Philadelphia welcomed Eat, Write, Retreat this past weekend and it may never be the same again. Over 100 food bloggers from all over the country- oh, and Canada too- descended on Philly to learn new blogging skills from the amazing line-up of speakers, interact with brands, network and to eat. Because that’s what we do best!
I was so thrilled to meet and connect with so many terrific people. I have made some new friends and I learned quite a bit of useful information in the process.
Someone mentioned that they should change the name of the conference because there was not much Retreat- and that was true! So much information was jammed packed into the two and half days that there was literally no down time. For the record, I am SOOO not a morning person, but there I was, up at 7 everyday, off to breakfast and ready to learn from my seat at the front of the room.
There were way more than these ten things that I learned but here’s the ones that really stood out.
TOP 10 Things I Learned at Eat, Write, Retreat
1. The incredible and generous Monica Bhide spoke first. She discussed the Sponsored Post and imparted knowledge that not only fits that topic but can be applied to all of your writing. The most poignant and probably the simplest idea- “Would you still write this post if it weren’t being sponsored?”
Do you love a product enough to talk about it and not be paid? If so, your love and authenticity will shine through. If you don’t really feel it, your audience will know and won’t feel the enthusiasm that perhaps that product deserves- it would be better for someone else who does love it. You can and should say no to products and reviews that don’t align with your personal goals.
2. The sweet and talented Joy Manning presented a great panel about power networking. I am rather shy by nature, so networking has always been one of my weak points. I think also the fact that most of us work alone, in our homes at our computers and don’t venture out too much also plays a role in the lack of good connections. She said- “Make friends on purpose.”
Pay attention to the well connected people, who they are and who they know. Become THEIR friends. Go up to them at conferences, send them a quick email to introduce yourself, flatter them (MEAN IT!) and find some common ground that you both share. Perhaps that contact will be able to help you in the future. Of course, it’s not a one way street and NEVER treat it as such. You should also network “down”. We always remember the people who help us, and you never know where someone can end up.
3. Carolyn Ketchum and Sarah W. Caron gave a panel on food photography. I tend not to do this, but I see so many others that do- and it’s a pet peeve of mine- so I am reiterating it here for you: BACK AWAY FROM THE FOOD!
Your meatballs are beautiful, I am sure. BUT, if they fill the frame and are as big as I am, then I will feel as though I am being crushed by them. STEP AWAY. BACK UP. No one- NO ONE wants to be all in the sauce floating around with the meatballs.
4. and 5. Jesse Gardner, Carolyn Ketchum and Valerie Coffman are folks after my own heart. Geeks, Techies, Nerds, they are my kind, and I bow to them.
They actually gave me #4 and #5 -these two points are easy and often overlooked items that will only take you seconds to do.
Use the Custom Title Tag Feature in your posts. Here you can add your KEY WORDS that relate to your article and are crucial for Search. Plus you can add your blog name.
For example: Top 10 things I learned at Eat Write Retreat Conference 2013 Philadelphia OXO Giveaway | Kitchen Conundrum
See, key words are there plus a separator and my blog’s name. Easy!
Use ALT Text for photos and Change the file name to a real name.
(Ok, that’s really two things, but one photo issue.) By renaming your photo to a real name and adding the ALT Text, you will be able to track that photo online and it will show up in search. Google doesn’t understand DSC 41.jpg but it does understand Potatoes.jpg, so you always want to name your photos. Plus when someone “pins” your photo to Pinterest, your Alt Text will show up as the description vs. the DSC41.jpg.
I admit that I have not always done this. I need to take the time to go back and do this. It’s a good thing to do. Which leads me to the next great tip-
6. Time management by Debbie Koenig was another super informative panel with way more info than I can list here. But the very best piece of advice that came from this panel was- Work in 90 minute increments.
Break your work day into 90 minute increments where you will only work on one thing at a time. Then break for a half hour to an hour. You accomplish more and be more effective and less likely to become distracted. Schedule your time to work on emails and social media and when you are working on something else, turn those off. Concentrate on one task at a time. When we try to do too many things, multi-tasking (and yes, we are all amazing multi-taskers!) all at once, we don’t really do any of them that well. They get done, but they are usually not our best work.
7. Another great tip from Monica that often rings true- If Your Heart Sinks When A Certain Client Calls for You, Dump them. That may sound harsh, but your time and energy is better spent on projects that you love and that give you pleasure. You are not doing that client any favors if your efforts will be half hearted. And you are also doing yourself a disservice by causing stress in your life and not opening up to other opportunities that may be better for you. Learn to say NO!
8. Potassium will be the next big mineral. As stated by Deanna Segrave-Daly, RD who spoke about what’s in our water with Brona Cosgrave from Gerolsteiner Sparkling Mineral Water. As our sodium intake increases, we will need more potassium to offset sodium’s effects on our bodies. So get ready for more bananas and leafy greens in recipes.
9. Mushrooms are amazing! Mushroom farmers are the best recyclers. Tony and Joe D’Amico from To-Jo Mushrooms gave an in-depth talk on how mushrooms are grown and how everything, from the compost, peat and spores are reused. Not one thing is wasted. After the mushrooms are harvested the soil goes back to farmers and are used in other fields. Who knew?
10. Something very practical for canners- Store the Jars With The Rings Off. Marisa McClellan demonstrated how make a small batch Vanilla Strawberry Jam. It was truly delicious.
I make preserves and pickled vegetables a lot, but I never heard or thought about this. The rings should only be hand tight to hold the lid down for the water bath. Once the jar has finished the bath, it should have a good seal. Then take the ring off for storage. This way, if you have a contaminated jar, you will know much sooner than you would have if you had the ring on. The contaminant will begin to off-gas and the lid will pop. Sometimes things are so simple we miss them.
So there you have it! The Top 10 Things I Learned at Eat, Write, Retreat 2013. I can’t wait for 2014!
Now for the giveaway! The SWAG was awesome. Not only were there contest and raffles where you could win things, there was so much stuff to take home just from the amazing sponsors themselves. So I am sharing the love.
I have a set of OXO Good Grips graters that will go to one lucky Kitchen Conundrum reader. One of their newest graters, the OXO Good Grips Coarse Grater, is ideal for soft and semi-soft cheeses, apples, cabbage, potatoes, onions and more. The OXO Good Grips Fine Zester/Grater is perfect for zested citrus fruits, ginger and nutmeg while the OXO Good Grips Medium Grater is an essential grating tool nearly everything else!
So enter to win this awesome set and cover all your grating needs!
I would be remiss if I didn’t thank the wonderful and hard working organizers of this event, Casey Benedict and Robyn Webb. They worked tirelessly and put together a truly enjoyable conference with incredible speakers and terrific sponsors.
Just check out the EAT, WRITE, RETREAT site for a complete list of all the great sponsors.
Next up… Just who really makes the best cheesesteak in Philly? Stay tuned!