TBEX Stockholm: Highlights from TBEX Europe 2016

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Stockholm, Sweden
Sunset in Stockholm, Sweden

Editor’s Note: For TBEX Stockholm, TBS hired Laura Celine Haughey as our ambassador on the ground. LC attended sessions, enjoyed parties, and met several fellow TBS members while in Stockholm. Here are some of her highlights and lessons learned from the 2016 TBEX Europe event.

On hearing that TBEX Europe would be held in Stockholm this year, any reason I had against buying a ticket vanished. The conference was set on the Stockholm Waterfront overlooking the Riddarfjärden – one of the many bays and canals found within the Stockholm Archipelago. There’s no question that the Swedish capital is a lovely city. It’s pretty impossible to wander the streets of Gamla Stan or people watch in Södermalm, and not leave feeling inspired.

There were two key points that popped up again and again in various TBEX sessions.

The first was the importance of having an email list. There was also constant speculation on not if, but when, video would supersede written content in the online world.

Itching to learn more? Let’s jump in…

Opening Keynote, with Ian Cleary

TBEX Stockholm kicked off with social media expert Ian Cleary addressing the crowd. Ian spoke of the importance of community in the online world. He noted that there were two ways bloggers can establish a community around their brand. Yes, you have to produce great content – but you also need your audience to trust and like you.

He encouraged conference attendees to be strategic with their content creation and promotion. Don’t discount keeping old posts evergreen by continuing to promote them. Too, keep in mind that different content benefits from particular types of social media promotion. It pays to think long and hard about how best to promote your work.


Ultimately, his advice was simple. In the social media world, Ian believes that you have the most success through knowing your niche, what you stand for and who you are.

“In the social media world, you have to be you.”

Lessons from TBEX Sessions

TBEX for First Timers, with Kerwin McKenzie

This was my first TBEX, so I thought it fitting to attend Kerwin McKenzie’s session on tackling the conference as a newbie.

As it turned out, this was a good decision. Kerwin had many tips up his sleeve. He encouraged the group to always introduce themselves to the person sitting next to them – you never know who you’re going to meet!


Attending a conference by yourself can seem incredibly daunting. Yet everyone at this particular session was in the same boat. There by themselves, looking for someone who they could talk shop with over a piece of cake and a cup of coffee at the end of the day.

It was a good setting for networking with fellow bloggers – a warm up for meeting and greeting with sponsors and speed dating over the course of the weekend.

“Remember – you’re constantly being interviewed,” he cautioned us, before calling the session to a close.

Matt Kepnes at TBEX Stockholm
Matt Kepnes of NomadicMatt.com

How to Improve Your Newsletter Marketing, with Matt Kepnes

Having been advised on the importance of email marketing in the opening keynote, Matt Kepnes’s breakout session was stuffed to capacity.

Matt kicked things off by telling the group that people take more action through newsletters than via social media. He said he tried to include a question within his newsletters, to keep a conversation going.

Matt cited programs such as Convertkit, Infusionsoft, and Activecampaign as being the best for complex marketing, particularly for bloggers wishing to segment their audience.

He introduced the concept of the down-sell. If you’re trying to sell a course and not getting any traction with your audience, try suggest an inexpensive course at the end of your email list.

The down-sell captures people on both ends. Some people won’t pay $300 USD for a blogging course, but they’ll shell out $99 USD for an inexpensive guide. This effective sales funnel grabs people on both ends.

“Your audience has needs. You want to give them content that meets their needs.”

Matt noted that good selling is just storytelling. Don’t make it all about you. Rather, talk about your experiences and how they can benefit your audience and improve their lives.


A member of the group asked Matt when was a good time to start sending out newsletter emails. He replied that it is best to start with your first sign up. After all, no one but you knows your actual number of subscribers!

Matt wrapped up his session with three key points. He encouraged audience members to network outside of travel, to not fall into the habit of continually accepting sponsored content. And to read books, especially marketing and business books.

“Read more, please read more.”

