8 Things Every BlogHer Food Newbie Should Know
I've been so very lucky as to have been to all five BlogHer Food conferences. I played hostess in my hometown of San Francisco in 2009 and 2010. I fully, finally comprehended the purpose of cheese grits and red-eye gravy in Atlanta. I went oyster-mad in Seattle. I stumbled into the middle of a high-society Texas wedding reception in Austin, then went to a closing-party barbecue spread so good that my left-at-home-husband informed me that the pictures I was texting him had crossed the line from enthusiastic sharing to marital torture.
This week, Miami. I can't wait for the food, the keynotes, the panels, the Cuban coffee. BlogHer Food is one of my favorite events of the year—and I count my birthday and the upcoming cat circus in that calendar. But it can also be overwhelming, if you're new to conferences. Take these eight tips from a seasoned (no food pun intended, really) veteran.
1. Carry a few business cards in a quick-to-access place.
I stash a few in the front pocket of my bag, or in the plastic pocket for my badge. Avoids that awkward bag dig at the end of a conversation.
2. Wear your badge.
It's a lot easier for people to remember you that way.
3. Be present.
There's plenty of reason to bring BlogHer Food to your audience via social media. Tweeting all the smartypants panel quotes and Instagramming ALL THE FOOD are fun, they help you remember the conference, and they inform your audience. But remember that you're here to be HERE. Look into eyes, pay attention, and you'll get more out of the experience.
As Shannon said in her newbie guide to the annual BlogHer conference:
Be present, and available for opportunity. There is a ton of professional opportunity to be had at BlogHer events. Being at the right place (the conference) at the right time (during conference hours) can land you an interview with a major news network (that happened to me!) or a new writing gig, or new professional contacts. Being present is the single best way to have an amazing conference experience.
I highly recommend that you read her whole post, because it's pure gold—especially her advice about interacting with sponsors, how fantastic going to random panels can be, and writing about it while it's fresh.
4. That said: Take a break.
Overwhelm is unavoidable at conferences, and of course you're only going to be here for a limited time. But if you're so overwhelmed you're no longer really present, a little downtime in the hotel or at the rooftop pool are sanity-restorers, especially for introverts. I know I get wobbly if I don't duck out a few times a day, every day. (It's also a good chance to drink water, freshen up, and tend to sore feet.)
5. Make dinner plans, if you haven't already.
I can't tell you how many mediocre meals at The Place Around The Corner From The Hotel I've suffered just because I didn't plan in advance, and was too ravenous to care. Checking out the city is one of the best parts of BlogHer Food, and lots of bloggers start researching the restaurant options as soon as the location is announced.
If you don't have a conference buddy, go ahead and make plans anyway. You never know who you'll meet; if the stars haven't aligned to find a dining companion, or you're feeling introverted, a pleasant dinner by yourself in a place you're looking forward to is a welcome treat and a way to get yourself away from the hotel's gravitational pull. (Or, if you're feeling like staying close to home and eating in the hotel, you'll know there's a space there for you.) If you don't find a pal or you're tempted by a spur-of-the-moment offer, you can always change your plans. Just make sure to call to cancel any reservations.
6. Come back to BlogHer.com for the liveblogs.
You can't be everywhere, but we'll have notes from all the sessions, and many have presentations attached. You might also spot yourself in a photo or video! They're usually posted hot from the conference by the end of each day.
7. Take advantage of Q&A.
If you have questions during a panel, ask them! Here's a quick rundown of panel question etiquette:
- Almost all moderators will announce when they will be taking questions. Some prefer to answer questions as they come up, while others wait until the end.
- Raise your hand and wait until the microphone wrangler gives you the mic before starting your question. Most panels are taped, and if you start talking before the microphone arrives, that part of your question will be lost.
- Begin your question with your name and the name of your blog (if you have one), so people know who you are.
- Ask general questions. Panels, alas, aren't designed to give everyone personalized advice. If you're not sure, go ahead and ask! But if you find yourself with a lot of follow-up questions that are specifically for you, your blog, and your goals, they are likely too specific for a general audience.
- Feel free to go up to the panelists after the panel, introduce yourself, and chat/ask questions for a minute. You might be able to get more personal questions answered here, or get more recommendations for where you can learn. Sometimes panelists have other places to go, and often the room needs to be cleared after a few minutes—but it can be a good way to make a connection if you're interested in learning more.
8. Go to the closing party.
It's been awesome. Every single year.