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Traverse: a triumph of a travel bloggers’ conference

Traverse: a triumph of a travel bloggers’ conference

Steve Keenan

April 21, 2013





Pics: Rebecca Stones, CultContent, RoamingRequired, Jen Lowthrop, Katie Willmore

By Steve Keenan

Well done Paul Dow and Michael Ball for hosting the inaugural Traverse conference for travel bloggers this weekend.

Just five months after first hearing of their plans, the pair put together a well thought out and smartly executed conference in Brighton attended by 150 bloggers, speakers and industry supporters.

It worked in many ways. The one-day conference on Saturday had a choice of 12 workshops (three at any one time), covering SEO, video, photography, pitching, social media, WordPress, blogs MoTs and digital storytelling. Each speaker then spent two hours or more meeting attendees in 10-minute, one-on-one chats, topped off by a Question Time panel.

There were free socials on Friday and Saturday evenings, and a nationalist march on Sunday through the city just in time for the photo walk. They thought of everything.

There was a palpable buzz around The Clarendon Centre venue. And there some nice touches – the Thai food, music in the common areas, drinks during QT ordered on Twitter and a Sunday morning breakfast.

Personally, I had a engaged audience for the Writing workshop, and met a bunch of enthused bloggers tackling diverse issues such as dating on travels, disability, video, marketing photography, mapping and much more. I don’t think I heard a bad word about the format, and the sponsors were equally positive.

Michael and Paul set out to deliver a conference that was helpful to bloggers, rather than just stand-up speeches and little opportunity to talk. And it worked. It was affordable (just £32 all-in for all seminars and socials) and practical, in not having to take time off work.

And it made me think that the format could be repeated every six months, with a new batch of speakers to keep it fresh, with venues around the UK. Clearly, there was a demand for this conference that was met.

The pace of change is so fast in social and digital, that such a format could be sustained. Plus, of course, it’s the opportunity for an almighty party and shedloads of networking.

You can also sense, as Kevin May pointed out, a whiff of a new co-operative movement in the air. Travel blogging is still very fragmented in the UK and there was much talk of professionals subbing blog posts, a spokesman for bloggers and – of course – money-making wheezes.

Other conferences – such as TBU, TBex and our own Social Travel Market at WTM – are bigger, grander affairs that include headline speakers talking about The State of the Union-type speeches, and attempt to cover lots of bases.

There’s room for all but they don’t cater quite so tightly, affordably and conveniently (UK, over a weekend) for bloggers.

The autumn blogger conference schedule is already looking busy. But Traverse stuck to its original concept and it worked. And if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. I look forward to the next, maybe next March, and then again in September, 2014 (date corrected: thanks Sophie!). Glasgow and York, please.

* Read the 101 Holidays report from the conference, written by Simon Willmore. Also, a report from Monica, The Travel Hack.

19 Comments

  1. Michael Hodson
    April 21, 2013  

    Sounds like all came off well. Kudos to everyone involved. Hoping to learn from Traverse and the other blogging conferences out there for the initial Professional Travel Bloggers Association conference next year.

    And looking forward to beers with you soon.

    • Steve Keenan
      April 22, 2013  

      Thanks Michael – it did come off well. And I see plenty of scope for them and the PTBA conference. When might that be? And where?!

  2. Jen
    April 22, 2013  

    Great write up and thanks for all the valuable advice on Saturday. Glad my #winning photo made the cut in your blog 😉

    • Steve Keenan
      April 22, 2013  

      Enjoyed your enthusiasm – and expect great things when the book appears, coasting on the weave of an unstoppable blog. Good luck Jen

  3. Sophie
    April 22, 2013  

    2104, woah I might be getting a bit old for conferences by then 😉

  4. Clare
    April 22, 2013  

    Great workshop on Saturday! The cogs in my head won’t stop turning now! And despite returning home to the North-West exhausted, I’m also more inspired than ever. Thanks! I’m looking forward to the next event already.

    • Steve Keenan
      April 22, 2013  

      Sophie, I hope I am an inspiration to you, at least for still attending conferences at my disgraceful age

    • Steve Keenan
      April 22, 2013  

      Thanks Clare – pleased you found it useful. Will be interesting to see where the cogs stop and what you put in practise in the future!

  5. Gary Bembridge
    April 22, 2013  

    Good review of the event! Thanks for using my Tweet too – which I think sums up how I felt! Learnt a lot. Really well organized

    • Steve Keenan
      April 22, 2013  

      Thanks Gary – I think that was the most re-tweeted of all conference tweets and summed it up beautifully. Well written too – lean, and no flab. Good stuff

  6. Emma Gray
    April 22, 2013  

    I second the call for Glasgow to be one of the next venues!

    • Steve Keenan
      April 22, 2013  

      Ha ha – thought you might approve of that. It was your suggestion, and I heartily agree. Fine city, deserves more exposure

  7. Simon Willmore
    April 22, 2013  

    “The format could be repeated every six months” – I’m not sure I can wait that long!

    Huge congrats to the organisers for a great event. Looking forward to working with you all to turn this “whiff of a new co-operative movement” into a heady aroma!

  8. Arianwen
    April 22, 2013  

    Traverse13 was fantastic. I have so many things on my ‘to do list’ as a result. I’m gutted I won’t be around for the next one.

    • Steve Keenan
      April 22, 2013  

      Ah hah – yes, the 2104 mention has been amended. Now correctly reads 2014 – thanks Arianwen (and Sophie)> So, see you next year!

  9. Michael Ball (@michaeleball)
    April 22, 2013  

    Thanks for the great write up Steve, and the fantastic workshop. We’ll have news in the next days and weeks about the future plans for Traverse, can’t say too much now (although i probably did after a few beers on Saturday), but there will be events soon and a bit further in the future. Very much hope you, and everyone that attended, can carry on being a part of it all.

    • Steve Keenan
      April 22, 2013  

      Hi Michael – I couldn’t for Saturday night so didn;t hear of any slips between cup and lip. But I do look forward to future announcements – glad to be of help

  10. Heather Cowper
    April 22, 2013  

    Agree with it all, but I’m holding out for Bristol next time. At least let’s keep it in the UK – there’s enough homegrown blogging talent

    • Steve Keenan
      April 22, 2013  

      Agreed. Glasgow, York, Bristol, London – sounds good to me!

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