TBEX Excitement And Last-Minute Tips For Your Speed Dating Pitch

Next week hundreds of travel bloggers will begin converging in Toronto for the annual Travel Blog Exchange, often referred to as TBEX. Although this will be their fourth annual gathering, it will only be my second year to attend. In fact last year was my first opportunity and it was rather impressive. While I know that I learned quite a lot there, I also realize that I haven’t learned anything yet!

TBEX 2013 Logo

It was only 48 hours prior to the start of TBEX that a friend and I purchased tickets and rushed on up there. As such we were both woefully unprepared. Sure we had business cards and great conversation skills but not much else. No plan of which seminars to hit. No pre- or post-TBEX press trips. No speed dating interviews. (TBEX “speed dating” is designed to connect sponsors with bloggers and vice-versa; More about that below.) Nothing but our tickets.

When all was said and done I swore that come 2013 the HoliDaze would be more prepared for TBEX. I even made sure to purchase two Early Bird tickets when they first went on sale at a fraction of the normal price. Now as I prepare for my second TBEX experience it is starting to become painfully clear just how unprepared I am once again.

  One (1) remaining TBEX ticket still for sale at Early Bird price, only $59 โ€• less than half the current rate! Contact me if interested! SOLD

At Least This Year There Are A Few Upsides

I Know What To Expect Now

Definitely glad that I popped my TBEX cherry prior to starting my career in travel blogging. Sure, this blog has roots all the way back to 2008 but I didn’t decide to get serious with my writing until only this year. Originally the blog was called Shibuya Daze and only intended for close friends back home, which becomes evident if you read any of my early posts. This year I have much better examples of my writing style and some of the new HoliDaze features.

It Will Be Easier To Connect / Network

Because of my last minute decision to attend TBEX 2012 there was no time to chit-chat and find out who all would be attending prior to the start. As such it was incredibly hard to track down and connect with the people whom I had wanted to meet, especially given that most of them already had a pretty full itinerary. This year I have an EXCEL spreadsheet full of travel bloggers I intend to chat with at TBEX, including their emails and Twitter handles in case I need to track them down quickly.

It Will Be A More Educational Experience

Last year I didn’t take any notes and even skipped a few of the seminars that I had signed up to attend. I was there solely to see old friends and meet face-to-face with new bloggers. This year I will be paying much more attention at the seminars and yes, probably even taking a few notes too.

I Have Exciting News To Share And Lots To Talk About

Last year at TBEX I didn’t have much to talk about in the line of upcoming adventures. Why? At that time I was still planning my trips on the fly and never knew what I would be doing in a week, let alone later on in the year. As such it was either to talk about what I had already done, rather than what was in my near future. This year I have a 4-year RTW adventure that kicks off immediately after TBEX. Something tells me that will give me a decent amount to talk about. It also means I will be picking the brains’ of many of my fellow travel bloggers, especially those well-versed in budget travel.

I Nearly Have A Full Speed-Dating Schedule

As I already mentioned, last year I purchased my tickets way too late to sign up for the speed dating. Those sessions are where the companies sponsoring TBEX interview perspective bloggers. Now that I am finally more on top of things it will be interesting to see how these “dates” go. This year although I have plenty of interviews scheduled, I have not been able to come up with a really good pitch.

And That Brings Us To The Infamous Blogger Pitch

One of the biggest reasons that I often prefer to call myself a traveler rather than a travel blogger is that I have never had to pitch myself or my blog a single time. Not once, not anywhere, never had to. Even without pitching anything I have managed to score lots of free things including travel gear, camping supplies, a tablet from Sony to document my adventures, a couple of press trips, and more. But all of that has came to me; I never went looking for any of it.

Now the tables are reversed. I have 18-20 companies to meet with and all I have to offer them is my skills and services. What skills and services are those? I don’t even know just yet. At least not of any that would make me or the HoliDaze stand out front the rest of our travel bloggin’ buddies.

Have You Thought Much About Your Pitch?

Until today I had not. In fact this post first started out as a way for me to ask for help with composing my own pitch but as I’ve been writing these last few minutes the pieces have all fallen into place in my head. Now rather than asking for help with my pitch let me instead provide all the TBEX virgins out there with a few last-minute pointers for assembling their pitches ๐Ÿ™‚

Of course keep in mind that as I have not yet tested out my pitch on any sponsors there is really no telling if I have the right formula. But I think so. Plus given the number of first-timers that have asked me for advice on their pitch, just figured it couldn’t hurt to share my thoughts on the subject.

And of course all you TBEX veterans and more experienced travel bloggers, feel free to share any thoughts or additional advice that you might have with us…thanks!