Anton Diaz presenting at TBEX Stockholm
Anton Diaz

How to Build a Thriving and Real Community around your Blog & Brand, with Anton Diaz

In his session, Anton Diaz carried on from what Ian had touched upon in the opening keynote, stating that the common denominator among top influencers was that they all have a community.

So, how do we go about building that community? Anton had three main pieces of advice.

He pointed out that it’s important to know the life stage of your audience. Are you writing for Millennials or (here’s a term I’m hoping catches on) “Oldlennials” – members of Generation X?

Why is it important to know? Each group has a preference for how they want information delivered to them. Oldlennials like content that is direct and straight to the point, with photo essays being seen as favorable. On the contrary, Millennials opt for facts delivered quickly and so are fans of video.

“If you’re running a blog, data about your audience is very important.”

Anton advised the group to regularly check their analytics, so they knew what type of content was performing well. He also recommended doing regular audience surveys – how else to know what your audience like, than asking them yourself?


Anton believes that to build a community, you need to know what your core values are as a blogger – and stick to them.

He also believes that all content will be delivered via video one day, and most bloggers will be doing themselves a favor by jumping on this bandwagon as early as possible.

Anton’s action steps for the group were as following:

“What is your video strategy? What social media channels matter most to your audience? Are you relevant? …Why?”

Editorial Calendars: The Backbone of Your Content Machine, with Louise Bastock

Lonely Planet’s Louise Bastock firmly believes that an editorial calendar is more than a way to tell you what to publish when. This tool keeps bloggers organized, provides inspiration and helps with social media strategy.

She advised the group to start simply – to pick a particular tool and schedule in one month as a test drive. She recommended the following programs:

  • Google Calendars
  • Spreadsheets (using Excel, or Google Sheets)
  • Trello
  • CoSchedule
  • WordPress Editorial Calendar

What should you put on your calendar? Aside from scheduling your blog posts, Louise recommended plugging in booked travel dates (whether it be for work, or a break!), networking events, eBook launches, and festivals.

She noted you could link your calendar with your Analytics. For example, if you were doing a regular series at the end of the month, you could check if your blog traffic peaked around then too.

Louise summed up by stating that bigger companies work months in advance. Strategic thinking makes you look pro. It’s a good idea to approach a business with an idea of what your content will be over the span of several months. You’ll not only match them on a professional level, but you’ll provide them with more opportunities to work with you.


Building a Community on YouTube, with Michael Collins and Leslie Graham

To all you YouTuber’s out there – how do you promote your videos? Do you upload them to YouTube, then embed the link in your blog post? Do you Tweet the URL, or advertise via Facebook?

Well, Michael Collins from Travel Media Europe believes that you’re missing out on some substantial opportunities to increase your traffic, by not making the most out of promotion on YouTube.

“Do not dump and run.” – Michael Collins

Video now accounts for 69% of all consumer-based Internet traffic. It’s true that in the last year, there’s been a push to native video via Snapchat, Facebook Live, Periscope and so on. However, consider this.

You upload a video to Facebook Live or stream a video on Periscope. Yes, it may get views and help in promoting written content. Unlike these two options, YouTube is eternal. With a few key steps, you can assure that any content you upload to YouTube will be long-lasting, driving traffic to your site forever more.

“If you play the social game on YouTube, YouTube will reward you.” – Michael Collins

Michael stated that the page setup in YouTube affects SEO. This makes sense – YouTube is owned by Google, making it the second biggest search engine in the world.


Here was Michael’s advice:

  • Fill in your “About” section.
  • Put your keywords EVERYWHERE. In the title, the description, the name of the video before you upload it, the transcript if there is one. You can’t change your SEO once it’s uploaded, so you need to get it right from the beginning.
  • Put your videos in a playlist. This way, you control what your audience is watching and keep them on your page, longer.
  • List everyone in the video. When people Google them, your video will then come up.
  • For those wanting to get in the practice of making travel related videos, he noted that packing and advice videos tend to perform best.
Larissa Milne
Larissa Milne

Clearing out Blogging Clutter, with Larissa Milne

TBS member Larissa Milne had got to a point where she found herself completely overwhelmed by work.

