|The girls that showed me around town and the beers we desperately needed.|
|The fish market down by the marina|
|The White House. "It's not that big."|
|Left to Right: Lara, Dan, Kimmy and Ethan|
|My early morning routine in Washington|
|In the kitchen watching the team prepare desserts|
|Saturday's lunch at McCormick & Schmick's|
|Domenica, Shauna and Jael|
Domenica, Jennifer, Shauna and Jael
The weekend that was. Intimate. Inspiring. Gluttonous. And one of the best weekends I can remember. From the moment I stepped off the plane at Washington National Airport to the time my plane touched down in Toronto, it was a celebration of people and learning and community.
Very few events bring people together unselfishly and in the spirit of learning, but that's exactly what happened this weekend. Robyn and Casey created an event for food bloggers that did more than teach us how to improve and take our blogs to another level, it taught us about the goodness deep inside of people and the connections we can all make if we just let down the barriers inside. And it taught us a bit about ourselves and our weaknesses and how to be better in both regards.
Sure, we did learn about photography and styling and writing, and I'm not going to dismiss the impact those classes had, but it was as much about the people and speakers as the classes itself. Community was strengthened, networking was replaced by old school friendships and it was nothing short of a love fest. And I loved that.
We ate so much food that I felt like I was preparing to hibernate. But it wasn't just food, it was great food: American to Indian to El Salvadorian and Soul Food. Everything was incredible and the cocktails flowed as we shared conversations with our new found friends. Some meals were spent with people I didn't know when I arrived but left feeling like I knew some of them for a very long time.
When I walked into the meet and greet on Friday night I did so with jitters and nerves and eager anticipation. But I quickly discovered that they were all in the same boat as myself. We all just wanted to say hi and fit in. And those barriers came crashing down as soon as the food was served and the cocktails came one by one to our tables.
I could go on and on but I'll take this approach instead. The top 10 things to do when you're at a food blog conference.
Be approachable. Extend a hand or smile and say hi to as many people as you can. Not everybody has the same social comfort levels and sometimes a quick hello and handshake can set the table for some great dialogue.
Eat and drink. No brainer, right? Let down your guard and preconceived notions about different groups and experiment. We were blessed to try foods from different parts of the U.S. and world and I, for one, was not going to miss out on this unique opportunity.
Put your camera down. I love taking pictures of food and people. But sometimes that camera can hold you back from truly learning in the classes you attend. Instead, take notes and be a great listener. Most of the people teaching the classes have a lot of valuable information that they're passing on.
Attend the assigned workshops. While it may be fun to set off and explore the city you're in, missing out on a workshop or event could be the one thing holding you back from achieving your blogging goals. The organizers go to great depths to put together the best of the best to help you that weekend. Listen and learn.
Be kind to the volunteers: No event can be successful without the help of volunteers. These people put aside their own plans and weekend off to help make your experience memorable and substantial. Thank them. Be nice to them. And show them the respect they deserve.
Become part of the community. It's easy to stay inside your comfortable box. Explore and be friendly. Food bloggers are a wonderful group of people with obvious similar interests. Share ideas, tips and stories. Help each other out when someone asks questions. Share any knowledge you have with aspiring bloggers and be gracious when they ask.
Come for the event, leave with the swag: One of the perks with conferences like these are the gifts and giveaways. Nothing feels better than being handed a bag filled with gifts that are suited to your needs and loves. For a brief moment it makes you feel like a celebrity.
Thank the sponsors. Events need sponsors to run. They contribute time, energy and funds. Spend time getting to know the people behind the brand and thank them for taking part. They too have products that you might love, and if not, be open minded about trying it.
Improve your blog. The obvious reason you're attending a conference is to make your blogging experience better. This will surely help. You can network and learn from the pros. You main gain some valuable insight from the least expected sources. But either way, you will go home with a better understanding of blogging success than before you arrived.
Thank the organizers. In this case it was Robyn and Casey. The conference may only occur for three days but the planning and organizing takes months and months. It is with their hard work and dedication that we can experience such a memorable weekend. Without them there would be no conference. Thank you girls!
* I would like to personally thank the fine people at Canadian Beef
for sponsoring my entry to Eat, Write, Retreat. Thank you so much! Because of your generosity I was able to attend a valuable conference and take away memories to last a lifetime.
**On a side note, for the first time in the company's history, Calphalon
is offering the readers of this blog an exclusive 10% off deal between now and June 6, 2011. The promotional code is C95926 and can be used at this Calphalon link. If you're ever wanted something from this fantastic kitchen company, now is the time to do so.