Another year, and another Traverse travel blogging conference has come and gone. It all started in Brighton in 2013 with #Traverse13, then Newcastle in 2014, Kingston in 2015 and this year in Cardiff for #Traverse16.
I’ve been to a few blogging conferences in my time, and I can honestly say that the Traverse events are my favourite. As Traverse is an event hosted by bloggers for bloggers, the team really understands what the industry needs. The speakers are always inspiring and well-considered, the sponsors are brilliant hosts and there’s always a great crowd of fellow bloggers to meet.
Plus there’s booze. Lots and lots of free booze.
So, if you’re a newbie blogger, or just interested to see what we all get up to in these types of events, here’s what you need to know about Traverse.
1. It’s UK based
Unlike other conferences such as TBEX (worldwide), or ITB (Germany), Traverse is a UK based travel blogging conference for primarily UK based travel bloggers. This doesn’t mean you can’t attend if you’re not from the UK – far from it! There are lots of bloggers who come all the way from the USA or from other parts of Europe to learn and network.
The conference is held at a different UK city each year, allowing bloggers to explore a new city whilst making new connections and learning. This year it was hosted at Cardiff City Stadium in the Welsh city of Cardiff. Tidy.
2. It’s at the weekend
We all know that most blogs don’t make a lot of money, at least in the beginning. So most of us blog in our spare time and rely on our day jobs to bring in the bacon.
Traverse takes place over the weekend, with the opening party happening on a Friday night, the main conference on the Saturday and then the famous Sunday experiences to round off the weekend. This leaves full-time workers free to maximise their weekend time and arrive fresh and invigorated back to work on Monday (well, that’s the plan, anyway!).
3. There are speakers for every level and interest
There were no less than 17 workshops and mini sessions to choose from at Traverse 16, as well as the opportunity to book 10 minute one-on-one ‘pro bar’ slots with the speakers to pick their brains with any specific questions.
This year the calibre of speakers was truly brilliant, and over the years I’ve seen the range of topics discussed broaden and mature. Depending on your interests and blogging niche, you could attend a session on SEO, affiliate marketing, YouTube, taking your blog full time, or any number of inspiring topics.
They also grade their talks by experience level (beginner, intermediate and advanced) so you know you’re attending the session that fits your skillset.
4. It’s for everyone
Whether you’re a newbie travel blogger or a seasoned veteran, Traverse not only caters for you in terms of learning, but is genuinely welcoming to all. This year I caught up with old friends from 3 years ago, as well as met some new faces who I’m sure will become firm friends in future. They really are a friendly bunch!
5. It’s amazing value
The price is different every year but rarely goes above about £70 for a ticket for the full weekend. I got mine on an early bird discount for about £45, so it pays to be on the ball when they release the tickets!
The price includes food and drink at the welcome party, entrance to the conference on the Saturday (usually with a lovely welcome pack from the host sponsor), the closing party on the Saturday with a few drinks, and the Sunday experiences. This year they also threw in coach travel from the city centre to the venue. Bonus!
I know from chatting to the Traverse team that the price of your ticket doesn’t even come close to covering the real ‘per head’ cost, and the weekend is made possible by the generous sponsors. This year’s headline sponsors were Expedia, Cathay Pacific, New York State, Skyscanner, Costa Brava, icelolly and Surprise Trips.
6. The sponsors are relevant and want to meet bloggers
Outside of the workshops, there’s the opportunity to network with a range of high calibre brands that are all open to working with bloggers.
Most brands are either there to promote one of their services (like an affiliate scheme), to meet bloggers with the hope of working with them in future or to give away a prize, like a holiday or a place on a press trip. It’s worth stopping by each stand on your lunch break to see what they are looking for and to see if you’re right for their project.
Make sure you bring plenty of business cards and perhaps a printed media kit if you’re planning to pitch to one brand in particular.
7. There are some pretty cool prizes
This year I actually won one of the best prizes being given away at the whole conference – a seat on a Cathay Pacific flight to Yangon, Myanmar!
How did I do it? Well, a couple of weeks before the conference, Traverse sent out a series of emails detailing new speakers and brands being added to the line up. They also put together a competitions page on their website which they added to as new competitions were announced.
Most bloggers will tell you to ‘enter everything’, but I pored through the competitions and picked the one that I wanted most, and focused all of my attention on that.
The brief for the Cathay Pacific competition was to tweet the reason you’d like to visit Myanmar and use the hashtag #CathayToYangon to enter.
I noticed most people were only using their 140 character limit so I decided to make a bit more of an effort and upload a YouTube video to explain why I wanted to go.
Moral of the story? It’s always worth putting in the extra effort if you really want something. The brand will see you’ve gone above and beyond and your chances of winning will be so much higher.
8. The Sunday experiences are a highlight
One of the best things about attending Traverse is the Sunday experiences, which allow you to explore the host city in more detail (hangover or no hangover!). There are always loads to choose from and you can pick what you like the sound of and what you think would suit your audience best.
This year in Cardiff, there were 22 experiences to choose from, courtesy of Visit Wales. Bloggers were treated to a high tea, an adventure day out at Cardiff Sports Village, a trip around the famous Cardiff Castle, to the beautiful Gower Peninsular and loads more.
This year I had to leave Cardiff at 6am to drive back to Horsham for my niece’s christening (… painful), so I didn’t get to do anything on the Sunday, but from what I’ve read, a great time was had by all!
9. What other bloggers say
I always love to read what others think of an event, because although I know that I had a brilliant time, seeing it written down from other bloggers makes me relive it all over again. Here’s what some of the other bloggers who attended had to say.
10. Key learnings from Traverse 16
I’ve summarised the notes from the sessions I attended here: Understanding your value, How to take your blog full time, How to launch an ebook and Affiliate marketing pro bar.
Nienke from The Travel Tester also summarised her notes here: Better writing, affiliate marketing, audience profiling and launching digital products.
Some of the other speakers have put their slides online:
Rodica Maria Lazar – Audience Profiling for Grown Ups
So until next year, Traverse. I’m looking forward to it already! Let me know if you have any questions on the Traverse conferences. I’d be happy to answer them.