I can’t believe I’m writing this, but: I have been selected as the winner of GoTraveler’s Next Travel Star TV Show Development Deal!
Want to see my pitch performance? Watch the vlog!
Interested in my whole experience? Read the post:
Back in December I was scrolling through Instagram, and as the Algorithm has smartly figured out that I enjoy travel content, it placed a post by the travel TV show streaming service GoTraveler in my feed. The post called for submissions of travel show ideas which would be evaluated and the top three finalists would be invited to the 2024 Chicago Travel & Adventure Show to live pitch to an audience and panel of three judges.
Having never heard of GoTraveler or the Travel & Adventure Show before, I did a little digging before deciding to submit an entry. It appeared that Rick Steves and Pauline Frommer, two of the world’s most well-known travel guide book company owners, would be keynote speakers at the Chicago show. And GoTraveler has an app from which travel shows, like Rick Steves’ Europe, can be streamed for free! That was enough for me. I decided to submit my YouTube channel as a travel show idea, just because in the highly unlikely event I would be invited to Chicago, I would be able to see Rick Steves live in person!
The contest entry package required a two-minute “sizzle reel,” or introductory video, a pitch deck, and a short bio. I edited the text from my blog About page down to fit the bio word number requirement, edited my YouTube channel trailer to meet the sizzle reel time requirement, then Googled, “What is a tv show pitch deck?” Thanks to some examples I found online and Canva’s very helpful templates, I learned that a TV show pitch deck is a short slideshow that presents the concept of your show, the host/characters, up to three specific episodes, who the audience for the show will be, and any data showing the marketability of your show. So I got to work and created a pitch deck for A Suitcase Full of Books: A Literary Travel TV Show. I submitted my package of assets, which I was proud of, though never expected to hear back considering my lack of marketability data and low YouTube follower count (p.s. if you’re not subscribed to my YouTube channel, go subscribe?!).
Thus, a few weeks later when I received an email with the subject line “RE: Form Submission” I almost deleted it, thinking it was spam! Luckily, I remembered I had in-fact made a submission and opened the email to find a Zoom meeting request! A day later, I was stunned to learn I’d been selected as one of the top three finalists and was invited to live pitch my show in Chicago!
I spent the next few weeks tweaking my pitch deck to perfection and practicing my presentation. While I could run through my whole pitch flawlessly with no audience, I was incredibly nervous about taking it to a stage with an unknown number of in-person viewers. Thankfully, several friends and family were not only kind enough to sit through my practice run throughs, but made me practice multiple times over for them! Although still nervous, I was pretty confident I could get through my pitch in front of an audience by the time I landed in Chicago. And if I froze up and my presentation went terribly, I’d still get to see Rick Steves in person!
Speaking of freezing, I landed in Chicago in the middle of a snowstorm with the outside temperature for the two days of the travel show dropping to -12F. Luckily our hotel had a heated, enclosed skybridge to Chicago’s Donald E. Stephens Convention Center where the Show was taking place!
The Travel and Adventure Show
While the contest was the second day of the Show, I wanted to spend the first day watching the keynote speakers, attempting to get them to sign books, and generally enjoying the show before I was too busy to do so the next day. So Saturday morning, I pulled on jeans and my blog-branded sweatshirt and walked to the convention center.
I had never been in such a large room of booths all hawking travel experiences! After a first pass through the hall, it seemed 2/3rds of the room was filled with companies selling experiences within driving distance from Chicago perfect for weekend getaways. Another third of the room contained booths of cruise companies and timeshares in the Bahamas and the last third held tables filled with information about African safaris and a few other random countries. Based on this, it seemed the target audience of this show was local Chicagoans ages 50+.
Around the edges of the large expo hall, tucked into various corners were stages for speakers that would change out every hour. One of these would be the “theater” where the competition would take place and on the other side of the room was the “theater” where Rick Steves and Pauline Frommer would be talking.
And finally, besides the booths and stages, there was an enclosure holding a camel ($10 donation for a ride!), and another area set aside for segway riding ($5 a ride!).
