This weekend I attended Food Blogger Connect, which is Europe’s first and biggest food blogging conference held in London.
I had no idea what to expect, since it was the first event of this kind that I’ve attended as a food blogger. All I did know was that as soon as I saw the event advertised I booked my ticket and put the event firmly in my diary to go!
The programme for the weekend was impressive from the start and as the event drew nearer, more and more big names of the foodie world were lined up to speak or hold workshops and the buzz started to grow within the food blogging community – globally!
Two things I definitely didn’t expect was to win a refund on my ticket just a couple of days before, courtesy of one of the event’s main sponsors Olives from Spain. Thank you so much for my pass! Olives from Spain were really generous, giving away four weekend passes on Twitter and further supplying us all with mountains of delicious Spanish olives throughout the weekend. I think we were all, almost constantly, nibbling. I have a couple of recipes to share too, from Olives from Spain, and will be posting about them a little more in the coming days.
(Yummy brunch and Olives from Spain demo!)
Secondly, I didn’t expect to meet so many food bloggers from all over the world – I had assumed that mainly UK food bloggers would attend, yet many had travelled from Europe, including Belgium, the Netherlands and Hungary, as well as even further afield from the United Arab Emirates.
Twitter was totally hijacked by the #FBC11 hash-tag as we tweeted our way through the best-bits of the programme and even tweeted eachother in the same room to try and put names to faces!
(Gretchen, Sally, Zita and Guilia)
One of the main guest speakers even came all the way from Florida. Jaden Hair of Steamy Kitchen shared all her tips on how she successfully turned her food blog into a business. She now speaks internationally all about her work as a blogger, recipe writer, TV food presenter, weekly columnist and cookery book author (with two children and only working three hours a day!)
Other international speakers connected with us over Skype and it was hugely exciting, for me in particular, to have the opportunity of meeting some of our home-grown experts and journalists, such as Fiona Beckett of The Guardian. Journalist and Broadcaster Tim Hayward of Fire and Knives and Alex Mead of Food and Travel Magazine also gave talks on the Friday evening, which I was sad to have to miss.
We also watched a recipe demonstration by chef and food writer Anjum Anand, who made a really delicious carpaccio of courgette, from her forthcoming book on vegetarian Indian cookery. ‘Up-and-coming’ chef Caroline Mili Artiss also partnered up with sponsors Cuisinart and Olives from Spain to show us how to make her version of a spicy black olive tapende.
(Anjum Anand and Caroline Mili Artiss)
The whole weekend was extremely varied in content and there were many highlights. It’s almost too hard to pick my favourite bits as all of it was hugely relevant, informative and memorable…but I’ll try!
My Pick of the Best Bits
I was really taken by Fiona Beckett’s workshop on Writing Style. It was perhaps particularly relevant for me, as Fiona told us that she had a mid-life career change from politics, becoming a journalist and food writer by taking a Post-Graduate Diploma in Journalism. Fiona started out her career in food writing by getting a position on a features desk and after this, started to freelance. She stumbled into blogging more recently, as a published cookery book author and as a regular food feature writer for British print publications. She now writes no less than four separate food blogs each highlighting a different foodie interest!
Fiona is a real champion of new talent, having collaborated with Signe Johansen and James Ramsden in their ‘student days’ of food writing, believing also that “Blogging has brought fresh voices to the food world and are a breath of fresh air.” Fiona also talked about the differences between blogging and writing for print media, which she has followed-up with a post about on ‘How to Blog like a Journalist’ on her own blog Food and Wine Finds which is well worth a read…
Other essential points made by Fiona included having to be more thorough in your research as a journalist, being more critical and impartial, the importance of observing what is going on, finding your voice as a writer (and how this can be different in a blog post to the voice you have in a print piece) as well as advising us to step back from our blogs sometimes to really think about how to add value to a post. What is it that our readers really want to know?
(Answers in the comments box, please!)
Fiona also spoke about how to craft a feature from a blog post, how to find an interesting angle on a particular topic and how to really grab your audience in a piece. She went on to talk about good recipe writing, or “Delia’s Law” as she calls it, as well as giving tips on writing restaurant reviews, book reviews and how to build up contacts as a journalist. All in all, I thought that Fiona’s advice was down-to-earth, generous and perfectly timed for my own recent adventures in food writing!
Almost in complete contrast to Fiona’s advice on traditional avenues and methods of food writing, were three separate workshops presented by Jaden Hair of Steamy Kitchen who talked in depth about how to turn your blog into a business and specifically, how to build traffic, community and how to monetize your on-line blogging journey. Her own real-life examples of how she turned a simple food blog into one of America’s leading business-blog sites was nothing short of staggering and yet in a strange way, believable and inspiring all at the same time.
I’m quite sure that we all came away from Jaden’s presentations feeling as though we could drive millions of visitors to our sites, bring in revenue from affiliate programmes and advertising and once we’ve expanded our social media platforms, visibility and brand even land our very own book deals! How realistic this is remains to be seen, although on the plus side, Jaden believes that British/European bloggers are about three years behind America so we have plenty of time to watch and learn.
One of Jaden’s essential pieces of advice to all bloggers is to hire a graphic designer and get a professional logo. I’d say her second most valuable point for us all was to work out our own personal value and worth and really think about the opportunities that come our way, including what we write about and how it helps us, rather than how many bloggers all-to-often help to promote big-name companies for very little or even for free.
We also listened intently to Nando Cuca from Cuca Brazuca who was in his own personal element having an audience of women captivated by his advice on SEO! He also talked about generating traffic by adding plenty of keywords, tags and categories and later on hosted a workshop on the future of blogging. In Nando’s experience, video blogging is relatively straightforward and adds value to your content adding the extra dimension of auditory stimulation. Nando was extremely entertaining as well as knowledgeable, encouraging us all, I’m sure, to give it a go! Look out for plenty more ‘You Tube’ channels being added to the food blogging world!
I think another personal highlight for me was taking part in a food photography workshop by Béatrice Peltre of La Tartine Gourmande, which, apart from anything else, was a unique opportunity to watch a truly creative professional at work. I am hoping to write a separate piece on this workshop for The Foodie Bugle because it really was remarkable and was certainly one of the most enjoyable parts of the whole weekend for me. I now have an expensive ‘wish-list’ of camera equipment to buy and so may well need to put some of Jaden’s advice into practice!
Above and beyond all of this was having the opportunity of meeting so many other like-minded and equally ‘passionate’ food bloggers (a word we were told not to use as often as we all do!) The community atmosphere was so strong, with everyone eager to make friends with each other and share their own individual experiences of food blogging. In a world where so many of us now increasingly interact socially over the web without ever meeting face-to-face Food Blogger Connect provided the perfect home for us all to finally meet to nibble, natter and network in the real world.
It was such a pleasure to meet all my fellow foodies and already, I await next year’s conference (already set for 22nd-24th June 2012) with eager anticipation.
(Christina, Judith, myself and Helen)
The Bountiful Plate
Mostly About Chocolate
Fuss Free Flavours
(Bethany, Mayssam, Nando, Joslin and Caroline)
Olives from Spain anyone..?!