3 Ways (You Probably Haven’t Thought of) to Land Your Next Gig at a Conference
Whatever the business occasion, I am all about looking at outside of the box ways to rock it.
- Travel media conference? Get an AirBnB and host a dinner party the day after the conference wraps where people can keep talking to their favorite new people—or finally meet the ones they didn’t get a chance to talk to.
- Trade show rife with tour companies hawking their wares to travel agents? Scout their storytelling, website and other marketing channels and pitch them on how they can improve it to close more deals by next year’s conference even for a fraction of the cost of being an exhibitor.
- Press trip? Chat with, sincerely thank, get business cards from and follow up with the owners of each business exhibited on the trip rather than just snapping photos, eating their food and trusting (or not caring if?) the CVB takes care of those things.
But one of the best opportunities to up your income—quickly—is to close some deals at your next conference. You’re already spending money to be there. Rather than just hitting some higher-level, long-term networking goal (especially if they involve your peers), let’s up the ROI on that investment.
Mine the Editorial Opportunities Hiding Among Other Writers
It never fails to astonish me how many writers run websites—either their own blogs or companies or sites they edit for companies—that are desperately in need of good writers.
In fact, we seriously get together and compare stories about various failed hires at conferences like TBEX (Travel Blog EXchange) and the Women in Travel Summit or even local networking events. We sit there, in a large ballroom or event space filled with aspiring writers, lamenting how we need them. It seems bonkers right?
The reality is that, as we’ve discussed before, a lot of people who are marketing themselves as travel writers aren’t delivering the goods. A lot of bloggers have stopped accepting guest posts—paid or otherwise—on their sites because they don’t have time to separate the wheat from the chaff.
But one of the best ways to cut through all the barriers that people put up to weed out the bad apples is to get to know a website owner (or editor) in person and show them that you are not just a decent human being, but a fantastic and interesting person that would make a valuable contribution to their site.
When you chat up other conference attendees and they tell you about sites that they write for, ask—politely, not desperately—more questions about the type of writers that they work with. Often, without saying, “hey, does the site need any new writers?” you’ll be told that they’re looking to fill a particular subject matter or that they’re always in need of good writers, and the rate is $XX, and here’s who to pitch and what they’re looking for.
Make a good connection first with people, and you’ll be surprised how much work you can come up with in one or two parties with this one technique.
Network with (and Pitch) the Non-Sponsor Industry Attendees
Whether you’re at a travel media conference like TBEX, a trade show like London’s World Travel Market or ITB Berlin, or a straight industry show like Meeting Professionals International’s World Education Congress or Luxury Travel Advisor’s Travel Industry Exchange, there are non-writer folks there representing businesses. And whether they’re there explicitly on the prowl for it or not, many of them need writing help.
While all of the companies sponsoring or exhibiting at the conference are getting deluged with all sorts of attention, these folks didn’t pay to play, so they’re ripe for conversation.
At an event like TBEX or the New York Times Travel Show with pre- or post-event trips for attendees, you can often get a lot of time to network with these individuals and figure out what their needs are. But you can also rock meal times and time standing at the bar waiting for a drink at a reception or waiting to talk to a speaker after a session.
Learn what the industry name tags look like—they’re typically color coded differently—and keep you eye out for this type of attendee. When you get the opportunity to talk to one, go ahead and start with the typical “what do you do?” but rather than follow it by explaining what you do, instead ask what the company’s biggest hurdle in their marketing is, or if their marketing is having the return they’d like. Let them tell you more, then offer some quick suggestions, along with you card and explain that you’re a travel writer who also does corporate travel content and that’d you’ll think about it some more and follow up with some other ideas—read: a proposal for how you can work together.
Write (and Sell) an E-Book Based on Some of the Sessions
If you already have a bit of an audience of your own, whether on a social media network or a full blog, you can very easily get into the business of selling simple digital products this way. Take a topic that you are already complimented on, whether your photography skills, vivid descriptions evoking sense of place, or creating community or engagement on social, and check out two or three sessions related to your topic to get quotes from experts and more pro tips.
If you’re not handy with design (honestly, you can do wonders with PowerPoint or free online tools; don’t feel like you need to get an Adobe subscription), you can write the text and pop it on Fivrr.com or 99designs.com and get it laid out.
But what if you are not “big” on social or already the custodian of a relatively well-subscribed blog? No problem.
Go to a company (it’s easiest with a client you already have) and pitch them a more white-paper-like e-book. For example—though this is not a true story, it easily could have been if I had space in my schedule—when I used to write for a blog about traveling with points and miles and attended points and miles travel conferences, I could easily have pieced together pro tips from the high-level sessions with quotes from prominent speakers into advanced resource books like “The Bucket List of Life-Changing Free Flights All Around the World and How to Get on Them.”