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I remember my first TBEX travel blogging conference well. I had never been to a blogging event before and was front row with a notebook and pen at every session, totally starstruck by all the successful creative bloggers in my midst. I left feeling inspired and heart-warmed by all the people I met who shared my insatiable desire to explore and to create.

Three years later, I was humbled to find myself hopping on a plane to Bangkok to speak at the first Asian edition of the conference, in a country that’s become a second home to me.

I had really only just settled back on Koh Tao — picked out an apartment, bought a bike and barely caught up with my friends — when I turned around and headed back towards the Thai capital. The six day extravaganza began with a speakers’ reception at , and featured traditional Thai dances, a street food gallery and a welcome speech from Bangkok’s governor Sukhumbhand Paribatra. I was thrilled to reconnect with old friends, meet a few new ones, and kick off the conference.

As with every TBEX, there were simply too many parties, gatherings and overlapping events happening to even entertain the idea of trying to hit all of them. But as always, I made the party a priority and slipped out of the speaker’s reception early to head to sky bar with a few other defectors.

with my dear friends and fellow speakers and

One of the fun bonuses about attending TBEX are the pre-BEX and post-BEX tours offered to attendees at no cost, designed to show off the host city to its new guests. Having been to Bangkok dozens of times I’d ticked most of the offered tours, sights and experiences off my list already, but couldn’t resist checking out one of the city’s top spas.

My morning at was the perfect way to destress from my public speaking jitters. And I now have a high-end massage alternative to recommend in Bangkok for when the $6 cheapies just won’t cut it.

TBEX Bangkok 2016

TBEX Bangkok 2016

TBEX Bangkok 2016

TBEX Bangkok 2016

That night, we gathered again for an elaborate opening reception at the conference location itself, the Queen Sirikit National Convention Center. I was thrilled to meet so many fellow bloggers, and was touched by how many mentioned they’d read my Thailand coverage in preparation for this very trip!

While there’s no shortage of information about this favorite Southeast Asian country on the interwebs, it has a very special place in my heart and I love helping people find their own perfect version of it.

The next morning, we got down to business. With two days of keynotes and six breakout sessions to chose between, I had a lot of tough calls to make. While I know many conference attendees — across every industry — often see events like this as more about mingling and networking than actually attending the sessions, I’ve always been one of those front-row, note-taking kind of girls.

That said, I found that speaking meant less time for listening! Of course one of my six breakouts was reserved for my own panel (and of course, the sessions I was most interested in attending ran simultaneously with my own!), while two other blocks were taken up my prepping with my co-speaker and chatting to conference organizers about various logistics.

TBEX Bangkok 2016

TBEX Bangkok 2016

goofing around with Diana and , my roomie for the week

When the big moment came, I was a bundle of nerves. This was my third true public speaking effort — the first was a talk I gave at the Women Diver’s Hall of Fame luncheon at the Beneath The Sea diving convention in 2014 and the second was a panel I sat on for the PRSA Travel and Tourism Conference in 2015 — and I hadn’t been thrilled with my performance at the last two.

I was super relieved not to be onstage alone — my friend and colleague Katie Hammel and I were co-speaking about both the blogger and brand sides of a successful business relationship. We’d prepared a detailed presentation including case studies of brands I’ve partnered with in the past giving all the dirty details — how I landed the job, how much I got paid, and what the results were. I hate talks that dodge the hard facts, so we were determined to give as many of them as possible.

And you know what? It went great. Our turnout could have been better, but we were going up against some pretty fantastic fellow speakers, so I didn’t take it personally (but why is it easier to speak to a full room than an empty one, anyway?!) I stumbled over my words once or twice but recovered fairly well, and Katie and I actually had fun bouncing off each other during our presentation. And at the end, I was overwhelmed by the great feedback we received from the audience members who came up to say hi. What an exhilarating feeling to face your fears! It’s been a relief to see that public speaking is indeed something that gets progressively easier over time.

The three other sessions I managed to attend included a Pinterest seminar by , a sales talk by my friend , and discussion on multiple income streams by . I also attended the keynotes by Anton Diaz of (who proudly announced the next TBEX Asia in his home city of Manila!) and Jodi Ettenberg of .

Jodi in particular brought down the house — her closing keynote on storytelling left me bubbling over with inspiration!

The final night of the conference brought one more event — an outdoor carnival-inspired back at . This Disney-eque entertainment center has been on my Bangkok wishlist for some time now, so I was thrilled by this particular party location, and can’t wait to return in the future to check out some of the restaurants in the area and take a spin on the Mekhong wheel.