Things To Consider While Preparing Your Speed Dating Pitch

  • Determine both your strengths and those of your blog. What are you best at? What type of posts have you had the most success with so far? Which topics seem to engage your readers/followers the most? Be proud of where you excel the most.
  • Better understand your reach and influence to find the best fit. The total number of followers is just that: a number. And numbers can be used to prove or disprove anything based on how they are presented. Look deeper. Do you have a significantly higher number of visitors/followers from any one country or region? How well do you engage your friends, followers, and readers? Have you carved yourself out a nice niche? Are there any travel-related markets or industries that would be a commonsense match for your blog? For example there is not much of a point in a luxury travel company as a sponsor if your blog and/or its’ readers are more of the budget travel type.
  • Know exactly what skills or services you can provide to your sponsors. Without doing that you have no foundation to build your pitch upon and certainly no structure or well-defined game plan to showcase. Are you an experienced outdoors-man who would be a great candidate for testing out camping gear and new products? Maybe travel fashion is more your area of expertise? Perhaps you are a traveling businessmen with a vast knowledge of and experience with hotels around the world. No matter how good your writing is or how many followers you have, without a clearly defined skill-set you really don’t have anything unique to offer.
  • Stand apart from the masses for a greater chance of success. Once you know your strengths and what services you can provide to any perspective sponsors, all that’s left to do is figure out what makes you and your blog different and then capitalize on it. Always realize that whatever you want out of your sponsors — be it merchandise, accommodations, a paycheck, press trips or whatever else — there are plenty of other travel bloggers vying for the exact same thing. Remember how quickly we broke the speed dating server when it first went online back in early May ๐Ÿ˜‰
  • Final assembly. Now all that’s left to do is to take everything learned from those previous steps and begin compiling it into a sensible and well-rounded pitch. As for exactly how to do this, well I will leave that one up to you. I still have lots of preparation to do for the first leg of my RTW trip right after TBEX: Indonesia to Portugal via land/sea travel only.

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In closing although I may be much better prepared for my second time at TBEX, I am definitely still not as on top of this as I had hoped to be. How about you, are you prepared for Toronto?

Have any steps or suggestions for finding success with your speed dating pitch at TBEX?

Share your comments below!

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About Derek Freal

"Some people eat, others try therapy. I travel." ย  Cultural enthusiast. Adrenaline junkie. Eater of strange foods. Chasing unique and offbeat adventures around the world since 2008. Derek loves going to new destinations where he does not speak a word of the local language and must communicate with hand gestures, or places where he is forced to squat awkwardly to poo -- supposedly its healthier and more efficient. For more information (about Derek, not squat pooing) including popular posts and videos, check out his bio.

12 thoughts on “TBEX Excitement And Last-Minute Tips For Your Speed Dating Pitch”

  1. Great post! I don’t have answers, unfortunately, as this will be my first time at TBEX.
    One thing I’ve learned about speed dating at other writer conferences, it that sometimes building a relationship is more important than pitching, per se.

    By the way, how did you get a spreadsheet of attendees?

    My best, Irene

    • Thanks for the tip Irene! ๐Ÿ™‚ But you’re right, that makes perfect sense. In fact that’s probably something to even start thinking about prior to the actual pitch. Oh so much to do, so little time!

      There are two public lists of TBEX attendees on Twitter: http://twitter.com/TBEXevents/tbex-toronto-attendees1 and http://twitter.com/TBEXevents/tbex-toronto-attendees2. I copy-and-pasted those into Excel, deleted the people I didn’t know, and whipped the rest into a quick spreadsheet. Then as I’ve been talking to them the last cpl wks I’ve slowly pieced in email addys and whatever other relevant notes, such as intended topics of discussion.

      Thanks again for stopping by my humble li’l old blod and if we cross paths in Toronto be sure and say hi ๐Ÿ™‚

  2. Glad I ran into your post this morning! I’m starting to think I made a mistake by not signing up for any speed dating or open marketplace sessions this year. I figured that because I’m just starting out, I wouldn’t have the audience numbers that these companies would be looking for. From your previous experiences, would you say that I should have went for it anyways?

    • Hmmmm that’s a tough call Ryan. Like you my first year at TBEX I didn’t bother with any speed dating sessions due to sporadic blogging and rather lackluster site traffic. But now as TBEX again draws near a part of me kind of regrets that decision. They would have been helpful not only for refining that first pitch but also to help in gaining a better understanding of what the process is like before everything is riding on those eight minutes.

      After all, sure often times bloggers need sheer numbers to secure a lucrative sponsorship, but they certainly don’t need any to get a bit of practice in! Besides that first year you can screw up, stutter, freeze, curse, or pretty much blurt out whatever laughable answer comes to mind — you’re a newbie, it’s all good, who cares! But by year two it seems like most people (myself included) want to put on a more professional image and really take their blog and/or writing to the next level. Any screw-ups at this stage are more likely to cost that blogger something, whether it be a sponsorship or a press trip or whatever.

      So when looking at it that way, yes I have to say that now I finally do wish I’d partaken in the speed dating my first year at TBEX. So who knows, maybe you should reconsider and send out a few last-minute interview requests — it certainly cannot hurt. Oh and in case you end up doing that, here’s another li’l tip: Harley Davidson is one of the newest TBEX sponsors, they were just added to the BloggerBridge a cpl days ago. I requested and received a speed dating interview with them for Saturday, which means they should still have more openings. If you do decide to request an interview or two, you might want to give them a shot first. By this late in the game all the original companies have long since booked their schedules and not many bloggers are still out there actively seeking new dates, which could be just the perfect opportunity for you to score a cpl interviews ๐Ÿ™‚

  3. I am new as well Ryan, I went for it and I have gotten 6 appointments. I say still try to go for it, you have nothing to lose!
    Thanks for the post Derek!

  4. This will also be my first TBEX. Have the cards, a simple press kit (really wasn’t sure how big to make it, so figured simple was best – rather make my impression in person!)

    I am still trying to figure out my pitch….don’t have so many appointments to get it right! Looks like some networking with my more experienced friends will be in order! Thanks for the tips – will put them to good use!

    • Always glad to offer a bit of help, although I am by no means an expert hehehe ๐Ÿ™‚ Feel free to say hi if you see me at TBEX, be great to cross paths and talk travel ๐Ÿ™‚


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