It was a week ago that I spent my entire day at BlogHer Food09 at the St. Regis Hotel in San Francisco. Since that time numerous articles have been written about the the event and I realized from the moment I had “planned” to write my post that I would be at risk of not having anything new or news worthy to say – then I realized that my take on things would inevitably be different than everyone elses because I like to let my thoughts simmer (pun intended) – that’s just my style.
THE CONFERENCE: self revelations
I was truly excited about this conference because as someone relatively new to the Foodie blogger label I have grown up a foodie and yet it is a part of me that I have frequently denied- my restaurant heritage. When you grow up with something, and opt out of this career choice you never really imagine that some how you will back in the tangent realm of food. Now to you, the devoted reader, that may be obvious, I wrote a cook book and I talk about food, ergo I am very in touch with my inner cook. Well, I can be a bit stubborn in allowing myself to acknowledge this is my passion. But I believe the day has arrived. With that acknowledgment comes responsibility- or isn’t that what I am supposed to say? I generally avoid doing or saying what I am supposed to say so let’s move away from that lame concept.
THE NETWORKING: better than a tweet-up
The conference, the first of its kind, was a great networking event and a good first step in what I hope will be an event that grows in scope (not size because the approximate 300 attendees/sponsors) was a truly perfect sized group for someone like me who avoids the traditional conference. Having participated in many trade shows I generally avoid them like the plague but this was different. I had the chance to get together with some of my favorite gals – Stacy Libby, Stefania Butler, Charlene Prince Birk, Jane Maynard, Lori Luna – meet in person my long time Twitter buddies Jennifer Perillo, Alice Currah, Vanessa Druck a few new friends Genie Gratto, Heather Hal, Arnold Gatilao, Lori Lange and Jeremy Pepper.
SPONSOR IMPRESSIONS: those that tried and those that won
Not to boar you with the fine little details but my take on the sponsors is that there was a good mix of sponsors to address the mommy blogger crowd and the more au natural food blogger gang. That said, the event may benefit in the future from holding two days next year to provide insight to these two distinct groups. That’s not to say that there isn’t cross-over, there certainly is but then I think I may be amongst the few to ADMIT to toggling the line. For example, I love to cook with fresh local ingredients but I also like to include items like Campbell’s Soup in some of my quick meals because I don’t always want to make my onion soup, nor do I have time to do this, when blending this flavor into my dishes. (This goes back to the fact that I am a person with limited time and resources and yet I often prefer to cook then to go out to eat but I don’t usually have 5 hours to splurge during the week to whip up my grandmother’s typical five course meals.)
Another sponsor was Bertolli Frozen, they took a few hits at the show for not knowing their audience and while I adored the Bertolli team that was kind enough to include me in their Friday night festivities at St. Supery (which I viewed as a big success), I have to confess that there might have been a better way to showcase their products at the luncheon and I say this from the view point of someone who has done numerous events and is open to the idea of incorporating their high-end alternative to cooking products into a meal — offering a pasta bar of their featured foods or having a tasters plate blended with other fresh local veggies and/or breads might have featured their product in a slightly different light. This is where Campbell’s won the prize in my mind, they hosted the cocktail party and they used all recipes made from their product line and it was done on the veranda on a gorgeous city night and the compliments were flying – it was tasteful and anything but a hard sell and it worked.
Scharffen Berger Hosted the afternoon break demonstration with acclaimed chef, Elizabeth Falkner and these wonderful chocolate boxes filled with chocolate glob and salty and sweet and spicy treats — and well you had to wear a glove to get a bit but it was creepy and fun all at the same time. Personally, I loved the creativity behind it and the experience. They were showcasing their upcoming Chocolate Adventure Contest and had a great follow-up invitation to this afternoon on two fronts – they participated in the post-party deserts showcase and a cooking webinar a few days later. This sponsor showed they knew their audience and took extra steps to solidify and leverage this event to meet their end results. From a marketing/sponsorship/communications viewpoint this was well executed – another win!
TAKE AWAYS (not take-outs): we all have something to learn
What I loved was a lot of the take-away thoughts that I’ll share with you. Guest speakers included an all star line -up of Matt Armendariz and Heidi Swanson (Developing Your Visual Voice), Amy Sherman, Jaden Hair and Helen Dujardin (Your Blog Is Great…now what? Letting your blog lead the way the way to new opportunity), and Jory Des Jardin, Ree Drummond, Garret McCord, Dianne Jacob and Susan Russo (The Meaning of Identity and the Value of Voice in a Crowded Foodblogging World) and then the closing keynote with Lisa Stone, Elise Bauer, Ree Drummond and David Lebovitz (Foodblogging, now and forever).
Two fun video clips taken with the Bertolli Flip during the closing key note with Ree Drummond, David Debovtiz and Elise Bauer (L–> R):
Developing Your Visual Voice- 5 things to think about
(there were 7, I choose 5) 😉
1) Be inspired by others
2) Think about photos in context
3) Understand what you are shooting
4) Think about the type of shots you are after
5) The workflow is important
Bottom line- there are no rules. Take as many or as few shots as you like, have fun with it and be bold.
