a room full of 30 year lawyers and judges talking about your cross-examination of a witness and playing it back on video over and over again for the class. Brutal. I still shudder.

  50. Kara @ The Vacation Gals June 15, 2011 at 1:09 pm #

    I’ll ask this on the official TBEX feedback form, too, but I’m wondering what happened to the plan to hire an event planner for Vancouver. I thought Kim & her team had hired one for TBEX 11. (Kim, if you’re listening, I’d love to know…)

    • Christine Gilbert June 15, 2011 at 1:14 pm #

      It’s strange to me and maybe part of the problem, that even travel bloggers on the organizing committee aren’t 100% sure about how the event is run.

  51. Abby June 15, 2011 at 1:13 pm #

    Wow. Such opinions! I will absolutely not jump in, except on one point — pleeeeease don’t turn any of these conferences into un-conferences! Melvin, having met you at TBU, you might be the only person to persuade me otherwise ha. I know a lot of that was tongue-in-cheek, but I really enjoy good panels and meaty presentations. Also, organized networking events. The local Vegas TBEX chapter I co-chair is really picking up steam… We do sponsored sit-down dinners that give bloggers plenty to blog about, either a new menu or new chef, etc. The events start off with time to mingle and network and end with round-table discussions about what we want out of the group. We do that every other month, with the other months being panel discussions with snacks, with topics like PR and Tumblr. I absolutely love it! So please, I like a good travel blogger happy hour as much as the next chick, but I do love all of the other stuff, too. I hope that’s the part that improves!! When huge expensive blogger “meet-ups” come to Vegas with nothing but schedules of drinking, pool parties and activities, I cringe.

    • Michael Hodson June 16, 2011 at 7:03 pm #

      I think some informal groups in different locations is a hell of an idea. Also semi-organized blogger “meet ups” around the world, for those of us that are on the road. I learn a hell of a lot from talking to some amazing bloggers. I’d pay to fly Ayngelina Brogan to meet with me every 6 months, for instance. Every day I spend with her strategizing about traffic tools, or social media, or other areas of blogging and such is worth weeks of my fumbling around trying to learn on my own.

      • Steph June 19, 2011 at 8:47 pm #

        We do a ton of Travel Meet-ups in DC Mike, come down here!

  52. Kelly Ladyga June 15, 2011 at 1:39 pm #

    Hi everyone,
    On behalf of the PR team at Vail Resorts and one of the original sponsors of TBEX, we’d like to respond to some of your concerns as it relates to next year’s conference. First and most important, we believe in the concept of TBEX and fully support Kim Mance and her vision for bringing travel journalists and PR folks together to further advance the profession, share best practices and make important connections.

    Second, I’d like to assure you that, as a very large Company that owns and operates Keystone and five other premier mountain resorts along with the RockResorts collection of hotel properties, real estate development division, retail division and a media company, we’re no strangers to organizing and hosting very large events. At Keystone, we have a large, state-of-the-art conference center and a highly professional conference services and hospitality team.

    As with any start-up event or organization, there are always ways to improve and that’s why we encourage and invite your feedback directly so that we can make sure next year’s conference is extremely successful. We’ve taken note of your comments posted here and from our own observations of having attended each TBEX conference (including Copenhagen) and will work hard to address them with the TBEX team.Meanwhile, we’re thrilled to be welcoming all of you to Denver and Keystone, Colorado next year. We’ll be putting together all of the details on lodging and transportation options for you very soon. If you’d like to provide us with comments directly, please feel free to email me at kladyga@vailresorts.com or Amy Kemp, director of corporate communications at akemp@vailresorts.com.

    See you in 2012!
    Kelly Ladyga
    VP of Corporate Communications
    Vail Resorts, Inc.

  53. Travel with a mate June 15, 2011 at 1:52 pm #

    Holy moly that’s a lot of opinions. The comments kinda over-run the original post on this one. Interesting to see so many people’s feedback. I was unable to attend TBEX11 but was initially hoping to go. I’ve had the pleasure of meeting many of the great travel bloggers that attend conferences like this and was on the panel at Oliver’s great TBU event in Manchester this year.

    One simple point that strikes me is.. If people are paying for tickets to a conference, however small the amount (I dont consider $80 a small amount either), then the people running the conference should be professional conference organisers.

    I’m actually surprised to learn that the team that put on the TBEX11 aren’t event organisers?! Is this really true?

    We’ve all been to meetups with other travel bloggers before and we’ve probably all been to some conferences in our time, i know i’ve been to many. TBEX last year in Europe struck me as a great place to meet even more bloggers and PR with the usual conference stuff on the side. People really go to meet others, the keynote speeches and workshops are a distraction really, it’s the networking we’re hoping to do because most of the lessons are learnt there. If anything people usually find workshops boring, covering things they already know or either being too advanced or too basic. It’s hard to please everyone.

    I found TBU this year quite refreshing. I was reserving my judgement on it until it arrived but was very pleased with it, mainly because it kept things simple. First off the venue was perfect, it was built for hosting people, meetings and workshops. There was wifi in every single room, coffee and water too, the workshops were all slightly niche subjects which kept them interesting. The parties were simple meetups that moved to certain pubs and bars in Manchester. Nice and simple.

    I expected praise for TBEX11, I guess everyone expected them to learn from previous mistakes, the competition are certainly learning from the mistakes TBEX makes and it’s helping to make them better competition. I expect TBU in Innsbruck later this year will be even better now they’re know exactly what NOT to do from TBEX11.

    • Michael Hodson June 16, 2011 at 7:05 pm #

      “The comments kinda over-run the original post on this one.”

      True and I am glad. Truly shows how thoughtful and productive the travel blogging community is by merely reading the comments here.

  54. Matt June 15, 2011 at 2:04 pm #

    LOL at Steph, you crack me up. “Stomping puppy to death…”

    One note on the PR pitch session that went beyond the fact some pitches were awful was that even the pitches PR reps liked, all they got was a noncommittal “let’s talk.” If you’re going to do something like that, it CAN’T be in a large group. As in large business conferences, one-on-one, 10 minute meetings should be arranged in advance. You see this in sales conferences all the time.

  55. Mike C June 15, 2011 at 3:16 pm #

    Really interesting reading all the comments, I haven’t been to any travel bloggers conference yet. I’m off to Austria in August for TBU, and I’ve signed up for TBEX in Keystone but the fact it is in Colorado was the main attraction for me.

    Oh and if there are exclusive parties which I’m not invited to in Keystone then i’ll just go and party with my soup and whiskey in the Goat.

  56. Roy | cruisesurfingz June 15, 2011 at 3:32 pm #

    Wow, sounds like a mess. Did you make it to Chris G’s WDS by any chance? Wonder how that fared in comparison.