The highlight of the evening? A fireworks show set off from a barge in the river right in front of us!

But last call on the party didn’t quite mean last call on the night. We always laugh in Koh Tao that once you’ve lived there, you never travel Southeast Asia alone again, a maxim that proves itself true for me over and over again — I’ve ran into Koh Tao friends riding motorbikes in Bali, sitting down at a movie theater in Bangkok, and walking down the street in Chiang Mai.

So it was absolutely no surprise to me when four of my closest friends in Koh Tao happened to be in Bangkok for three completely separate reasons that evening. Never ones to pass up a moment together, we met up to toast to our various weekend victories and plot our returns to our favorite little island. We bounced around the city but eventually ended up at , a Bangkok institution that had eluded me over several attempts to get through the oft-closed doors. Wonderful Thai Friendship (what did you think it stood for?) was well worth the wait to visit, and I highly recommend it to all art and cocktail lovers who visit this fine city.

TBEX Bangkok 2016

TBEX Bangkok 2016

After several years of scheduling conflicts and priority juggling, I loved plugging back into the TBEX scene. It felt great to connect with old friends and meet new ones, some of whom left me blushing with their kind words about my work (and darn if getting appreciated by your peers isn’t the greatest feeling in the world). I was grateful for the opportunity to flex my public speaking skills and appreciative of the time to reflect on where my business is headed and to narrow my focus to get there. Most of all, I was inspired by the ideas, trials and triumphs of my fellow entrepreneurs.

I have come so far and have so far still to go on this particular blogging journey. What a wild ride to be on! Here’s hoping I can continue riding the wave all the way to TBEX Asia ’16 in the Philippines.

TBEX Bangkok 2016

TBEX Bangkok 2016

Do you geek out over conferences and conventions in your field like I do? Confess in the comments!

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32 Comments...
  • Britt
    May 31 2016

    I’m still too scared and anxious to attend a TBEX. But maybe now they are running them in Asia (closer to Australia which at some point will be my base), I might eventually get there. I’m just a little intimidated! It looks like you had lots of fun, and congrats on the speaking gig!
    Britt recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      June 2 2016

      Come on over to The Philippines! πŸ˜€ Okay, I actually am not totally sure if I’ll be there or not yet. But I am crossing my fingers!

  • Lauren Bishop
    May 31 2016

    I’m so glad it went well for you. I wish I could have been there! Will you be able to share any of the content from your talk? I’m hoping to attend TBEX Asia ’16 as I’d love an excuse to go back to the Philippines and I too am a very geek conference-lover. That’s why podcasts are my running “music”. Congrats again on your success at this conference.
    Lauren Bishop recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      June 10 2016

      Hey Lauren! I had a lot of detailed information regarding how much I get paid for various partnerships that I was happy to share in my presentation but I’m not sure I want out there for the whole wide internet to see, if you know what I mean. But I’m applying to speak again at TBEX Asia ’16 so maybe you’ll get to hear some of my secrets then πŸ˜‰

  • Jenn Flo Taylor
    June 1 2016

    This sounds like such a wonderful and fun experience! Congrats on the speaking gig! It would be awesome to listen and learn from all those amazing people! TBEX is definitely on my list, but I think I’m not ready yet and my site is too small. Meihoukai how did you know you were ready to attend your first conference? I’m thinking ’17 might be the year for me!
    Jenn Flo Taylor recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      June 10 2016

      I think I just went when it because convenient and I was treating my blog as a real business — I think for me that was about a year into this iteration of my blog? It’s never really too early to go learn and have some fun!

  • Dominique
    June 1 2016

    TBEX sounds like such a fun event, although only as a visitor rather than a presenter! I would be too scared to stand on that stage – you look like a pro though! I won’t make it to Manila this year, hopefully I’ll be able to join the event next year!
    Dominique recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      June 10 2016

      I doubt I’ll make it to North America next year but who knows — Europe could be fun!

  • Kate
    June 1 2016

    I’m attending my first TBEX this summer in Stockholm and can’t wait! So happy to hear how inspired you were leaving the event – I hope I have a very similar experience πŸ™‚

    Kate recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      June 10 2016

      Aw, I was trying so hard to make Stockholm happen. It just didn’t. Maybe next year!

  • Emma
    June 1 2016

    So glad you enjoyed your time at the conference and that your talk went well. I’m trying desperately to find time for a visit to Bangkok (and the rest of Thailand of course) and this post has made me want to go even more.

    Congratulations on a successful conference! And regarding your comment about talking to an empty room, I have no idea why it’s so much harder but it really is!!

