Speaking in the TBEX Garden


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October 4th 2013
Published: October 13th 2013
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Travel blogging in a solitary existence. Writing is a solo endeavour and so is my usual travel style. It is rare to meet any number of travel bloggers in one place for travelling usually involves meeting many local people, a varying number of tourists, and the occasional travel blogger.

However, travel bloggers can and do congregate in numbers. The world’s largest gathering related to travel blogging is held by Travel Blog Exchange (TBEX). I was honoured and excited to be chosen as a speaker of the prestigious TBEX Europe which would attract more than 600 people. The very professional way the speaker invitation process was handled (such as submitting biographies and receiving conference information) gave me confidence about the success of the event.

Being a speaker meant that I attended the Speaker’s Night at the Old Jameson Distillery. Since I abstain from alcohol, it meant that my appreciation of the experience was probably not as full as others, but likely to be more lucid. I found the complex process of making whisky fascinating and it gave me a real appreciation of the former distillery. The food served afterwards in the green-illuminated bar was excellent and it was a fine way to finish an interesting tour.

Our group then headed to the Guinness Storehouse for the Opening Night Party. This was the most spectacular event space I have ever seen. Level upon level of areas dedicated to Irish music, cheese tasting, bars, and copious amounts of food brought at regular intervals – including ice-cream served in wheelbarrows filled with ice. Being a speaker I observed the Guinness Connoisseur Experience, where a Connoisseur explained the fineries of pouring the perfect Guinness pint. The Storehouse was comprised exclusively of TBEX attendees, and everyone I spoke with were also in awe of the venue.

These functions allowed me to meet some of the most esteemed figures in the world of travel blogging, including Johnny Jet, Melvin Böcher, and Gary Arndt. The energy that surrounded both venues was palpable and positive, and it started from the moment we boarded the bus that took us to the distillery. This energy continued the next morning when the foyers and function areas of the conference venue (the Doubletree Hilton in Dublin) were alive with the sounds of travel bloggers finally meeting each other in person after maintaining online friendships for weeks, months and even years.

The opening keynote address was given by Chip Conley who cleverly incorporated Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs into the hospitality industry and blogging. Chip explained three levels of blogging – to entertain (which meets expectations) to move (which stimulates desires) but the most important is to transform (where unrecognised needs are realised). My favourite quote of the entire conference came from Chip when he relayed advice he received from the late Steve Jobs “Be curious” which he related to travel bloggers: "One thing we need more of in this world is cultural curiosity."

There were five speakers programmed for each breakout session: one each for content, commerce, community and two for TBEX business. My intention was to attend every session, but I was occupied with four video interviews (one can be seen on the Irish Independent). Thus, I observed far fewer sessions than originally anticipated.

After a frenetic session in the marketplace where I met providers of travel related products, I retired to my room and absented myself from the evening party to rehearse my speech for the next day. Pacing and rehearsing the same words dozens of times would be a real bore for anyone to witness so isolating myself during such periods is better for
TBEX Marketplace - Dublin, IrelandTBEX Marketplace - Dublin, IrelandTBEX Marketplace - Dublin, Ireland

Where bloggers and travel providers can meet.
all concerned.

I wore my trademark Indiana Jones hat on day one so people could find me (I wear it on my twitter profile photograph) and was supposed to wear my suit for the presentation, but I was dissuaded from doing so by bloggers who told me that I would unrecognisable without my hat, so again I donned my hat and strode to my presentation. The session commenced at midday and my co-presenter was Natalie DiScala with our topic being ”How to Nurture and Grow Your Community”. Combining the knowledgeable and glamorous Natalie with my offer of shamrock shaped chocolates to any who asked questions, we secured a full house. People were sitting on the floor or standing in the back of the room to hear our words.

Natalie spoke first and held the audience’s attention for the full 15 minutes with her wealth of information, and she deserved the appreciative applause she received. Now came my turn, I had requested information from my fellow Travelblog community managers (or as Travelblog terms them, Moderators) and their input was invaluable for crafting the presentation.

I use analogy, alliteration, and assonance to inform and inspire an audience. The first part of my presentation stated that an online community is like a garden. The flowers are the diverse bloggers who need to be encouraged and have the ability to interact and be social with each other. The weeds are the spammers and trolls who need to be removed through constant monitoring by referring to a terms of service, in addition to established members displaying model behaviour and maintaining the integrity of the site. Finally, there are the community managers who are the gardeners, and they need to be supported through instilling respect, providing them with information and allowing them to specialise.

