Thursday, September 2, 2010

International food bloggers conference

(I'm not sure where the international part comes from. Maybe someone at IFBC came from Canada or something.  But likely its just there for the SEO.)

This conference taught me a few things I wasn't previously aware of.

First,  that I dislike large crowds. The whole weekend was one long battle against claustrophobia - the constant press of 250 people in too small a space, the exhaustion of trying to stay peppy and funny and schmooze with people when all I really want to do is run away screaming.

Second,  that apparently I'm not cut out to be a food blogger.  I don't take pictures of things I'm eating. I don't care about seo or copyright issues or getting a book deal. I am pretty sure no one reads this thing, and you know, I'm okay with that.

Third, that I am far more interested in meeting people,  and eating/cooking food with people, and talking about food with people, than I am about pontificating on the subject in the silence of my mind. Which is probably why twitter appeals so much.

Fourth, that I am a champion of the semi-colon. (its the shorter-than-a-period, longer-than-a-comma, punctuation of the people; it's infinitely adaptable to its surroundings, like a chameleon against wallpaper.)

It took meeting a bunch of other food bloggers to make me realize how little I am actually interested in leveraging my blog and how much I'm interested in everything else that comes with the territory.  The question is, can you have the one without the other?
I think it's pretty clear that the reason I keep this thing is because if I didn't, I would  forget all my recipes, and I like being able to find them somewhere online without a lot of search. Plus, I can easily share them this way too. Am I interested in being a big-time blogger, the kind for which writing is no longer a joy but a chore, the kind who worries about whether they're going to get on Tastespotting or not this week?
Well, no. I'm not interested in the slightest.

Anyway,  the weekend was enlightening, and overall a pretty good (if exhausting) time.
I met a whole ton of lovely people.
I snarked.
I talked about food.
I ate some awesome things, none of which were provided by the conference.  (Seriously.  I never thought that I'd be constantly starving at a food conference. There were some good dishes, just too little.)
I got to see some interesting panels; recipe writing, not for the content but because of the AWESOME semi-colon discussion (Go Amy!); Penny De Los Santos lovely and inspiring photo session, which made me want to start putting food cartoons up here again; and the food tech session (The HD video part, not the selling us on a book we'll never buy part).
I was disappointed by the clearance rack quality of the swag bag items after hearing about last year's awesome stuff, although I held on to that truffle sausage and it WAS all free so I can't complain.

I'm a little disappointed and slightly worried, actually, by the fact that every recap I've seen of IFBC talks like it shat rainbows. Maybe it really is just me that felt this way.
The truth was, there was a lot of very poor execution on the part of the organizers in the conference, and it seemed like they were unprepared to handle 250 people at pretty much every event. I personally felt kind of marginalized as a hobby blogger and wish they'd focused more on food and less on making money.

Anyway, now that you're throughly depressed, I want to stress that this is my personal opinion and it's extremely obvious that the majority of attendees had a wicked good time. And, for the most part, so did I.

It was awesome to be in Seattle, it was awesome to see my friends, and it was AWESOME to finally attend the 100-mile dinner at the Herbfarm Sunday night and get drunk on excellent food and wine.

As for next year, unless things change dramatically I think it was made obvious that I am not the audience this conference is geared to. Oh well!


Alice said...

I love your take away from IFBC. It was also great to finally meet you!

Adrienne said...

I completely understand your sentiments! I've fought with myself a bit about my motivation and goals for my food blog. It's a lot of work, and if you're not super into it, it just doesn't happen. I did, however, enjoy most of the talks. I found the real value in meeting a bunch of other food-minded people.
Also, I was starving the whole conference as well. I mostly ate elsewhere in Fremont. You're right about it being pretty disorganized. But glad you came to Seattle and enjoyed the city :)

Mardi @eatlivetravelwrite said...

Well I came from Canada and am Australian, does that count? ;-)

So so true much of this. I agree the conference was poorly planned and not really well done for that amount of people. The fact that I had to go out with others and get Thai food and cake on Day 1 after "lunch" was not a good sign and yes, I was pretty much hungry the whole time too.