    • Michael Hodson June 16, 2011 at 7:06 pm #

      I didn’t make it to that one. One conference a month is my limit ;)

  57. Trish {tripstyler} June 15, 2011 at 3:46 pm #

    Hi All,
    I saw Michael posted this on “the tweety” as Craig Ferguson would call it, so had to take a look. What I didn’t realize is that I would be reading for half an hour! Hot topic, good discussion and valid points.

    First, Michael nice to meet you at the event on Sunday in the “luxury” niche group….

    Second, I’ll keep most of my comments to the survey, but I want to say this: I’m looking forward to the possibility of attending next year and appreciate that comments are being taken seriously. Additions like an event planner or two will be excellent, and I’m curious to see how things go next year as far as the conference’s year-over-year growth in conjunction with the venue.

    That’s all she wrote.

    • Michael Hodson June 16, 2011 at 7:08 pm #

      it was great to meet you…. and I do feel quite luxurious new that I’ve hobnobbed with you :)

  58. Jerri June 15, 2011 at 4:58 pm #

    Hey Michael, So I get it that you were unsatisfied with the conference. There’s really no excuse for unprofessionalism on TBEX’s part. However, I have faith that Kim Mance, et al, will continue to improve the conference.

    If I can make it next year, I’d love to go despite all the negative comments I’ve seen. At the same time, I am a little cautiously optimistic that it will get better. The saying, “The road to hell is paved with good intentions,” comes to mind. I’d just like to say from my perspective if you’re looking to improve your blogging, PR/Literary Agent pitching prowess or technological skillz then there are other well established conferences out there that can help, like SXSWi. But those come with a hefty price. I had an early bird ticket at SXSWi and it cost me $800 something. But, I got to meet Gary and Matt who I think now know me as the stalker. I can live with that. Anyway, I would’ve loved to meet you and everyone else at TBEX for $80 that’s a steal. For that, I’ll go next year…unless no one else goes…which would just be my luck.

    • Michael Hodson June 16, 2011 at 7:09 pm #

      meeting people alone is well worth being in the area for any of these travel blogging conferences. It was amazing meeting everyone — and I wish I could have met 200 more that were there.

  59. Matt June 15, 2011 at 5:32 pm #

    I really feel that this post should have been titled, “!0 Reasons Why TBEX 2011 was Unprofessional & Unorganized.” :-)

    Interesting to hear your negative experiences echoed by so many in the comments. More than anything, I feel it is a shame – as you mentioned – to have this event be profiling travel bloggers and appearing unprofessional and unorganized. Surely not a good way to build our profile in the travel and PR community.

    • Michael Hodson June 16, 2011 at 7:10 pm #

      One of the lines in the “Non-Narrative Travel Writing” session went something like “come and learn how to make top 10 lists that don’t suck.” I kinda actually wanted to go to that session ;)

  60. Natalie T. June 15, 2011 at 5:37 pm #

    Micheal, thank you for your candor on this topic. Some are saying it’s harsh criticisms but as Christine said, I think we need to ask the hard questions. I know how hard Kim and her team works and saw how overworked both Courtney and Joey were (who by the way, were very professional and accommodating to my needs as an attendee).

    I will say this: Kim loves connecting other travelers and bloggers together and has a passion for travel. I know she wouldn’t be doing this just for the money. She truly has a passion and has solid contacts that I would have never had myself if it weren’t for TBEX. This is because I’m not a super established writer like some or live in New York to have made those contacts. TBEX is a slice of the conversations you have to develop relationships with other people further. I’ve made good friends from these conferences that share my passion and for that I am grateful.

    So instead of complaining I’m going to put my thoughts on how to make the conference better for next year. Unfortunately, after this year’s experience I don’t know if I want to attend next year. Booking flights, accommodations and food get really expensive. That said, I thought Vancouver Tourism did a KICK ASS job with the Experience Passes and informing us of where to eat (for instance, Amber Session’s tweets on food carts. Awesome. Not so awesome: waiting a half hour for a taco, but I digress).

    My suggestions:
    1. You can’t do this with a staff of three. Point blank. As stated before, there are a few people at TBEX who have organized conferences (like Janice of Solo Traveler). I think you guys should be tapping into those resources.

    2. Delegate. Organize volunteers or staff to handle various aspects: speakers, coffee, technology,name tags, swag etc. It’s hard not to have control of every aspect especially if it’s grassroots, but sometimes you have to let go.

    3. Promote the TBEX site more. I admit I hardly go on the TBEX site. Why? Because it’s not easy to read. It’s not organized. For instance, with schedules, I had to copy and paste the schedule into a Word document and was getting confused b/c columns weren’t printing out properly. Attendees want it to be easy for them. Make it easy for them. Revamping the site and having information on one page so I’m not getting my information from BootsNAll, for instance would assist with the miscommunication that some were experiencing (Like Akila from the RoadForks). I would take cues from Vancouver’s Tourism site: their fonts are easy to read and it’s easy to navigate that site.

    4. Fresh blood. I have heard a few complain about this. Not to say that I didn’t enjoy Journeywoman’s inspiring opening speech and learned more about her or that Gary Arndt tells it like it is with practical advice about how we can move forward in an evolving community but let’s see more creative talks like that from Andrew Evans or Kirsten Alana. One takeaway I really liked: in the narrative session, they had us break into groups of three and Andrew really listened to our stories and gave us constructive feedback. It was also a chance for him to tell us about *his* experiences, which I wouldn’t have gotten elsewhere.

    5. PR Sessions – I didn’t meet much PR this year and felt like I had more of that opportunity in New York. Kim, you’ve been to many conferences and I’m surprised this aspect wasn’t as organized. One example: take from the Go Media conference where there was a “speed dating” session between bloggers and tourism boards set up in one big room. Meetings are planned in advance and you
    have five to ten minutes each to pitch. I think going into next year, this may be a valuable solution.

    6. Segregation – as TBEX grows, it’s going to be harder to have parties where everyone attends. At the same time, I was confused as to what was “official” and what was not. For instance, the AM Resorts party apparently was invite only and then it wasn’t. I didn’t know and I also don’t have smartphone to be checking these things last minute. I know it’s going to be hard to do this in future but I liked the parties such as the Tnooz after party (which was conveniently right in the conference
    center) where That said, this year there were too many parties and one right after the other – especially on Saturday night. So maybe you get two sponsers to host one party together if money for booze and venue rental is an issue. On that note, segregation also included certain people or speakers. I am not sure about others, but I certainly got snubbed by a few people who are successful in the industry and for reasons unbenownst to me. It’s hard not to take that stuff personally. As things get bigger, so do cliques. It just left a bad taste in my mouth.

    7. One big thing I noticed was energy. In New York last year, there was a buzz; there was excitement on Kim’s behalf on voice. This year, I’m not sure if it was nerves or jet lag or tiredness but that undertone was kind of disappointing. I think to get the energy going is to remember why we are all here in the first place and making that energy infectious.

    That’s just my two cents.

