Last weekend, I hopped on a coach down to London for my second Traverse travel blogging conference, in need of some inspiration and keen to make new friends and connections.
What is Traverse?
Running since 2013, Traverse was set up by Michael Ball and Paul Dow as a way for bloggers to learn new skills, socialise and build relationships with companies, brands and PRs. Now in its 5th year, London played host to the biggest Traverse event yet.
The Midweek Events
New for this year, the events began on Monday from a board game and beer night to crazy golf and a newbie night for brand new bloggers.
I sadly missed out on the events at the start of the week due to work but arrived on Thursday for a food tour of East London. Led by Julia from Trip.com, we used the unique app to build a DIY tour from an artisan chocolate shop to an old-school fish and chip shop and from Indian curry to real Italian pizza.
Enjoying Poppies Fish and Chips at Spitalfields Market
Chocolate sampling at Dark Sugars
In the afternoon, I made my way over to the Olympic Park including the Aquatic Centre and the Orbit in Stratford for a tour with the social enterprise, London City Steps which trains unemployed East Londoners in becoming tour guides.
At the ArcelorMittal Orbital in the Olympic Park
For the main weekend conference, the talk and workshops were held at Ravensbourne College next to the O2 Arena.
I loved the unique architecture and crazily patterned exterior with the porthole style windows giving the venue a light and airy feel.
The Talks and Key Takeaways
Saturday and Sunday were all about the talks and workshops, from photography to video, Instagram to PR there are plenty of opportunities to hone your skills or learn new ones.
Each session lasted around an hour and generally, 4 different sessions were on offer each hour.
Here is a little low down on the talks I attended with the key takeaways:
PR yourself and your blog – How to stand out through content and connections
Led by Susan Schwartz (the blogger) and Alexandra Delf (the PR) this gave a really unique perspective of how bloggers and PR’s can work together on successful campaigns and build long-term relationships.
- Have a passion for your subject/niche – have an idea of a campaign for the PR company before contacting them
- Know who your writing to – try to find out the PR or marketing managers name to address your email to
- Research the company beforehand to make sure you are a good fit. Treat people with respect to build a professional relationship
- Pitch ideas to your friends to build confidence before pitching to Prs
- Don’t promise what you can’t deliver
- Write an email or personal handwritten letter at the end of a campaign to thank a PR for working with you, as well as a trip report to show social stats and engagement during the trip. Screenshot any memoroable comments.
- Feedback to the PR at the end of a press trip if you feel it could be improved for future bloggers
How to gain followers on Instagram without losing yourself
Nicole Easterby shared her story from her initial gap year travels to working as blogger and growing and monetizing her popular Instagram account.
- Use hashtags associated with a brand to get found and build a relationship
- Invest time and money improving your photography skills
- Write interesting captions – tell a story or personal account to show your personality
- Think about the accounts you follow – why do you follow them? Try to replicate this style
- Try to find unique perspectives of popular tourist attractions – get low, get high
- Build and engage a community – try Facebook groups and attend Instagram meetups
- When approaching brands, consider what value you can bring them
- Your worth does not come from your likes and follows
Travel Video Q&A with Greg Brand from Travizeo
Greg works as a videography and begins with a stunning travel video to explain what Travizeo do.
Next, he asked the audience for questions and was given a variety of subjects to base his talk on, from the use of drones to editing and audio.
- AudioJungle provide good value audio for travel videos – keep a log of the songs you license
- YouTube has a limited library of free audio to use
- Vimeo and YouTube have fantastic ‘how to’ videos to brush up on the basics of editing -take the time to continuously learn
- Filters degrade your images
- Shooting at ‘golden hour’ (an hour before sunrise/sunset) ensures quality content
- People connect with stories – try to consider what angle or story you want to create for your video – research a place and perhaps write a script. Find local guides on Instagram
- Change the pace of the music to build interest
- Look at your favourite videos and analyze why you enjoy them so much
- Pitching work to brands – let your work do the talking and know your worth
Leveraging your reach as an influencer with Laura and Clare from Twins That Travel
- What platform/brands can you use to voice your voice? e.g partnering with a hashtag (Beautiful Destinations) or brands you use and admire (e.g Canon, GoPro)
- Stop waiting and around – just approach and pitch to the brand!
