Food Blog Forum 2013 – Key Points from Conference Day {Orlando, FL}

I woke up feeling really excited about the day ahead on Saturday. It was the conference day, and the Food Blog Forum had a rock star line up of many leaders from the food blogging world. I was so looking forward to what they had to say and share, and I was ready to soak up the information like a sponge!

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We started with a light breakfast of fresh fruit and various breads.

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I had a piece of whole wheat toast with cream cheese and one of the glowing fruit bowls.

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(I took really detailed notes on my laptop of all the presentations, but I’m going to share a couple points from each that resonated most with me.)

Scott Hair of Steamy Kitchen kicked things off with a warm welcome. He was soon joined by the rest of the Steamy Kitchen crew – Jaden and their two son, Andrew and Nathan – for their presentation, Redefining Success. This whole presentation really touched me because I’ve seriously been redefining my success over the last couple years. Their talk was really in sync with one of the books I’ve been reading recently, The Fire Starter Sessions.

Key points from Redefining Success:

  • How do you define success? If you don’t know how to define success, you’ll always look for it and want more of it.
  • What is your end goal? Are you trying to become a successful food blogger so you can spend more time with family? If so, maybe growing your blog so you have a TV show or book deal isn’t the solution. What are you really trying to do? For example, if you want to spend more time with your family, think about what you can actually do to do that (or part of that) now. Could you trade in a raise at work for more vacation days or more time off?
  • Reconsider your definition of success. Was it having more money? Did you really want more money so you could feel more free? Maybe the solution isn’t more money but less money and a downsized lifestyle.
  • Always start with the emotion you’re trying to achieve. If you don’t know the emotion, ask yourself these questions: Right now, I’m trying to achieve X. What will X give me? (last question is important, i.e. “sense of feeling more free”) Money is a thing that will give us a feeling of something. Power, freedom, ability to do things, opportunity, etc. Emotion must be cornerstone of what you feel success is. “family, freedom, doing things together, freedom to do what you wanted when you wanted.”

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Todd Porter and Diane Cu of White on Rice Couple took the stage for the next presentation – Taking Your Visual Ideas to Flight. As you guys know, I love photography. Photography is one thing I know I’ll never want to stop learning more about. I enjoy learning new tips and tricks and hearing different POVs for best practices. And, I’ve been a fan of the White on Rice Couple’s photography for awhile, so I was extra pumped to hear their presentation.

Key points from Taking Your Visual Ideas to Flight (In Photo and Video):

  • Everything begins with an idea. It’s not about the gear. It’s about your story, message, and visual voice. Gear doesn’t mean anything if you don’t have the idea.
  • “Your eyes are your lens, your heart is your shutter.” It’s not about what you see but how you see it.
  • Look beyond the obvious – think from a different perspective.
  • If you’re interested in starting in video, start with photos set to music. Try animoto.com to create a free 30 second video.
  • Their video gear is very light – a good quality tripod for stabilization, natural/given or basic light panels for lighting, and a sennheiser or other audio lapels for audio.
  • Music on videos is very important. The WOR couple can spend 3/4 of their time just picking the right music. It’s worth spending $30-60 for music that is just right for your video. They suggest sites like – With Etiquette, Free Play Music, and Triple Scoop Music.
  • Their favorite iPhone apps: snapseed, VSCO cam, Filter Storm, Camera+, Noir Photo (black and white)
  • Don’t let not having a DSLR keep you from capturing what you want. Use a smaller camera, like the iPhone. There’s value in the imperfect photo. Authenticity is beautiful.

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{Showing different angles from lighting and the effect on the photo}

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{Sample work setups – the setup vs final photo shots slides were fascinating!}

After the photography session, we broke for lunch. The lunch was so fun, I thought it deserved its own post, so I’ll share photos of the eats after this one.

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We returned from lunch for a session called Technology Talk: Trends & Tools with Elise of Simply Recipes and Babette Pepaj of Bake Space, moderated by Erik Deutsch. Elise is frequently posting helpful articles and tips on a small Facebook group we belong to, so I was ready to hear more of what she had to offer, along with Babette. The talk focused on four main areas: Mobile, Video, Pinterest, and Looking Beyond the Blog.