    • Michael Hodson June 16, 2011 at 7:15 pm #

      your two cents looks like gold in my book. I am going to have a slightly different PR meeting proposal Monday than yours, but heard the speed dating idea and like that also. And for what it is worth, I agree on the TBEX site, but didn’t think it was appropriate to mention in this point. Tough to figure out what is there and given that we all gave our email address (and that we all all pumped to go and get the most out of it we can), I wouldn’t have minded another 20 emails about stuff in the weeks leading up to the event, like the annoucement of every new party that got scheduled, etc.

  61. Natalie T. June 15, 2011 at 5:49 pm #

    *Note: apologies on typos and incomplete thoughts. Running on empty and just slept for 7 hours – the most I have had in a week!

  62. Stuart June 15, 2011 at 5:58 pm #

    Lots of really useful constructive criticism both in the OP and the bucketload of comments. I didn’t attend the conference, but I followed it via the Twitter hash and one of our bloggers did attend.

    What I picked up was there were two streams — more experienced bloggers and writers who commented little publicly but privately said that while the networking was useful the sessions were “useless”; and the less experienced who were generally pretty happy with the whole shebang.

    Smaller, more numerous sessions may be something worth considering – for example there’s been a post-event chat about Rand Fishkin presenting an SEO 101 for travel bloggers. I’d venture you’d be better off having him present at an expert level (which he is certainly qualified to do) and have two other people present SEO basics (which are obviously in demand) and SEO intermediate. Then schedule all three at the same time. People then need to make a choice about which is the most relevant and useful to them – that’s how they’ll see more benefit because they’ll be being handing information they can grasp and that will help them.

    As has been said elsewhere, can’t be everything to everyone. By repeating sessions, many attendees were able to see many of the events — is that really a good thing?

    • Michael Hodson June 16, 2011 at 7:17 pm #

      One of my questions was if there was a live stream or if the sessions were video taped so that others could see them in the future, which would help on the repeating session things. I didn’t see any video cameras, so don’t think either happened, which is sort of a shame on a technology related conference.

      • Mike C June 17, 2011 at 1:47 am #

        I actually asked this over the TBEX forum, I was hoping some of the sesssions would be available online for those who couldn’t attend.

  63. Torre (@fearfulgirl) June 15, 2011 at 6:09 pm #

    When I heard about TBEX, it seemed that everyone was going to an awesome party on the other side of the world, while I was stuck in Australia, unable to go due to a large preventative obstacle called the Pacific Ocean.

    I’m seriously glad I didn’t fly over for the non-event.

  64. Sally June 15, 2011 at 6:37 pm #

    Wowza. I think I just spent an hour reading through the comments. Quite the response!
    I was interested to read this as I had heard similar complaints about TBEX 2010 in NYC from bloggers in person who had gone, but hadn’t read anything very scathing online. (Which was disappointing as I do so like my scathing!)
    As someone who has helped organize a lot of large events (in my former life — back when I pretended to have a career) and presented at a number of conferences (also a former life), I know how hard it can be to run an event and make sure everything’s working and keep everyone happy. (It’s pretty much impossible.)
    But “Hey, running a conference is hard, people!” shouldn’t be an excuse. It IS hard. That’s why there are people who get paid to do solely that. I’m happy to see that Kim has said she will be hiring an event planner and staff for next year (especially since I really do hope to be there next year — yes, this is all about ME).
    But I hope she wasn’t serious when she offered you the job. Not, that I’m saying you wouldn’t make a lovely event planner. (I’m sure you would. You’re naggy and nitpicky — 2 qualities of an excellent event planner!). But an experienced professional should be hired — not just some travel bloggers who “think” they know what they’re doing. That seems to be what has happened the past two years, and it would be a shame if it happened again.

    • Michael Hodson June 16, 2011 at 7:19 pm #

      O lord, I assume she wasn’t serious about hiring me. As you know from just talking to me online (let alone meeting me in person, or god forbid, having to work with me), as my 4th grade teacher once said, “he doesn’t always play well with others.” Haven’t had a boss in 20 years. Can’t imagine having one at this point in my life, even if I loved the job.

      And I need to meet you, damn it!!

  65. Anita June 15, 2011 at 7:45 pm #

    As usual, I really appreciate how unafraid you are to speak your mind, Michael…and for the most part, I totally agree with you!

    I think that I arrived with absolutely zero expectations and that helped the fact that overall, I was left with a good impression: though that did have more to do with the great social aspects of the conference.

    As a “Newbie” in this blogging community, I would say that my biggest suggestion would be to separate out information for those of us who are new vs. those of us who are established. I was definitely a bit “lost” in some of the sessions (especially those geared to pitching PR) since I didn’t even really have all the lingo down in order for the information to be accesible to me.

    There wasn’t really any sessions dedicated to giving brand new bloggers any sort of “road map” to help them figure out how to overcome the initial hurdles. Having someone like Chris Richardson of The Aussie Nomad, for example, talk to people about how to set up their sites, how to get involved with social media etc. would have been priceless! I met more than one brand new blogger with a “deer in the headlights” look in their face because the content of the convention already assumed a certain level of insight.

    Also, it did feel disappointing when I heard so many people were going to parties that I didn’t even know about. It made me feel that I wasn’t one of those bloggers “in the know”.

    • Saadia June 15, 2011 at 10:20 pm #

      I totally agree on the fact that some of the talks assumed we were already established bloggers who knew the lingo of the speakers. On the party note, I knew about them, but it didn’t matter because I felt like I couldn’t really talk to anyone bc everyone there knew everyone else there (or so it felt that way). Seriously, way to make us newcomers feel welcome.

      • Michael Hodson June 16, 2011 at 7:20 pm #

        I am going to have a suggestion about this particular issue in my Monday post.

  66. Anita June 15, 2011 at 7:49 pm #

    Oh – one more thing (did you get my last comment? Its not showing up here?)

    It would be really good in the future if there could be 15 minutes scheduled between each session to give time for networking, asking more questions, etc. I always felt like I was rushing to the next session because they were scheduled to start as soon as the last one ended.

  67. Jason Castellani June 15, 2011 at 8:54 pm #

    I am exhausted from reading! As someone who hasn’t attended TBEX yet, I continue to wait to hear great feedback and then I will go. It’s like buying a new technology product. Why buy it when they are still working out the kinks?

  68. Cam @ Traveling Canucks June 15, 2011 at 10:04 pm #

    Honest and accurate post Michael. I’ve spent the last 15 minutes reading everyone’s responses and have lots to say, but will limit it.
    As an attendee that had limited expectations, I must say that the actual conference was very disorganized and the content was extremely high level. Clear lack of substance and solid learning, sessions that were patch work with no agenda and no preparation. Not good.
    However, the sponsored parties were AWESOME! Had a blast, enjoyed the networking and socializing. Top notch, but not really had nothing to do with TBEX.
    Would I go to TBEX 2012, right now its a coin flip. I might show up to Colorado just to party with great travel bloggers!

    • Michael Hodson June 16, 2011 at 7:22 pm #

      I might be right there partying with you – perhaps we should throw a non-official side party one night ;)

      This time… no rioting!!

