I wasn't home from Seattle but a few hours when a "rate Blogher Food 12" survey appeared in my inbox. It was too soon. I need a few days to think-over my experiences.
Why I Went
I attended BlogHer Food 12 hoping to meet fellow bloggers and learn from their experiences. I was excited to attend seminars that I hoped could improve my photography skills, writing skills and the entire process of managing a website.Room 504, Fairmont Olympic Hotel in Seattle, Washington
I give super high marks to the Fairmont Olympic Hotel. My room was lovely, spacious, super clean, comfortable and tidied early each morning. The hotel staff were pleasant, attentive and professional. Even with a hotel filled to capacity with 500 laptop-carrying bloggers, the hotel internet speed was supersonic. The Fairmont Olympic Hotel did not provide an electrical plug in at the nightstand. Why is this such a problem in hotels?
The conference rooms were equally lovely, well-lit, with good sound systems and plenty of room. The panelists were always on a dais, so it was easy to see the speakers. Coffee and water were always available, along with enough tables that everyone had a "desk" to make notes. Free wifi was provided to all conference attendees, at no additional cost, throughout the entire hotel.
The main gathering space, the "foyer", was a mess. Everything happened in this area - meals and snacks were served from several buffet lines in the middle of the room and the walls were lined with sponsor booths. It was so difficult to move around and once you balanced your bag, your lunch and a cup of coffee - there was a crowded chute (up a few steps) to funnel-through into the main ballroom and an empty spot at a dining table. The noise-level in there was frightening. The gathering space needed to be larger.
The costs to attend were substantial, especially for my little company. The conference fee itself was a very reasonable $300. All sessions and programs, and most meals were covered by the conference fee. But, even with a deeply-discounted conference hotel rate, my room was $199 per night, plus tax. Many bloggers were discussing the cost to attend this conference. Some attendees found a roomie to split the room cost or stayed at other (less expensive) hotels in Seattle. Many of the conference-goers were local, so did not require a hotel room. Most attendees also had to figure-in the price of an airline ticket. I had a train ticket to purchase, taxi rides, tips... this blogging conference stuff ain't cheap.Fairmont Olympic Hotel Ballroom
What I learned at the conference
Really, not that much. The opening session with the White on Rice Couple (Todd Porter is a native Oregonian!) showing videos of their recently-departed dog, brought tears to my eyes. Their photography and stories are inspiring. The photography session I attended was very interesting and informative. The speakers were great and I jotted-down a few new photography methods to try. The "humor in food blogging" panel was a disaster and all I heard is that either you are funny or you are not. Who can judge funny? You can't teach funny. The "telling your stories" seminar was again just four people talking about their writing process. Even the copyright session discussed how vague copyright laws are in America. There was a lot of vagueness in the seminars I sat through. But, since I was nearly finished with Kim Sunee's book, A Trail of Crumbs: Hunger, Love, and the Search for Home, I truly enjoyed her excellent interview.
There are a few very popular bloggers in the Blogher publishing network. They have zillions of readers and make a lot of money through advertising and product-placement deals on their websites. They drop terms like SEO (search engine optimization) in everyday conversation and have staff, agents, stylists and publicists. (Disclaimer: I have a publicist - The Lovely Lisa.) These famous bloggers were at the conference and were approachable, friendly and seemingly everywhere. They sat-in on panels and told us about their processes - like whether to accept free product in order to influence your readership or not. But 99% of conference attendees will never have to meet with their agent about a $200,000 product-placement toaster oven deal. Sometimes the discussions were simply ridiculous (to me).
So, I really didn't learn much through the seminars. Since this was my first food blogging conference, maybe I chose the wrong sessions to attend? Maybe I am more of a "blogger" than a "food blogger" and chose the wrong conference to attend? Is there a conference for RV or track & field bloggers?
Mostly I learned that after 13 years, my website has found its niche. It is a little niche, but it's my little niche.
What I liked
I liked meeting fellow bloggers. (I was years older than most attendees - I am fairly certain I was the oldest person there!). I only "food blog" about 20% of the time... but still had much in common with the other food bloggers. We develop recipes, write columns, take photographs and put it all out there on the interweb for all to see. Then we get to hear from readers about how they liked/did not like our post or recipe. That part of the process is the same.
Every person I met was very friendly and I exchanged business cards with countless women (very few men at the conference) and asked the same question: What do you write about? I heard "gluten free", "vegan", "cooking for kids with allergies", "healthy recipes", "getting dinner on the table every night with three kids and a full-time job", "cupcakes", "low-fat" and "general cooking". In return, I was met with a lot of confused faces when I explained I develop recipes usually for "two people using a teeny RV kitchen with no dishwasher".
I liked that we had a lot of time to just "network" and meet fellow foodies. I liked that I stayed in the conference hotel so I could easily pop-up to my room between sessions. I liked that there was a lot of really delicious food to eat. The sponsors were great and wanted to discuss what we were all writing about. I use many of the sponsors products already (especially Starbucks, Bob's Red Mill, Wholesome Sweeteners, Chobani Yogurt, Kitchenaid and Microsoft Office). I liked the high speed internet. I liked the high speed internet. I liked the high speed internet. I loved meeting David Leite, Kim Sunee,Michael Procopio, Molly Wizenberg and Two Peas & Their Pod.
What I did not like
1. The main gathering area was too crowded.
2. When someone invites me to a party (that I have to pay to attend), I do not like having to buy my cocktails. I think it's tacky.
Would I go again?
Maybe. I don't know. Probably not. I'm glad I went to the conference in Seattle though. It's good to know there are thousands of people like me - who are not like me at all - and that we are doing the same thing differently.
Until my next update, I remain, your blogging correspondent.
Read my daily posts from BlogHer Food 12:
Day 1 - arriving and visiting the King Tut exhibit
Day 2 - first day of the conference
Day 3 - last day of the conference