While Valentine’s Day inspired the minds of couples and the lovers of love everywhere on Sunday, the weekend in Los Angeles had to share with those who also love travel at the Los Angeles Time Adventure and Travel Expo.

For me, the travel expo has been a part of my personal tradition for the last six years and has been a great way to network (budding travel writers take note). I tend to show up with a stack of business cards and willingness to simply introduce myself to travel company owners and then reps as someone who is passionate about travel. I am always surprised when I learned how few writers take advantage of convention-type show.

If you are one of the masses who miss out on the convention opportunity, here is a short list of reasons to change your mind (remember almost every industry has similar events that are open to the public or media).

1. Tons of PR agents, manufacturers and marketing people are all under one roof.

This means tons of new story angles waiting to be discovered. I rarely schedule specific appointment times because they are too difficult to keep at a busy show. Make a list of all the places and booths you want to stop at beforehand, when possible.

2. Get first–hand, reliable information from the source.

They are going to want you to take brochures and other info. However, I would avoid taking any paper from them other than business cards. A sack of brochures weighs a ton after a long day and are frequently worthless when writing a story. Many facts just have to be double-checked anyway.

3. Face-to-face interactions with people I otherwise communicate with over the phone or email is invaluable to developing long-term relationships.

Always ask for media disk and a business card.

4. Practice interacting with strangers

This may be the most important note. When I first started and was uncomfortable with introduce myself, I would just approach booths that I knew I might not need anything from me and just say “hello.” It does get easier

5. You are wanted

Working writers are always appreciated at conventions as all attendees are looking for more media exposure. For the record, I never ask for anything other than information from any media contact at a show. I have seen writers ask for swag, press trips and whatever else that isn’t nailed down. It never looks pretty.

What to bring:
1. Tons of Business Cards – my card goes into every punch bowl whether I have a dialog with someone or not. This year’s punchbowl becomes next year’s story.

2. A note pad.

3. Snacks — convention floor food is terrible, and expensive.

4. Really comfortable shoes

On a side note, a handful of ITKT readers and new friends showed up to the above event. It was wonderful to throw around a few travel stories with people I had only seen in graviton or Facebook form. More amazing still is that we found each other in a huge, very crowded room.

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