October 2nd to 4th 2013 saw the first visit of TBEX - the Travel Blog Exchange - to Europe. More specifically, the City of Dublin were the proud and extremely welcoming hosts of more than 700 eager bloggers. I was priveleged enough to be invited along, to meet with the TBEX team, including Rock Star CEO, Rick Calvert. What followed was a hugely enjoyable lesson ... one that all of us, both in business and in life, should experience and be reminded of from time to time ... how to make people feel special.
Above: TBEX delegates are welcomes to the Guinness Storehouse for the grand opening party
Proceedings started on the day before the conference, with welcome receptions for both speakers, held at the Jameson Distillery, followed by a launch party for delegates, held at the Guinness Storehouse (sensing a theme, here?). Arriving on coaches laid on by the organisers and the tourist board, Failte Ireland, we were greeted by the rather eclectic sight of Chinese dragons on stilts, Roman centurians waving flares, and a 3-piece drum ensemble. This set the tone nicely. A self-guided tour took us all up 5 floors of the factory, experiencing the rich history of the Guiness brand, to the reception floor.
Above: @comeonlivelong get the crowd rocking at the TBEX Launch
Amazing food was served alongside some local party juice - the black stuff itself was complimented by some fine wines - and entertainment came in the form of some very talented Irish dancers, set to a modern soundtrack, and the band Come on Live Long provided their style of "groove-laden alternative rock" opposite a 15-foot fish and oyster bar.
Above: Say Cheese! @SheridansCheese put a creamy topping on proceedings
The Irish are rightly famous for their welcome, but not quite so for their goodbyes. When it was time to leave, however, there was one more surprise in store. Rounding the corner to leave the Storehouse, we were flanked by around 30 people, spraying us with party-poppers, to the tune of Celebration by Kool & the Gang! They may have been promoting Dublin as THE New Year's Eve destination to ring in 2014, but this was another example of how simple it can be to give a VIP experience to those who wouldn't usually get to enjoy it.
And that's the slightly subliminal message, and my rather hob-nailed way of shoe-horning my TBEX experience into an otherwise tech-meets-business kind of blog - the way that any one of us in business can think up simple yet effective ways to make our clients and customers feel special - at little to no cost - but which make all the difference to relationships and mutual appreciation. The whole experience has gotten us at Influence Agents revamping our approach to events in the coming year. Look out!
Oh ... and there was actually a heavy presence of social-media-meets-business when the conference proper started on Thursday 3rd. Some great presentations and breakout sessions, including a deserved mention for @iancleary and his run-down of 21 great social tools, kept bloggers up to speed with how to truly leverage their influence online, and the social dashboards in the foyer showed stats on the latest buzz around the event (above).
What an experience! Whether you're a travel blogger or not (and if you're not, you should seriously look into it), there's something for everyone, and the whole event is an example of community, that anyone in business could learn from.