Things to know and what to expect before going to a travel trade fair
Once your travel blog or free-lance writing starts growing, a little bit of revenue starts coming in, and you realize that your readers are not only your friends and family, you will find it takes more and more time and effort as well as expense to keep it updated and engaging for your audience.
Whether you decide to run your blog writing as a side business or turn it into a full-time job, you will need some form of sponsorship and revenue (unless of course, you are independently wealthy, in which case you don’t need to read on any further).
I went to my first travel fair, TTG Incontri in Rimini, Italy to present myself and my work to potential clients with the aim of finding companies interested in being featured in one of my blogs (milanostyle.com, lakecomostyle.com and italytravelandmore.com).
For hospitality companies, tour operators, shopping outlets and tourist boards a travel blogger is an excellent channel for marketing their product and services.
See my video and read more about the TTG INCONTRI Travel Fair
So, how should you prepare for your first travel trade fair?
There are plenty of blogger friendly companies looking to market their properties, services, and destinations through “word of mouth” marketing provided by bloggers. Before going to a travel fair, you must prepare. Here are a few ideas on how to plan.
1) Map out the exhibitors before going
Most travel trade show organizations have apps with a catalog of exhibitors, a map of the pavilions, contact information and a calendar of events and seminars being held during the fair.
Organize, prepare and plan:
- diligently read through the exhibitors catalog
- research companies you are not familiar with
- make a wish list of all companies you would like to talk to
- make a second list of favorites, companies you absolutely have to meet
- thoroughly research companies you would like to target
- you will not meet everyone on your wish list, so prioritize the most important companies
- make appointments; send a presentation email with your media kit and ask for an appointment
- map out your course in order to maximize your time
- allow some time to attend seminars and events
2) Prepare to meet the professionals of the travel industry
You will be meeting and speaking with some of the best corporate representatives. Companies invest a lot of money sending their employees to attend trade expos. There is not only the expense of airfare, accommodation and food. Companies that participate and have booths also have the expenses of transporting the decor, printing and distribution of promotional materials, renting audio-visual equipment, and other costs that are incurred. They are making a significant investment, so they send only their best employees who are knowledgeable and well trained to sort-out the rif-raf in order to maximize their time and energy. Depending on who they are speaking with, they have a battery of rehearsed questions that help them understand if you are worth the time. They are looking for professional, well-spoken, intelligent, informed people to collaborate with.
Things you should learn about the company/destination that will help encourage conversation:
- know your geography
- know major landmarks, knowing about some lesser known examples also helps
- learn the names of major airports in the region
- know something about the political/economic or current events of the region
- know something about the culture, food, or traditions
- if you don’t know these things, prepare questions that will open dialog
- for hospitality companies, learn something about the parent company or ownership
- know something about the location
- for tour operators, get to know what their specialty tours are
- get to know who their perfect client is
If you have already visited their destination, remember details of:
- when you visited
- what airport you flew in to
- where you stayed
- foods you tried
- share details of an experience
- show them you are interested in and knowledgeable about their culture, food and traditions
Earn with your blog with Izea Influencer Market Place
3) Be high-tech and low-tech
As a blogger, it is natural to want to present oneself as cutting-edge and digital savvy, but it is important to have both digital and printed promotional material. As well as a video presentation on your tablet, prepare a printed brochure or pamphlet you can leave with clients. I had wi-fi connection problems at the fair and wasn’t able to show my work to its fullest, but I had a pamphlet with my site information, statistics, my photo and contact information (having it really saved my BUTT!). Another thing to consider is that most people in management or in decision making positions are not of the digital age. Although 40-50 year olds don’t have any problem with using Instagram and USB keys, the more mature managers and owners of companies still rely on their younger subordinates to deal with digital information. Visual printed material is attractive and encourages human exchange and interaction.
- prepare business cards
- prepare a media kit
- prepare a brochure or pamphlet
- prepare a video presentation of the information in your media kit
- prepare examples of what you can offer the client
- bring a tablet to show off your video presentation and website
- bring your printed material
- if you have the budget, leave them a promotional gadget with your URL
4) Don’t waste anybody’s time, especially your own
You may really want to talk to the Discover Vietnam team, but if your readers are looking for info on travelling in Italy, then you are in the wrong place! As much as I would have liked to meet and connect with other world destinations, my sites are focused on Italy, so I stayed most of the time in the Italy pavilion. Stick with your niche. Map out your course (see above #1) and go to see each client with purpose. You may feel like you have all day, but you will soon realize that there just isn’t enough time in the day to do and see it all.
- first things first: ask if they work with bloggers, some companies only work with a marketing company -if that’s the case, ask who their marketing company is and move on.
- script your introduction; be sure it says everything about you, what you offer and who your readers are
- have your promotional material easily accessible (see also dress for success #6)
- stick to your niche, but also take some time out to explore, it will open your mind
Tip: stick to the main points of your introduction script but vary it as to not sound too “rehearsed”
5) Don’t judge by appearances
A small booth doesn’t mean a small company and a pretty face doesn’t mean they are only stand models. It may be tempting to go to the bigger, flashy booths rather than the smaller booths with one person and a simple black and white sign. Don’t be fooled. I admit, I made the mistake of trying to wait to speak to the older grey-haired gentleman, when the pretty blond at the reception table asked if I had an appointment. I told I didn’t but introduced myself and she said “Excellent! I’m the marketing manger and your site seems like a good fit for us!” I felt so foolish and ashamed to have acted out a double standard! Never again!
- a small booth doesn’t mean a small company
- there is no “uniform” for a marketing director, he or she can be anyone
- kindness always pays off; I had a friendly chat with a woman waiting to pay for lunch and later met her at a tourist board I was interested in working with
6) Dress for success
It may seem obvious, but wear your good clothes. Although you may have the freedom to work in your pyjamas (I love doing that!) and wear slouchy clothes while travelling, you should definitely remember that the travel fair is for the corporate crowd and that’s who you will be meeting. You shouldn’t be anything different than your own personal style and image, but if you have tons of piercings and dred-locks you may want to tone it down for the day. If your style is simple, you may want to dress up a bit, use a touch of bright lipstick or add color to your wardrobe. No one likes the idea of it, but first impressions of how we look are still very important.
I made a name tag and wore it on my lapel. “Hello my name is..” Even if it was a bit silly, people saw the name and logo of my site and perhaps even remembered me as the girl with the geeky name tag.
Bring a bag, you’ll need it. You will not only need it for your promotional material to distribute, you will be collecting your own stash of brochures, pamphlets and gadgets from companies. I even saw some people with wheeled carry-on cases. I missed out on some nice books and magazines because I just didn’t want to carry them.
- wear your good clothes
- tone down your wild side
- add some color to your day
- wear a name tag if you are courageous enough
- bring a bag, backpack or carry-on trolley
7) Be yourself
It is daunting “putting yourself out there” but nobody is going to notice you if you don’t try. You will have to find the right words on how to introduce yourself and the right way to connect with people. The best way to do that is presenting a professional, yet authentic YOU.
All the best for your next Travel Expo!
Some more links to other Travel blogger experiences at Travel Trade Fairs: