Last weekend, I spent the entire day at the Whole Foods Headquarters in Austin for TECHmunch, a Food Blogging Conference which took place along side the South by Southwest Festival (SXSW). TECHmunch Austin featured about 30 speakers who are seasoned experts in food journalism, blogging, social media and digital publishing. Host Babette Pepaj from @BakeSpace created this traveling conference for food bloggers who are not only looking for the skills & tools they need to succeed in the blogging industry, but to also take their blogs to the next level.
When I first looked at the Agenda for TECHmunch Austin, I was psyched to see that it basically covered all of the topics that are related to writing a successful food blog. Babette described it as a linear conference, which covered food blogging specifics from start to finish. In fact, TECHmunch was the most informative blogging conference I have attended, mainly because it was targeted at the main focus of my blog.
TECHmunch Austin also had some amazing sponsors that provided us coffee, smoothies, wine, snacks and giveaways throughout the day. Chameleon Cold-Brew, a company that produces an extra caffeinated super-smooth coffee brewed locally in Austin, was serving their cold brew coffee over ice to keep us awake early Sunday morning.
For those who prefer tea over coffee, Jade Monk was also serving samples of their green tea. KitchenAid, Goodies company, and Whole Foods all offered giveaways throughout the day through entries on Twitter. It think it is every food blogger’s dream to win a KitchenAid mixer, but sadly I was not the winner of this blue beauty.
However I was the lucky winner of a bottle of Chardonnay from Whole Foods, who is featuring an entire line of wines from some of Argentina’s highest-rated wineries this spring.
The morning sessions focused on what I refer to as “behind the scenes” of blogging. As a reader, you may not be aware of the amount of work that goes on behind the scenes before a post appears on my blog, particularly one where I have developed a new recipe and taken photos of the finished dish. Before I hit publish and share a recipe, like Mexican Stuffed Zucchini Boats, I may have spent anywhere from 2-10 hours working on that particular post. Although I like to make it look simple and effortless, it takes a lot time! That is why I enjoyed the session from Serena Erlich (@serena) about “Setting up an Editorial Calender,” which ensures that I maximize my time and effort with blog posts. Serena is also just fun to watch, as she is FULL of energy and information.
Natanya Anderson from @Natanyap spoke about “Finding Your Focus” for your blog, which for me is Balancing Real Life with Healthy Living. In the past two years, I have created a blog is dedicated to inspiring others to make healthy choices and to find time for fitness in their busy lives. 4Real: If you have tried one of my recipes, thought about attempting one of my workouts, started making healthier food choices or have been inspired to start exercising because of my blog, I would love for you to leave me a comment!
One of the most inspiring speakers of the day was Stephanie Mann of Copy Kat Recipes, who has been blogging for 19 YEARS! Her first presentation was about “Getting the Most Out of Your Content.” As food bloggers, we do invest a large amount of time preparing our recipes and writing posts, so it is good practice to repurpose our content. New readers may not know that I have a collection of Healthy Breakfast Recipes, which is why I pulled together seven recipes that had previously been posted and republished them around the holidays. Stephanie also spoke about “SEO: Optimizing Your Posts,” which is blog speak for driving traffic to your site.
There were so many interesting and talented speakers in the morning, I wish I could write about them all but I don’t want this post to become a book so I will skip to lunch. Whole Foods, the main sponsor and host location for the conference, provided us with gift cards so we could browse the store and pick out our own lunch. Of course I headed straight to the Hot Bar/Salad Bar. Then I met Jennifer (@RealPoshMom) and Rachael (@rachaelsperling) at the bar inside of Whole Foods so we could have a beer with our lunch.
After lunch, the focus of the conference shifted to what readers actually see on a page when they visit a food blog. This (hopefully) includes beautifully styled food, high quality food photos, easy to follow recipes, and well written posts with no grammar or spelling errors. I learned that I should never use the word delicious again if I want to engage my readers, so expect to see higher quality food descriptions in the very near future! The presentations from Meghan Erwin (@styleMEfoods), a food stylist and Melissa Skorpil (@melissaskorpil), a food photographer reminded me that I am still an amateur when it comes to the food pictures I put on my blog, but I am enjoying learning how to use my DSLR.
The remainder of the afternoon included several panels that covered social media, video, marketing your blog and working with brands. These sessions covered what what separates the professional bloggers from the newcomers. Although I have learned a ton about blogging, social media and marketing over the past two years, I also gleaned some valuable information that will help me take my blog to the next level. This will most likely include video for cooking demonstrations and G+ hangouts with other food bloggers. I also got to meet Hilah from @HilahCooking, an Austin food blogger and cookbook author who makes fun cooking videos (click on this link NOW to hear Hilah sing about making her crispy beef tacos)! 4Real: I kept singing ca-ca-ca crispy tacos in my head the entire time Hilah was sitting up there on the “Leveraging Video” panel.
If you are a food blogger, I highly recommend that you check out the upcoming schedule for TECHmunch to see if they are coming to a city near you. Future stops in 2013 include New York City, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Chicago, Atlanta, Las Vegas, Miami and Minneapolis.
4Real: Alternate titles for this post included “The Day I Spent 9 Hours at Whole Foods” or “How I Rocked my Knee-High Boots for 15 Hours Straight”. It was an informative but exhausting day.