Fab Faces, Fun & Full of Advice: Food Blogger Connect ’11


Photo courtesy of Sarka from Cook Your Dream.

“Hi, I’m Jackie,” I told a table full of strangers. “I know, I follow you on Twitter – I really like your blog design,” one girl told me. Somebody else wanted to know how long I’d been blogging for, yet another recognised me from my photo. A tray of canapes went round and on cue the twenty or so women around me pulled out their cameras and started snapping – finally I wasn’t the only one.

The food blogger culture has been one I have thrown myself into wholeheartedly. What started as a whim, a way to pass the time, has become something I can – and have – spent hours on. I’ve connected with people all around the world, tried their recipes and found inspiration from them, spent countless late nights trawling through their food photos and salivating into my pillow; to be a food blogger does not define me but it does make me inordinately happy.

At the beginning of the year I travelled to a small portion of the world, meeting and staying with food bloggers I’d befriended over my six months of food blogging. Now, just over six months later, I got to meet a few more of them in my hometown at Food Blogger Connect ’11 and honestly? I had a blast.

I could give you a full recap of the conference here but I doubt any of you would like to read that. Those of you who were there would be bored and those of you who weren’t there would also be bored! So here’s what I’m going to do: I’m going to tell you what I learned, I’m going to show you some pretty photos and I may even throw in a conference tip or two! So here we go…

Organisation Is Key

This is Bethany from Dirty Kitchen Secrets, the founder and tour de force behind Food Blogger Connect. She has poured time, energy and much of herself into making FBC a success every year and you know how she does it? Organisation.

If the conference leaders are not organised, do not have contingency plans, have not worked tirelessly behind the scenes both before and during (huge thanks also to Sarah, Sarka, Nando and Joslin, who were all running around behind the scenes), then I can guarantee you that you will not have a good time. However, it’s not just the staff who must be organised but also you, the attendee. Here are some of my tips for you:

1. Know who you want to connect with – it sounds all very calculated but the fact of the matter is that you won’t get to talk to everybody. Research & make this work for you as best as you can.

2. Business card etiquette – if somebody gives you their card, don’t give them your card: you have their card now, you don’t need to give them yours. I remember when I first got my business cards I was so excited at having them I started giving them out willy-nilly all over the shop. Don’t do this! Only give your card to somebody whom you really want to have your card and with all of the cards you do receive: follow up. Drop a note to say hi, thank them – you never know what’ll happen in the future.

3. On a similar note: Twitter etiquette. I’m going to be a little controversial here – if you meet somebody at a conference then they go home and start Following you on Twitter, you are not obliged to Follow back. Shock. Horror. Only Follow that person if you are genuinely interested in what they have to say! Similarly, don’t be offended if somebody you met doesn’t Follow back. Twitter is a funny thing, you can accumulate and lose Followers at the drop of a hat – every day I gain about five to ten Followers, some bots & some real people (more real than not these days, which is odd considering the amount I talk about boobies and thinly veiled euphemisms), but my Twitter stream moves so quickly that I simply cannot Follow everybody, especially if we’ve never even said two words to each other. I have to regularly go through and cull people because I’ve discovered over time that following more than 400 people is something my brain cannot handle. This doesn’t mean I’m not interested in you – a good friend once apologised to me for not Following me and explained, “I have a real life relationship with you, I don’t need to have an internet one, too. Plus, all the food makes me hungry.” Try a different form of communication – write emails or even letters! If half of my Twitter Followers suddenly started sending me snail mail I would reply to every single one of them! But don’t do it unannounced – that’s kind of creepy…

4. Socialise – most of the reason why we go to these conferences is to meet others, no? It’s certainly a large reason why I would go. Talk to people, find out about them, talk beyond the blog but, above all, be genuine. Every single person I chatted to at FBC was kind, enthusiastic, talented and genuine. These people are now not just my colleagues but my friends and that’s the greatest feeling in the world.

Take It All With A Pinch of Salt

From T-L to T-R: Richard Harden, co-editor Harden’s Guide; Alex Mead, editor Food & Travel. From B-L to B-R: Tim Hayward, journalist & broadcaster; Jaden Hair, US blogger, author & TV personality; Anjum Anand, food writer, celebrity chef & TV personality.

