When I walked into the lobby of the Portland Doubletree, I was wrapped with fear like a tighly swaddled baby. This was completely new territory to me, and although I travel as much as I can, it’s never alone, and never to a conference such as this. I had no idea what to expect, and the sea of people around me were very intimidating. Everyone looked organized with their laptops and tablets out, pecking away at what I assumed were blog posts already, so immediately I felt like I was lagging behind. I circled the lobby a few times, called my husband to tell him I’d arrived, then finally perched on a sofa that had just been vacated. Maybe if I kept my head down and pretended to be tweeting or checking email, that I wouldn’t have to talk to anyone yet — I just wasn’t ready to dive in to the deep end.
My first tweet of the weekend: “Just arrived at the Doubletree Portland for the #IFBC conference. Is everyone this nervous?” Almost immediately, I got a response from my new friend, Marlynn, at Urban Bliss Media, “@TeaRelish I am! we can be nervous together :)”. Whew! So I’m not alone, now I can move on and enjoy myself. And it was only moments later a woman sat down next to me, presented her hand and said, “Hi, I’m Catherine.” Turns out Catherine is Sicilian Girl, and this was her second IFBC trip. First introduction down, I’m on my way!
It really is amazing how a topic as simple as food can bring people together. I mean it’s food, I think most of the time the average person doesn’t think about it all that much. We need it to survive, and often it’s a hassle to fit in our busy schedules. But get a group of foodies in one room together, and the din of culinary chatter is nearly deafening. Stories, laughter, recipe swapping, and general chit-chat drew me into the welcoming Book Fair & Registration event. I wandered a bit, but finally picked a table to sit at. I don’t remember everyone at the table off hand — unfortunately I met so many, it’s difficult to discern. But this is where I made my best connections. Michelle McLachlan (GlutenFree Gabber), Regina Miller (My Midlife Musing), and Candace Karu (Cabot Creamery), all welcomed me immediately. And as soon as Candace pulled out her iPhone with a Tardis case on it, I knew I was home! (Dr. Who sidenote: I’m a huge fan, and Whovians are not always front and center, so when I find one, I know I’m with a kindred spirit. Lucky me: Regina is also a Whovian, so as soon as the Dr. Who chat began, we knew we’d be instant friends.)
I won’t go on and on about every little minute of the conference. For a look at the agenda go here. But suffice it to say, I learned so dang much about blogging, that my head is still spinning. Thanks so much to Kelly Senyei (Just a Taste) for writing and signing my book, Food Bloggers for Dummies, her session on recipe writing and development, as well as blogging tips, will be invaluable. Also Kathleen Flinn‘s words, “you’re better than that”, from her session on putting details into your writing still echo in my head every time I sit down to write. And last but certainly not least, the comedy duo of Chef John Mitzewich (Food Wishes) and Andrew Scrivani (New York based food photographer), opened my eyes to some basic, yet often forgotten food styling and photography tips. My love of photography is indeed renewed and I’m already shopping for that 50mm standard lens, and haven’t put my camera on “auto” once since I returned!
So as it turns out, a walk around a hotel lobby and a single tweet was all I needed to unwrap me from my conference fears, and took me from a food blogging neophyte to “kickin’ it Twitter-style”, as my husband put it. Twitter has become a link to my new friends, and we’re already planning our next trip together, and making plans for meeting up at next year’s IFBC in Seattle. Hope to see you there, and remember, all it takes is a simple shake of the hand and a smile, and trust me, you’ll be a conference pro in no time.
In this photo (top): @chanelbabe41, Alethea (Nat’l Beef Assoc); (bottom row): me (@tearelish), @glutenfreegabber, @pinotmom, @kindredkitchn