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How does a person go about attending an amazing food blogger conference? Take a look at this year’s #FWCon and find out just how easy it is to rock it!
It’s been two weeks since the 2016 Food Wine Conference, and I still haven’t really come off the high. It’s the highlight of my blogging year, and once it’s over…well…
Real life is a bummer when it’s not a jam-packed schedule full of food, friends, and fun.
Let me show you what I mean. Maybe then you’ll understand why you need to start looking forward to next year’s 5th Annual Conference with me.
Be on top of your social media game.
Every year, attendees are given the opportunity to apply to be a brand ambassador for one of the amazing conference sponsors. It’s a bit of extra work for the blogger, but in the end, you know you were going to tweet about their amazingness and write about how wonderful they helped make the final event anyway. And it pays off – in the form of a discounted weekend ticket, connections, and friends you’ll never forget. I highly recommend applying – branch out! You never know who you might meet.
Even if you choose not to become a brand ambassador, shout out what you love about you favorite brands (even in non-conference settings!) It’s the best way to get them to notice you, as well as build working relationships in the future.
Don’t be shy.
It’s fine that you only know one soul going to the conference, or none at all. The conference is only in its fourth year – so that was basically all of us at one point. Think of it as the first day of school, except you will more than likely leave on Monday wishing you could take everyone you meet home with you. Every self-proclaimed shy blogger I’ve met both years I’ve attended have said that they’ve come out of it more outgoing (even a little bit) and more willing to introduce themselves to new people…new people that can become their new friends, new bosses, and maybe even their ever-elusive Tribe.
This year, nationally acclaimed business etiquette coach Patricia Rossi, introduced herself to me in a nearly empty room at the Florida Dairy Farmer’s Milk Spa. I consider myself fairly outgoing, but even I was surprised at how comfortable she was shaking hands with strangers. It all made sense the next day during her etiquette session…which I was unceremoniously chosen to help present – an opportunity I might not have had if I hadn’t met her the night before.
I also took the chance to meet our keynote speaker, restauranteur and Food Network Star Donatella Arpaia, during her very short free time after her session. I may have executed it less than professionally (more like plain fangirling – stumbling over my words a bit and finally finding an unawkward hug position after she signed my notebook,) but when she remembers me one random autumn evening at Davidburke & Donatella in NYC and asks me to collaborate on a cookbook? I will thank my bumbling self for taking the time to meet her.
Unzip your lip.
In spite of the fact that bloggers are cloaked behind computers all day, we are big talkers. Big in the largest sense of BIG. If you don’t talk at this conference, you are guaranteed to miss out on incredible opportunities! Be yourself! Extrovert or introvert, steel yourself and jump in to some conversations.
It’s one thing to just meet someone. It’s a whole new ballgame if you try to get to know them.
That’s when you find your people.
There’s a time for food, drink, and chatter, but Food Wine Conference also goes big in the way of learning. Between discovering the right way to stand in a crowded room to look approachable, how to pair a red to that aged oaky cheddar, the best apps to edit Instagram photos with, or how Vaseline is used by the pros to fix a cracked apple pie during a photo shoot, you will walk away every day knowing something you didn’t the day before.
Be ready to tweet quotes you don’t want to forget, snap cell phone pics of important info on the jumbotron, jot down notes and names to contact later, and befriend new people on Snapchat who do the same thing you do and like to share tips about it on the daily. Our passion is real, and the learning doesn’t stop after you leave Orlando.
Bring your second stomach.
The Rosen Shingle Creek puts on one hell of a show. The resort boasts a wide variety of delicious dining, and each one shines on opening night (Friday) at the Taste of Rosen. Certified Angus Beef teams up with some of the other fab brands and takes care of business during Saturday’s “Sunday Supper” sit down meal (this year themed “Denim & Diamonds,”) spoiling us with succulent salads, savory sides, and a hell of an amazing steak. This year, some of us were lucky enough to enjoy a real Sunday Supper together at Tapa Toro, where we tweeted all about our Spanish tapas eats to our extended online families.
And don’t think you’ll go hungry between meals. Oceanus, Wish Farms, Stoneridge Orchards, Datz/Roux, Out of the Weeds, and Intensity Academy help take care of filling any hunger pangs we might have with snack breaks, swag bag treats, and all kinds of tasty goodies sprinkled throughout the weekend .
Practice your sommelier skills.
It wouldn’t be much of a Food Wine Conference without the wine part, right? CK Mondavi throws a hell of a party, and if you enjoy a good glass of vino, you won’t be left wanting (and you’ll be in good company!) From Scarlet Five to Chardonnay, Mondavi brought their best to share with us all weekend, and every glass was perfectly paired with a tasty bite. Don’t fret if wine isn’t your thing, however – the FSGA helped kick of the conference this year with boozy strawberry milkshakes, and Duda Fresh threw their hat in the ring also with some delicious produce-based cocktails at Saturday night’s VIP Dessert Party.
Get your smile ready.
Let’s be real: food bloggers can be a varied bunch as far as their sense of humor goes. Some are goofy, while some have a hard time cracking a smile because they want to be taken seriously as an expert in the field of food.
I promise that the people you’ll meet at the Food Wine Conference are just about the friendliest bunch you’ll ever meet. Many of us know one another from working together through the Sunday Supper Movement, and have shared plenty of laughs through Twitter chats alone. Even the non-SSM folks are sweet as can be, and I promise if you open yourself up to the fun side of food blogging (which most of it is,) you’ll go home stress-free. At least until you have to cook your own dinner again. That part is always tough after a weekend of no kitchen duties!
Use the weekend to better your blog…and yourself.
There’s a constant flurry of things going on during conference weekend, and it can often be overwhelming for even a veteran attendee to keep up with. Make sure you document as much as possible, because you won’t want to miss anything.
Don’t be afraid to pull out your camera and start snapping photos at Sunday brunch. Take notes, on paper or your laptop. Ask questions. Exchange cards. Share dessert. Talk loudly and get attention. Never feel bad about having your cell phone out and in your hand. Be obnoxious about taking video. Try new things. Go back for seconds.
And definitely stand on your chair at dinner to get that overhead money shot of your Sunday Supper.
Be you, and we will all love you for it.
Be sure to stay up to date with the Food Wine Conference happenings by following on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest!
Disclosure: I was provided with a discounted ticket to the Food Wine Conference. No monetary compensation has been received for this post. As always, all opinions are 100% my own.