We had some superb speakers at FBC, from top-name bloggers to food journalists and editors. There was some absolutely priceless practical advice and some wonderfully interesting anecdotes, but take it all with a pinch of salt and carve your own way. Yes, some of it is carved in stone (eg. know the name of the person you’re pitching to & read their publications), but some of it is knowledge based on experience and just because it worked for once person doesn’t mean it’s going to work for everybody.

Didn’t agree with somebody’s point of view? That’s okay – everybody has an opinion. Take in everything and then discard the bits of information you don’t need.

Caroline MiLi Artiss demonstrating an easy olive tapenade with Olives from Spain.

You may notice in the above photos that I was behind Caroline as she was demonstrating her olive tapenade. You may also notice the many people taking photos in front of her. Guys – I was stuffing my face with a bacon bap and I’m fully aware that I’ve probably ruined most of your shots. Sorry about that! But hey, it’s also okay to eat when you’re hungry! Besides, you can have that memory of me…

Sign Up For Extras If They Help You Directly

We were extraordinarily lucky to have Beatrice from La Tartine Gourmand run a photography workshop for a limited group, but in order to have this privilege the cost of tickets were a little more dear.

You don’t have to sign up for everything – this goes back to my earlier point about making things work for you. If photography is something you’re interested in but the style of the photographer is not, then maybe that particular workshop isn’t for you. Talk to other people, email the bloggers whose photography you do like and ask questions – most of the time they’ll reply! When I was starting out I got together with a professional food photographer, a very good friend who is a professional general photographer and another good friend-turned-professional photographer and I grilled them, gleaned tips and practiced, practiced, practiced. My photography is still getting there, but I’ve discovered what I like and what interests me, all of which helps me to get my money shot(s)!


Bea was fantastic though and it was incredibly interesting to see how she works. My final shot during the workshop wasn’t quite how I wanted it – working in groups in a limited time frame is tricky, but it was a different style for me and a good learning experience. If I had a little more time I would’ve figured out how to make the cheese more the focus of the shot, but I’m taking what I learned and making it work for me!

Enjoy Yourself!

Why do we food blog? I do it because I enjoy it, because I love the people I meet and friendships I cultivate – why should it be anything less? A conference is a great way to connect with people who are just as mad as you are!

During the photography workshop, the lovely Regula from Foodwise gave the most passionate and enthused response I have ever heard in regards to typography, in particular the font Helvetica. Now it’s not so unusual for Regula as she and her hubs (newly weds!) are both graphic designers – just take a look at her blog and you know she has an eye for design – but the thing is… I agreed with her. Helvetica is a pretty sexy font! Before you knew it, we were comparing fonts and making guttural sounds that should be reserved for the bedroom. It’s great to be a geek when the people around you make your geekery look normal. It’s okay! Embrace it!

So, that’s about it from me. These are all practical tips to make any conference your own so take as much on board as you like, or take the whole thing and chuck it out the window. It’s up to you.

Huge thanks to the team behind Food Blogger Connect ’11, all of the speakers and sponsors, and uber amounts of love to everybody I met this past weekend. I’ll be seeing you all very soon, I know it, whether it’s in sunny Florida, beautiful Belgium or frosty Montreal – I think another adventure is on the cards.

Peace and love,

Jax x

24 Responses to “Fab Faces, Fun & Full of Advice: Food Blogger Connect ’11”

  1. Bethany (Dirty Kitchen Secrets) Says:

    Lovely write up and some great tips too. Conferences are great for networking and also the exchange of information. As you’ve mentioned, you don’t have to agree exactly with everything that’s said. Lovely to meet you and hope to have you at our next potluck. x

  2. Sally - My Custard Pie Says:

    Thoroughly enjoyed the conference, it was great to meet you, lovely photos and memories.

  3. karin@yumandmore Says:

    hear, hear!! well said.
    good pointers and the scoop ‘a salt is essential.
    met so many great new people, like you.