  69. craig zabransky June 15, 2011 at 10:38 pm #

    Wow. I totally appreciate the honesty and conversation in this post and all the comments. I just wish there wasn’t so much emphasis on type-o’s and misspellings… If that was the only measure of professionalism… I wouldn’t have the highest score either.

    Well, I was unable to make Vancouver, and it sounds similar to New York, where for the record, I had a great time meeting the TB community, but might have made a few changes….Let’s see what 2012 brings both in Colorado and in the local chapters before it…

    Stay adventurous, Craig

  70. Andy Murdock June 16, 2011 at 12:36 am #

    For a group of people that will spend hundreds to thousands of dollars for the honor of squeezing themselves into torturously uncomfortable airplane seats for multiple hours, who will proudly wear their bout with traveler’s diarrhea as a badge of honor, and who will endure countless other insults and injuries to experience and learn about the far reaches of the world, I find it more than a little bit odd that this group can get so hung up on poorly announced coffee and malfunctioning AV equipment.

    I, for one, had a great time at TBEX. It hit in some areas, missed in others. I cringed on several occasions, laughed spontaneously on others, and quickly scribbled down notes more than a few times when things inspired me. It was sometimes surprising, other times predictable. Most people were really nice, others kind of crazy, and at least one person hugged me a little too tightly while wearing a Speedo. And yes, the AV equipment didn’t work perfectly. In other words: it was a conference.

    I’ll be back next year for sure. I’m sure some things will be better next time because the conference will mature each year as it grows, but even if I can’t find the coffee next year either, I won’t lose too much sleep over it – I’ll probably just walk across the street and get a coffee.

    • Michael Hodson June 16, 2011 at 7:26 pm #

      Don’t know about you, but I also know the same sort of travel bloggers are the first people to use social media to complain about bad customer service on planes and hotels also. Not sure this was the shirking violent crowd, or that someone we should take some sort of badge of honor at attending a conference that was less organized than it should be.

      If travel blogging is going to be taken seriously as a profession, which is a goal that many of us want, then it needs to act as a profession, including its conferences. If it is just a fun way to write some garbage down on the interwebs about your little travels, that’s cool too — that’s just not the profession that many that attended this conference are aiming to create.

  71. Caz Makepeace June 16, 2011 at 2:27 am #

    Wow!! Kinda glad I didn’t fly all the way from Australia now with a baby in my belly!! As much as I would have loved to have met everyone, I would have expected a little bit more putting that much effort into getting there.
    Everyone knows the power of these sorts of events as a place to network and build relationships. But, we can’t rely on that as being our backup and our way of not providng a professional event. Although, I can’t really comment as I wasn’t there this is just based on what is written here.
    I have attended lots of seminars and conferences around the world on various topics and centred around different niches. They have always been fantastic. I have learned amazing amounts from it and have built incredible connections. And i think there has always been coffee available (I understand this annoyance :)
    for me, I always like to spin a positive and make it seem like I got something of value out of it. So I always say that If I learned one thing, one thing that can help me take myself to a new level, then it was completely worth it. So I hope everyone who has these feelings can say this.
    And I am sure the TBEX organizers will listen to these voices and do all they can to make it better for next year. We obviously want to be there, mostly to meet all these fab bloggers in our community, but also to learn.
    Thanks for sticking your neck out to write it as you saw it Michael. not an easy thing to do.

    • Michael Hodson June 16, 2011 at 7:29 pm #

      Looking forward to meet you, where ever that future holds for us. I definitely learned a heck of lot, but at least for me, more of the learning was off-campus. But incredibly fun to meet everyone and have an excuse to have good sessions on the side and hear some really inspirational speeches in person.

  72. Shane June 16, 2011 at 4:20 am #

    Not having attended TBEX, or any other conference for that matter, I’m not going to give my opinions but the consensus seems to be a need for professional conference organisation. I made a half serious comment to Foxnomad recently that his talk on Iraq might be the beginning of a TBEX Fringe Festival. Perhaps enthusiastic amateurs arranging smaller independent events (in the pub preferably) around the main show might be a way for the future too.

    • Michael Hodson June 16, 2011 at 7:29 pm #

      I think there is certainly room for just such events on the side. Hope folks start organizing them up.

    • Anil June 17, 2011 at 10:11 pm #

      I’m all for fringe events around TBEX and second the notion for them to be pub-fueled ;)

  73. Krista June 16, 2011 at 6:56 am #

    I too thought it was pretty silly that they put the after-parties in the program and the Trip Advisor party filled up immediately and no one knew how to sign up for the AM Resorts party. (I emailed the Trip Advisor folks and asked to be put on a waiting list and they let me in. And then I met someone from AM Resorts at the Art Museum party and they gave me an invite. So it all worked out for me. But still.) I just think of the conferences my company runs (for my day job) and there’s always a big reception with finger food that everyone is welcome to attend. (tnooz did this but it was only an hour long and no food.)

    I also thought it funny that when word of the Diet Cokes in the Amex room got around, there was a massive run on Diet Cokes!

    I do want to defend TBEX in one aspect of your argument: costs. Conferences are not cheap events to put on and can take years to turn a profit, and when they do, they’re not big margin events. I don’t know what sort of agreement TBEX had with Tourism Vancouver/BC, but I’m doubtful that they got the Convention Centre space entirely for free. There’s the rental cost on the venue, insurance (hard to get insurance for free), the chairs, the setup, the breakdown, the bottled water and water service, the signage, the AV equipment, the people to run the AV equipment, and any professional photography and videography. Generally, in the conferences my company runs in my day job, there are a lot of AV staff…at least two in the big room and then one in each smaller room. It was hard not to notice the lack of AV support, so my guess is they cut that out to save some money. (But at what cost, right?) Also obvious through the lack of coffee in the mornings and late afternoons.

    So…those are my thoughts, such that they are.

    • Michael Hodson June 16, 2011 at 7:30 pm #

      The AM Resorts party was worth the conference itself — great event and opportunity to meet people.

      Thank goodness I don’t drink Diet Coke ;)

  74. The Travel Chica June 16, 2011 at 7:04 am #

    I hope that your “constructive criticism” is used to plan the next TBEX, so that I can benefit from the improvements.

  75. Gene Quinn June 16, 2011 at 7:40 am #

    Wow … this comment string is approaching Wear Sunscreen and Dancing Baby in notoriety.

    As a TBEX first-timer, long-time journalist and a media sponsor of the event, I can say Tnooz met its objective to introduce our travel tech news service to this audience of travel influencers. Thanks to all who attended Appy Hour, which we are pleased to say was open to all attendees. Great to meet so many passionate travel writers.

