My First Travel Expo - A Wandering Scribbler
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My First Travel Expo

My First Travel Expo

TAexpo.watermarkThe whole conference/expo/fair thing is still really new to me.  I thought conferences were what old professional went to when their boss wants them to learn new tricks.  And I think I’m partially right.  Though I don’t know any old professionals to back me up.  But the conference/expo scene is pretty big in the writing/travel/blogger community.  And, especially if I want to be known, I think I have to go to these.  Correct me if I’m wrong! Because, some of them, I think I’d rather skip.

I don’t think all are bad, like I’m going to the WIT Summit in a few weeks and I’m pretty positive it’s not going to feature any of the annoying things I’m going to list, but beyond just being shy, hating large crowds and lines, the awkward encounters that are everywhere, I’d rather show up to a select few that actually pertain to me.

But I’m getting ahead of myself.

So I’ve been to a conference before.  I went to AWP 2013 in Boston.  And for anyone who doesn’t know AWP it’s the Association for Writers and Writing Programs.  So basically it has an academic background, but it’s also for people wanting to get published and learn about writing.  And I believe this is one of the biggest and best writing conferences in the U.S. and I think it deserves to be.  From what I saw, they get some pretty big name writers there, they have tons and tons and tons of panels and lectures, and they are almost always full.  And while I learned some at this conference, I’m ashamed to say I didn’t learn a lot.  Most of it was just getting tips and advice on better writing, which everyone can use, but as far as real, solid help with getting published or just getting on the track to be published, there were some things I would have liked to talk about.  Maybe I just didn’t go to the right lectures.

The second conference I went to was just recently.  I went to the Adventure Travel Expo in DC.  This was my first travel-based one and I really didn’t know what to expect.  I knew it would be less formal than AWP, obviously based on travel, and would be more “commercial” than even the biggest and best writing conference could be (writers can be nerdy). But what I wasn’t ready for was just how  commercial it was.  And that’s completely because I didn’t have any expectations.  I liked that there were booths for everywhere.  It was like walking through a mini-world where you could pop over to China to look at pictures of the Great Wall, and then go look at prices for a Caribbean Cruise.  And while I know this is big for plenty of tourism boards, getting the world out about their country, showing deals, and just networking.  I couldn’t help but feel it was all very phony.  I was feeling judge that day.  But just like Disney World, I’m specifically thinking Epcot, it can be fun to “see” the countries and learn information about them, but I also look around at the people, carrying ugly bags filled with papers and pens and koozies, and stickers, all because they were free.  The organized chaos of it all gets under my skin.

And while I’m not really against expos or fairs like that, because it probably gets a lot of people to travel, or to go where they wouldn’t before, conferences in general bug me for a few reasons:

  • Asking stupid questions.  Now, this is really judgy, but I really don’t care.  Sometimes people need to learn how to ask a question.  And before you think I’m being condescending, I’ll admit I ask stupid questions all the time.  But the thing is, I didn’t ask it on a microphone in front of hundreds of people.  My advice is that if you’re going to get up the courage to stand up, speak to the presenter in front of a huge crowd, at least know something about what you’re asking.  Take a couple minutes, look online, and if the answer isn’t good enough, then ask.  Also, don’t ask a travel writer, who’s pretty famous, by the way, why your medical insurance won’t work with foreign ones.  She doesn’t know you, or your policy.  How could she help you other than to say you’re with the wrong insurance company? (for the record, I don’t think there’s ever a “stupid” question, only questions that really should have been thought about before being asked.)
  • Lines. I hate lines of all kinds.  They make me anxious and I just think they shouldn’t exist.  The people in line are usually anxious to get to whatever they’re lining up for and that anxiety is contagious.  As an anxious person already, this isn’t great for me.  And while I really would like to see whatever famous person is signing books and taking photos, it’s torture, and I wonder if it’s even worth it.
  • Small talk. I cannot small talk to save my life. I don’t know what questions to ask, how to respond or how to keep the conversation light.  I joke that I’m the most awkward person in the world but it might actually be true.  I’m working on it, I promise, but I just hate it.

Because I haven’t been to many conferences I’m sure that they’re not all bad.  And I even look forward to going to (many) more conferences.  I’ll just try to avoid the things that I find super annoying and try to get the most out of it, the reason I went anyway.

Do you go to conferences a lot?  What do you think about them?  Tell me in the comments below.

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