From October 23 to October 25, the 2015 Food Blogger Canada Conference was held right here, in my city, Montréal. There is so much I want to share with you, but where to begin? What to write? I am going to take a leap (which was this year’s theme), a deep breath, and just start typing. Hopefully, I’ll be able to convey what I experienced at this conference, what I learned from the inspirational speakers and, on a more personal level, my thought process as I took it all in.
Last week-end was my very first food bloggers conference. When I first read that this annual Food Blogger Canada Conference was to be held at le Westin, in Montreal, my immediate thought was “This is a sign!” And so, impulsively, I registered. I thought it would be a great opportunity for me to actually meet, in person, fellow Canadian bloggers that I had been following through various social media. And I was right! Take Kim, for example, who blogs at The Finer Cookie. As I was waiting for the second day to get under way, Kim sat down next to me…we introduced ourselves with a hug. I felt like I was saying hello to an old friend I hadn’t seen in ages. On a superficial level, it was the meeting point of 150 individuals, from all walks of life, who were brought together by a genuine passion for food. Mostly foodbloggers, sponsors and speakers. But there was so much more going on.
I decided to summarize my top 10 takeaways of this wonderful experience, but before I do, I would like to share my mindset.
You might be surprised to hear that I will not discuss the delicious, healthy, mouth-watering, nostalgic, at times decadent, good for your soul food and beverages that were served throughout this venue. Yes, I took a couple of pictures of the amazing food, and yes, I realize we call ourselves food bloggers, but as strange as it may sound to some of you, for me, this week-end was not really about the food (with the possible exception of Cacao Barry 😉 ).
No, this week-end was really about getting out of my comfort zone. I’m a pretty introverted person, and going to a conference where I think I know no one and have to strike up conversations doesn’t come easy. But I wanted to push myself a little bit. I guess it was good that we were all gathering around such amazing food, then, because I’ve always considered food to be a powerful thing that brings individuals together!
Like I already mentionned, the theme of the conference was the “leap”; taking a risk and allowing yourself to grow… I wanted to embody that myself, but I had some trouble understanding the concept of this leap. The purposeful leap that everyone’s always talking about – what is it? Is life really full of these leaps, these jumps from a standing point to a beautiful landing, two feet firmly planted on the ground? Sometimes, I feel like my life is just a series of bounces: non-directional, up-down-up-down motions, with no beautiful landings and no firm ideas about where to end up.
Creating this food blog was a big “leap” for me, and attending the conference was a smaller one. Replacing bounces with leaps… that’s the goal. And as I list my top 10 takeaways from this inspiring and memorable week-end, that’s what I will contemplate.
My top 10 takeaways from 2015 Food Blogger Canada Conference (not in any particular order):
Takeaway #1: It’s hard to take a selfie. Complete disclosure: I’ve never taken a selfie until this week-end. One of the events planned at the conference was the Montreal Instagram challenge (a challenge?!?!? Sounds like a good opportunity for a “leap”!), and one of the challenges was to snap a selfie. That’s when I met Teenuja (who blogs at Veganlovlie). We partnered up to take a selfie and in the process had a wonderful conversation. I learned so much about creating a youtube broadcast (no immediate plans of leaping in that direction!). My favourite recipe of hers so far is the Sweet Potato Flatbread. Thank-you Teenuja for sharing and being part of my first selfie!
Takeaway #2: Ricardo (yes, the one and only Ricardo!!!) “deserves the best!” But you know what he says, everyone does! Ricardo spoke of taking leaps and his personal “pursuit of happiness”. He spoke of sincerity and feeling good about yourself. He also spoke of faith that “good things always come from bad experiences”, a message that hit home for me, since I started this blog after the untimely passing of my mom. Ricardo, thank-you for sharing your story and thank-you for being an inspiration.
Takeaway #3: Meghan Telpner was all about empowering and inspiring. She believes you are “a unique snowflake” and that as foodbloggers, we need to be transparent and authentic. Meghan has created a “tribe” of followers, encouraging and motivating people to eat healthy. What I saw in Meghan was an individual who was passionate about genuinely wanting to help people and a need to share her story with contagious enthusiasm and empowerment. Meghan, best wishes for continued success.
