The two most important aspects of any ATTA event are education and networking. In between sitting captivated and listening to keynote speakers, delegates eat meals together and chat in the halls during coffee breaks. The networking comes naturally, but the ATTA creates a carefully planned itinerary that ensures it’s easy to make the right connections. AdventureELEVATE, held in Snowmass, Colorado, in June 2015, was no exception. In fact, it may have been our best networking event yet.
“AdventureELEVATE was a highly enjoyable and valuable experience,” says Sarah Woodall of Visit Greenland. “Everything from planting seeds of interest in new contacts’ minds to gaining inspiration about new storytelling techniques, to just having a safe space to talk about adventure travel and Greenland!”
The first opportunity ELEVATE delegates had to mingle was first thing on Sunday morning during the Sunrise Instagram Walkabout led by Sree Sreenivasan, a featured event speaker, Chief Digital Officer at the Metropolitan Museum of Art and social media guru. While learning tips about how to take great photos and edit on the fly, Sree challenged the group to an impromptu contest to see who could best capture the spirit of the morning walk through Snowmass and encourage the most engagement.
Travel writer Annie Fitzsimmons’ image of her less-than-practical boots for a muddy walk through the hills got 76 likes and 6 comments on Instagram by the end of the day and that was enough popularity to make her a winner.
The Instagram walk was just a warm-up to Sree’s concurrent session “Digital + Mobile + Social Tips.” Sree conducted his entire presentation from his phone and shared his slides via Twitter. Still, audience members were taking pictures of his slides on the screen and sharing them on Instagram and Twitter. It was definitely the most interactive of all the sessions, even if most of the interaction involved quickly moving thumbs instead of raised hands. “Every piece of content you create should be shareable, clickable, linkable, and embeddable,” Sree told the audience. There was certainly a lot of hands-on experience during the two-hour session.
Meanwhile, in a neighboring room delegates were having an engaging conversation as part of a session called “National Parks Intensive.” As the parks service prepares for the Centennial Celebrations of the National Park system in 2016, representatives shared some of the trends the parks are noting that may affect adventure businesses’ future.
“It was a great opportunity to unite with other members in this industry and share important work that is being done to increase access in the USA’s public lands for both commercial and educational purposes,” said presenter TJ Little from REI Adventures. “It was made very clear that we need to now lead in order to preserve both our beautiful outdoors and our ability to continue to share them and be a force for economic development.”
There were fewer tweets coming out of “Ride The Wave: Culture and Trends Driving Business” than coming out of Sree’s session, but the inspiration was flowing as indicated in this quotable line from National Geographic Traveler writer Robert Reid:
The Ride the Wave session presented case studies for how to grab itinerary ideas from headlines, create experiences that have travelers following in the steps of historic figures and cultural icons, and even promoting ways visitors can relive their favorite blockbuster or indy movie.
On the first night of the conference, after a long day of taking photos and notes and posting content online as fast as it was happening in real life, the ATTA tried something something new — a Disruptive Networking Adventure, or DNA Cocktail. There were the usual drinks on hand, but everything else about the networking event was an experiment.
First, participants could only use one WORD to describe themselves and what they do. Then, they had to collect WORDs from people they talked to. Once they had talked to at least five new people, they could turn in their WORDs for a pair of ExOfficio underwear. ExOfficio wants to track where adventure professionals go in their new travel underwear, so they launched a new campaign that night, asking participants to start using #underwhere to tag their adventures.
The second day of AdventureELEVATE introduced three new concurrent session topics and MediaExchange. Some delegates did some gambling with Craig Schinn of The Clymb in “Digital Marketing ROI – How to Place Bets.” Schinn offered in-depth advice on how to use paid search, how to optimize sites for search engines (SEO), write good searchable content, social media best practices and digital display advertising within the adventure travel space.
The Adventure Travel Trade Association and the Outdoor Industry Association teamed up for “How Do They Compare? Adventure Travelers & Outdoor Consumers.” Adventure travel and outdoor activities have always been close allies. Both groups shared research and data to help operators and destination managers to identify with clients and potential clients and to help craft marketing strategy and product development accordingly.
“Shannon [Stowell] summed it up well when he said historically there has been very little crossover between the Outdoor Industry and the ATTA,” said Chris Engelsman from TEN: The Enthusiast Network. “I couldn’t agree more. We are an example of that. We’ve been involved with the Outdoor Industry, but we’re just now becoming active with the ATTA.”
The last concurrent session, “Customer Experience is Part of the Journey,” was presented by Sarah Simon of Confirmit, which specializes in customer feedback software and processes. A great customer experience is mindfully crafted by leaders in tune with the customer, explained Simon. Participants in this session learned how to optimize the customer experience for their own organization. Even world-class destinations and world-class operations can be improved on with world-class customer service.
Many delegates of the Adventure Travel World Summit comment that getting to meet with media representatives who specialize in covering adventure travel is one of the most valuable parts of the entire event. The ATTA wanted to make sure these media connections were a big part of AdventureELEVATE, so two MediaExchange sessions were scheduled. In three and a half hours over 400 meetings took place between 22 writers and editors and the other attendees. Tour operators and destinations had 8 minutes to pitch the travel media.
“The invited media held their highest professionalism,” said Rios Tropicales owner Rafael Gallo. “They were attentive and very interested in everyone’s products.”
AdventureELEVATE was New York-based writer Cristina Goyanes’ first ATTA event. “I thought it was a huge success,” she said. “The events ran like clockwork, which was very impressive given the amount of things going on and the size of our group. I’m so glad I got to put a face to many folks I’ve been emailing with for years.”
Mary Mazzoni was another first-time media attendee to an ATTA event. She learned about trips that retrace Thoreau’s steps through the Maine woods at the “Ride the Wave” session and included the recommendation in this Yahoo Travel article almost as soon as she got home from Colorado.
It was a fast-paced two days in Snowmass. Lots of new skills were picked up at AdventureELEVATE — some, like the social media tips, were put into practice right away while others like updates to websites for SEO and new customer experience strategies will take a little longer to implement. Just like some pairs of ExOfficio underwear were worn that night and some will wait for the next big adventure.