I was always envy of American bloggers, going to their cool conferences, meeting star bloggers and having fun. This year I decided to be braver and try new things, even if they are scary. In February I’ve searched for Food Blogging Conferences in Europe and this is how I found Food Blogger Connect (FBC). June 6th-8th, Battersea Arts Centre, London. FBC is a food blogging conference connecting bloggers to food industry folks since 2009. I didn’t know that when I was signing up, but since they had David Lebovitz last year, I thought it must be cool enough.
So here are my few tips how to survive and have fun at your first blogging conference.
Find accommodation nearby
I always panic and imagine the worst scenarios. So I was imaging myself lost in London, without a clue where I am. If you are anything like me, here what helps – booking an accommodation nearby. It pays off, you don’t need to worry about commuting everyday, you save money and time and you save your nerves.
I only needed to find right train station exit, go straight, then right, then right and I was there. To get to the venue I needed to go straight, left, straight, right, straight. Simple enough even for me.
Make friends ahead
That’s a right way to do it. You know people, people know you. You commented your blogs, you tweeted. Guess what? I was deluding myself I will get to know at least some bloggers that are coming beforehand. But I was busy and I’ve just skimmed through the interviews with attendees. and have only managed to get in touch with Lou, the mother of all sourdoughs, as her blog attracted me with all those lovely breads (she even makes her own panettone). That wasn’t much, but still it was enough to keep me sane. I’ve knew one person, so in the worst case scenario I could always follow her like a shadow (but luckily everybody was really nice, and I didn’t need to do it, so I think she still likes me ;)).
Have business cards
It’s not obligatory, but it helps. How many name can you remember? Two? Five? I’m bad with names, I can assure you there are more people like me there.
I was actually surprised how many bloggers had business cards! If you don’t have a business cards, don’t worry, just suggest that the other person take a photo of your conference badge. It’s really good way of keeping track of people at conferences.
Try to get there early
Being early means to have an advantage. Yes, it’s a little bit awkward and quiet, but it means it’s easier to make friends, as people didn’t created groups yet, everybody is still new and awkward as you!
Learn to say Hi, my name is…
And keep smiling. I’ve never was good at small talk, but since I live in Ireland I feel I get better at it. I’m sure Irish must have small talk classes at school, as everybody has always something nice to say or ask about.
If you don’t live in Ireland just practice phrases like
- “Hi, my name is… “
- “Nice to meet you.”
- “Where are you from?”
- “What do you blog about?” (yes, we all blog about food, but almost everybody answers this question differently)”. That’s enough to get conversation going.
And if somebody is not smiling back, or keep ignoring you, just pretend you are going to a bathroom or to get a drink (tequila drinks were served from 11am!)
Talk to many people
I know it may be hard, but that’s why you wanted to go.
You will meet many interesting people, like those who:
- only started blogging like Travelbitl or Marmalade Orange, that has brilliant idea for a new blog (she tells brilliant stories),
- were born in similar part of the world – Vikalinka (Russian), Gintare (Lithuanian) and Sylvia (Polish),
- have more complicated answer to question “where are you from” than me,
- share their lives between New Orlean and London (I’m so jealous),
- live in a exotic places,
- run supper clubs or run supper club and food tours in Soho,
- can take you on a food tour in Portugal or feed you on Malta,
- make cute cookie stamps,
- work hard to share blogging love,
- study in Cordon Bleu,
- look gorgeous in green,
- know loads about wines (but unfortunately blog in Portuguese :()
- want to travel on Vespa across UK and Ireland,
- have similar approach to measuring spoons and apparently even the same bed sheets as I do
There were over 200 people, enough to find some that you get along with well. If you are very shy, just start by talking to other shy people, or just use Twitter to find potential friends. I find it so much easier to talk somebody after I’ve exchanged a few messages with them on Twitter. And it gets easier with every person you talk to.
That was another reasons I’ve signed up. I wanted to get inspired.
There were so many interesting sessions, they covered all areas of blogging from writing, photography to social media, or even creating media pack (I didn’t have a clue why I should have one, or what it exactly means for a blogger). Some sessions were better than others.
My favourites were:
- The Mechanics of Travel Writing with Julie Falconer, she did brilliant, simple exercises that asked us to tell a story in 10 seconds, 1 minute and finally 4 minutes. How does the story change, what makes story personal.
This is why you see so much more words here and I hope they make sense.
- Does Food & Travel Writing Matter? with Monica Bhide and Bee Wilson was interesting conversation how food and travel writing is more important than some people think. Food is so complex and is inseparable from so many different life areas.
- Blog Content Planning Lab with Urvashi Roe, thanks to it you should see new content types, so it should be more exciting for you and me!
- Lifestyle and Travel Photography Lab with Marte Marie Foresberg. Her photos are amazing, magical, just beautiful. When she talks about taking photos she tells beautiful stories and talks with her whole body, she was almost dancing. I can still see her describing dust dancing in the sunlight, when she was a child. Her stories are full of light, colour and movement. Somehow she also often photograph cute guys, but that’s just bonus 😉
- Food Photography and Styling Lab with Donal Skehan and Sharon Hearne-Smith was good as usual (I’ve participated to similar one with them before during Irish Food Bloggers Day). Donal flirts with audience, Sharon sells Donal’s secrets, they are perfect duet. I just wish we’ve just had more time.
- The Mechanics of Creating a Media Pack Lab with Monica Bhide – I thought a media pack is something I don’t need yet, but I was wrong, I was asked about it on the next day after I’ve came back to Dublin.
- Going Back To School- Blood, Sweat and Tears to becoming a Chef with Jackie Lee – Jackie is super funny and informative, she reminded me again why I don’t want to be a chef.
All those talks and labs had the same thing in common strong, passionate people (mostly women) that were stubborn enough to make their dreams come true. Sometimes they cried, but they love what they do.
Eat, drink and be merry
Food blogging conferences are the best conferences as they feed you well. You will queue to get the food and talk to people, you will eat the messiest street food they could think of, probably to have more topics to chat to people.
Would I do it again?
Yes. I went to FBC to meet new people, find inspiration and push my boundaries (that was actual theme of this year conference!). I achieved that and much more. Blogging is often lonely job, there is you and your computer, I often forget how important networking is. You can learn so much from others, you get inspired, you laugh, you empathize. It’s just loads of fun.
Yes, it was sometimes hard to talk to strangers, but definitely not as scary as I’ve imagined.
And if everything fails (that I don’t believe it will) you will get a goodie bag, so you can always comfort yourself with delicious goodies. Just remember to leave a space in your luggage.
Other bloggers on FBC