WITS ’14: Top 8 tips from the Women in Travel Summit

I must confess – I used to be a blogger conference virgin. But, not any more. Last weekend, I was inaugurated into the world of blogger conferences, and my blogging life will never be the same.

I picked the perfect blogger conference to make my official debut – The Women in Travel Summit (WITS). The event, held in Chicago March 14 – 16, was the first-ever travel blogger conference for women (and put together by women – I might add).

WITS2It was attended by hundreds of women from around the world who converged on the Palmer House Hilton to gain sage advice, be inspired to better their blogs (or business), and connect with other female travelers. And, I think it’s safe to say we all walked away with lots of things to think about and do.

At the end of the summit, I gained new insight, new ideas, new contacts, and new friends. And, I can now say I know what all the fuss about blogger conferences is all about. It truly is a place where you can be around other like-minded people who get you, your passion, and your dreams, and are ready to bolster you up, help you grow, point you in the right direction, and cheer you on.

That spirit of sharing and growth came from the attendees and the cadre of amazing speakers at the summit. Together, their collective experience, insight and gumption, has armed me with new tips to put into practice right here on Raising World Citizens and in my everyday life – right now.

Here are the top 8 tips I gleaned from the Women in Travel Summit:

1: You need to leverage your past and recognize your strengths to determine your future.
Gillian Duffy, One-Giant-Step.com

Gillian Duffy addressing a packed room at WITS '14.

Gillian Duffy addressing a packed room at WITS ’14.

During her session titled, “No one makes a full-time income from blogging,” Gillian Duffy of One Giant Step led participants through an interactive exercise that urged us to all to analyze our past and recognize our strengths to determine our future.

It’s simple really. But, sometimes we need a push in the right direction to see what we can use to propel us further in our jobs, our passions, or our businesses. And, it’s okay for it to run the gamut. Everyone loved that Gillian included “get sh*t done” as one of her own strengths. Now that’s a must-have skill for any entrepreneur!

2: Know thyself.
Garine Tchjolakian, GlobalTouristTV

Garine Tchjolakian of GlobalTouristTV kicked off a panel session titled, “How to be your own everything: The new, new media professional.” She hit us hard with the importance of “knowing thyself” as the key to being truly successful. Garine emphasized the need to really know your “brand,” understand what you stand for, and be confident in what makes you unique. With that clear in your mind (and your heart), you can be sure that you’re on the right path towards success.

I took this tip to heart, and hope to continue to refine the “Raising World Citizens” brand so it fully encompasses who I am – a person dedicated to opening my children’s eye, minds and hearts to the people, places and cultures of the world.

3: Social media is your best friend.
Mickela Mallozzi, Bare Feet with Mickela Mallozzi

Okay, first I have to tell you that Mickela Mallozzi has a TV series that showcases how she experiences the world – one dance at a time. How unique is that? After I absorbed the utter coolness of her “brand,” I listened as Mickela told us that social media is our best friend as another speaker on the “How to be your own everything: The new, new media professional” panel.

She emphasized the need to get our “brand” out there on all forms of social media – and be sure to put them in our “brand” name. Mickela also emphasized the fact that you are your own best publicist – and no one tells your own story like you. So, look for me to continue to tell my story here on my blog, via my social media channels, and hopefully some new places, too. Because, in the end, I’d like my blog to be a way to connect with, and inspire, other people who are out to see and experience the people, places and cultures of the world.

4: It’s okay to stick your tongue out an ordinary at life.
Jeannie Marks, Nomadic Chick

Jeannie Marks sharing her story at WITS '14.

Jeannie Marks sharing her story at WITS ’14.

Ever wanted to quit your job, pack your bags and travel the world? Then you need to meet Jeannie Marks. The Nomadic Chick did just that back in 2010 – and regaled us with her stories of her time “on the road” during her opening keynote speech.

During her remarks, Jeannie showed us a photo of her sticking her tongue out while skydiving many, many miles above the ground. She stopped to tell us that part of the reason why she loves the photo is that she’s “sticking her tongue out an ordinary at life” – and that’s totally okay. The cheeky tip is something worth doing each and every day because as Jeannie also said, “regrets aren’t cool.”