I talked to Pauline Frommer!
I was simultaneously excited and overwhelmed by the whole expo hall so naturally I gravitated toward my favorite booth… the bookstore. I planned to pick up the books of the three keynote speakers in the hopes of getting the books signed, so I grabbed a copy of Somebody Feed Phil The Book (unfortunately Phil Rosenthal never made it to the Show due to canceled flights!), picked up a Rick Steves guide book, and then was just trying to decide which Frommer guide book I wanted when a woman stepped behind the table full of books and said, “Hi! I’m Pauline Frommer!” My head snapped up and with wide eyes I’m pretty sure I said, “Yes! Yes, you are!” I’d been given a “Speaker” badge by GoTraveler when I arrived that morning and, noticing this, Pauline asked me what I’d be speaking about! I was having a conversation with Pauline Frommer!! In the end she suggested I pick her Paris Day by Day guidebook because it contains a tour route based on Hemmingway’s Paris. Then she kindly offered to sign the book (Even though it’s actually written by a staff writer. Pauline writes the New York books herself).
I didn’t talk to Rick Steves, but he signed my book!
Rick Steves is, unsurprisingly, so popular that his talks ended up in standing-room only. Which of course meant that there were so many people wanting him to sign books that he just couldn’t stop to talk or take photos with everyone. So after his talk, during which he told the audience we really didn’t need anything to travel besides one of his books, he had a bit of an unorthodox way of signing books. Rather than requesting a tidy line behind a table, he asked us to gather around him while he spun in a circle in the middle of the crowd, signing book after book after book as they were thrust toward him. Some audience members tried to shout at him their admiration and thanks for inspiring them to travel, but he barely had time to acknowledge this as he kept on spinning until the last person had gotten their book signed. While definitely the most strange book signing I’ve ever attended, I appreciated the whimsy of it.
The GoTraveler Pitch Contest
With signed books acquired and travel guidebook moguls seen in-person, I would have been totally happy if the weekend had ended there, but I still had a whole second day and a presentation to get through! So on Sunday I dressed in a book-print dress, put on my book stack earrings, and headed back to the Expo hall with my “Speaker” badge around my neck.
I checked in at the GoTraveler booth where I met the other two finalists who I’d be competing against. One was a husband and wife duo, Anthony and Marlie Love, with a YouTube channel called Traveling While Black. They describe their travel content as a modern day Green Book, as they rate each of their travel experiences on a number of factors including how comfortable they felt as black travelers. The other contestant was Alikona Bradford, an actor and show host, presenting her idea for a travel show called Eco Rush: Small Footprint, Big Adrenaline Rush.
We also got to briefly meet our three judges, each a travel tv show host:
- Pamela Holt, host of Me, Myself and the World, a solo travel expert
- Colleen Kelly, host of Family Travel with Colleen Kelly
- Christine Drinan, Founder of Galavante, a luxury travel website, lifestyle company, and travel tv show
Then it was competition time. We contestants were seated in a row on stage at the Savvy Travel Theater on one side of a podium and the three judges sat in a row on the other side of the podium. Traveling While Black was told to present first, then Eco Rush second, and I was last. In turn we presented starting with our two-minute video then had three minutes to pitch with or without a pitch deck. After each of our presentations the judges asked us individual questions, then after we’d all finished they asked a few more questions which all the contestants answered in turns. Then they let the audience ask us all questions while the judges conversed and made their final decision.
I never expected to be named The Next Travel Star winner! According to the terms of the competition, the winner will have three one-hour long consultation meetings with a GoTraveler development executive. So I’m excited to learn more about the travel tv show development process and see where this process takes me and A Suitcase Full of Books!
Also, I would be remiss if I didn’t end end with thank yous: Thank you to GoTraveler and the judges for selecting me! Thank you to all the friends and family that helped me edit and practice my pitch presentation! Thank you to all those who sent well wishes and congrats! And finally, thank you to all the readers and viewers that have let me know over the years that you’ve found my content enjoyable and helpful!