by Abigail Javellana
It was my first time attending a TBEX event and I was lucky enough to have experienced the first ever TBEX Asia 2016 conference in the Philippines!
TBEX--or Travel Blogger Exchange--is the largest gathering of travel bloggers, online travel journalists, media creators, and travel industry professionals in the world.
This year the world's top travel bloggers and 400+ other inspiring travel bloggers from North America, Europe, and Asia came together to learn, network, do business, and party here in Manila.
Here are my top tips and learnings that should help you make the most of your first ever TBEX conference...
1. Join the free Pre-bex Tours!
The Pre-bex tours are free tours designed to get you familiar with the area, whether that be a historical tour, cultural tour, or food tour, shopping, other fun activities, or even volunteer work! These start before the actual conference begins.
For a list of the Pre-bex tours in Manila, click here.
In one of the food tours, guests are treated to exotic delicacies at the "Culinary Capital of the Philippines", Pampanga!
Get ready to try Sisig (grilled pig's head bits served on a hot plate), Camaru (crickets), and the Tugak Betute (Stuffed Frog).
You can also go on a historical tour of Intramuros! Tour by bike or join a walking food tour at the oldest China Town.
How about trying something entirely new like playing in a "Mystery Room" where players need to solve puzzles and clues in order escape within a time limit?
Tip: Make sure to sign-up early to get a spot. If you aren't able to pre-register in time, there's still a chance someone doesn't show up that day and you can get their slot instead.
2. The Breakout Sessions and Inspirational Keynotes
For the list of the TBEX Asia 2016 sessions in Manila, click here.
Don't miss the inspirational keynotes by Evo Terra, Timothy Hughes, and Patricia Schultz.
The breakout sessions are the main reason established and aspiring bloggers alike attend the conference.
The blogger sessions are built on three core components: Content, Community, and Commerce. The talks range from how to improve content, how to gain publicity, and monetizing the blog, to architectural photography, flying drones, hyper-lapse videos, and business opportunities.
Tip: It's a great opportunity to learn more from your favorite speakers and personally talk to them.
Anton Diaz (Community) on "How to Build a Thriving Real Community Around Your Blog and Brand."
Bill Fink (Content) on "What's the Story? Blogging Beyond Top-10 Lists: How to Find Compelling Travel Content and Transform in into Trend-Worthy Stories."
Scott Herder (Content) on "How to Create Eye-Catching Hyperlapse Videos Today Using Your Smart Phone."
Tip: Don’t try to do everything and be everywhere! Take notes and find a partner who can attend other sessions and get important key points from those discussions.
3. Speed Networking
Make sure to have a bloggerbridge.com account and set up an appointment date. But if you haven't done that, there are many opportunities to network on the speed networking sessions as well as during coffee breaks, lunches, and evening events.
Don't be afraid of speed networking even if you don't have the numbers. If someone is taking the time to sit with you and they saw your analytics on bloggerbridge.com, then there's a good reason why they are talking to you. Throw that fear out the window! There could have been 300 other people who requested to meet with them but they picked you.
Make sure to have an elevator pitch.
What's your name?
What's your site?
What do you want to do?
How do you tell them how you're the most amazing writer in the world?
How do you in a minutes impress them?
What can you offer to them that someone else can't offer?
4. Experience Culture
During opening night at The Blueleaf, delegates were treated to an array of festive dances from all regions of the Philippines.
Guests were taught popular dances like Tinikling.
There were many colorful performances, like the Masskara Festival from the Visayas Region...
...and other signature presentations from all the way down south in Mindanao.
Of course, there had to be Lechon! The word "lechon" came from the Spanish term meaning roasted suckling pig.
Have you tried Balut (cooked duck embryo)? Best eaten with vinegar and salt. My favorite part is the soup. ;)
Ready? Boodle fight! The TBEX delegates got to experience an authentic Pinoy boodle fight lunch using only their hands for eating. We were served longanisa, adobo, bangus, baked mussels, and fresh fruits!
It's always more fun in the Philippines!
5. Meet new people!
Sit at a new table at each meal. Meet 10 new people today. You'll never know how the person sitting next to you will impact your future!
The TBEX event is full of parties, lunches, and coffee breaks that give you a lot of opportunities to expand your network.
On the second night, Travel Massive hosted a cocktail party open to everyone (even bloggers not registered to TBEX) at The Long Bar, Raffles.
Closing Party at Chaos, City of Dreams Manila with the theme "Octoberfest"...
The closing party is the best one, everyone’s already comfortable and knows each other! Everyone was in a festive mood of dancing, drinking and partying the night away!
6. Go on the Fam-Trips!
One of the best things about TBEX are the free FAM trips that start after the conclusion of the conference. These take a couple of days, depending on the trip.
It's the best way to tour the country as you get to see the best of what they have to offer, from walking along Calle Crisologo in Vigan--one of the oldest cities in the Philippines, and diving in Palawan--the best island in the world, to enjoying the beaches of Boracay, seeing the perfect cone-shaped Mayon Volcano, or taking a selfie with a tarsier in Bohol.
For the list of the FAM trips around the Philippines, click here.
Have a taste of “The Best (roast) Pig Ever” according to Anthony Bourdain (Bohol-Cebu).
Tao Philippines is an expedition that aims to immerse participants in the authentic Filipino island life. The expedition takes place in the remote islands of Northern Palawan--between El Nido and Coron--for 5 days and 4 nights.
Vigan is the third-oldest city in the Philippines after Cebu and Manila. It is famed for the Philippines' most beautiful street--Calle Crisologo--with a history that rivals Intramuros. The streets are covered with cobblestones and lined with old Spanish houses on either side.
Cheers and congratulations, Rick, Anton, the entire TBEX Team, and The Tourism Promotions Board Philippines for a successful first time TBEX conference in the Philippines!
Live an Awesome Life,
ABI of Team Our Awesome Planet
Disclosure: We were media guests for the TBEX Asia 2016 conference. I wrote this article with my biases, opinions, and insights.
P.S. Here's a list of items you need to bring:
- Business cards
- Media kit
- Power bank