Too many people in too small a space most of the time was definitely a disadvantage. I am not even claustrophobic but one more day of that and I might have been.

As someone who has to pay for her bags to be checked, I was disappointed by the items in the swag bag too. And I didn't even get the salami.

I am being positive and have taken away what I needed from the conference. I had been in a bit of a blogging slump and I came away with a fresh look on things. As in, I should just keep on being me and if big things are meant to happen, they will. So for me, that, and seeing my friends and meeting new ones, was definitely worth it.

I hope Foodista takes notice of the feedback that is provided by the attendees and that next year it's in a better venue (i.e. not a hotel basement for the opening reception) and that they are better equipped to deal with that amount of people and their appetites.

Thanks for such an honest take!

Jessamyn said...

My version did not shit rainbows. I was also starving the entire time and exhausted by the number of people all trying to get to know each other at once. I would have loved to go out for a drink with practically anyone there, just not ALL AT ONCE.

It was fun going out for Thai food with you and Steph. Lets do it again sometime, without the enormous bags of crap.

Jen @ My Kitchen Addiction said...

LOVE your honest take on IFBC, and I couldn't agree with you more! I wrote a similar post a few days ago. I had a great time meeting people and chatting, but I found myself wondering how much more fun it may have been to have just had the weekend to hang out in Seattle with friends (and a $300 budget for dinner instead of conference fee!). IFBC definitely did not leave me wanting to return next year or to other blogging conferences.

Glad to see your perspective... and also that you know what you want out of blogging and are staying true to yourself. That is what is most important!

Donna @ Way More Homemade said...

I have yet to attend any blog conference (BlogHer, BlissDom, IFBC, etc) and have come to the conclusion that I'd rather not invest the time or money because of all the reasons you listed. I'm a hobby blogger as well and am not all that interested nor do I have time to put into trying to make money from it. It's nice to just, once again, have that conclusion reinforced. Good luck to you. (linked from @bakingblog retweeting a link.)

Carrie said...

No, you were simply one of the few honest enough to share that! ;-) I totally agree with your feelings of claustrophobia and the event being very poorly organized. (Going to the event was a huge stretch for me, as I really HATE crowds) I think in my recap of the conference, I only talked about the things I liked... the things I disliked could have taken up several blog posts, and I think you said it very nicely. Organization, larger space, more food (I was starving too - but I'm also GF!), and fewer pitches please!! Thanks for shouting this out!!

bunkycooks said...

I was sorry that I missed this event, but maybe not now? I am hosting a food blogger's conference in Atlanta next weekend, so it very interesting to hear these comments. Food Blog Forum is not as fussy as IFBC, but I hope we provide fun venues, great content and lots of networking opportunities. I also hope no one goes home hungry! ;)

Cathy @ ShowFoodChef said...

I LOVE the "shat rainbows" line and I'm even one of the bloggers that wrote about it like it "shat rainbows". I think I've been to so many conferences (not food related) that were so much worse and they had been doing it far more than just 2 years, that I just had fun this time (even at the expense of the speakers). I was so out of it, and starving the first day, I didn't realize peeps left for more food until they were back. But, for the rest of the time - I had plenty. I really enjoyed your post; it gave balance.

Barbara | VinoLuciStyle said...

I was not able to attend IFBC; and was disappointed that I couldn't because I would love to meet the people I tweet and work with. It's been interesting though to see the myriad reports from a wide demographic of food bloggers.

Sounds like some of the presentations could have been better, some were great, food was mediocre with some occasional bursts of brilliance but the one theme that I've heard was the highlight was meeting other bloggers.

I'm not sure I want to pay conference fees and sit thru dull presentations to experience that.

So I think I'll continue with plans for my own Mid/Southwest Food Bloggers Conference in Denver. The highlights will include...
my backyard, sleeping bags. I make the margaritas, you bring some food (rest assured we will then have PLENTY to eat) and we chat, a lot!

Paula said...