  4. Ulrike Says:

    Lovely to meet you. Salt can enhance but as a non native speaker it was especially salty ;-). It was a great experience for me.

  5. Paul - GetMeCooking Says:

    Hey Jackie, It was nice to meet you on Sunday.

    Very good summary of your conference highlights and tips – and great photos too!

    Also, I really like this WordPress theme – especially the spaghetti down the left side of the page lol.

    I hope to see you again soon!

  6. mayssam @ Will Travel for Food Says:

    Montreal is not always frosty, it’s positively boiling in the summer and will be waiting for you with great pleasure when you decide to visit! :) Great write up, it was great meeting you and I hope to see you soon! xx

  7. Greg Says:

    That is a great pic of Beth. I’m affraid of her even more now ;)

    Was nice to meet u Jax. The final shot is perfect, I also like the pics of Caroline cooking. Ciao!

  8. Sarka Says:

    Hi Jackie! It was great to meet you and chat briefly. I like your tips and absolutely agree about Twitter etiquette. I like to actually read what people I follow tweet about and following hundreds of folks is too overwhelming. Very nice photos!

  9. Mardi@eatlivetravelwrite Says:

    Awesome kinda-sorta recap Jackie. Great shots and useful info! Thanks for letting us live vicariously :)

  10. Jacqueline Says:

    Hi Jackie,
    You’ve captured the event really well and the handy tips section is a “brucie bonus”. Sounds like you will have lots of fun planning your next few trips ;-)

  11. sophia Says:

    Wow, great post, Jackie. Now I feel so honored to be followed by you on Twitter. I used to follow 700+ ppl so in a frenzy I just unfollowed everyone and followed only the news. Now I can actually really FOLLOW a person/entity’s tweets!

    Anyway, seems like you’re all set to rock Foodbuzz Festival! ;-)

  12. Jenn Says:

    Such an awesome perspective – I’ve been hesitant to attend such large conferences for being afraid of losing everything in the shuffle, but maybe next year I will have to go to FBC :)

  13. Becky Says:

    Hi Jackie,
    Good to meet you on Sunday. As I was only at FBC for one day this has really helped fill in some of the gaps for me.

  14. arti Says:

    Hey Jackie..it was lovely to meet you at the conference…and you were so cute trying to remember all the names from our table..”Sarah,Arti,Simone,Regula…”
    Lovely Capture and a great post!

  15. Bridget (CuisinartGirl) Says:

    Jackie, this is a lovely summary of FBC.

    You have great style and your photography is mouth-watering!

  16. Paula Says:

    Enjoyed this recap and the great advice and photos. Hope you are doing and feeling well.

  17. Lisa Attias Says:

    Great to read about the cooking and meeting. I found out about this on the Saturday morning after it started. Hope I can attend to learn how to get involved with MoreSouth mediterranean catering (my company) that I blog for, next year.

  18. angela Says:

    Lovely piece, love the etiquette suggestions, always good to adhere to form! Enjoyed meeting you and talking to you and love the photos!

  19. Milla Says:

    What a lovely event! The etiquette tips are good and applicable to all bloggers I think. I particularly agree with your Twitter comment.

    That tapenade looks delicious! It sounds silly, and maybe even crazy to seasoned foodie like yourself, but I’ve never made my own. Must get on with it!

  20. Fiona Maclean Says:

    DARN!!! way too much talk about salt in there;) and how come your photos are so fab


  21. Nic Says:

    Good write-up of the FBC and some great tips! It was lovely to meet you Jax.

  22. Ellie@fitforthesoul Says:

    wowww I love your writing style, your photography, and the blog design haha! I certainly would have been one of those who told you how lovely the design is.
    I came here per Sophia and Kim’s recommendation :) Great tips and post here btw.

  23. Valerie Says:

    Great write-up, and great advice on conference-going. Especially tip number 4. I loved meeting everyone, people with the same passions. It was wonderful!

  24. Simone Says:

    Great write up and love the photos! Great tips too… It was indeed great meeting everyone and am already looking forward to next year… You also just reminded me that I haven’t even edited all the photos! Back to work…

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