She was co-managing her blog “Changes in Longitude”, writing a weekly column for the Philadelphia Inquirer, AND penning her first book.

As bloggers, we can end up juggling endless tasks. Larissa recommended looking at what you’re doing and determining whether it was having an effect on your brand overall. Is it a time suck? Is it making you happy? If not, it might be worth out-sourcing or even eliminating the task altogether.

Social media is one aspect of blogging that many can end up spending too much time on. There’s a lot of pressure to be across it all.

Instead, Larissa recommends looking at what social media serves you and your audience and eliminating those that don’t.

Larissa spoke passionately of goal setting. She encouraged the group to be specific. Do you want to grow your blog traffic? Then pick exactly how much you want to increase it and by when. You can then start working specifically towards that.

“If you don’t put some line in the sand of what you want to achieve, then you’ll never know if you’ve accomplished it or not.”

Larissa summed up by noting that you don’t have to be across every single social media platform. You don’t need to have multiple blogs. If a particular thing isn’t working for you, then that’s fine. Forget about it and concentrate on those aspects of blogging that do.

TBEX Stockholm party
TBEX Stockholm party

Fun at the TBEX Parties

If there’s any reason to attend TBEX, it’s for the parties!

TBEX Stockholm kicked off at the newly opened Haymarket by Scandic. Once a department store, the venue is now a hotel. Famed Swedish Hollywood star Greta Garbo once worked the counter as a sales clerk.

More than half of the conference goers embraced the theme of “roaring twenties” and mingled while enjoying the various hors d’oeuvres on offer.

The second night was a two-tiered affair. The festivities kicked off at the Vasa Museum. TBEX attendees sipped on champagne and nibbled upon smoked reindeer while taking in the sheer enormity of the famed Swedish warship.

From there, the party moved onto the ABBA Museum – a place that is as informative as it is interactive. TBEX guests had a great time walking through the museum, dancing steps with ABBA themselves or bellowing their lungs out to Dancing Queen.

Lola Akinmade's keynote
Lola Akinmade’s keynote


Closing Keynote, with Lola Akinmade Åkerström

Award-winning travel writer and photographer Lola Akinmade Åkerström is no stranger to transitions. Born in Nigeria, Lola relocated to Sweden ten years ago, where she had to learn an entirely new language and resettle herself in a foreign place.

She noted that those who travel are no strangers to transitions. We flit around the globe, moving from one location to another, all while spending chunks of time in the landscape of the ever-changing online world.

TBEX Stockholm came full circle, with Lola hammering home the point that life is too short to be someone else. Whether that be within the social media world. On your blog. Or even in your day to day life.

In her closing comments, she encouraged conference members not to fight against transitions, but to embrace them.


TBEX International 2017

With Stockholm all wrapped up, it was announced that the first TBEX international conference would take place in Jerusalem, Israel in early 2017.

As a first time TBEX attendee, I can attest to the worth of the conference. Not only is it a great opportunity to network with peers and brands – you get to see a side of the city that wouldn’t normally be accessible, thanks to the help of the tourism boards involved.

So, see you in Jerusalem next year, perhaps?

Recent Comments

  • I’m not a travel blogger (I just follow loads of them) but there’s lots of advice there that’s useful for all bloggers. Particularly liked the YouTube SEO info.

    But ‘oldlennials’? Ugh. Awful term.

    • Thanks Sharon, I’m glad you’ve found the post beneficial. It is a bit awful but it also made me laugh. I really hate the term “millennials” and so resent being referred to as one. Be much nicer to stick with Gen X and Y, respectively.

  • This is an excellent summary, congratulations. Lovely to read the info on YouTube as I missed that session.

    • Thanks Shane, the YouTube one was one of my favourites. Was great to meet you!