Key points from Technology Talk:

  • Mobile: readers are increasingly using mobile (phone/tablet) devices to access blogs, so it’s important to make sure your sites have mobile friendly formatting. Look into responsive themes. If you’re a blogger, be sure to check your stats so you know where your traffic is coming from so you can best offer your content to your readers.
  • Video: Video is content you can create and repurpose everywhere. You can post on FB and people can watch there, you don’t have to go off the site to get there. Video makes it harder for someone to steal your content, too.
  • Pinterest: It’s been an SEO world, but it’s moving to a Pinterest world, with Pinterest being the #1 source of traffic for about 1/3 of the room at the conference. Consider using hash tags and calls to action on your pins and pinning in the morning or night for best traffic.
  • Looking Beyond the Blog: eBooks, DIY apps, etc. are good ideas. Babette has created Cookbook Cafe as a way for bloggers to curate their recipes and share them with readers in a way that is great for both. Bloggers can create an interactive web-based eBook or iPad App.

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Food bloggers tell stories with their posts and recipes, so the conference organizers thought it would be interesting to hear more from Disney, one of the best at story-telling, about the story behind one of their newer restaurants. So, we next heard from a Disney Imagineer, Tim Warzecha, about the process and work that went into designing and developing one of Disney’s restaurants, Sanaa, which features African cooking with Indian flavors. The team put together many different pieces to provide an experience that is what the guest imagines Africa to be like. They created idea boards and narrowed down many ideas to focus on the beads of a necklace. From there, they explored many other traditions and ideas, big and small. They created lamps that looked like African robes and shaped the building like a necklace, which also looked like a water buffalo. The restaurant took about 5-7 years to complete with about 2-3 being spent on the design and concept. No detail was too small. The baskets at the front of the restaurant are over 100 years old, are something traditionally seen in an African house, and took 2 years to source!

One of the most interesting things I learned was how the team looked at challenges as opportunities to reinforce their theme. For example, they had several columns in the center of one of their rooms, and they turned them into trees and decorated some with beads like those from the inspiration necklaces.

The food was inspired by the trade route that ran through Africa. Here’s the Sanaa menu if you’re curious about the eats. I wish we’d had more time so I could check this place out!

***

Our final presentation of the day was about Grassroots Community Building by Jeff Houck (food writer for Tampa Tribune/TBO.com), David Leite (Leite’s Culinaria), Julie Deily (The Little Kitchen), and Lindsay Landis (Love and Olive Oil). Their presentation really got me thinking about the community here at The Chic Life. I’ve never really thought about my blog having a community. Most of the time, I think no one’s really reading unless they leave a comment or something. But then, I’ll talk to a friend who remembers that cool sandwich I had last week, or I’ll see someone post one of my photos on Pinterest saying the recipe they tried came out really great, or I’ll get a random comment on a recipe I posted two years ago, and it reminds me that you’re out there. I’d like to think more about what I can do to foster this community and make it something you guys like, enjoy, and find useful. If you have any ideas, feel free to comment or email me at thechiclife at gmail dot com.

Key points from Grassroots Community Building:

  • Know the importance of not just putting stuff out there, and then putting more out. You have to engage with the community.
  • Consider adopting a “no comment left behind” policy, or something similar, where you try to respond to all comments on the blog, twitter, Facebook, etc.
  • Anyone you interact with is a potential community member.
  • Think about intent. What is your intention in gathering this community? For example, David said he would rather have 80 people engaging and building each other up than have 800 not.
  • Be authentic. Be yourself. But have a filter.

***

And that’s a wrap! Phew! That was longer than I originally intended, but there was a lot of good info shared at the conference that I wanted to share with you!

Next time – our amazing and fun lunch experience eating kid-style a la Disney!

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Comments

  1. Jodi says

    The Chiclife community is pretty broad! I read your blog everyday and I am in Jamaica. I enjoy your recipes and I love your photos. These are good tips that will definitely make a difference.

    • says

      See! This is exactly what I’m talking about! :) I didn’t even know anyone was reading TCL in Jamaica, and then you popped in with you comment, Jodi. Thank you so much for letting me know. That’s so exciting! I was in the car with hubby when your comment came through, and I told him, “Someone is reading my blog in Jamaica!!!” Thank you so much for reading TCL! :)

      • Jodi says

        You are welcome Diana! I discovered your blog on another blog and I have been a dedicated reader ever since. I love reading your posts and will continue to do so. Keep up the good work.

  2. says

    Diana – you summed up this day PERFECTLY! There’s so much to learn at Food Blog Forum and these guys know their stuff. I loved your takeaways and it definitely is a conference not to be missed.

    TCL has quite the community – you have always inspired me to take it to the next level with my blogging and I’m sure I’m not the only one :)

  3. says

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