I Googled “know your audience” - 97,300,000 results in 0.51 seconds. Yup, seems to be an important concept, yet as I write I am not exactly sure who my audience is – perhaps not ideal for someone writing a food blog. But having begun in February, I am new to the game. A milestone on my blogging journey will forever be my first Food Bloggers of Canada Conference (held in Montreal this past weekend – 2016 will be in Toronto). Google Analytics tells me how many people visit my site each day and how many read the blog. Who are you readers? Some are family and friends. Now there is a chance that this blog post will be read by new colleagues I met last weekend.
I use the word “colleagues” with purpose to convey my view that I just spent the weekend with 150+ talented writers, photographers, entrepreneurs - professionals. Interactions were warm and supportive – and the seeds of some friendships were sown. I met people who had been blogging for over five years, and surprisingly some who had not yet begun their blog. We all had food in common, though, for some, food writing intersected with other themes such as lifestyle, parenting, farming, tourism. A minority of attendees had “monetized” blogs and of these some had extended their writing to published books and other food and health enterprises. There was a point where non-monetized bloggers were referred to as “hobby bloggers”. That may have been the only moment in the entire weekend when I was startled – I had never considered what I was doing as a “hobby”. What would be a better word? “Avocation”? The thesaurus says they are synonymous, but the (perhaps personal) meaning I take from “hobby” does not capture what was going on at that event.
There were smiles and laughter and all around good will – but none of the discussions I had seemed trivial. I could never list them all, but they included – issues related to unpasteurized milk, the range of milk products available in Canada (Julia: Imagelicious wondering why can't you get that thing they make in Russia?), the nutritional value of molasses, the impact of the TPP Trade Agreement on farmers, Twitter or Instagram, and of course - did you like the bread pudding? I was fascinated by the number of bloggers who had a family history that featured food – a dairy farmer on land cleared by ancestors in the 1700s (Jennifer Hayes), and family involved in wholesaling fruits and vegetables for over 80 years (Holly Botner: Jittery Cook).
In the decades long life chapter I have recently ended, I attended more conferences than I could count. If there is a ”Perfect Conference” manual, it was brilliantly implemented by the FBC Geniuses who go by the names Melissa Hartfiel and Ethan Adeland. If that conference manual does not exist – they should be writing it! No detail was overlooked. (Ok… maybe one - burlap is funky but I came home with travel clothes that looked like I’d had a roll in the hay!) They rightly anticipated that some of us would be nervous. Some of my nerves were linked to my fear that I’d be the oldest participant. Once the conference began I forgot about that – though I still have bets laid on that likelihood.
It was clear that this was going to be a “basic trust” environment and community. (Side note: spellcheck turned that last word into “tryst” – eek - that would be a different conference!) With each little disclosure came relief. For example – I was at least three months into blogging before I attached my last name to my blog (shy? unsure?). First person I shared that with said that it was the same with her. Second person said she had still not revealed her last name. Calm assurances abounded and based on others’ conference wrap-ups it is clear this community is growing and prospering and this support will continue.
I pulled together this “FBC2015 Conference By The Numbers” summary.
- $$$$ - cost figures when I added registration, hotel, travel – was super value for the money - being near TO and getting the alumni rate next year will be a bargain!
- 100 – the percentage of people who were constantly taking pictures of their food and then temporarily opting out of a conversation while they posted to social media – supportive social interaction rules! I still have to figure out how people took such fab pics when the room was so dark…
- 1 – number one best MC – Mairlyn Smith who set the tone for getting down to business with a smile
- 17 – number of business cards I brought home; maybe I should have done more networking, but most of these exchanges involved conversations and time was sometimes the enemy
- 6 +3 - the number of meals and break snacks – and they were indescribably amazing both in presentation and taste; break snacks included cookies from Ricardo, chocolate, oh my…; check out #fbc2015 for all the gorgeous photos posted to Instagram
- 5+ – depending on how you define “celebrity” there were many to meet – Ricardo, Mairlyn Smith, Greta Podleski, Andrew Scrivani and more; will admit that it did not occur to me to take any selfies with them – Holy Toledo / doh! Still learning.
- 50 – my guess at how many pounds that swag bag must have weighed. I was so glad to get that pre-conference heads-up to bring a suitcase large enough to fit it all into - books, yum-yums, wine, equipment - I cannot fathom that it was less than last year!
- 80 – the number of KB a site image should be if you want to maximize your SEO - good thing there was no test after that session – though my homework is to perform some of those recommended site tests.
- ∞ - the infinity symbol to represent the countless ideas for cooking and blogging
- $$$$$$ - the six figures that should be salaries of Melissa and Ethan
- And… I forgot the number of food films we viewed on Friday night! No to mention this video from Andrew.
- priceless – yes, it was…
The theme for the conference was “Leap…” which brings to mind the John Burroughs quote - "Leap, and the net will appear." For Canadian food bloggers the “net” is FBC!! and my gratitude goes to all in this community.
- New colleagues: consider subscribing for my monthly updates
- Friends and Visitors – here's this year's program in case you are interested.
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Postscript: FBC pulled together this re-cap of the FBC2015 Event - I am in a few of the photos!