“Oh, I’m just a note-taker. That’s what I do” I reply. Within one minute of sliding into the back of the Room 111 at the UCF-Rosen School for Hospitality Management, I was jotting down the words of Jeff Houck, food writer for the Tampa Tribune and of Orlando Sentinel’s Heather McPherson.
And so it would continue for eight 30- to 40-minute sessions of the 2011 FoodBlogForum conference held in Orlando, an event I had found out about less than 48 hours prior. To break the periods of copious note-taking? How about give-aways of gifts from the likes of LeCreuset and KitchenAid (which I did not win, BTW, but which were nonetheless thrilling to hope for)? And to bookend a day of getting smarter about food blogging? How’s a pre-party at Whole Foods Market Phillips Crossing (Friday night) and a wrap-up at McCormick and Schmick’s at Mall at Millinea with lots to nosh and sip? Can you say, “best food blogger event EVER!” Thanks to Julie Deily (TheLittleKitchen.net) and Dawn Viola (WickedGoodDinner.com), this was one of the best organized and most informative blogging seminars I’ve participated in. Honestly, I don’t even want to let this secret out.
But to keep it to myself would so contradict the spirit of “generosity,” one of Jaden Hair’s (SteamyKitchen.com) key closing theme words, on which this food blog community is built. Or should I rather say really on which our whole community of Central Floridian foodies stands. I mean, it says something pretty cool about our wacky sunshine state for local food editors Heather McPherson and Jeff Houck, along with career food blogger turned cookbook author and multi-media celebrity Jaden Hair and full-time blogger-writer Dawn Viola, to fill an amazing bill of inspiring and helpful tips for our crew of up’n’coming food bloggers, writers, photographers–ranging in experience from zilch to shedding the training wheels in this field that is still new even for the most experienced bloggers (Hair started 4 years ago herself and Viola just over 3). And how cool is it that the busy Emily Ruff, Director of Florida School for Holistic Living, took the time to forward me a message from Dawn Viola (WickedGoodDinner.com) about the third annual event.
And those cool things were only the kick-off. As we followed our well-organized, typed & printed agenda (and the schedule which was actually followed!), we heard real, specific and usable advice from Jaden and Scott Hair regarding the “ultimate success formula” for anything in life, plus five keys to building a personal brand and successful blog, and building a successful blog BUSINESS.
My pen could barely move fast enough to keep up with all of Lindsay Landis’s (purrdesign.com) awesome tips for designing our blogs for usability and easy search engine optimization. I loved her “common-mistakes-and-how-to-avoid-them” approach (Raise your hand if you’re great at finding shortcomings in other people’s websites!).
Peter Scott, of Orlando social media marketing agency IZEA.com, filled our brains with the latest statistics, buzz words and strategy tips for increasing blog traffic and profitability. And just as our heads were swimming, we broke to rejuvenate over lunch and conversation.
Helene Dujardin (TarteletteBlog.com) stimulated us with a post-lunch session about camera basics, photo styling and lighting. Whew! You gotta be your own photographer to make it with this online media. Fun yes, but time consuming, no? With her natural French style and grace, Helene delivered fantastic tips to get the money shots in a snap!
Dawn Viola (WickedGoodDinner.com) hammered home one of the day’s underlying themes: Don’t sell yourself short or underestimate the power of JUST ASKING! She showed us how she KISSes (keeps it simply, sweetheart) when pitching so that we don’t fall into the PIT-A (pain-in-the-ass) category.
So there’s your overview of my 14-pages of notes. Look for details of each segment in upcoming posts! The day was quite inspiring But perhaps the coolest aspect of FoodBlogForum was meeting all the food bloggers who attended–all with different angles and niches, all with different levels of experience. It was inspiring, encouraging and stimulating! My creative brain wanted to run, not walk, and jump, instead of wish-washing along.
So, I still don’t know exactly where or how this blog will evolve, but I do know, now, that wherever it leads will be awesome.