A Newbie Perspective on #TravelCon19
This past weekend we traveled to Boston to attend #TravelCon19 with nearly 800 fellow travel enthusiasts. Not only was this our first TravelCon, but this was also the first travel conference we've ever attended. While Tom Brady jerseys can still be seen and the accents can still be heard, we wanted to provide a quick newbie perspective on TravelCon19. Below are our top five takeaways:
1. PREPARATION IS KEY
After exploring a country, eating a meal, or going to a show, Sarah and I like to ask each other, "Did it meet your expectations?" Prior to the conference we read the blog post The Beginner's Guide to TravelCon by veteran TravelCon attendee Jeff Jenkins. We found his advice to be spot on and it helped us better understand what to expect and how to prepare.
Now that we have returned home, we agree that an important takeaway is that it is important to prepare prior to the conference and to set expectations. Decide what you want to accomplish at TravelCon so that you have a goal in mind. Having an idea of our goal helped us formulate a plan to optimize our time once the schedule, presenters and vendors were announced.
Also, we were pleasantly surprised by the amount of effort some attendees put into learning about fellow attendees prior to the conference. Dan and Katie with The Tandem Travelers did an excellent job with this. They researched the blogs of each couple prior to meeting them at the Couples Meetup, and reached out on social media. This is a great way to start making connections before your plane even lands in the host city!
An additional takeaway we have in regards to preparation is, once the conference begins, try to arrive early enough to snag seats near the front of the room during the keynotes and the sessions. It enhances the overall experience to be up close to some of the travel industry's biggest stars.
Preparing in advance will have you walking away with exceeded expectations. Were our goals met and expectations exceeded? Yes!
2. GET READY TO CONNECT
Along the lines of being prepared, we saw how important it was to create a business card, or an alternate form of contact information, to provide to the people you will encounter. It is likely that you won't attend one meeting without hearing "Do you have a card?" Whether it be a card, a sticker, or something else for your creative brain to envision, design a tangible item (or digital reference) that shares your contact information. To further connect, download the app! Join the TravelCon Facebook group! Follow TravelCon on Instagram! The team at Nomadic Matt does an incredible job of providing you with opportunities to communicate with them and other attendees before, during, and after the event. We found value in connecting as much as possible before the event in order to enhance the experience and up the excitement of meeting new friends.
3. BE FRESH
Attending TravelCon was in many ways similar to taking a first step into a foreign country. There are great aspirations of seeing everything, meeting new people and breathing in all the culture. And then, by day three, you wake up and realize you'd like nothing more than to eat breakfast tacos in your hostel and binge watch The Office on Netflix (while you still can). Rest up before TravelCon, because the schedule will be jam packed with sessions, speakers, networking opportunities and events; and you will want to make the most of this once -a -year experience. You can be tired after the conference. We spoke to several people who took some time to nap, explore the area, write or create other TravelCon content as it was happening. Those activities were refreshing for them, and added value to their TravelCon experience, but remember, you also want to participate in as much of the scheduled activity as possible, and that takes energy!
4. IT'S OK TO GET UNCOMFORTABLE
For us there was a lot of unnecessary fear coming into TravelCon. When we arrived in Boston, questions like "Do YOU really think you are qualified to be here?" still ran through our heads. At the conference we spoke to several others who shared those same concerns. It turns out, there was no need to be fearful! Everyone we met was extremely friendly and approachable, regardless of whether they had 1 follower or over 100k followers. We are all on this journey together, at different stages, and with unique perspectives. We can all learn from and appreciate each other . The travel community is so supportive! The easiest way to meet a new friend is to take the first step and say "Hi" with a smile on your face or a simple message in an inbox.
5. SEE THE BIGGER PICTURE
Overall, we wrapped up our experience by realizing it's not so much about sessions, or the speakers, or the conference, or even about travel. The true gem of TravelCon is found in the people and the relationships that are formed. We've found that travelers often struggle connecting with non-traveling friends and family who may not be able to fully relate to or appreciate the depth of our stories and the lessons travel has taught us. It can be difficult if there is no outlet to share. That is partly why books, blogs, and social media are so important to us, because they provide the outlets to share amongst a community of like-minded people. As humans, we desire to connect with others and share the things that we consider valuable. At TravelCon, we are face to face with those like-minded people, and it becomes natural for inspiration and idea sharing to generate, and that can be life changing.
So until next year at #TravelCon20 in New Orleans, we wish you all many travel loves and lessons using the tools and resources we gained in Boston this year.