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Why I don’t Eat SEO for Lunch, plus the Triumvirate of Food Blogging Events

This post has been brewing for days, almost past its expiration date. All that’s needed to be said about the conference sessions has probably been posted by my fellow #IFBC attendees. It doesn’t help that I have a tarnished history of not blogging about conferences past. My excuse is that I usually continue traveling after each event, as is the case right now, thus pushing post statuses to Never. However, let me turn over a new leaf and tell you about that memorable weekend in Seattle, hopefully with a different perspective than what you’ve already read out there.

Having been a part of conferences in different capacities (as an assistant to the hosting organization, booth planner/manager, coordinator, and as an attendee, but thank god never as a sponsor-haggler), I’ve learned that I needed to be clear about what my goals and expectations are for going, or I’d just be wasting my time, energy, and money. Essentially, we invest in ourselves and/or our businesses when we go to these events, so why not make the most of it?

I went to Seattle to see old friends and meet new ones, enjoy a relaxing girls re{treat} at Hotel Dana Treat, and attend the International Food Blogging Conference and learn something new to improve this blog. And I’ve accomplished all of that and more, coming home a happy sappy camper, filled with pocketful of good memories.

What I Gained at IFBC

1. Inspiration

For me, there are two kinds of invaluable speakers in conferences: those who inform and teach, and those who inspire. It’s very rare to find someone who’s really good at what they do, whose zeal for it oozes like fine honey, and who can convey a message that we can easily digest. We were so lucky to be in the midst of such individuals. They have an infectious passion that lingers about. We were transported from Theo’s Chocolate Factory and lived in their shoes even for just a moment. That in itself makes the conference worth it.

I left the conference and bid the weekend goodbye with a renewed zest for life. It wasn’t just about food, writing or photography — it’s about living and breathing whatever you love to do, without reservations.

2. A chance to reinforce old friendships, make new friends, and meet other food blogging ‘crazies’

The other half of my IFBC Seattle weekend has something to do with friendships, which I will be talking about in my next post. I’ll be a complete sap here in a moment, so prepare your barf bag if you want. The thing that really makes a conference (for me) are The People. A conference is nothing without the connections you establish, and I’m not talking about “connections” in the they-will-be-useful-to-me-in-the-future or it’s-who-you-know sense. I’m talking about making a real connection with individuals you value as a person. Of course, I came to the event for personal, rather than professional, reasons. If I’ve met one new friend and kept the old ones close, that’s good enough for me. And I don’t use the term “friend” loosely, either.

From a food blogging point of view, there’s nowhere else you can easily find someone to babble about food and blogging within close proximity other than at food blogging event. For a weekend, we can be ourselves unabashedly and be among “our people”. We come armed with our cameras, photographing food before and after taking a bite, after the last bite, and after we’ve consumed everything on the plate. We hold someone’s plate for them so they can use both hands to take a photo. We gladly hold a candle to light the dish for a better shot. We tweet about how damn good each bite is. We can’t wait to post about what we’ve eaten. To the outside world, we must look comical like a pair of dancing/mating blue-footed boobies. For a weekend, we fit right in.

3. Knowledge

Here’s the agenda. Like I said in the beginning, my beloved peers have probably posted about it already and I’ll add links to their posts as I compile them.

Megan took excellent notes during the Recipe Writing panel with Amy, Dianne, and Kristin, and you should go read that. The semicolon was a point of contention. I personally like using semi-colons;

{Grins}

When they said: Do not give recipes for free! I also heard that as, “Value yourself and your work.

I kind of glossed over the SEO part, because it’s part of what I do professionally. I’m here to share recipes and photos, and I don’t like intermingling work with pleasure. I try to write meaningful recipe titles and head notes, but cooking or writing a post to follow a trending topic, long tail…short tail, is absolutely against what I am willing to do in the name of SEO for my personal blog. I don’t eat SEO for lunch and I’ll have no tail on my plate, thank you. If you’ve been visiting this blog long enough, you’ll know that I like going for the unusual and never-before’s. I don’t think there will ever be a big buzz about sweet beet pie with yogurt syrup, but that’s what I like to make.

If you’re looking here for info they provided to help you with your food blog’s SEO, here are some important tips you can use:

  • Use Google Insights to track rising trends
  • Use core words to describe content. Use them in the URL, blog title, and 1st sentence of the 1st paragraph. Also use them in sub titles, photo captions and “alt” attribute.