    As for the structure and organization of the event, I agree TBEX is at a tipping point and needs to add a layer of event planning and execution without losing the zeitgeist. Not easy to do, but not rocket science either. I’m betting Kim, Courtney and Joey can pull this off … but not without sifting and prioritizing many of the fine suggestions in this strong of comments … especially the idea of program committees. One suggestion: don’t be so insular … blogger-to-blogger experience-sharing is fine, but bring in some media, small business and tech experts with broader experience to lead some of the panels and workshops.

    • Oliver June 16, 2011 at 7:43 am #

      . . . . which is something other blogger conferences already do Gene.

    • Michael Hodson June 16, 2011 at 7:32 pm #

      I agree with your posts, especially the last one. Sometimes getting voices from outside the ones that you are used to hearing is the best thing for looking at problems and issues in an entirely different way.

  76. Tonya @ Live the Adventure June 16, 2011 at 8:00 am #

    As a blogger who is considering attending TBEX next year, I appreciate your candid review. After reading some of the comments from last years event, I had mixed feelings about attending the Vancouver conference. Sounds like I made the right decision to stay home. Don’t get me wrong, I agree that that it would be great to meet and network with other bloggers but if that was all I wanted to do I’m sure I could find a conference closer to home, minus the travel expenses.

    Now my dilemma is whether or not to attend TBEX 2012. After a track record of such blatant disorganization I wonder if the sponsors and speakers will be willing to take one more chance on an event that ‘could be a great thing’? I don’t know, but Colorado does have its perks.

  77. Travel with a mate June 16, 2011 at 8:56 am #

    Aside from the things that should be put right there are 2 obvious conclusions from all this.

    1) Don’t piss off bloggers. They will blog about it, tweet about it and generally let the world know that your product is crap. If you want to make money from a conference hold a conf for people that don’t blog and have a loyal audience who read their blogs!

    2) Do a good job so that people who didn’t attend will want to go next time. Most of the comments from people either say “I’m glad I didn’t go all that way” or say “I”ll give the next one a miss”.

    As with most events its the little things that people care about, easily accessible free refreshments, working equipment, smooth running. It’s pretty easy, you build in backups, stick up lots of signs and make sure you have enough people.

    • Michael Hodson June 16, 2011 at 7:35 pm #

      Oddly, I wasn’t so sure about point #1. A good number of people thought it was a horrible idea for me to put up this review (and hell, they might be right in the short or long term, but I’m not sure I care that much), but I think the volume of comments from people helped more people come out and express how they felt about it.

      Don’t get me wrong, I’d MUCH rather right a positive review about the best conference I’ve ever been to. I just sorta call things how I see them and in this case, this is how I saw them. Here’s hoping I am the biggest cheerleader in the world for the next TBEX event I attend.

  78. Norbert June 16, 2011 at 10:45 am #

    I’m with you on this one Michael. The disorganization and lack of information was one of the worst things they had on TBEX. I personally was really pissed off when I found out about the free Vancouver passes only after I had already spent money buying tickets to dome of their attractions (BTW, those were great passes). I was lucky I was able to sell them back to other people who went to those sights, but I should NOT have gone through that since, first of all, it was really uncomfortable trying to make people buy my tickets, and second, if you (TBEX) are giving your attendees passes and other stuff, make sure that people KNOW about them and don’t tell it last minute. BTW, I only knew about it thanks to Jennie who told me… I didn’t find out about it through TBEX.

    Disorganization and lack of info… God! The coffee “thing” and AMEX room were just plainly stupid. I mean, how can you “forget” to mention and prepare those basic things? In my opinion, if TBEX keeps doing things like this, there will be no more TBEX for the following years. And it’s a shame since it is a good opportunity for bloggers to network and interact.

    TBEX should be ashamed of their performance, especially if you compare it to the “newbie” WDS. I didn’t have the chance to attend to it, but everyone says how this first timer event kicked TBEX’s butt in many ways.

    I don’t think I will be going to next years TBEX since I will probably be on my RTW, but if I had the chance I would only go to meet you all again since that was the highlight of my trip this year. You guys definitely made my weekend!

    • Michael Hodson June 16, 2011 at 7:36 pm #

      Great to meet you and have a chance to hang out with on multiple occasions. Best of luck on your RTW and hope to run into you on the road.

  79. Candace Dempsey June 16, 2011 at 10:55 am #

    Michael, thanks for being honest about TBEX. This was my first TBEX and I really enjoyed it, but it was disorganized. I made a big effort to network, my reason for going, and I did meet a lot of fascinating people. Definitely would do it again.

    The worst moment was the all white male panel for narrative travel. I thought they did a good job of answering questions, but they can offer only one point of view. Many women told me afterward that they were upset because they weren’t represented on the panel. Bad enough it was all men, but not a single ethnic person up there. What a terrible message to send aspiring travel writers, that you can get there only through pitching stories at white men.

    Travel bloggers are covering the entire world! We are of both sexes and all nationalities. So are our readers.

    Lots of women are travel editors. They can offer actual paid assignments. I hope we never see this again.

    I wish this lack of representation for female and ethnic writers was an isolated problem, but it’s not. We need to complain when we see it.

    See “Why White Men Should Refuse to Be On Panels of All White Men”
    http://www.good.is/post/why-white-men-should-refuse-to-be-on-panels-of-all-white-men

    • Michael Hodson June 17, 2011 at 9:39 pm #

      I’ll talk more about content Monday, but I generally agree. Some more diversity would be great, mainly because I’d just like to see more content and less repetition.

  80. Erin in Costa Rica June 16, 2011 at 10:56 am #

    Before I became an expat, I worked with a nonprofit company for 5 years. This company hosted 8 – 10 international conferences every year, attendance ranging from 150 to 1500 people, days ranging from 2 – 5. We would only receive 1 – 2 complaints, if any, about the organization of any of the events.

    Here is my two cents. I have to pitch in, even though I wasn’t there, because of my experience working with conferences. Plus, I would eventually like to go, it would be nice if it were organized when I finally get there! :)

    1. $80 is a lot for travelers, but in the conference world it’s a steal of a deal. Our conference fees were higher, ranging from $150 – $1000. The conference fees and sponsorship $ paid our salaries, there was no huge profit being made. It costs a lot of money to run a conference.

    2. We had two conference event planners working 8 – 10 hours a day, everyday, planning. You have to hire professionals to do the job if you want it to be a professional job. From reading this review and ALL the comments, it looks like TBEX needs more than 2 full time employees for TBEX 2012, and the first hire absolutely has to be a professional conference event coordinator.

    3. For a conference with 500 attendees, the support staff (some paid some not) consisted of about 10 people that were well coached on the ins and outs and all the details. Having good support staff, including interns and volunteers, is critical. Critical.

    4. Early site selection, a professional AV support company that provides on-site staff, and careful contract negotiation are KEY.

    I think the organizers are listening, at least they seem to be commenting on your post Michael. Maybe TBEX 2012 will be great if some of these changes are implemented. I just can’t believe they hosted a conference of 500 with only 2 full time staff, that’s ballsy.