At this point, I commenced my conclusion, the inspiring part of my presentation, and delivered the following:

”Packing your bags and travelling to a country where you don’t understand the language, and are unfamiliar with the culture, is for many people, an idea more foreign than the country itself. Whilst our friends and family may not understand this wanderlust, those in the travel blogging community will. For many of us, the online community is the only support we have. Flowers are delicate. Blogging can be difficult, travel can be difficult, life can be difficult. If you see a
Different ages of whiskey at the Old Jameson Distillery - Dublin, IrelandDifferent ages of whiskey at the Old Jameson Distillery - Dublin, IrelandDifferent ages of whiskey at the Old Jameson Distillery - Dublin, Ireland

From bottom left: 1, 3, 5 years. From top left: 12 and 18 years.
fellow flower wilt, you can reach out your hand to give a virtual touch and comforting word. Flowers never need to feel alone. You never need to feel lonely.”

At this point applause flowed around the room. This was a pleasant surprise for it meant that people understood the importance of this last phrase as it referred to the recent suicide of a travel blogger (not a member of Travelblog). I lowered my head to shield my gracious smile whilst shifting position to continue my conclusion.

”When aspiring travel bloggers join an online community, they are tiny tentative seeds, anxious about their first forum post, first blog or first step on foreign soil. Please encourage and help them to create that confidence to express themselves in writing and to soothe fears as they stride forth into new lands. Travel bloggers need to be nurtured to reach their full potential and when this occurs the wide world will witness small seeds sprout shoots of green that will grow and grow and grow and grow – until they finally bloom.

The response to this presentation was very positive – the applause was sustained, it took an hour to respond to all the tweets about my speech, and TBEX delegates would approach me afterwards with such comments as “I’m a flower!” and “How is your garden?” and these words were even uttered by delegates who never attended my session.

The closing keynote address was by a remarkable couple, Daniel Noll and Audrey Scott. They discussed integrity of travel blogging, and their quote [i["Travel bloggers are interpreters of an experience" shows both the responsibility and respect needed by those who pen their thoughts for the world to see.

With the conference concluded, attendees filled the bar with the undiminished energy that had consumed the conference. The following morning, I met some fellow travel bloggers in the breakfast room to reminisce about our conference experience, but at Sunday breakfast, I was the only TBEX attendee present, so I readjusted to my usual form of travel – that of travelling and eating alone.

TBEX allowed travel bloggers from across this planet to realise the enormous size and vibrancy of the travel blogging community. Though TBEX lasted barely three days, its impact will last for years, for solitary travel bloggers felt that they belonged to a global community. But TBEX’s greatest legacy was to allow brightly coloured flowers of differing hues to bloom brilliantly in a most magnificent, nurturing and inspiring garden.


Thanks to Vanessa Workman for informing me about TBEX and encouraging me to submit a speaker application, and to Sheila Scarborough for her support. Finally, many thanks to TBEX, nobody at TBEX had even seen me speak before, so sincere thanks for putting your trust in me.


Additional photos below
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13th October 2013

Great summary, Shane!
Thanks so much for the insights into your TBEX Dublin experience (and fun photos - yay for ice cream in wheelbarrows!) Glad you enjoyed yourself to the fullest, and I'm not at all surprised that the audience loved your presentation. :)
14th October 2013

Thank you Sheila!
I apologise for not thanking both you (for your support) and for Vanessa Workman (who first told me about TBEX and encouraged me to submit an application). This has now been rectified. I put a lot of work into that presentation, so am really pleased that the audience liked it so much!
14th October 2013

Mary, Mary, quite contrary... :)
It sounds like you thoroughly enjoyed your experience Shane - well done! And I love the idea of the ice cream cart - might do that for our next bbq.
14th October 2013

Ice Cream in Wheelbarrows
I thought it a great idea as well, and you be impressed that I limited myself to only one scoop.
14th October 2013
My speaker ID at TBEX - Dublin, Ireland

"Travel bloggers are interpreters of an experience"
Fantastic presentation Shane...and thanks for remembering to wear your hat...wouldn't be right to have you unrecognisable. By the way...I'm a flower...in the TB garden...not sure what genus or colour...but your idea of presentation of a garden and its undoubted applause at TBEX reminds me of a quote from one of my blogs "It was an idea that I watered and like a desert flower it bloomed and was glorious."
14th October 2013
My speaker ID at TBEX - Dublin, Ireland

It bloomed and it was glorious
Beautifully worded - it encapsulates both Travelblog and TBEX nicely. Thanks for your encouragement during my preparation for this presentation over the past few weeks - it is greatly appreciated.
14th October 2013
My speaker ID at TBEX - Dublin, Ireland

isn't that great?! way to go Shane!
14th October 2013
My speaker ID at TBEX - Dublin, Ireland

The badge
Thanks! When I looked at the badge for the first time and saw TBEX, Travelblog, my name and the word "Speaker" all on the same badge, it was a very satisfying moment.
14th October 2013

