When it comes to making contacts in the blogging world, face to face is always best- it gives you the greatest chance of leaving an impression (whether it’s a good one or bad one is really up to you). This is why blogging-specific conferences can be really important to attend if you’re looking to make contacts and grow your blog as a business. Now, most normal bloggers start off with something like TBEX or Traverse. Me, I went for a TravMedia IMM (international media marketplace), which isn’t traditionally a place for bloggers- it was started as an event for media professionals to connect with travel and tourism brands. However, as unconventional forms of media- namely, social- have grown in importance on a global scale, more exhibitors are open to speaking to those of us involved in these forms of media.
Considering attending a TravMedia IMM? Here’s what you, as a blogger, need to know:
What exactly is IMM?
IMM is a networking event that is basically speed dating for travel industry professionals. The appointments last 15 minutes one-on-one between an exhibitor (travel brand or tourism board) and a media professional (journalist, travel writer, blogger), so there’s the potential to make many contacts in a short period of time.
If you attend an IMM, you should approach it with the mindset of a journalist; the exhibitors are there to find people to write about their destination, so it’s not an event for dedicated Instagrammers nor is it for commercial conversations. It’s simply a way to get your name out there and make some connections within the industry.
Sign up as early as you can, but don’t worry if you don’t fill your schedule.
I found out about IMM in London maybe two weeks before the event, and took ages to decide if it would be worth it to go. By the time I knew I was going for sure and had been accepted by TravMedia (I wasn’t previously registered), there were only two days left before the meeting planner closed. I sent off a full day’s appointments full of requests and managed to secure 10, which I felt was great (and fair) given how late I was. It was enough to make me feel like buying a plane ticket to attend the IMM in London would be worth it.
While I was a bit concerned I would spend a lot of time sitting around, I found that that wasn’t the case at all- I could take advantage of meeting some exhibitors I hadn’t requested meetings with, and was grateful for the moments I could take a breather, get some water, and talk to the other bloggers who were attending. While you may make more contacts with a full schedule, I appreciated having the downtime to keep my energy levels up for each meeting.
Plan out your objectives for who you want to meet.
My goal was to make contacts within France specifically and Europe as a whole. As a Paris-based blogger, not only did this make sense for my blog and my audience, but I had an advantage in already knowing how working with me would benefit them, as well as making myself memorable as a Francophone (and giving them a break from speaking English!). While I did branch out to some other companies and locations that interested me, which is important to do just in the interest of making contacts, I knew that this would be the best target for the upcoming period to expand my France content.
Make sure you go into meetings able to articulate what you can offer the brand, rather than what they can do for you, especially given that you’d be publishing content about them on your own platform and not that of a larger, more traditional publication. Obviously sponsored travel is great, but every partnership is an exchange, and people will want to work with you again (and recommend you to others) if you know how to bring them value.
Do your research ahead of time. If your audience is mainly based in the UK and a brand is launching a strategy targeting the UK market, then they may be interested in you writing about their destination on your platform. If your destinations are more palm trees than skylines, then a resort or island tourism board will see you as more suitable than someone who only posts city content. Check out their Linkedin and recent press releases to have an idea of what the brand is looking for- and if you don’t know when you sit down in front of them, ask! The worst thing that could happen is that you’re not the right fit for them at the moment. In 15 minutes, you’ll be on to the next exhibitor.
Take advantage of exhibitors’ free times.
There are always some last-minute cancellations among the media due to illness, transportation, emergencies, etc. so exhibitors will almost always have more free time than initially planned. Don’t be afraid to go talk to someone you didn’t already have an appointment with, especially if you have an idea to pitch of how you could work together.
The TravMedia IMM organizers are awesome in this way- they want everyone to get as much out of the conference as possible, so they were walking around in the communal area with laptops and printed lists of who was available at which times. One sat down with me and a few other bloggers at a table, and I noted down available times for exhibitors who either hadn’t had time to meet me or with whom I hadn’t scheduled an appointment. I ended up meeting with 4 of them, and while it remains to be seen how productive those meetings were, I wouldn’t have met with them at all without asking the organizers if they had any free time.
After speaking with an airline and learning more about the cities they serve, I decided to go chat with the representative from the tourism board of a city I’d be interested in visiting- since people tend to be interested when I post city content, I thought there was no harm in going over to chat. We ended up having one of my favorite conversations of the whole IMM, and left me even more sure that I would love to work with her one day. Put yourself out there and see what happens!
Bring business cards and copies of your media kit!
These items are KEY to making sure you make a lasting impression. Having a sparkling personality is all well and good, but in the end, brands speak in currency, so they need to know exactly what you’re bringing to the table. I printed out 20 full color copies of my media kit- one for each of my 10 scheduled meetings and 10 extras for whoever else I decided to meet. More than one exhibitor thanked me for having done that so they had my stats laid right out in front of them, and it made our time together more productive.
Every exhibitor will give you a business card, so make sure you have ones to give back- and if you can, try to make them stand out. I highly recommend using MOO– I’ve purchased from them before and loved the cards, and they were kind enough to send me a new order of business cards with express shipping so I would have them ready for IMM. I chose the square format with 10 of my favorite photos on the backs, and at each meeting spread a selection of them on the table for the representative to choose their favorite photo. Given that most people use rectangular cards, this is creative, still fits in their wallet or card case, and allows you to showcase another aspect of your blog.
Assume people are interested in you, and don’t let anyone discourage you.
While IMM isn’t an event targeted at bloggers, more and more exhibitors are open to the idea of working with bloggers. so go into each meeting with the assumption that the person on the other side of the table is interested in having you write about their destination on your blog. Chances are, if you present yourself well and project an air of confidence, there will be a silver lining even if they are only looking for opportunities to host journalists or traditional media or your numbers are too low for them right now.
One tourism board I really want to work with didn’t have anybody at their stand, so I walked over and introduced myself. The woman at the table looked quite taken aback at first and then disinterested when I handed her my media kit. Her colleague came back over, glanced at it and told me not unkindly that they would pass my info on to their American counterparts, but that they normally look for stats way higher than mine were when working with bloggers.
Could I have let this upset me? Sure, but I didn’t want to leave a sour taste in their mouths. So I told her with a big smile that I would really appreciate her passing my name along and would love the chance to work with them when my blog was bigger, cracked a couple of jokes and told them how much I loved their destination. They both smiled at me before I left, so hopefully they will pass on my contact to the appropriate people (and I do plan to follow up on this).
Brands are there to meet their own goals and objectives, and it’s entirely possible your platform just might not fit into them- for now. But if you’re gracious about it (and they’re not rude to you), then it could lead to opportunities in the future. Never burn a bridge before it’s even built! Attitude is really everything- and that goes for both parties.
Remember those business cards? Put them to good use and send a follow-up email in the days following the IMM. Thank them for meeting with you and reiterate how much you’d love the opportunity to work together. Try to reference something in the conversation you had if possible; if you’re not good at remembering things like that, take notes during your meetings (this was a tip given to me by another blogger who said it was her biggest regret from her last IMM). Mastering the art of the follow-up will land you a lot more opportunities than hoping they’ll contact you.
Have you been a TravMedia IMM, as a blogger or otherwise? Anything to add? Sound off in the comments!