Last weekend I packed up my blogger business cards, planted kisses on Mufasa and the KC kids and headed to Austin for the 5th annual BlogHer Food Conference. All. By. Myself.
No backpacks full of coloring books or epi-pens stuffed in my purse, just me, my camera (which I barely used by the way, hence the slew of iPhone and Instagram photos in this post) and a single carry-on bag.
On top of leaving behind the troops, I didn't know a single soul who was going to be there, unless of course you count blog stalking as "knowing." I mean, I know Jenny Rosenstrach and Joy the Baker just like I know Barack Obama and Adele. I'm relatively certain none of them are coming to my next birthday party. So liberating, yes. Terrifying? A little.
In the days leading up to the conference I scoured the web looking for reviews from other bloggers who'd attended BlogHer Food in the past and found them for the most part really helpful. And encouraging. So, I thought it only fair that as a first time semi-terrified attendee with one BlogHer Food conference officially under my belt, I should offer my own two cents.
Here's what I learned.
1. Listen more than you talk. This is especially true for newbies and small-time bloggers like me. Presumably you are there to learn. Sure the business card do-si-do is important but keep in mind you are surrounded by tons of enthusiastic, experienced bloggers who are not necessarily your target blog audience and that's totally okay. Welcome their knowledge in all areas, not only blogging. Within one 10 minute span I learned:
- The BEST use for expired epi-pens: Have caregivers, teachers, grandparents, etc. practice injecting the expired pens into an orange to make sure they know how to execute in an emergency - brilliant!
- There's a Food Allergy Bloggers Conference coming up in Las Vegas later this year
- The QuickPix app has a much smaller (and therefore superior) delay compared to the iPhone camera app. I've already made the switch. You should too.
- Simply installing Dropbox on my phone has made it so I can stop constantly emailing photos to myself for use on this blog and elsewhere.
There. My life made better in 10 minutes. Never would have happened if I'd been busy pitching my blog the whole time.
2. It's okay to be alone. Even at a big intimidating conference where everyone greets everyone like a busload of reunited summer campers (with the fortuitous addition of booze) and they're all having the best time ever. Even then.
See, here I am being alone, hiding in a bathroom stall to take a picture of myself to send to the KC kids. It's a glamorous life I lead.
Seriously, think about it. You don't constantly surround yourself with a clown car of friends during every waking moment of a regular day. And if you do they probably won't be friends much longer. Downtime in your room is okay. So is wandering around the hotel, eating a meal, or exploring a new city by yourself. No one is looking at you thinking who is that weirdo and where are all her friends? In fact they're probably not thinking that much about you at all.
3. Ask questions. Don't know what SEO is? Ask someone. That is why you're here.
4. Just because it's right in front of you doesn't mean you have to eat it. Not kidding. Your pants need to fit to get you home.
5. Speak. No matter how intimidated you are by the famous beautiful wealthy blogger standing next to you, put on your big girl underpants and say hello. Chances are decent you aren't the biggest fool to ever make an approach. At least that's what I'm telling myself. In any event, ask for the photo. You won't regret it.
6. Make time for the expo. Get to know the sponsors. They're nice and they want to talk to you. Try new products, give compliments, enter the contests. Without them the conference wouldn't exist.
7. Say yes. Yes to samples. Yes to excursions. Yes to exchanging business cards. Yes to invitations for a drink at the bar. Yes to share a taxi. Yes to try a bite of someone's amazing pork belly taco. Yes to party invitations if you're lucky enough to get one. Just yes. You never know where it will take you. In fact, it might just get you eating hot dogs and drinking gluten-free beer with the masterminds behind FrannyCakes.com and Freedible.com at a GlutenIsMyBitch.com book party.
Or it could get you here
|Maria's Taco Xpress|
|Whip In, Austin|
drinking one of these
So see, you just never know until you go.
8. Sleep well in the days preceding the conference. Sleep on the plane. Sleep afterward. There won't be a whole lot of sleep during the conference.
9. Get dressed like you mean it. Sure there will be bloggers running around in jeans, sneakers, and t-shirts and that's totally fine particularly if your blog is www.icookinjeans.com and you have 3 million twitter followers, four cookbooks, and a television show. Keep in mind, however, there will also be plenty of beautiful, fit, adorable bloggers in tailored dresses, heels, and bright trendy necklaces. Go ahead and give yourself the mental boost of looking your best. It'll help tremendously as you balance your platter of croissants and bacon at the table of bubbly, young, hot, tan healthy living bloggers.
|My attempt at fashion|
10.Catch the keynotes if you can. It's okay not to get to every single session, chat, and event. But make time for those that catch your attention. One of the most enlightening conversations I had of the entire weekend was with Binghamton, NY city councilwoman and all around extraordinary woman, Lea Webb. She's not a blogger, doesn't have kids, heck, I don't even know if she cooks, but man, was she cool to talk to! We ended up sitting next to each other on a bus and had so much to cover I didn't want the ride to end. On the other hand, it could have been a little awkward had I missed her keynote. Just saying.
There you have it. BlogHer Food 2013 in a nutshell. Well, my nutshell anyway. If you're on the fence or feeling "too small" for a big blogging conference I'm here to tell you, you're not. Yes, Molly Wizenberg was there and Ree Drummond made an appearance at the closing party but I also met several bloggers who were just starting out...or had not even started a blog yet at all. And if you do decide to attend next year and are feeling like no one wants to talk to you...just come find me! I'll be the one hiding in the bathroom with my iPhone.