- Find out if any of the brands look for ‘ambassadors’
- Check to see if your camera equipment has a hashtag and use them
- Approach a brand or a tourist board and ask to do an Instagram ‘takeover’ to build exposure
- If working with a brand on Instagram – consider giving two options for the use of photos – one just to be used on Instagram and one with a copyright license to be used in future marketing
How to establish a professional brand (and business from Day One) with Alex Jimenez from Travel Fashion Girl
- Why should someone read your blog? Offer solutions to problems!
- Who is your competition? Research your niche for awareness of business models NOT for plagiarism
- Look at the branding of big companies and outside your niche to gain branding and content issues
- Branding – what emotions do you want your readers to feel? Choose 3-5 colours to use on all your branding
Advanced Video Editing Workshop with Greg Brand
After Greg’s create Q&A session, I thought I’d dip my toe into a more advanced session. I’ll put my hands up – most of this workshop went straight over my head as it was a little too advanced for me but I picked up some useful tips:
- Organise your content into days as soon as you’ve shot it
- Record audio and footage separately
- Put cutaways over ums and arghs in audio
- Edit in the same format you shot the footage in
- Sound effects bring clips to life
- Do it, finish it, put it away for a while and come back to it with fresh creative eyes
How to create a successful professional partnership based on the written word with Abi King
I love Abi King’s story, from a medical doctor to travel writer, she has written for the likes of Lonely Planet, Conde Nest and the National Geographic.
In an industry where photo and film are dominating, Abi gave a timely reminder that the written word is still imperative – thoughtful, captivating storytelling – words still matter.
Abi gave us a toolkit of 3 ways to write better:
- Cut it Out clear the unnecessary clutter from your pieces – trim out adjectives, use verbs for more energy, eliminate adverbs and banish the passive voice
- Spice it up with speech energises text and provides a local flavour. Ask open questions. Pindown the details.
- Play God put someone in the scene, bring inanimate objects to life. Mention all the senses
How to be prepared when pitching to an airline with Kerwin McKenzie
Kerwin talked about the potential opportunities that bloggers have to work with airlines such as
- Inaugural flights routes
- Inaugural aircraft flights
- Delivery flights – potential to use live video content
- Aircraft retirements
- Inflight magazines articles
You can find Kerwin’s presentation here
Key Presentations from Traverse Speakers
- Monica Stott from The Travel Hack – Money Making Game Changers
- Adrian Land from Considerable Influence – SEO: What you need to know in an increasingly visual world
- Lauretta Wright and Tania O’Donnell, Journalists and Editors – How to successfully pitch to editors
- Kash Bhattacharya from The Budget Traveller – What is your why? Lesson learnt from 8 years of being a professional travel blogger
The closing debate finished with the now legendary ‘Tweet for a drink’ using the hashtag #TraverseWhiteWine and magically a few minutes later, a nice chap appeared with my drink! Good work, Traverse.
Oh, the parties. Traverse has become quite infamous for its evening entertainment and this year did not disappoint.
Kicking off the weekend in style, Friday night’s party was from the 20th floor of the Millbank tower at the Skyloft where we mingled and munched on amazing canapes including the cutest little mini ice cream cones!
Saturday night after the conference, we boarded a boat with City Cruises and watched the sunset over Greenwich. As we cruised towards Central London, a glass of prosecco in hand, we watched London gradually light up. passing under a twinkling London Bridge before jumping off at Westminster Pier.
Finally on Sunday, after the closing panel, we made our way to Canary Wharf for the final party of the weekend, hosted by Visit Spain and Iberica. Amongst the first to arrive, we were treated to cava, cured Iberia ham and a beautiful range of little Spanish canapés.
The room was electric with new friends and connections, as we went about cementing our new found friendships and setting ambitious blogging goals in our quietly tipsy state. I was so wrapped up in the food and chat, I didn’t take a single photo from this party!
One of my favourite parts of Traverse is the opportunity to connect with like-minded travellers and bloggers, be that a brief 10 minute conversation before the start of a talk (so excited to hear Ant and Lou of Van Utopia‘s plans for an epic trip around Europe) to more in-depth conversations such as sharing memories with Lisa from Baby Love Travels over working ski season’s in our 20’s to life as a new travel blogger with Gemma from Little Miss Gem Travels .
I also shared a room with Rachel from TheTaylorMadeTravels who I met at Blogstock in 2015 and caught up with her friend Emily who was also speaking at Traverse about email marketing.
Despite our fantastically connected world, there is something much more authentic about meeting people in person, the ability to ask questions, get inspired by others adventures and build friendships beyond the online world- and this above all is one of the most rewarding parts about attending Traverse.
Have you attended a Traverse conference? What were your key takeaways or memories?