As you’ve probably read in the tweets during our Writing with All 5 Senses session, the compositions quickly dived from lyrical to downright carnal. That’s food writing for you. Here’s my take on it: I like reading winding, complex, and 3-D descriptions when I’m reading for pleasure. However, when I’m at someone’s website and I want to get cooking — show me the friggin’ recipe! I don’t want to wade through lilting or flowery words. I want clear, understandable and executable information at my disposal. My voice is not wishy-washy, Alice-in-Wonderland-overcame-the-evil-sister pitchy. I write like I talk. If I get into crazy food talk with you, I’m either depressed or you need to ask me what I’m smoking! My background is scientific and technical, and it’s gut-wrenching to even try to write otherwise. I write descriptions and instructions as if we’re in a lab minus the, “In conclusion…” And that’s me.

We were unethical enough to skip the Law & Ethics panel, but the tweets about the supposed “hot” lawyer were entertaining. We traded it for Kate McDermott‘s apple pie, drank wine and took photos.

We got our food geek on with the session on truffles, chocolates and fresh organic person vegetables (I swear, last night I typed person!). We learned about assuming a “position of the utmost congeniality“. Oh dear.

James Oseland‘s keynote, as I said in my tweet, was the best aperitif we could ever have. He could very well be a food blogger, plus he loves us.

The next morning’s panel on Blogging for Specialized Diets with Shauna and Alex was an eye opener and made me think of making a change to create food that is inclusive, instead of exclusive. I wanted to do a group hug after that.

Penny de los Santos‘s session on digital photography made such a huge impact on me. It was a journey through her lens. She’s inspirational and motivational. I love that she doesn’t say you need the most expensive and complicated camera you can get your hands on. She stresses the importance of practice. I just wish it was the first session of conference, because that would certainly make me think differently about the way I take photos.

4. Weight

Ahaha! And the great thing is, no one’s calorie-counting. If you did–did the flying Bambu plate frisbee hit you on your way out?

5. Extra doses of food blogging mojo

I have so many ideas in my head, I can’t wait to just get back into aggressive blogging in contrast to aggressive tweeting (a conference joke). I can’t wait to get back posting regularly and hopefully show you how I’ve grown.

Overall, this is a well-balanced food blogging conference and certainly worth registering for next year.

IFBC and Other Major Food Blogger/Blogging Events

Please remember that these are all based on my own experiences and personal biases of past events. There may be significant changes in succeeding years, and I can’t comment on that unless I go. Others who have attended any of these events may not also agree with me, if you are one of them, please add to the discussion. I would love to hear and share your point of view.

I am also not someone who: blogs for the money, is trying to get a book deal or break in print publish, or is trying to switch careers.

I am passionate about food and cooking, and I just choose to blog about it.

It also happens that not a lot of my friends are not into food/cooking or blogging, but my online friends are. I’ve built friendships all over the world through this blog. I’m in it for the food and friends.

As of Sunday, I’ve participated in each of the triumvirate of food blogging events once: BlogHer Food, Foodbuzz Blogger Festival and most recently, the International Food Blogger Festival (IFBC) in Seattle, Washington. I really wanted to experience them all and try to decide in the future which would be the best one to attend for my needs. But the problem is, they’re all different.

Below are my opinions on the three, which may help those who are deciding which one/s to attend. These are my own thoughts, and if you have something to share, please do so in the comments.