    • Michael Hodson June 17, 2011 at 9:40 pm #

      So many good thoughts on this thread… hope someone is taking notes. Thanks for your contribution and all I can say is “yep — agreed.”

  81. Lash June 16, 2011 at 5:28 pm #

    Hi Michael,

    Thanks for sharing your candid views on the TBEX. Although I couldnt’ attend, I had already heard whispered rumors about bad organization and the lack of in-depth learning. LIke you said, whisperings heard waaayyy outside the convention! I’m pretty sure I would’ve felt the same as you had I attended. I would’ve been really disappointed if i hadn’t learned much. I hope the TBEX organizers will heed all the comments and get their act together for next year.

    cheers, Lash

    • Michael Hodson June 17, 2011 at 9:42 pm #

      Interesting that the word spread outside the conference so fast. That actually surprises me.

  82. Janice aka @SoloTraveler June 16, 2011 at 8:27 pm #

    Hi Michael,

    Wow. So many comments. I’m on a press trip and can’t read them all but, hopefully, what I have to say is relevant not redundant.

    Conference organizing is not an easy task. I know, I owned a conference company for over 10 years. I also know that there will be naysayers at every event. Unfortunately, there seem to be few champions for TBEX.

    The good: There were many improvements over last year – the biggest being the facility. It worked fairly well – last year it was a disaster and showed the inexperience of the organizers for having chosen it. The sessions were run on time this year. Many of the right people attended and I had a number of very valuable discussions. There was a good balance of PR to bloggers. It was more than a big drunk. There were three session that I found really valuable.

    The bad: There were many mistakes. I hear your points but i would like to highlight what I consider the worst offenders.

    – The program was not designed with the interests of all delegates in mind. This is why it lacked depth and real value. The design process is important.
    – Delegates were only given the conference program a few weeks in advance. Unheard of.
    – Speakers, at least those I spoke to, didn’t receive any information until they arrived. Speaker communication is a key factor in conference success.
    – The space was not used well. if you have to use a plenary room for a small audience, manage the room.
    – Ya, coffee, knowledgeable staff, working AV…
    – but another BIG one, there were no evaluation forms. Delegates should give feedback on every session and the conference as a whole. How can you possibly improve an event without feedback. And, clearly, not giving a formal outlet for frustrations generates heightened informal discussions.

    Committees were suggested above. In my experience, committees generate mediocrity. As you point out Michael, the financial resources are there to hire an organizer.

    In the conference business, you can’t expect to be making a profit in year one or two – especially when you only run one event a year. There are no economies of scale. This should be investment time.

    Frustrating yes but, bottom line for me, TBEX brought us together and I had many valuable meetings.

    janice

    • Michael Hodson June 17, 2011 at 9:45 pm #

      First, you are on a press trip? Forget these comments… let’s hear the secrets of getting THOSE gigs ;)

      Janice, thanks for your input. Like about 150 comments before yours, it adds a lot to the conversation. And the fact that you could add a lot of insight after that many comments speaks highly of you. I wasn’t totally aware, or couldn’t confirm, the speaker issue you referred to sufficently to post it myself, but heard some of the same.

  83. Carlo Alcos June 16, 2011 at 9:34 pm #

    Holy smokearoonies. Now that’s how you generate discussion! I was at TBEX in NYC and wrote, not a scathing report, but what I thought was constructive criticism. As Christine said above, Kim responded and got very defensive rather than appreciate the feedback (everyone else that commented agreed with my points), which it appears she has done so again this year. I’ve met Kim a couple of times but can’t claim to know her; she seems like a very lovely gal, but this is not a personal thing. I hope she really does take to heart that these points are meant to be constructive and to help improve future conferences.

    Like Janice said above, there were lots of improvements over last year. And I really like her comments that it’s investment time. I wonder if we’ll see a professional hired to organize next year’s. I’m willing to bet yes, and this post will probably have a lot to do with it, so pat yourself on the back.

    • Michael Hodson June 17, 2011 at 9:47 pm #

      I thought Kim’s reply on this post and the other things I have seen has been really productive, thoughtful, and shows that she’s willing to listen to some outside voices and input. I have never met here, but color me impressed with her replies to all things TBEX 2011 so far.

  84. Ryan June 16, 2011 at 9:43 pm #

    Michael,

    Now that I’ve scrolled alllllllll the way to the bottom of your page in order to leave a comment, I’d just like to congratulate you on this post. It’s obviously generated a lot of feedback and interest from lots of people. I think it is well-written and salient to most everyone who attended the conference.

    I think I am with you on all major points. The sessions could have fared far better in terms of logistics and technical issues if someone had paid more attention to them. I think even having the desktop of someone’s laptop visible is unprofessional, as the projectors and presentation software can be used to hide the desktop when there is file- or window-switching or video-cueing. It takes attention but it definitely should be there from the conference delivery standpoint. And the impromptu pointing of locations for “niche” networking was just a dead miss.

    I also was disappointed by the private party visibility issue. Like you, I find no problem with private parties, but if the party isn’t really going to be private, why not make it clear to everyone what is going on? Or if it is, then keep it private!

    …Of course, if you’re going to have cute female PR reps on hand like TripAdvisor did, I don’t really care whether you call your party private or not, because I am going to crash it. But that’s beside the point. :)

    Also, I think your title of your post is quite accurate. In an emerging profession like travel blogging (or blogging in general), there needs to be professionalism from every angle… And there is much work to be done in this area, both from the conference standpoint, but also from the blogging-as-a-profession standpoint. I think with your legal background, it puts you in a position to make some headway. So I’m looking forward to parts 2 and 3, 4 and 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, and 10 of this series you are putting together… :)

    • Lisa | LLWorldTour June 17, 2011 at 6:33 pm #

      Well holy cripes–you’ve started a revolution! ;) Thank you.

      First off, thank you for this open, honest, conversation-inducing post. We all ‘talk’ about honesty and transparency and I am glad to see it here in action and quite frankly, I am very happy to see, for the most part, the very professional and honest comments from everyone.

      We are all human and it’s always hard to take criticism and not get defensive (we all do it), but I am really happy and appreciative to see how Kim and her team are handling these reviews.
      We all want a great event that benefits everyone so it’s nice to see that that is the main goal. Feedback is key for growth and, more importantly, feedback that is actually used and put into action.

      I don’t even think at this point I can comment on much that hasn’t been already said (well, i’m obviously doing it already!)
      But in general, yes, more dissemination of info before and during event (I really appreciate saving trees and not giving everyone a printed lineup, but some big signs would be super helpful–for the hospitality suite, for the days events, for parties, etc.). It was a pain to keep asking someone with laptop or iPad next to me to ‘see the schedule’ if their wifi was even working.

      Before the event, instead of having to remember to check the TBEX site, can’t all attendees receive important email updates? We pay to go, so I can’t imagine it would be difficult to email the list.