I get what you were saying. I especially was thinking that way during the 5 senses spiel. I'm not a great writer and you know what? I don't really care. I'm not going to work my butt off to think of ways to describe something to make it sound interesting cuz that kind of thing doesn't come naturally. I'm not getting paid so I don't want it to become "work". I like having the freedom to say what I want when I want no matter how un-interesting it is to other people.

Foodbat said...

Case in point - I think this is the most comments/hits my blog has gotten, ever. Ha!

I'm glad I'm not alone in thinking this stuff.

katie said...

Didn't attend IFBC (or any of the food blog conferences, for that matter - I blog infrequently and solely as a hobby, and if I get a handful of hits in a day, it's a busy day), but this is by far the best post I've read about it. I really like the community aspect of blogging (food or otherwise) but am pretty uninterested in monetizing or any of that. I wish more people could just be honest about their experiences instead of making it sound like it was all rainbows and puppies and unicorns and such.

feedyourself said...

Foodbat, you are not alone. I thought the breakfast was dessert, the space was too small, the SEO talk over my head and not applicable to me, yes, HD video fun to watch but will never pay $500 for any book(s), and plenty of disorganization. Like you, I wasn't sure I was the audience for this event. But I had to attend to learn that. I might attend in the future, depends on the line-up, the venue. I'm glad I went but I also wish I could have met a few interesting people rather than a hundred I only exchanged two sentences with.

And, hey, that swag wasn't free. Like me, you forked over your $350. Swag is figured into the cost. On the ifbc survey I voted for no future swag!

Allan Wright said...

Hi Foodbat and all the others,

First of all, I want to let you know we the organizers are listening. We appreciate the feedback and thank those of you who filled out the post-conference survey.

One item that was a challenge for us was having the two organizers, Zephyr Adventures and Foodista, work together for the first time. It caused difficulties determining who was handling what. We have debriefed and are quite clear on how we will be handling everything in 2011. In short, Foodista will handle food and speakers and Zephyr will organize the conference. We think with our experience running larger Wine Blogger Conferences, you'll all be happy.

While a conference like this isn't for everyone, we do think it is for many bloggers. Next year we will have more breakout sessions, more chances for you to opt out, and more chances to meet people in smaller groups. In short, less group think and more choice.

Of course, bloggers have lots of opinions and we'll never please everyone. The rainbow shatters probably loved the Theo space because of the very cool vibe of having a food blogger conference in a chocolate factory. Those who didn't focused on the difficulties it created.

Again, we are paying attention and are already planning for 2011.

Allan Wright
Zephyr Adventures
Conference Co-Organizer

Sean Sullivan said...

Your sprightly recap was a zingy tonic shooting through the layers upon layers of kudos IFBC earned. I got a lot out of it, loved it in fact, but love your take away too, lots of merit. Thanks.

Jun Belen said...

Thank you for writing this. You are dead on with almost everything (I am not a big fan of the semicolon, for one). I came home from the conference more discouraged than inspired. I am still asking myself whether I am cut out to be a food blogger and I still haven't figured it out. I love to photograph food. I love photography. It's my thing. But do I have the energy to go after the hits and links and stats? I don't think so.

Anyhow, I'm glad I found your blog. At least I found someone who shares the same point view.

Jackie said...

I wasn't a rainbow shitter, but I did enjoy many of the presentations, and the trouble of getting the chefs and food trucks to us (impressive). I must've been the only one who did NOT leave there hungry. I was, however, exhausted. I am not a crowd person, either, and I found it difficult, if not IMPOSSIBLE to meet new people. Being from Seattle (and in my home turf), I basically hung out with the couple dozen folks I already knew, and only met a couple of extraneous folks. NOT ideal. Would love more socializing/networking/breakout sessions and less sitting and listening.

Ah well. I do believe they had growing pains, after more than doubling the attendees from last year. It's all still "new".

Overall, I rated it highly because I did get a lot out of it, and I AM wanting to further my skills, career, photography, etc. So, the conference was definitely geared toward someone like me.

Great post, and a nice diversion from the other rainbow shitters' posts. ;-)