  • Lectures and Sessions
    There was a fixed agenda at IFBC and if we weren’t interested in a panel, we could either endure it or skip it. Both BlogHer Food and Foodbuzz provided options, but the latter required us to sign up for each session of those sessions. At the first one-day BlogHer Food (it’s 2 days this year), we were able to panel-hop between floors because it was in one hotel. However, Foodbuzz sessions were not exactly “educational” (food blogging wise) in the same way as the IFBC and BlogHer Food ones were; they’re more informational.
    There were also official extra/optional sessions at IFBC and Foodbuzz, but the difference is that for IFBC, they were outside of the cost of the conference and were on days before and after the event. Announcements for some of these had been ‘late’ travel planning-wise, and people from out of town and who had already booked flights and made hotel reservations were out of luck.
  • Panelists
    IFBC  had a good mix of well-known traditional and new media professionals, and food and culinary artisans.
    BlogHer Food was mostly (not all) headed and curated by food bloggers, some of whom had made it into print publishing.
    Foodbuzz had mostly food and culinary artisans who taught us about their food/products and how to taste them.
  • Food quality, variety, abundance
    Foodbuzz and IFBC had rounded up the best chefs and food in their respective cities. The main difference is with the abundance and variety of food. We had a Tasting Pavilion at FB, where we were “unleashed” for an afternoon, and enjoyed a lavish sit-down dinner. I don’t remember a spotlight on specialized diets at FB, compared to IFBC, where gluten-free was the star and almost had vegetarian fares as an afterthought. My friend Dana had to go buy her own food during the Food Truck lunch. BlogHer Food made an unforgettable food faux pas by serving us frozen dinners on big plates. Really.
  • Median age of attendees
    I would say that IFBC had a more mature crowd compared to Blogher Food and Foodbuzz Festival, where as a 32-year old I felt older than younger.
  • Cost
    Both IFBC and Foodbuzz Festival cost $350 for 2 days, but eligible Foodbuzz publishers’ registration fees are waived. Blogher Food was previously $101.48 incl fees for one day, and it’s $153.71/day for 2 days this 2010.
  • Pressure to promote event sponsors
    Food bloggers inherently know the requisite need to promote sponsors when they go anywhere or receive anything for free. Sponsorships are needed to make events happen. We know that. However, there is fine line between classy and tacky, and unfortunately I think IFBC crossed that during our food cart lunch break. Bloggers will tweet or talk about things if they like them, there’s no need to shove it down our throats.
  • Swag
    A lot of people always ask about the the swag and giveaways, and I admit that it made me curious and excited at BlogHer Food. It still does because it’s like being a kid and opening a bag of presents. I think the event swag with items I most use is the one from BlogHer Food, and it wasn’t even from BlogHer, it was from the after-party hosted by by Jaden, Ree and Elise. Foodbuzz had an excellent selection, too, but the ones I really liked were the ones I got at the taste pavilion, which not everyone received (so I didn’t take that into consideration). The IFBC bag had gems in there, too.That said, the swag should never be your main reason to go.

So, where should you go? It’s really entirely up to you.

From my personal observation of past events**, if you want to:

  • Be inspired and to learn, go to IFBC;
  • Be able to choose panels you would like to attend and meet as many food bloggers and food blogging A-listers in one event, go to Blogher Food;
  • Meet food artisans, learn about food and drinks through tastings in a class environment, EAT and mingle with other food bloggers, go to Foodbuzz Festival.

All three are great avenues to build offline relationships with people you know online. Be willing to share, be kind, be generous, and be open. We are a growing community of bloggers who focus on what nourishes each of us on a daily basis — just how wonderful is that?

29 Responses to “Why I don’t Eat SEO for Lunch, plus the Triumvirate of Food Blogging Events”

  1. I love that you compared the three, and it is VERY useful information. Hopefully each of the event planners learns from what the other events are doing right/wrong and apply that to their own. :)

    • joy says:

      I’m actually thankful that the people behind IFBC are receptive to feedback, good or bad. I’m sure next year’s conference will be even better.

      Will I see you at any of the SF events? :) I might be heading there for Blogher Food week October 8-ish, to just hang out. I don’t have a ticket, and I doubt I will get one, because I’d love to just do mini-meet-ups. Hee.

  2. Jun Belen says:

    Great recap, Joy! And lovely blog you have. It was great meeting you at the IFBC however short our meeting was. Being new to food blogging I get so overwhelmed by how much I need to do to get noticed but I guess that’s part of the fun — meeting new people and discovering new blogs along the way. Looking forward to your posts and tweets.

    Jun

    • joy says:

      Thanks, Jun! It was great meeting you. Wish we got a chance to chat more, but will just keep in touch online till the next event. Funny you say that. At my first event, I thought my head would explode. So many people, so little time…welcome to blogging conference speed dating, almost.

      P.S. You take amazing photos! Wow, I checked your sites and I’m simply blown away.

  3. Ooh – I love your perspective on the IFBC. I’m just sorry I didn’t get to meet you while I was there this past weekend. The IFBC was my first conference (of the blogging sort), and I had no idea what to expect. I came away pleasantly surprised, but mostly by the making-of-new-friends aspect and the fact that I felt inspired to write/cook/photograph/blog/eat better.

    I was debating what to do in 2011 and your views on the three conferences is quite helpful. Thanks!

    • joy says:

      I know! I hope to meet you next time! Making new friends at conferences is new to me, and I guess it’s prevalent in blogging ones, more than the others because we’re all online and can connect through Twitter and Facebook aside from our blogs.

      I’m glad I could help! I hit the same fork in the road, so I went to all three to see for myself.

  4. Anne says:

    Thank you for the rundown, Joy! This was extremely informative and useful–I’ve only been to IFBC and wondered about the other ones.

    • joy says:

      You’re so welcome, Anne! And I’m so glad we met at the conference. Hopefully I’ll see you again, soon. They’re all fun, but gosh, wouldn’t it be great if they’re all free and all expenses are paid. Haha.