      Parties: it’s been said…don’t publicize private parties that the majority won’t even get an invite to. Even better, most parties should be for all if possible. 3 major parties that I know of were invite only. I had to beg for one invite b/c i didn’t RSVP soon enough, i didn’t get an invite to men of tbex so i just didn’t even try to go, and luckily the boat party suddenly you could sign up…but I heard this from word of mouth. I tried to spread the word to others to sign up, but it wasn’t enough. This approach led itself to more of that separatist/elitist feeling that I SO hope we are not cultivating with TBEX. I really don’t think any of us wants that. Some might know more about this blogging world, some may have more unique visitors, etc., but that in no way means you are better than the blogger next to you, in fact, he/she could be a much better writer or who knows what before they were a blogger – whatever. Let’s be careful with stats/measurements and what it really does and does not mean.

      Workshops/panels: I agree with more ‘tracks.’ It’s large enough now that different bloggers need different things. Beginners, more advanced, etc. Is TBEX just for newbies and after a few years some of us ‘outgrow’ it? Hopefully not. Let’s add tracks*.

      **But also let’s try to do things together too–to motivate and inspire us all as one collective, kick-ass group. We are, afterall, a pretty optimistic, grab-life-by-the-balls, inspirational group ourselves. How can we harness all this collective energy into one BIG juggernaut of freakin’ fantasticness??

      Agreed: 3 people should not be running this. That’s too hard and it showed.

      Before event – as a speaker, yes everything seemed delayed…when we were confirmed, when we were booked, and mostly when we were actually introduced to our fellow panelists and contacted about format/content. I was already en route to Vancouver so we had to meet and talk the night before our panel to plan it out. That’s not enough time and not sure why we weren’t introduced sooner. I felt like a pain in the ass, the number of times I emailed asking for info. The last thing I wanted was for our panel to be disorganized or to represent myself that way and also for the sheer fact that good folks were paying a lot to come to this thing and I wanted them to get the most out of what I had to offer.

      ****Something intangible to think about:
      We all want to feel ‘in this’ together (we talk about being this loving community). So we must careful with unconsciously creating a ‘hierarchy’ of cool, successful bloggers (defined by randomness) which makes others, who may be new or quiet or whatever (but could be HUGELY talented), feel small or lost in the shuffle.

      Super freakin’ cool to hang out with you Mike. You are one of the cool kids! Just kidding. I really did love connecting with everyone I was able to meet and have some one on one conversations with.

      Overall, I felt some disappointment last weekend, but gotta admit, these discussions make me feel really good and optimistic and I am feeling the pull to buy my Keystone ticket now. Thanks everyone. Or maybe I just miss you guys?!
      (so much for not saying much…sigh)

      • Michael Hodson June 17, 2011 at 9:50 pm #

        Sista’, you make ME look concise and short-winded ;)

        Loved hanging with you and after replying to all these comments, I have nothing really more to add other than… yep, you’ve hit some more points that need to be made, which is pretty damn incredibly after 150 or so comments.

  85. Grace June 17, 2011 at 5:28 pm #

    Here I go thinking I missed out on TBEX. As someone planning to attend next year’s conference I am very wary about pushing through. One of my biggest pet peeve is disorganized events. I definitely agree to your point about outsourcing the execution of the event to professionals. Also, a lot has to be done about planning- perhaps more research on benchmarking other conferences or learning from mistakes of past events. I’m also thinking that aside from a committee why not send out a survey form so that TBEX members can have a say on topics they want to hear. I think there would be a lot of valuable suggestions. I’m also surprised that there are no means to submit feedback. I do hope that these concerns get addressed. TBEX has a lot of potential and I hope to be involved with activities/events that they organize in the future.

    • Michael Hodson June 17, 2011 at 9:51 pm #

      To their credit, they have no circulated a post-conference feedback form via email. So they have done some immediate repair to some oversights, long before TBEX 2012.

  86. Audrey June 17, 2011 at 8:31 pm #

    Exhausted from reading comments, holy moly! Thanks for writing this candid post Micheal. I thought a few things were not done very well, but I have not been to any type of conference like this before. Now that I have had some of these issues pointed out, I can see how there was need for improvement. I assumed the AV issues were the conference centers fault, that shows how little I know about how these things run.

    I heard some people saying they were not that impressed with the NYC TBEX, so I had reservations about attending. As you said it’s not just the ticket price. I don’t think anyone is going to get that pissy about paying the $80 and not having their expectations met. It’s the time, airfare, hotels. etc. I imagine some people spent into the thousands to attend. I know our overall cost was at least $1500. We decided to attend with no expectations and view it as a vacation break to Vancouver and an opportunity to meet other travel bloggers for the first time. Overall I learned more valuable information during lunches with other bloggers.

    I messed up on the sessions because I didn’t understand how they worked and ended up having only one to attend on day 2 besides the community ones. I found day two to be quite wasteful, we ended up having no one to talk to in the niche session.

    There definitely needs to be beginner and advanced blogger sessions, perhaps something in between. I left craving more detailed information about SEO, social media, etc. Other talks were interesting but my blog still needs to build a lot more traffic before some of the information about PR pitches, etc. would be applicable. I need to learn more practical information about building an audience and getting more traffic, taking my blog to the next level as everyone says. As someone stated in the comments, we needed a “road map” to know how to overcome the initial blogging hurdles.

    I too was disappointed with things like not knowing about the Vancouver passes. We would have booked a few extra days to take advantage of them.

    I also didn’t like seeing parties listed that I couldn’t attend. It was like “look at the great party that we are having, but you can’t come to.” I would have really liked to attend the AM Resort cruise, but I am still not clear how it worked. First I was told invite only, then after it was too late someone said all you had to do was sign up?

    I think we all have so much valuable information we can share. The blogger meet ups would be a great idea. What better place to hold one than Banff in the beautiful Rocky Mountains, hint, hint :) Luckily I did meet some bloggers from nearby Calgary and we plan to do some meet ups.

    It was great to finally meet the cartoon man with the cigar in person. By the way, I believe you said you were coming to the Banff area soon with your family. Be sure to look us up. We would love to meet you for a drink.

    • Michael Hodson June 17, 2011 at 9:55 pm #

      Yea, I am with you on the cost thing. Ticket price is low, but unless you live there, that is far from the only cost for all of us. Kudos for them for a low ticket price, but that is no excuse — no have I heard Kim use it as one this year in reply to anything.

      I do need to look ya’ll up in about 10 days in Banff — will send you an email now. Thanks!

  87. Jeremy Branham June 18, 2011 at 3:10 pm #

    Michael, like many others, I have read through all of the comments and I feel like I have to share something. Your criticisms are legit and I think constructive criticism is a good thing. I think the feedback will be helpful going forward to make this better. However, after reading all the comments I just have to rant.

    From reading what people shared, many of the comments are negative and critical. However, some of it seems a bit too much. Constructive criticism is good but it just seems like a bit too much. For me, a bigger perspective is needed. I think the bottom line is that this event is too big for 3 people to handle. I am not defending Kim, Joey, or Courtney as I feel there is a lot to learn from this. Yet people who didn’t even go to the event are reading the stuff that happened and saying they are glad they didn’t go. Really?!?!?