Takeaway #4: Lesley Ellen Harris and Sarah Huggins provided us bloggers with some legal tips. They strongly encouraged us to stay legal by 1- posting original content; 2- getting permission if you’re not sure about the authenticity; and 3- protecting your content. Sound and practical advice…spoken like real lawyers.
Takeaway #5: Following Casey Markee‘s presentation, I am quite confident that I will never completely understand Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and I’m okay with that. But what I did understand is that there is a lot of “blogging” noise out in cyberspace and if you want to be heard, there are certain tangible things you can and must do in order to put your blog in a favorable position. In pursuit of that goal, I am definitely leaping in the direction of improving my SEOs.
Takeaway #6: What a privilege to be associated with a wonderful group of individuals. It was great re-connecting with Holly (the one and only Jittery Cook) and Hilary (Cocoa Bean, The Vegetable). Thank-you Teenuja (Veganlovlie), Kim (The Finer Cookie), Kathryne (Food Musings), Charlene (Chewstreet), Diane (Kitchen Bliss), Heather (Heather in Heels) Janice (Kitchen Heals Soul), Vanessa and Marie-Eve (Half Your Plate), Meaghan (modernmilkmaid) and Courtney for some wonderful conversations. You are all truly inspirational ladies!
Takeaway #7: There was one session that really hit home for me, and it kind of took me by surprise. When I first read that their would be a panel of speakers consisting of a chef (Chef Jay Nutt), a writer (Tiffany Mayer) and a farmer (Jennifer Hayes), I honestly did not know what to expect. I was blown away by the honest conversation and the tangible passion that these three very different individuals had. The message of responsibility, getting the right message across, and the urgency to work together with farmers… I definitely had an “aha” moment.
Takeaway #8: We’ve all heard the saying, “A picture is worth a thousand words”… but when I saw Andrew Scrivani‘s photography, I became speechless. Totally speechless. Although I’ve only been blogging for a little over a year, it is a very scary thought to think of myself as a photographer (thanks for the empowerment Andrew!) Andrew spoke about developing a style and creating an intention. As food bloggers, you quickly realize that an essential cornerstone to a successful blog are the pictures. And what happens when you don’t have the inspiration? Andrew encouraged us to find that inspiration outside of food; get out, so you can get back in. Thanks Andrew for the great advice and a fantastic session!
Takeaway #9: It was interesting to hear from two very different bloggers talk about their path of bringing hobby blogging to another level. Ayngelina Brogan and Davida Kugelmass are two very successful bloggers who encouraged us to speak our voices, while simultaneously listening to our inner voice when asking ourselves the question, “Do I really want to do this?” Very interesting perspective.
Takeaway #10: I feel extremely privileged to be associated with a group of individuals who are truly passionate about what they do. What brought us all together at le Westin, in Montreal, was a genuine passion for food. Interacting with so many inspiring individuals (bloggers, sponsors and speakers) solidified my belief that food brings people together. And at the end of the day, it’s about sharing this story.
In conclusion, I realize that I am still at the beginning of this “food blogger” learning curve. All the sessions provided me with so much food for thought (pun intended). I’ve had a couple of days to think about what was said and what taking the leap means to me, the story I want to share, and the direction of my blog. We all have a story to tell. We can tell our story with words, we can tell our story through pictures, but at the end of the day, we just need to tell an honest story, with the goal of communicating our story with the rest of the world.
One thing is for sure, I STRONGLY recommend this event to any blogger.
I would like to express my sincere gratitude to all the sponsors and volunteers who supported the 2015 Food Blogger Canada Conference. The “swag bag” we got… amazing! To Mairlyn Smith, thanks for the laughs and your honesty, not to many people would admit to being 5’2” 😉
Last but not least, to Ethan and Melissa: I would like to express my utmost respect and gratitude for making my first experience at a Food Blogger Canada Conference a memorable one. Successful events don’t just happen. A lot of work and effort go into making an event as seamless as this one was. Thank-you for organizing an inspiring and thought-provoking three days. You’ve given me plenty of things to think about until the next conference. Thank-you for supporting so many Canadian bloggers who have a story to tell!
I’ve taken the leap into food blogging, and I will continue to take all the leaps I can as I explore this world further! See you all in Toronto!
Thanks for dropping by,
Ciao for now,