Friday, March 14, 2008

Guest Post Friday: Travel Media Showcase by Kara Williams

Welcome to Guest Post Friday. Today travel writer Kara Williams from the Traveling Mamas blog writes about the annual Travel Media Showcase and why travel writers should go.

Travel Media Showcase by Kara Williams

Every year at Travel Media Showcase, dozens of journalists meet with public-relations representatives of tourist boards, convention and visitors’ bureaus, and individual hotels and resorts. The three-day event is held at different locations throughout the United States. This year’s TMS is scheduled for September 2-5, 2008, in Kansas City, Missouri.

I went to my first TMS in Palm Springs, California, in 2007. The basic set-up is this:

Day one: Arrive and have cocktails and dinner with all journalists (about 90 in Palm Springs) and PR exhibitors (about 75 destinations)

Day two: Morning of one-on-one “speed-dating” meetings with exhibitors, in 15-minute increments. Afternoon “FAM tours” with different themes (golf, art, the outdoors, shopping) in the local area.

Day three: Speed-dating from about 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., with a break for lunch.

Day four: Departure for home or post-event overnight FAM trips in the area.

I found TMS a great way to meet different media-relations folks from various destinations, see some popular tourist attractions in Palm Springs, and perhaps most importantly for me, network with other travel writers (remember this is where the Traveling Mamas blog was born).

Here’s the lowdown:

What I liked about Travel Media Showcase:

The online application process is straightforward. If you’re new to the event, you will need to send some hard-copy clips to J. Vero Associates, the TMS organizer based in New Jersey, for acceptance.

Also online, you rank your requests to meet with individual public-relations representatives. If you both selected each other, it’s likely you’ll get a meeting with that person. Otherwise, you can later ask for meetings to fill any of your empty time slots.

I thought food and drink was plentiful – from the continental breakfasts, to snack breaks, to sit-down lunches, dinners and cocktail hours (though I did hear some grumbling that sit-down breakfasts would have been appreciated).

The host property, the Morongo Casino Resort & Spa, brought some chair massage therapists to the convention area to give short backrubs during the breaks. Nice!

TMS reimburses journalists $150 if they have traveled more than 500 miles to the event.

All accommodations, FAM trips, meals and other conference events for
TMS journalists at TMS are FREE.

What was kind of funny at Travel Media Showcase:

The amount of schwag that was given away. We came home with computer bags, lotion, chocolate-covered sunflower seeds, reporters’ notebooks, mints, pens… the list goes on. Pack an extra duffel bag for all the random stuff, plus press kits and the event binder. The smart reps gave us press materials on USB plug-ins or slim CDs. We liked that!

Sometimes you clicked with the destination reps, and sometimes you didn’t. Occasionally 15 minutes was way to short to discuss the place, your previous trip there, or what you had in common with the rep. Other times, it was waaaaaay to long. You could tell the PR person was tired of giving the spiel, and just wanted the day to be done!

What I thought could be better at Travel Media Showcase:

It would be awesome if there were more international destinations represented. At TMS in Palm Springs, only Malaysia, Scandinavia and a few Quebec, Canada, reps were there. Naturally, the booths for the overseas destinations were always busy with journalists stopping by for a chat in between official time slots and when we broke for snacks and meals – especially after word got around that Scandinavia was hosting a few press trips in the coming months!

I’d prefer to have more time for exploring the local area with the organized FAMs. One afternoon was not enough. It would be great if there we had three full days of TMS: a full day of seeing the sights, one full day of speed dating, a morning of speed dating, and an afternoon to enjoy the amenities at the resort before heading home the next day.

Any questions about TMS? Feel free to post them in the comments area. I’d be happy to try to answer them. I’ll apply to attend TMS this fall (if my kids’ school start-date doesn’t interfere), so I hope to see you there!


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Hi Kara, thanks for the great synopsis of last years TMS. It sounds great and I'm definitely going to put it on my list of things I want to do...think I'll aim for next year.



laradunston said...

Sounds fascinating and a good concise summary. In all my years of writing I've never been to one of these, and to be honest, I'm not sure I'd want to. I prefer to research a destination on my own and experience it in person. I don't know what they're going to tell me that I can't find out for myself. I also think my time could be better spent in other ways. What do you think, Kara? Would you go to one of these again?

Kara Williams said...

I plan on going to Kansas City. It's a great way to network, and set up future visits (where you can experience it "in person" as you say).

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