Overly exhausted, but alive! NY Times Travel Show first timer here, just returned from NYC late Sunday night. For being my very first travel conference, I feel it was a resounding success! The sessions, the networking, and the organization of the event truly impressed me. Now I can give you first timers a little overview and guide in order for you to make the most out of the next NY Times Travel Show or any other big conference of its kind.
Preparation and what to bring
One thing I regret is being fully prepared. If it wasn’t for Expedia’s Coast to Coast event and the little goodie bag they gave us travel bloggers, I wouldn’t have had a notepad and working pen! Seems simple, but make sure you pack more than one pen (mine ran out of ink) and a sturdy notebook with you. Some presenters can run out of business cards (or have more to say than their card), so being able to dot down details is important. Also, make sure you have a tote bag, where you can place bigger brochures or even press trip applications.
Moreover, make sure you take a look at the full exhibitor’s list prior to arrival. If you apply for and are granted a press pass, this list is typically emailed to you a few days in advance. Write down which boards/companies you would love to speak to and create a plan of action. If possible, schedule it by the day. Being this organized means you can simply go down your list and get more done faster.
On the show: Network confidently and stand out
As a NY Times Travel Show first timer, it is easy to feel overwhelmed and–let’s be honest here–feel small. My travel blogs have been live for a little over 6 months only, so I do not have the traffic and clout that many others have. Thus, I had to make sure that my pitch whilst networking at the show was one that stood out for its uniqueness.
While I’m a relatively-new travel blogger, I also work as a bilingual freelance travel writer and translator. Therefore, what I had to offer to all those tourism boards was coverage of a press trip in both English and Spanish. No press trips? I offered to help them reach the Spanish-speaking market by developing their company blog in Spanish and helping to translate/localize their entire website. I pitched this very confidently, and sure got lots of positive feedback from exhibitors. In fact, more than twice I was told “I can tell that you are hard-working and confident. I’m sure you’ll go very far in your career and in life–keep it up and keep in touch!” You have no idea how great that felt! So, make sure you find a unique niche that can be connected to travel blogging. This way, you will stand out from the pack.
This is as important as networking confidently is. As a NY Times Travel Show first timer (or veteran!), you must touch base with everyone you spoke to or else your pitch will be forgotten. I recommend you gather all the business cards/notes from the travel show and organize all the data on an Excel spreadsheet (with a notes section!). After you transfer all the business cards to that spreadsheet, go down the list to touch base within a week of the conference. Dot down when you sent every email and follow-up accordingly. This is the only way you’ll be successful at developing an important partnership and/or making a press trip happen.
Final thoughts of a NY Times Travel Show first timer
First off, I must emphasize how organized it was. It was a massive pavilion, but every section was well-marked and relatively easy to find. All sessions were helpful and organized as well, with schedules given ahead of time, which allowed for prioritizing. Next time I go, I’ll make sure I prepare better in order to speak to more people in less time. The exhibitors I spoke to were very helpful and I had the opportunity to meet very important executives in the industry, pitching directly to them without the gatekeepers (yay!). Some big names include the VP/GM of Expedia and the CEO of EscapeFromTheCity — amazing, I know!