“The merger between social media and travel converges at WITS. I loved attending for making connections with so many spirited travelers, bloggers, and Instagrammers.” –Danica Kombol, Everywhere Agency, WITS ‘17 Keynote Speaker
It was during the opening session at the 2017 Women in Travel Summit (WITS), Wanderful’s annual conference for women travel influencers, creators, and brands, that our emcee for the weekend, Nicolle Merrill, shared with us her three A’s of networking:
Attention, assistance, and advice.
This was my second WITS, and I was excited to meet and connect with other women in the travel industry — bloggers, brand reps, and industry professionals who all shared a love for travel. Like many of my fellow attendees, I had aspirations of meeting women who could help me take my blog to the next level.
“The most rewarding aspect for me has been connecting with so many like-minded women. I now have a whole network of bloggers, writers and travelers to share my successes — and my failures — with, and my life and career have benefitted greatly from these relationships.” –Brianne Miers, A Traveling Life, WITS ‘17 Speaker
And there I was, among nearly four hundred women in the Crystal Ballroom of the Hilton Milwaukee City Center in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, caught in rapt attention as Nicolle shared her secrets to making connections with others.
The thought of putting myself out there and introducing myself to strangers was completely intimidating. But listening to Nicolle, I realized something.
Networking wasn’t about how many business cards I gave or collected, it was about making connections and building relationships.
During the course of the three-day conference, I met and spoke with a variety of women from all walks of life. I also listened to an amazing array of speakers and presenters, sharing their knowledge and expertise in topics like entrepreneurship, impact travel, food travel, pitching to destinations, travel writing, and understanding blog metrics.
There was so much to learn, and at the end of each day my head was brimming with ideas and inspiration.
As the weekend progressed, I began to notice a theme emerge.
WITS was more than just an opportunity to learn, it was a place to build relationships with other women over a common interest.
It’s this aspect of WITS and Wanderful — the building of a community of women travelers — that makes this conference different than other travel conferences.
“I was…completely blown away by how warm and welcoming everyone was. I’m a beginner and only a portion of my work is actually dedicated to travel writing but that didn’t matter. I felt connected to everyone regardless, and there was such a sense of community. Everyone coming together to share their adventures, their businesses, reaching out for advice and help and forging connections.” –Kay Vandette, Kay Writes Stuff, WITS ‘17 Attendee
Many of the attendees, speakers, and sponsors I spoke to shared in my sentiments of the community-building quality of WITS, as you can see by their quotes throughout.
During drinks one evening, I spoke to a woman entrepreneur who lamented that although she had a successful travel business and a large social media following, she rarely interacted with people on a daily basis. She explained that she often felt alone in her day-to-day, since most of her work was done from home.
It’s really the paradox of being a traveler — for all the time we spend out in the world, the life of a traveler can be downright lonely.
“As an experienced blogger and influencer who has been to many conferences throughout my nine years in the space, it was refreshing to be around such a supportive community of women who were open to meeting and learning from one another. I loved meeting so many incredible women with different stories and backgrounds and having amazing conversations where I walked away feeling truly connected to them.” –Leticia Barr, Tech Savvy Mama, WITS ‘17 Speaker
But then there are conferences like the Women in Travel Summit (WITS), where we find our community.
Suddenly, we meet others that are like us. We realize that there are real people behind the tweets, status updates, and posts that we’ve been following for years. We learn that engagement can be deeper than a “like” or a comment on a post.
For a brief weekend, we are all part of a tribe.
“There are a lot of women who have unique travel interests. Like beer – I thought that was just me being a girl from Wisconsin. Whether it be yoga, or beer, or museums, women have so many interests and the breakout sessions and networking were such a great way to pull those nuggets out into bigger conversations. I loved every minute of the conference and am so excited about all the great people we got to meet.” –Laura Tyunaitis, Community Relations Manager at Visit Kenosha, WITS ‘17 Attendee
By the end of the conference, it seemed that every attendee had made at least one meaningful connection.
At the final keynote speech of WITS, Danica Kombol, CEO of Everywhere Agency, shared an insight that really honed in on the theme of the weekend:
“Relationships are everything,” she said.
And in the case of WITS, it’s what made the conference what it was.
I’m looking forward to attending next year’s WITS, which will take place in gorgeous Québec City during the weekend of May 4-6, 2018.
As women travelers, we need events like WITS and a community like Wanderful to support us and help us grow.
“WITS was unlike any conference I had ever attended. It was extremely well run, organized, and everyone was there for the same reason, to meet like minded women! It was a great space to not only learn new things, but to share knowledge and be a forum for collaboration.” –Kirsten Maxwell, Kids Are A Trip, WITS ‘17 Attendee