5 Notes to Self for Coping with Conference Anxiety

Remember the cool kids at school? I was not one, and that sometimes comes back to me at conferences.

As soon as we sat down, tears streamed down her face. At the last event of Blogher Food 2011 Saturday night, the 40-year old, successful food blogger had asked if we could talk privately. We found a room upstairs, away from the throbbing dance party music.

“Some of the women at the conference are so mean,” she said, wiping away tears. She had met them before, yet they walked right by her without acknowledging her. Feeling overwhelmed, she said she’d rather be home gardening, or spending time with her children.

“It happened to me too,” I said. I was talking to a Famous Person when another Famous Person came up and discussed who they were inviting to dinner. Right in front of me.

And just like that, we were two high schoolers again. We desperately wanted to be adored, part of the in crowd and part of the cliques that gather. We wanted the cool people to notice us. We wanted to be cool too.

Feeling bad about her state of distress, I said most of the people at the conference felt the way she did (resisting adding “aside from a few clueless rude people.”) We’re all in a stressful situation, even though we’re thrilled to be there. That’s why we gather. According to the BlogHer Food folks, the number one reason attendees come is for the “community.”

But we don’t know all these people, and we’re not used to gathering like this. Who’s used to spending 15 hours a day or more with 500 people you hardly know? Who’s used to other people evaluating whether you’re worth sitting next to, talking to, rooming with, or inviting to a private event? It’s easy to get annoyed.

Even though I’ve attended writing and culinary conferences for more than 10 years (see liveblog of my session on recipe etiquette at BlogHer Food), I can’t always escape the anxiety that [Read more…]

Five Reasons to Go to a Food Blogging Conference

I’m packing for BlogHer Food in Atlanta this weekend. Going to conferences always energizes me. I get new ideas for posts, learn from the best, reconnect with old friends and make new ones. And I always have a blast.

Jackie Garvin of Syrup and Biscuits asked how to pick the best food blogging conference to attend. Each is a little different, but basically, all give you the opportunity to hang with other bloggers and get crushes on a select few. You’ll also learn about SEO, branding, writing, photography, marketing…all the stuff you’re trying to master.

Best of all, blogging conferences are fun. This is critical if you’ve been writing alone in your bedroom. You need to get out! I say pick a conference and get involved with a smart, energetic group of (mostly) women who are going through the same things. You’ll get inspired, refreshed, and energized. Even if you don’t have a blog because you’ve been focusing on other kinds of writing, it’s worth a look to understand the blogging phenomenon.

BlogHer Food 2009, in front of the bookstore.

This year I’ll be taking about recipe etiquette on a panel with David Leite, moderated by attorney Lisa Barry-Kessler. At BlogHer, the moderator and audience have as much to say as the speakers, so I look forward to discussing adapting, copyright, and other issues I write about on this blog.

Please come say hello if you’re attending, and tell me about your blog. I like to know who’s reading Will Write for Food so I can say thank you. (I’ll be one of the senior people there among the 30-somethings. That’s my photo in the right-hand corner. )

No matter which food blogging conference you choose (including Food Blogger Camp; Eat, Write, Retreat; International Food Blogger Conference [two locations this year]; Camp BlogawayFood Buzz [if you’re a member]; and Food Blog South), there are valuable reasons to go:

  1. Become part of a community of hardworking, intelligent writers. This includes meeting bloggers you admire, bloggers you can relate to, and bloggers who become friends
  2. Learn how to make your blog more successful and meaningful through the workshops and classes. You’ll get tons of new ideas and feel energized about your blog
  3. Increase your skill level as a photographer, sometimes with hands-on classes
  4. Party at evening events where you have to wear something other than sweats and pajamas, and
  5. Collect swag. Some people leave room in their suitcases for freebies they want to lug home.

If you’ve already been to a few blogging conferences, maybe you have your own list of benefits. Tell me whether you think it’s valuable, and what you enjoyed most.

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For more on attending food blogging conferences, see:

BlogHer Food, the Love Fest

Shauna James Ahern of Gluten-Free Girl and the Chef, Michael Ruhlman of Ruhlman.com and Molly Wizenberg of Orangette at the closing BlogHer Food keynote, talking about why they love to write and what it means to them. Photo courtesy of Jennifer Yu of Use Real Butter.

BlogHer Food ’10 this past weekend in San Francisco built on its second year as a love fest where 250 attendees (mostly food blogging women and gay men) thrill to be in each other’s presence. If you weren’t into hugging and making this noise called “Squeee!” you didn’t belong.

Southern California threesome: Carrie Vitt of Deliciously Organic, Brooke Burton of Food Woolf, and Gaby Dalkin of What's Gaby Cooking.

The two-day conference was less about the sessions and more about seeing friends, making new friends, partying, and swag. Attendees met heroes they had previously seen only on the page, and discovered [Read more…]