    Emma x
    Emma recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      June 10 2016

      So weird. I guess you have to focus more on the individuals instead of zoning out in front of a massive crowd?! So bizarre!

  • Leah
    June 1 2016

    Aw, I’m so bummed you won’t be joining me at TBEX Stockholm! I’ll miss you, girl!
    Leah recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      June 10 2016

      I know! Le sigh — perhaps next summer πŸ™‚

  • Paul
    June 1 2016

    I loved reading this – TBEX Asia ’15 was my first TBEX, so this brought back some great memories! I was the exact opposite of you – instead of being a bundle of nerves getting ready to speak, I usually make my living as a professional speaker and this was a rare event where I wasn’t presenting and could truly just relax without the pressure of getting up on stage. πŸ™‚

    One of the sessions I took in was yours, and I agree – you and Katie did a fantastic job. So many useful points, and real info that I found I could immediately put into action. Thanks again for sharing your time, knowledge, and experience.

    I am sincerely hoping to be back at TBEX in Manila. If so, hope to see you there! Cheers –
    Paul recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      June 10 2016

      Thanks so much for coming to our session, Paul! I’m thrilled to hear that you walked away with actionable information — that’s what I’m always looking for at events like these. I hope to be at TBEX Mania as well, so see you there indeed!

  • ‘Love this post Meihoukai!

    I went to TBEX in Spain for the first time last summer, and even though I’m a bit of an extrovert, I was awfully nervous as I hadn’t a clue how it would be. It was fine! And yes, I did geek out on lectures n’ stuff as I wanted to learn something new. I like learning you see! I’ve just finsihed doing a Masters and I’m already thinking of doing a Phd too. I’m like why not? Right!?!

    I love the fact that you’re a speaker and reading all about your prep. and how you felt on the day, etc. Some of my fellow bloggers are always asking me to apply, but I’ve always been “but what would I talk about?” lol. We’ll see. Thanks for the inspiration. πŸ™‚
    [email protected] The British Berliner recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      June 10 2016

      It’s fun dreaming up new talk topics πŸ™‚ I just submitted my next speaker application, so fingers crossed!

  • I just got back from TBEX North America and I had absolutely no idea how many parties there would be. I’m exhausted! I’m also a front seat note-taker, so I was geeking out over the sessions. I would love to attend a TBEX in Europe or Asia in 2017, so I’ll have to see where the locations are when they’re announced. For now, I’ve signed up to go to WITS when it visits Milwaukee in April. Already excited for another one!
    Amanda | Chasing My Sunshine recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      June 10 2016

      Nice! I think I’ll skip TBEX North America again next year, but I’m open to Europe pending the location announcement!

  • Tim L.
    June 2 2016

    Thanks for the shout-out Meihoukai and it was great spending time with you on the post-trip in southern Thailand. Hope all is well and maybe we’ll connect in the Philippines.
    Tim L. recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      June 10 2016

      Will be posting about that trip soon too πŸ™‚

  • Maddy
    June 2 2016

    Public speaking is my absolute biggest weakness. I break out in hives! Good for you for facing your fears and doing a great job, too! πŸ™‚
    I would love to go to a TBEX Asia or Europe in 2017. And I’ll be just like you were, front row, taking vigorous notes! Thank you for sharing your experience!
    Maddy recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      June 10 2016

      You’re so welcome Maddy! See you in the front row someday πŸ™‚

  • Cate
    June 2 2016

    This looks like so much fun! Would love to attend one day!!
    Cate recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      June 10 2016

      I think it’s a really fun experience for anyone who is interested in taking their blog to the next level.

  • Eva Casey
    June 3 2016

    I already bought my ticket to TBEX Asia ’16, so this post made me really excited for it!! It will be my first TBEX, but I’ve been wanting to go to one for ages now!
    Eva Casey recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      June 10 2016

      Fingers crossed I get to meet you there, Eva!

  • At the moment I’m still too anxious to attend a TBEX on my own, maybe in 2017 I will. I think it will be really inspiring to hear all those stories and tips. πŸ™‚
    Lotte – scratchingmymap recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      June 10 2016

      I knew almost no one at my first TBEX! Very intimidating, but I made a million friends. And now I keep running into them all over the world πŸ™‚ It’s definitely worth stepping outside the comfort zone for!

  • You’ve done the impossibleβ€”you’ve (almost) made me want to go to TBEX. πŸ˜‰
    Kristin @ Camels & Chocolate recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      June 10 2016

      I never thought I’d live to see the day! πŸ˜‰