September 12-14, a group of registered dietitians, who are also members of Healthy Aperture or Recipe Redux, got together in Vermont for the very first Blog Brûlée Conference. While my attendance was partially funded by the sponsors of the event, I was not compensated to write this post.
We had the privilege of lodging at Smugglers' Notch Resort, which was hands down one of the most beautiful places I'd ever stayed at. Being so close to nature and seeing the beauty of God's marvelous creation right before my eyes at every turn, allowed me to tuck away all my worries as well as the busyness of life. I told the Hungryman that we are definitely coming back here! Perhaps I may get on skis for the first time ever! I hear it's quite fun.
As you can see, we were well fed.
Unlike other conferences I'd attended in the past, I loved how intimate Blog Brûlée was as it encouraged openness, honesty, and free-flowing conversations. I felt very much a part of the discussion rather than a body somewhere in the background.
Here's a brief review of the sessions:
- Food Photography Basics led by Regan Jones and Gretchen Brown. When I picked up my camera 2 years ago, I had NO idea that food photography was going to become such a HUGE part of my life. I recently wrote a post sharing my personal photography tips, where I opened up about what draws me to this new found passion. I love how you've got to keep pushing yourself as there's absolutely no room for stagnancy. You're always learning and re-learning. So this session was a great reminder to always have a good grasp of the basic concepts.
- Iphoneography led by Deanna Segrave-Daly. You don't have to own a DSLR to take great photos. Deanna and Liz both use iPhones to take all of their blog photos, and you'd never know! The two must-have apps are Snapseed and Camera+. Guys, with a little bit of tweaking, they seriously bring your shots to life!
- The Art of Storytelling by Robin Plotkin and Brierley Wright. If you struggle with writing, like I do, know that it takes practice! There are absolutely no shortcuts...which I tend to gravitate toward. Just keep at it and you shall reap the rewards. And remember - always edit your work! Read it out loud, highlight or change fonts, find someone to give it a look over...a few helpful suggestions. And I'm sure Brierley is cringing right now at how long this post is..<500 words..yeah, not happening here but will def be working on it!
- Elements of Food Styling by Gretchen Brown. Remember that the food is the hero, so keep things simple. Keep the food wet and moist - save those drippings, sauces, etc. The eye really likes odd numbers so, for instance, instead of 2 muffins, plop another one in the shot.
- Defining and Delivering SEO by Carolyn Ketchum. By making little tweaks here and there, the post you worked so hard on can rank higher than someone else's, someone who doesn't know about SEO. By using it correctly you can tell the search engine, "Hey, my content is relevant and high quality, so you should give me some attention." Some ways to do this is to use 1 or 2 relevant keywords (less is more). Have those words come first in the URL, title tags, the Alt text for images, and use them early in the post.
- Building Your Virtual Community by EA Stewart. Check out my post on Building Your Virtual Community. Sorry for the repetition, but this is me putting what I learned to practice - use good anchor text, meaning type out the actual post title instead of "click here."
- Branding in the Blogosphere and Beyond by Janice Bissex and Liz Weiss. Not only are they hilarious, but they've essentially built an empire! They have their own podcasts, cookbooks, newsletters (they highly recommend using Mad Mimi), iPhone app...I mean the list goes on and on. Amongst many helpful tips, I especially loved the idea of using surveys to engage the audience and to help develop future content. "Authentic, Reliable, Responsive, Engaging, Evolving" = keys to success.
- Monetizing Your Brand by Anne Mauney. Numbers don't matter as much as you think. Make a media kit and approach brands, being specific about how your service can benefit their company. Be bold, assertive, clear, and transparent.
I know that was a lot, but let me assure you, we didn't just sit down and take notes all day. We went to the Boyden Valley Winery and enjoyed wine and cheese pairings. I really wish Cabot cheese was more readily available in Austin. So good!
And before we knew it, the weekend was over. Goodbyes are always tough, but "I'll see you in the virtual world" made it a lot more bearable. Gave me a good laugh, too. There's no way we can disappear from each other ;). A group of us spent some time in downtown Burlington before heading out to the airport.
And, of course, we raided the raw juice store.
I guess you could say that we certainly "set fire to better blogs!"
Because cheese is still on my mind (thanks to Cabot Creamery), here's a round-up of grilled cheese/panini recipes from my fellow attendees...
- Chipotle Bacon Avocado Grilled Cheese - Love and Zest
- Dandelion Grilled Cheese with Fig & Brie - Kara Lydon
-Apple and Brie Grilled Cheese - Meal Makeover Moms
-How to Make Healthier Grilled Cheese - Teaspoon of Spice
Brie, Fig & Pear Panini - MJ and Hungryman
- Grilled Zucchini and Gruyere Panini with Smoky Pesto - An Avocado a Day
- Pumpkin Sage Gorgonzola Grilled Cheese - immaeatthat
- Grilled BCT Sandwich - Kumquat
-Roasted Veggie Grilled Cheese - Meme Inge
- Vegetable Panini on Sourdough - Cape Fear Nutrition
-Rustic Grilled Cheese with Tomato and Pesto - 30 seconds with A & J
-Brie, Ham, and Green Apple Panini - All Day I Dream About Food