Your Blog is Great… now what?
Use this as your yardstick when opting to provide your work for free:
People will always want your work for free and if you give it away then you hurt others in the business. For example, one person in the audience shared that she used to get $1,200 to write a piece and now the market will only pay her $300 for a piece. Where can you go to learn the value of your work? Your local food society. Ask them what the going rate is for what you’ve been asked to do for free.
Remember your recipe is the MEAT of a piece and the photos are the DRESSING.
Advice from the professionals:
– Helen: where each opportunity will lead you – who knows? But why not try it. If someone tells you NO it is not NO FOREVER it is NO for right now.
– Amy: Food is a competitive business and it is not always pretty. But usually it is friendly and passionate. Blogs open up the door to new opportunities but the deal is sealed in person.
– Jaden: Treat your blog as a business and get advisers to provide perspective, ask a more well recognized blogger if you can be an intern, write a yearly business plan and stretch beyond your blog to be a leader in food.
The Meaning of Identity and the Value of Voice in a Crowded Foodblogging World
Garrett: Blogging is VERY “I” focused.
Garrett: A good rule is not to say anything on your blog that you wouldn’t say at a cocktail party. (Ree asks,” After how many drinks!”)
Susan: How you deal with criticism is up to you but you have to let a lot go, as long as it doesn’t get personal.
Ree: I will often spend between 1-5 hrs on a post but not all at one time, because sometimes I am herding cattle.
Dianne: I had trouble finding my ‘Me” voice. It is important to define your voice for your readers, as a journalist we were not accustomed to doing this.
WHAT TO HOPE FOR NEXT TIME: my suggestions
I think there is a big opportunity to look towards some tracks that appeal to the every-day blogger that struggles to post even once a week. Talking with the celbs of this micro-mondo are good but I did find that left me wanting even a bit more practical every-day advice. Some tracks I would vote for on the foodie front:
The Economic Hangover/Cooking Less- Getting More
The proposed session looks at how we can get the most out of our limited available time to maximize our efforts and food dollars to recover from our manic lives in this economic hangover. The discussion would be focused on how to spend less time in the kitchen but arrive at getting more – the more being healthier meals, meals in reserve and stretching and leveraging your budgetary dollars.
Social Media Food For Thought or Stirring the Pot of Social Media Flavors
As your resident tech-geek gal, I’d like to see a bit more social media in the mix in terms of branding and promoting. Some of this was touched on but not in a structured presentation with solid take-aways which a gal like me would appreciate. Food for thought, if you will!
Unspoiled- The Future of Food Blogging
With so many social media outlets emerging do Foodies really have time to stir the pot to create and/or maintain a successful blog – Twitter, Facebook, Alltop, Del,icio.us, Ning groups and the ingredients list drones on like the who’s of who knows what. Can Foodies get lost in the shuffle and burn themselves out of creating compelling blog posts? Where are food blogs today and which should be at the top of your list? If you spend more time on some outlets will your audience migrate?
(Relevance/My sidebar: seems to me that with all of the new social media outlets, some food bloggers are having a hard time keeping their blog audience, they may drift away from their blog to focus on twitter, or perhaps newbies want to learn how to create a food blog in these times of the social media craze. Should be a solid panel.)
I am forever bemused that true chefs and the more famous variety of cook book authors (Rocco DiSpirito, Ryan Scott, Elizabeth Falkner) are always a bit surprised that the rest of us DO know how to cook. It is a kind of high-brow/low-brow dichotomy and I say it not to paint a divide but to point out a new observation. I’ll be the first to admit that I am not versed in all of the fancy smancy terminology but where good flavors are in the mix I can be trusted. I had the chance to eat dinner with Rocco, and he is an adorable dream, but he too was surprised by the questions of the ladies at our table. And if that wasn’t fun enough, I was invited to come up on stage and help Ryan Scott, Top Chef contestant and chef, cook his frittata and he complimented me on how nicely I cut mushrooms (supplied by sponsor The Mushroom Channel) – I of course laughed and said thank you, he too was quite a charmer even with his girlfriend by his side.
And Elizabeth Falkner on the Scharffen Berger webcast, unless I was imagining it, responded to my questions with an approving nod. So you see…bloggers are cooks too and the rest of the world is about to find out. (well maybe).
Thank you to the folks at BlogHer for taking this inaugural step to host the first blogger foodie show- I hope you will take on the challenge again! I look forward to the Second Annual Event in 2010.
And thank you to the sponsors for believing in the blogger foodies as a viable audience.
Special thanks to the after-party hosts that put on a top notch event – Elise, Jaden and Ree! Great music and OF COURSE great eats!
Please note that I had an great video to share from the Bertolli dinner featuring Gaston and Rocco but the video exceeds the YouTube length by one minute and I am unable to post. If you have any suggestions on another site I can use, please do email send me a note at firstname.lastname@example.org.