Life is short. My kids are growing up fast. That’s why I think it’s a great tip to stick your tongue out at an “ordinary” life and seize any and all opportunities to make it remarkable – no matter what anyone says or thinks about them. You never know – they just may take you to new heights like it did for Jeannie. For me, I hope that helps take me and my family to new many places and exposes us to many new experiences – here and abroad.

5: Networking is all about connecting others – and nothing about you.
Brooke Roberts, Yoga Travel Tree

Tons of people will tell you about the importance of networking, but few will tell it to you like Brook Roberts of Yoga Travel Tree. In her session titled, “How to be a rock star,” Brooke set us straight when she told us that “networking is all about connecting others and nothing about you.”

Yes, networking should be all about meeting and understanding other people, and helping them connect with others. You need  to listen to others vs. just talk about your needs.So, what’s in it for you? In a word, karma. Your efforts to really listen and connect with people will help you build your network before you need it. And, I’m sure everyone you helped along the way will be more than happy to connect you with others when you need it, too.

To me, that can apply to all aspects of your life. It’s a skill I want to always build and grow, and try to also teach it to my children. You’re never too young to get connected to your community.

6: Videos speak far more than words.
Bayyina Black, The Planet Blaster

Bayyina Black speaking about the merits of videos at WITS '14.

Bayyina Black speaking about the merits of videos at WITS ’14.

I’m sure you’ve heard the saying “a picture is worth a thousand words.” Well, I’m sure Bayyina Black, The Planet Blaster, would argue that video says so much more.

During her session titled, “Travel vlogging: How to capture your story and connect with your audience,” Bayyina encouraged all of us to get in front of the camera to help tell our story because videos speak far more than words.

Bayyina gave us homework to film a video of our own, and I am appreciative for the helpful push. After the conference, I enlisted the help of my family in shooting the video. Together, we selected the location and my husband held the camera (and kept my sons from video bombing it). You can see the finished product here.

Be on the look for what I hope to be more videos that help tell the story of my efforts to raise two world citizens.

7: People love misery. Telling your true story will help you connect with others.
Vanessa Chiasson, Turnipseed Travel

Lately, I’ve read articles and comments about how social media can make it look like everyone is perfect, has the perfect family, makes the most perfect cakes, throws the best birthday parties, etc. But, looks can be deceiving, and sometimes things that are perfect are just not relatable to most people. That’s why I loved the advice Vanessa Chiasson of Turnipseed Travel gave us on how to connect with your audience – share stories of travel gone wrong because people love misery.

To me, that’s true – and often the hardest thing to do. But, in the end, it’s real and it’s relatable. I hope to tell the good and the bad because, as any parent knows, life with kids – especially out on the road – is never perfect. And, it’s nice to hear that it’s okay, it’s normal and it’s totally acceptable – and it’s something fun to laugh about with others (once you’ve come out victorious on the other side, of course).

8: Please go do it.
Evelyn Hannon, Journeywoman

Evelyn Hannon urging women travels to "please go do it."

Evelyn Hannon urging women travels to “please go do it.”

Evelyn Hannon, the founder of Journeywoman, set out to travel the world on her own when it wasn’t the norm. But, that didn’t stop her. She enrolled in film school when she was older than the other students – and most of the teachers. But, that didn’t stop her. She started a website for female travelers before most people knew anything about the “world wide web.” But, that didn’t stop her either. Why? She just did it. And, in her remarks during the closing session of WITS’ 14, she bid all of the “intrepid, wonderful women” in attendance to do the same.

I can’t think of a more fitting comment for us to walk away with from that weekend than Evelyn request for us to “please go do it.”And, now it’s up to each of us to do just that – no matter what is the norm, what is acceptable, or what is even known. We all just need to do it.

Want to find out more about my key takeaways from WITS ’14? Then be sure to check out my top 5 inspirational quotes from WITS ’14 speakers

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