  5. Allan Wright says:

    As an organizer of the IFBC, I want you to know we are listening! We at Zephyr Adventures are organizers of the Wine Bloggers Conference (three years running) and just this year partnered with Foodista to put on the International Food Bloggers Conference. This first year having the two companies working together made for a bigger, better conference than the first one in 2009 … but I guarantee with a year under our belts the IFBC will keep all the good things and iron out the difficulties in 2011. – Allan Wright, Zephyr Adventures

    • joy says:

      Allan, thank you so much for dropping by. Reading your comment reassured me that we are in good hands and things will be better next year. See you then!

  6. Fab racap Joy – well thought out and clear. One of the best I’ve read yet.

  7. debbie says:

    What a terrific summary/comparison, Joy! I’ve never been to any of them, though I went to straight-up BlogHer this year (it was in my hometown) and was disappointed. I’m going to the Greenbrier Food Writers’ Symposium next weekend (hello, scholarship!), which I’m pretty sure is a different animal altogether. I’m curious to see how it’ll compare to what you laid out here.

    • joy says:

      Aw. I’d love to know why you found it disappointing. I was thinking of going next year, but I’m not quite sure how it would be. The one you’re going to, on the other hand, seems like an excellent choice for serious food writers. I’d be so intimidated to even register. You’ll have to fill us in on how it goes!

  8. Megan Gordon says:

    Whoa Mama, this is one rad post. You captured so many things about that weekend so perfectly. I agree wholeheartedly about the people…it’s hands down the main reason I continue to blog. I’ve made so many real friendships and gotten to meet people like you. And that makes me smile. And you’re right about investing in ourselves and valuing our work. That’s one thing I took away as well. Good stuff, Joy.

    • joy says:

      Thanks, Megan! I’m thrilled to have met you and can’t wait to hang out with you again. You light up my campfire. Heehehehe. Oh, Staple & Fancy! >:D

  9. I’ve enjoyed reading a lot of the recaps of this event; even though I wasn’t there, but I especially appreciate your comparing some of the larger ones. I never see myself having the time to hit everything so getting a birdseye view like you’ve provided? Priceless!

    • joy says:

      You’re welcome, Barbara. I enjoy going to these events because these are the only places where I can meet a lot of my online food blogging friends under one roof. They’re my mini-vacations. :) Are you thinking/planning to go to any?

  10. Cheryl says:

    You’ve done a real service to your readers with this comprehensive and comparative post. I’m tweeting.

  11. Great recap, and as a relative newbie, I’m grateful to see a comparison to the other conferences.

    Glad also to see you mention the IFBC “extra” events being last-minute, and therefore frustrating for out-of-towners. I assume they were last-minute additions to the schedule (fair enough), but I would’ve loved to see the Modernist Cuisine lab. Alas, I booked my flight a couple months prior.

    Regarding Weight: I was indeed foolish enough to be counting calories in my head; nevertheless, I’m just smart enough to keep that to myself. ;)

    • joy says:

      Thanks, Andrew! I’m glad you find it useful.

      Yeah, that’s one thing I noticed. Even though I am relatively close tot his event, I just can’t drop previous plans just like that.

      I’m sorry I didn’t get to meet you. Next time!

      Keeping your calorie counting to yourself was an excellent move. =)

  12. Dana says:

    Joy, great job on this post. It’s a great resource for people who are trying to decide whether or not to go to their first or their tenth conference. I’m so glad I got to be a part of the friend part of the weekend!

    • joy says:

      Thanks, Dana! You were a big part of the girls weekend of a lifetime. :)

      It was tough for me to pick, so I tried all of them. Not the most economical way to do it, but somebody has to.

  13. That’s a very good rundown of the event! Thanks for taking us along.

    I think that sometimes it’s good to blog about a trending topic – I’ve had a couple of lucky breaks with good search results on popular (at the time) searches. But for the most part you have to blog what you love. Other wise it wouldn’t be your blog any more.

    • joy says:

      You’re welcome! I’ve always wanted to do this with previous events. :)

      Blogging about trending topics fulfills specific goals, and it’s up to you what you would like to achieve at a certain time. Personally, it never occurred to me to blog recipes following a search trend until they mentioned that. That will definitely get your traffic, though.

  14. sarah henry says:

    hey joy, this is a great resource for anyone trying to figure out how and where to spend those (often limited) conference dollars.

    really nicely done. i’ve been to two of the three you describe, and agree with your take, now i know what to expect at foodbuzz.

    so, wanna tackle International Association of Culinary Professionals in Austin next summer, followed by the Symposium for Professional Fodd Writers in West Virginia in the fall?;)

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