Tuesday, June 21, 2011

BlogHer Food

I plan conferences for a living in Texas, but on a few occasions I also am able to play the role of attendee at conferences. This BlogHer Food conference was an event I looked forward to attending for months.  For three days I was surrounded by folks just like me who love to cook, write, photograph and talk about food. I didn't meet one stranger all weekend, seriously...everyone was incredibly friendly and so much fun to hang out with.

Why did it take me four weeks to post about my amazing experience? It's been one heck of a month for us... Jim accepted an exciting job in California (he's commuting, we are not moving), my mom finally had her halo brace removed, I've had several big events at work causing me to be on the road most of the month. It's been crazy to say the least! Believe me when I say that I was so jazzed when I returned from BlogHer, fully motivated by the people I met and the sessions I attended. I haven't lost the spark, just need a little more time to figure out my work/life/blog balance. Another reason for the delay in posting is the sheer length and information of this post...I started as soon as I returned and have been working on it sporadically since. I'm so happy (and releived) to finish and get this posted!

For those of you who might not know, BlogHer Food was held in Atlanta at the Westin Peachtree hotel on May 20-21, 2011. Even though the property was going through a renovation during our conference, the hotel was a nice host for the event...especially after my tweet regarding the long and slow line at the hotel registration desk.

The official conference kicked off Friday morning in the grand ballroom with a lovely breakfast spread consisting of farm fresh scrambled egg, sliced fruit, sausage, grits and pastries.

When we left the opening session and headed down to our first breakout sessions, each attendee received a "swag bag" with sponsor gifts and coupons.

It seemed that all the sessions I attended were filled to the max, including a few classes that had bloggers sitting on the floor and in the ails. My fellow attendees were mostly female, and we used a range of various note taking techniques. I wasn't alone in bringing my laptop, some brought iPads, some took notes the old fashioned way. Regardless of the method, attendees were fed rich information from an experienced panel.

There was ample time built into the schedule for us to peruse the sponsor area and I even snapped a photo with Charlie, the king of canned tuna!

Masterbuilt fried a turkey which made the exhibit area smell so good. Lucky for us, they were also sampling the bird once it was brown and crispy. There were many other sponsors at the conference: Pom, Quaker, Scharffen Berger, StarKist Tuna, Bays English Muffins, Dole, iCookbook, Barilla, Bob’s Red Mill, Marzetti, Mango.org, Starbucks, OXO, Wasa.

Vocation: Effective Social Networking for Food Bloggers

Panel: Jaden Hair, Sara Kate Gillingham-Ryan, David Lebovitz (Moderated by: Toby Bloomberg)

I liked this session a lot because David was a hoot, he kept the panel alive while Jadens honesty was so refreshing. There were several major take-aways for me in this session. I definitely took note when Jaden shared her basic rules for twitter: If she tweets it must be useful or entertaining. She also likes to promote others, which in the food blogging world is very important. Facebook however, is a totally different source of interaction according to both David and Jaden. Another avenue Jaden utilizes is an e-mail newsletter that she crafts herself.

David unabashedly admits that he uses social media in the wrong way. Ha! For David, Facebook has become his number one source of traffic. He uses twitter as an RSS feed of sorts and he links out from Facebook also. I took note when he said that if people get a whiff of “marketing” from your twitter posts then you will likely lose followers. David was the only one on the panel who likes to use his flicker site as social media. Although he puts links on flicker to his blog, his statistics do not show that he gets much from this.

Taking Your Blog Content to Mobile (Learning from What the Big Media Companies Are Doing)

Panel: Irvin Lin (moderator), Kelly Nenyei (Gourmet Live), Tanya Steel (epicurious), Mark Levine ( Scripts, FN, Food.com etc)

Session description: The inevitable move of online content towards mobile needs to change how a lot of us are blogging – including food bloggers. In this session, folks at media companies talk about how they’re adapting their properties for mobile, and not always with a massive budget. The move to mobile means looking at your content and your tools and making the most of both. Lead by blogger Irvin Lin, Kelly Senyei from Gourmet Live, Tanya Steel from Epicurious, and Mark Levine from Food.com will share how they tackled the challenge.

My take: ... what? I switched sessions after the first 20 minutes.

Want to know what session I really loved? On day two I attended the "visual" sessions, both focusing on photography. Finding Your Visual Voice; Panel: Aran Goyaga, Stephanie Shih, and Tami Hardeman

Aran explained why overexposing photos to make them brighter is not good. She said it's actually not about the camera, but about the light and understanding the aspects of the camera. The real end game is telling an honest story with food, words and images. Her tips:

• Think of it as an editorial piece.
• Think of a color palette inspired by an ingredient, prop or season.
• Think of visual narrative.
• Start with an image that explains the story. It doesn’t have to be the final dish.
• Details and people enhance the story.
• Subtly – simple is good.

Stephanie had a lovely way of describing her method, she "pulls your eye through the photo in a purposeful way." Ah! I loved that! The biggest impacts of developing her voice:

1. Find a mentor: it’s easier for other people to see what is unique about you than you.
2. Learn light: natural light is just so much better.
3. Learn dark: she finds the spotlight, the spot on the scene she wants to highlight and then plucks out all the light.
4. Practice: fight through the frustration and keep trying to get to the next level.

Our afternoon excursion to Sweet Auburn Curb Market was a fun experience.

There was only one food truck outside, accompanied by several tables of sellers hawking their homemade goodies.

I used my time at the market to practice my photography skills.

Food bloggers everywhere!

The most beautiful produce was around every corner.

I think not.

I love the look on this guys face - such pride.

Samples! The most delish sweet potato cheesecake... yum!

I couldn't visit Atlanta without sampling some Georgia peaches.

One of the more popular lunch spots at the market.

There is a reason why everyone loves a Georgia peach... they are Mmm Mmm Mmm good!

The last evening of the conference I joined a few of my new friends and we dined out together.

After dinner we joined the closing party which was held in the Tabernacle theater.

It was a fabulous event with lots of energy!

The DJ played music that got lots of people on the dance floor.

She did an excellent job!

I was able to taste a local brew which I loved.

But it was the music, the energy and the dancing that made the evening so memorable for me.

I didn't get on the bar and dance, but I still had a wonderful time with my new friends at BlogHer Food.

1 comment:

  1. FUN!

    I'm so glad we had the chance to meet at the conference: I feel like we'd totally be friends in real life. Is that creepy to say? Hm.

    Also, I totally agree about that sweet potato cheesecake: holy moly was that delicious!!!


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