TBU ’11: A List Of Top Non-Tens

MikeachimThe Everyday18 Comments

In the style of ieatmypigeon. With a dash of mobilelawyer-style list-hatred. And a dollop of laziness, because 10 is way too huge and my life is short.

Last Sunday I attended the second day of the Travel Bloggers Unite 2011 Conference in Manchester. I’ve always prided myself on being the kind of person that does things by halves, and this was no exception.

(Actually I was busy on Saturday, but it’s a good joke for no extra cost, so just shut the hell up).

Here are some lists of things I encountered during my time there. And because I hate top ten lists, these aren’t.

Top Non-10 Things Travel Bloggers Like To Do During Conferences

1. Tweet

2. Tweet about tweeting

3. Write notes on laptops

4. Film things.

5. Drink coffee (while tweeting).

6. Say “my blog is awful. This talk is totally about me. Oh god“.

7. Challenge the Rules, even though there aren’t any.

8. Laugh infectiously.

9. Wonder mid-session if it’s acceptable to just stand up and go to the toilet (I mean stand up, leave the room and go to the toilet) or whether you have to put your hand up first – and then feel 12 years old for even asking yourself that question.


Top Non-10 Mikeachim at TBU ’11 Fails

1. NO BUSINESS CARDS. Really dim. Now I know who everyone is, but nobody knows who I am. (Yes – another half-measure! Go me!)

2. FAILING TO PUT FACES TO AVATARS. Multiple fails here. I get chatting to Kash, who clearly has a brilliant, shiny mind and really, truly Knows Stuff (and *Everyone*), and I think “well, another sign I’m out the Cool People loop”. And then he says “Woah, you’re Mikeachim. Fevered Mutterings!” and pumps my hand. Oh god. He knows me, but…okay, this is excruciating.

Ten minutes later, I realise he’s @budgettraveller.

And yes, I’ve known him for ages.

For any blogger conferences you attend, I suggest this: find out who is going that you already know online. I sorta kinda did this in a half-assed (yes, 50%) way a month or so ago. Don’t be me. Find out, and then you’ll have a much clearer idea of who you won’t recognise in person.

3. ONE AND A HALF HOURS OF SLEEP ON SATURDAY NIGHT. (It would have been two and a half, but for that bloody clocks-changing thing). Your social IQ will drop dramatically on anything less than 4 hours of sleep. On 1.5 hours, you will look and sound like an extra from 28 Days Later, or the Jeremy Kyle Show.

4. NOT MEETING EVERYONE. I’m a lurker and a listener at the best of times. But sleep deprivation made me even less likely to say Hi. If I didn’t, my bad. It’s not because you’re not the kind of person I want to hang out with. Know this.

5. NOT TWEETING ANYTHING AT ALL. I’m not beating myself up too much on this one. Travel-bloggers are expert multitasking tweeters. Me, I’m rubbish at it. Plus, I have a new phone and the on-screen keyboard is taking some getting used to. So instead I sat there taking notes, only aware of the associated online party that was going on because @abbytegnelia and @cailinoneil were sat next to me, typing into their smartphones so fast their fingers were triggering sonic booms.

I know TBEX ’10 was just the same from watching various fleet-fingered infoholics dominating the #TBEX hashtag. And good on them for capturing it like that. More selfishly, I decided to use a notebook and pen. (Hey, first I get rich and famous and then I go all selfless and philanthropic. It worked for Bill Gates, it’ll work for me. Either like it or move along).


Top 1 Places In Manchester Where TBU 2011 Was Held

1. the studio. And nicely laid out it was too. I’m not normally a fan of the modern look, neither of garishly-coloured squishy seating. I liked this. (Even though it was modern and squishy).

Top Non-10 Things I Learnt About Travel Blogging

1. It’s Still About Writing Well. And Always Will Be.

(Session 1, Sunday – “Travel Writing For Matadors And Bloggers” – Lola Akinmade)

Those good folk over at Matador call it Ground Level writing, and define it thus.  I call much the same thing Good Writing (which is no help to anyone except myself – and this is why I’m not one of the largest independent travel media companies in the world).