What a wonderful experience...
I can feel your high...the good kind induced by meeting fellow travelers who love to share their travels with the rest of the world.
14th October 2013

It was a wonderful experience
The sense of community that touched every part of TBEX was my fondest memory. Great to know that there are others treading the same path as us here on Travelblog.
14th October 2013

Thank you!
I'm a back-row sitter by nature and didn't step out to grab a chocolate but still thoroughly enjoyed your presentation at TBEX. I think it's a wonderful thing when seasoned bloggers and writers acknowledge how hard it can be as a new travel bloggers...even nicer when they hold out a hand and help them along, as you and Natalie did. Well done. And love the hat :)
15th October 2013

Thank you!
Thanks for taking the time to attend my presentation and for reading and commenting on my blog. Yours is the first comment I've received from a TBEX delegate! The sense of community was very strong throughout the entire conference - other speakers referred to it as well. I owe you a chocolate next time we meet, don't think it will be a shamrock-shaped one though!
14th October 2013

Great to have you there.
It was great to have you as part of the speaker team, Shane. And a wonderful chance to meet. Hope to see you again soon.
15th October 2013

It was great to be there!
When you informed me that I would be speaking at TBEX, it was an incredibly exciting moment. Many heartfelt thanks to you Mary Jo for taking a chance and choosing me to speak at this prestigious event. Hope to see you soon too, I'm sure our paths will cross at some stage in the future.
14th October 2013

Lovely words Camel
You have a beautiful way with words and we are all so proud of you :)
15th October 2013

Working with words
Thanks so much for your kind comment - you always provide me with such warm encouragement. After public speaking for more than 20 years, I've learnt that writing for the ear (a speech) is very different from writing for the eye (a blog or article). You can see the differences in writing style if you compare them. Thankfully, I love the challenge of crafting both styles.
14th October 2013

Nice blog
A good read Shane. It would be great to meet all those travel bloggers in the one room. I came across a blogging legend here in Reykjavik after we connected on Twitter, and coincidentally we are staying at the same place.
15th October 2013

Meeting fellow travel bloggers
It is exciting when you finally get to meet travel bloggers you have been reading or following for years. Thus, I look forward to the day that we meet in person!
15th October 2013

Inspirational!
Sounds like a great speech... think you've found a new vocation! I too remember the moment of trepidation, all those years ago, before hitting the Publish button on my very first blog, wondering how it would be received. The encouragement in comments and messages from other bloggers over the years (including from your good self!) have been a big part of what's kept me blathering on for so long. It's up to others to judge whether or not that's a good thing, I suppose, but good on yer for standing up and giving the Travelblog site a voice!
15th October 2013

Thank you!
Thanks for taking the time to read and comment on my blog. I've been public speaking (23 years) for triple the time I've been blogging on this site (almost 8 years) so I'm really a public speaker turned travel blogger. It is a n honour and privilege to represent Travelblog.org at these conferences, but most important is to inspire and encourage other bloggers to find their voice.
15th October 2013

A most uplifting message
Well Done, your speech held such a brilliant message and one that I have used in the classroom. Love the Maslow approach one of my best loved psychologist's, travel is a particular area where looking after our basic needs is really important.
15th October 2013

The message
Thanks for the lovely comment. I too was very impressed with Chris' use of Maslow because I like both his Hierarchy of Needs and especially his thoughts on self-actualising individuals.
20th October 2013

Thank you
Shane, thanks for ending your talk on such a heartwarming note :)
20th October 2013

Thanks to you too!
Thank you for attending my presentation at TBEX - great to have you there! You are not the first person to mention the warmth of the presentation and it is very satisfying to hear that audience members not only heard but felt the message I wished to convey in the conclusion of the speech.
25th October 2013

envious me
Congratulations. How does one find out about these conferences?
25th October 2013

Conference Information
Information on these events comes to me from other people. It was Vanessa, an ex-pat American based in Langkawi, Malaysia who I met at a conference in Malaysia (MITBCA) earlier this year who told me about TBEX. I met a chap called Melvin at TBEX who told me about the enormous World Travel Market (WTM) in London in 2 weeks - it hosts 5000 exhibitors! I'll be attending that as media due to my blogging. I'll probably find out about the next conference or exhibition at WTM - and so the cycle continues.
10th December 2013

We are very proud of your new work
It is exciting to watch your years of public speaking become intertwined with your love of travel and blogging. You are a professional setting the example for others...blazing the trail. I do hope you will be invited to another event soon. The hat has become your signature and you should continue to wear it proudly. So glad you've made travel blog a part of your world and home. We hope to meet you some day soon.
17th December 2013

Bringing it all together
Thanks for your kind comment. I too am amazed at how my love for both public speaking and travel have combined. That hat has become my signature though it was never intended to be - I just like wearing it!

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