    Here’s what baffles me. As travel bloggers and writers, we are looked to as a source of information and perspective on travel. People endure strange foods, different cultures, strange customs, poor transportation, theft, jet lag, and more. Yet we take these things as experiences to learn from, get through them, and try not to let these experiences ruin our trip. In general, travelers (and bloggers) are optimistic when it comes to their travel experiences.

    Now, the AV doesn’t work, WiFi is slow, people didn’t know about coffee, and communication and organization wasn’t great. I get that. Yet we deal with little crap like this and generate all these negative comments and feedback with people saying they may never go to one of these things again. Call it ironic or hypocritical but all this complaining and negativity, despite these being reasonable concerns, are far more than what travelers should be doing.

    Believe it or not, I got some good things out of this weekend (and I know you will address this on Monday) and I am not going to let the small, negative things that happened ruin my overall experience. I enjoyed a great city, met some awesome people, and learned a lot from this weekend despite setbacks and minor problems. To make as big a deal of it as people are making is ridiculous for the type of community we have and what we are supposed to be about. Absolutely things can get better and I think that is what Kim and her team want going forward. But people need to keep some perspective on this and take more positives from this than negatives. That is the least I expect from a travel community.

  88. Gray June 19, 2011 at 8:53 am #

    Wow, I’m sorry to hear this. You are right, these are all the same criticisms that were made last year after TBEX in NYC. It’s very disappointing to hear things haven’t improved at all. I agree, this has gotten to be too big for them to be running any more. It’s time to hire a professional conference organizer. I hate to be critical, because I have a lot of respect for Kim and company for getting this off the ground, but they should have realized after last year’s conference they were in over their heads trying to run this themselves. If the resort is going to step into that position for next year, more power to them.

    I have to say, though, that right now, I have absolutely no interest in attending TBEX next year. Not just because I’m not sure I have faith the organizational difficulties will be worked out by then, but because the remote location is going to make the trip even more expensive than it usually is. I’d like to know how the TBEX conference organizers and Vail Resorts plan to address the affordability issue. If we were all part of a big corporation who was footing the tab or fat cats who can afford ski vacations in Vail, it wouldn’t be a big deal. But we’re not. Many travel bloggers are living on shoestring budgets. Airfare alone will be a few hundred to a thousand or more dollars, depending on where someone is flying in from around the globe. Getting from the airport to the resort is going to cost money (rental car, shuttle, etc.). Once at the resort, everyone is part of a captive audience, with no other options for cheaper food, drinks, entertainment, etc. (unless they rented a car). How are they going to address this?

    • Kelsey June 19, 2011 at 11:06 am #

      I have those concerns as well. Another thing to consider is that by holding TBEX at a resort, you’re basically forcing all attendees to pay for those high-dollar hotel rooms. You’re right in calling it a captive audience, and I don’t really like the feel of it.

    • Rebecca June 20, 2011 at 12:52 pm #

      Completely agree on the remoteness of next years TBEX. When I first saw “Denver” I was like, YAY!! But Keystone? Thanks for pricing out the backpackers and shoestring travellers. I’m out.

      • Emily June 20, 2011 at 1:44 pm #

        I agree that it’s not ideal. But in Vail Resorts’ defense…I skiied in Keystone in December, and there is a direct shuttle from the Denver airport to Keystone. It’s supposed to be just around an hour, and unfortunately it took two hours or more each way due to traffic, which was a TOTAL pain in the ass. But it’s nice that they have frequent departures and go directly there. It’s not cheap, but hopefully they will secure a discount to conference attendees. I can’t imagine them not doing so. The main lodge we stayed in wasn’t within walking distance of any restaurants other than the lodge’s own restaurants. However, there was a shuttle stop right in front of it–there are free shuttles that take you around to the nearby aresa, and there are lots of cute restaurants in the ski village a few minutes away. So it’s a bit of a pain to get around, but the shuttles once you’re there are free and can take you to various restaurants and shops. Vail Resorts really does a great job with events and they took great care of me when I visited there, so I think they will help Kim’s team run a more professional conference.

  89. Shawn June 19, 2011 at 12:19 pm #

    I am glad I didn’t waste my time. Great article by the way.

  90. Brooke vs. the World June 19, 2011 at 8:59 pm #

    Interesting read, Michael… and it almost makes me happy that I didn’t give a jaunt to Vancouver a second thought after finding out it was during my US trip. I’ve heard about the disorganization before and it is sad to see it still happening, especially after getting so much money for it! I agree with Christine’s comments, and your comments, on hiring a professional! I would like to go at some point, but not if it has no substance to back up the cost of attending.

  91. Adena June 20, 2011 at 10:35 am #

    Thanks for this – I read it a couple of weeks ago but just now getting to give my story…I never made it to the conference because we (tripwolf) had discussed sponsorship back in January, and didn’t get a word back from them until two weeks before the conference – making travel arrangements and scheduling too tight to make work. Bummer. Anyway, I’ll be at the Travel Bloggers Unite Conference in Innsbruck, Austria this August. Let’s see what they can do!

  92. Candace Dempsey June 20, 2011 at 1:35 pm #

    the Austria conference sounds very cool, you even get a 2 day tour for free. I felt better about TBEX when I read Anthony Bourdain’s comments about the Sydney Writer’s Conference, a personal fantasy of mine. He liked one of his appearances to a “slow motion colonoscopy” and was desperately tweeting friends.

    “During the Sydney Writers’ Festival there were three talks scheduled with Anthony, or “Tony” as people call him. The first at Sydney Town Hall, called “Food Fighters” was held last Thursday night, May 19, and had Tony pitched against renowned food critic A.A. Gill with chef Tony Bilson as the moderator. Unfortunately, the love match wasn’t quite right and it ended up not fulfilling the promise, flitting from subject to subject without delving into anything particularly deeply. There was so much promise and potential there and at the end there were many who had the sense of a missed opportunity.

    The aftermath wasn’t pretty with Bourdain calling it a “goat rodeo” and tweeting “it was like a slow motion colonoscopy” and chastising his good friend Matt Preston for not being there to moderate by saying “Where WERE you, f**k-nuts!? Left me to the tender mercies of Benny Hill!”. Bourdain went on to a Chaser event which he considered an antidote to the previous talk.” http://www.businessspectator.com.au/bs.nsf/Article/Anthony-Bourdain-Sydney-Writers-Festival-chef-inte-pd20110527-H8VTT?opendocument&src=rss

  93. Laurel June 21, 2011 at 3:24 pm #

    I didn’t attend TBEX Vancouver, but did attend in Copenhagen and experienced similar issues to what you’ve reported. I think your point about how the disorganization reflects on the PR professionals is especially valid, especially since the idea of working with blogger is so new and we need to establish a reputation from an industry that is largely skeptical of working with bloggers in the first place.

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