And what are we talking about? It’s…

  • about being in your own writing, as a subjective, flawed, honest narrator…
  • about avoiding sweeping statements that fail to respect reality…
  • a 24/7 refusal to use the word “gem” unless you’re referring to cut rocks or minerals, “exotic” unless it’s actually off-world, “quaint” unless you’re not afraid of a punch in the mouth, and so on…
  • about writing what you learn and experience about places and people – because really, anything else is a lie…
  • about bending all the rules for comic effect or emphasis or for any other good, creative reason, but making it clear that you’re doing it…
  • acknowledging that everything involves narrative. Or rather, should.

Here’s my take on it. (Which Lola said she’d read. Pinch me).

2. Podcasting Is Both Easy & Cheap And Hard & Expensive.

(Session 2, “The Power Of Podcasting“,  Andy White)

  • In terms of hours, it doesn’t take a lot to get a podcast done. This is where people can go wrong. Like any other creative endeavour, it’s something you should craft. Who is it for? Why are you doing it? How do you want your audience to feel? Know all these things before you even turn the microphone on – in fact, before you even buy a microphone (those suckers can be pricey).
  • Good podcasting hardware and software is plentiful, and yes, the good stuff will empty your wallet. But if you’re on the go a lot, all you really need is something like this. (And a dead hamster).
  • In a way, podcasting and good travel writing are the same: they require the reader/listener to fill in the blanks. Bad writing tells you what’s going on without letting you have a say, without making it your story. But good writing is a double-act, because the words stir your imagination up and that’s where you experience the writing, in your mind’s eye. It’s an internal experience. That’s what “lost in a good book” is all about. And podcasting, like all forms of audio, has that potential too. In the absence of video, it forces you to visualise things yourself – and you bond with the material differently (arguably, less passively). There’s the appeal for me, right there.

3. Halfway is a *Great* Place To Meet

(Afternoon session, “Travel Bloggers and PRs, Tourist Boards and Travel Companies“, Dru Bryan of goshpr)

  • Want to work with industry public relations professionals? Then a good start is knowing who the hell you are. Really – who are you? What do you do? What are you known for doing? Who knows you? Why? And so on. the best first step is defining yourself in clear, possibly terrifyingly transparent terms. (You can big yourself up a little, of course. That’s only natural. But you have to be clear, and you can’t lie – because the next step is proving it). This is the bottom line for putting yourself on the map. And if you’re not on the map, nobody can find you.
  • (Personal note: I’m terrible at defining myself. Abominable. So there’s my first challenge. My second being, actually sort this pig’s ear of a blog out. If your name is John O’Nolan, hey, look, I know. I’m on it).
  • Travel bloggers generally don’t know what KPIs are (and frankly, who could blame them?)…but they should learn.
  • I fully appreciate the the details that need to be thrashed out, and respect to those who are doing it. But I don’t want to clock in and clock out of this career. I want to live it. Because it’s not just a job – it’s me. And my brain is permanently running. (Well, to a fashion). That said, I’m inexperienced. Ask me in a few years and see if it still tallies…
  • Niche blogging is valuable. Are you obsessive over something so specialized that people actually avoid you in the street? Keep it up. The internet needs you – and there are people who want to help you get that ubergeeky, superniched message out. Keep that torch lit.

4. Travel Blogging Folk Really, Truly Want To Learn

I just love that. This wasn’t a day surrounded by all-knowing cynical warhorses chomping the bit about how dreadful their profession was. This was a bunch of smart, hungry people wanting to know how to up their game and play a part in the evolution of their craft.

There wasn’t condemnation slung at those who were making lots of money from it (no sniffy “oh yes, he’s completely sold out” talk). Everyone was listening, even when they disagreed with what was being said. Okay, it wasn’t wildly animated and one great running battle between philosophical camps, as is common when creative folk get together, and it felt quietly reflective rather than enthusiastically fiery…

…(possibly due to the number of hangovers being nursed)…

…but even though I only turned up for the Sunday and only saw half the story – it clearly worked.

(Nice one, Mr Gradwell).

Images: thanks to Karen Bryan (1) (2) and (3) and Kristina B.