This post is very Inside Baseball (or “Inside Blogging”). I apologize in advance – if talk of a food blogging conference bores you, skip this post, and I won’t be offended. Come back Thursday and I’ll have a new recipe.
What would you do if you weren’t afraid?
– Mary Crafts Homer
I visited with my tribe, food bloggers, at the Everything Food Conference in Salt Lake City over the weekend. Blogging exists in a strange space. I have people that I follow, and that follow me; I consider them friends and fans, and I am a friend and fan of theirs. But I never meet them in real life. I love the blogging life – I would never have met most of these wonderful people – but there is no substitute for getting to know someone face to face.
…at least that’s what I’m telling myself in my Salt Lake City hotel room, hours before the conference, while I quietly have a panic attack. I’m such an introvert. Walking into a room full of strangers gives me the heebie-jeebies 1. Especially a room full of people that I want to get to know. I’m flashing back to my first day of high school, sitting alone in the lunchroom, hoping someone will sit down next to me. “Why am I here? What am I doing? This was all a mistake.”
I get to the conference site, and there are clusters of food bloggers huddled around the charging stations, or sitting in the seats nearby, staring at their phones.2 I start the conversation with bloggers the only way I know how – “Hi, I’m Mike. Does anyone know the wi-fi password?” And we’re off and running.
Once I get in the flow of things, I remember why it’s worth riding out pre-conference jitters. I’m in a room full of strangers – but they’re all potential friends. We all share this odd niche hobby of food blogging, and have so much to talk about. We share war stories about nasty commenters, swap tips about blog services, and I learn about favorite new ingredients. Every time I strike up a conversation, I wind up with a new friend. I talk with bloggers big and small; some have been blogging for a few months, some are about my size, some have followings that dwarf mine. They’re all amazing people3, and I have a stack of business cards that I just have to follow up with, because I don’t want to lose touch with any of them. This is why the conference is so worth it. In my day job business jargon I would call it “networking”, but it’s more about making connections in my tribe, the people who love to do the same things I do.
The 4 secrets to a successful blog? Blood, sweat, tears, and mistakes.
– Bjork Ostrom
The conference itself is fantastic, in an overwhelming way. Every session I go to has me filling pages on my notebook – how to make Facebook Live videos! Pinterest tips! Food styling! Self publishing! Speaking of which, at the opening dinner, who sits down at my table but one of the other guys at the conference, Jason Logsdon, blogger at Amazing Food Made Easy and self-published author of a series of Sous Vide and modernist cooking cookbooks. I’m looking forward to his talk about self publishing, and here he is, right next to me. I don’t start peppering him with questions…until we wind up walking to lunch together the next day. I hope I gave him enough time to eat, but I learned a lot that is going to improve my next book, both at that lunch and in his talk.
It was also really strange to be standing in line for a drink and hear Bjork Ostrom behind me. I listen to his Food Blogger Pro podcast every week, and hearing his voice live, not through headphones, was wonderfully odd. I didn’t want to bug him – he was deep in the middle of another conversation. Then he stopped by my table to say hello a few minutes later. I’m a member of Food Blogger Pro, and he recognized me from my profile picture. 4 I had lunch with him, Lindsay of Pinch of Yum , and most of the Food Blogger Pro crew later in the weekend. I can report that Bjork and Lindsay are even nicer in person than they seem online – and I didn’t think that was possible.
Success is built sequentially, one thing at a time.
– Pat Flynn
The only problem with the conference is that I learned too much.
On the one hand, I now have ideas on how to improve my blog, pictures, ads, Facebook page, Pinterest feed, Instagram, hashtagging, Yummly, YouTube videos, cookbooks, and sponsored posts. I have a “someday” list of tips, tactics, and changes that is longer than my arm.
On the other hand, my big takeaway was that I need to focus. I can’t do it all – I’m a solo blogger with a family and a day job. 5 I’ve been procrastinating on my next big project – a pressure cooker cookbook – and I need to get moving. The Resistance has been winning, and I need to let go of my fears. 6 The one thing I need to do next is get the book started, to get in a rhythm, to work on it a bit every day.
That’s my big takeaway – that I learned a whole lot of great things, and I need to let most of them go.
Ugh, this is going to be hard.
Oh, and did I mention I won a super-blender from BlendTec in the end-of-conference drawing?7 I shipped it home – it’s too big to fit in my luggage – and can’t wait to try it out. (My kids asked me to FedEx it overnight, so they could use it even before I got home to make their daily smoothies. They’re just going to have to wait.)
Also, the food in Salt Lake City is awesome. I loved eating at Pallet, Copper Common, Whiskey Street, and Crown Burger. 8 My only regret is not eating at the Red Iguana, a highly recommended local Mexican restaurant…that always has an hour and a half wait. I could never bring myself to stand in that line.
Thank you to everyone at the Everything Food Conference, especially my fellow attendees. I’ll be in touch, and I hope to see you there next year!
PS: I may or may not have become an Instagram addict while I was at the conference – all the pictures in this post are from my Instagram feed. Follow me at @DadCooksDinner if you want to see if I keep it up now that I’m home.
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