It’s hard to believe that in 35 days, the 8th Annual Wine Bloggers Conference will be here. Eight years? Eight locations? Eight conferences? Almost eight years of blogging? It’s pretty amazing when you think about it. My blog, much like life in general, has gone through many changes in those 8 years, and so has the WBC. As one of a very small handful of bloggers that have been in attendance at every conference since 2008, I’ve learned a lot, been a speaker, and helped to influence the shape and content of the conference as an advisory board member.
What does this mean to you? As newbies and experienced conference attenders alike, there are always some rules of engagement that you should remember, and some advice that us veterans have learned about how to approach the conference.
Some of my key observations and advice on how to best enjoy the conference are outlined below. Obviously, to each their own but if you want to earn the respect of your fellow bloggers and industry attendees, these tips are essential – and common sense.
- Wear comfortable shoes. you never know when we’ll be hiking up a hill in a vineyard
- Wear comfortable business casual / wine country casual clothes with layers. This is not a lawyers convention! It can get chilly at night with fog coming in, so bring a sweater. Wear layers.
- Be professional. While we’re there to have fun and learn, no one likes a party animal that gives bloggers a bad name. We all remember some years where people were not responsible and made the local community dislike bloggers in general. Please don’t’ be that person.
- Get to know your sponsors. We have a few hours on Thursday at the Registration, Expo, Gift Suite, and Opening Wine Reception to to say hi and learn who made this conference possible.
- Mix and mingle - the first mingling event is the after hours tasting sponsored by the Santa Ynez Winery Association, right after the Expo hours. This is your chance to walk up and say hi to someone you don’t know, meet new wineries, and meet other attendees.
- Don’t be shy - reach out and touch someone. Ok maybe not literally, but turn to the person sitting next to yourself and introduce yourself. We don’t bite and we want to get to know you!
- Attend the keynotes. These sessions are great kick starters and will get you in to the groove.
- Go with the flow, don’t get overwhelmed. While content is king, if there is a session that isn’t’ interesting to you, use the time to blog, hang out with your fellow attendees, or just chill.
- Be prepared to want to do more than one thing at once - at the same time, there are often two sessions running at the same time that you might want to go to. There is no wrong choice, and you can’t do it all so don’t try to.
- Spit spit spit. I can’t emphasize this enough. Yes, there are moments (dinner, after hours parties) where I don’t spit and enjoy myself, but you are representing bloggers as a whole, and should have some decorum. It’s a business conference at the core, disguised as a party. Present yourself accordingly.
- Don’t forget to sleep! There are always many after hours events and parties. While going to these is fun and a great way to meet people, don’t overdo it. Sleep is critical during this busy weekend of events.
- Don’t have any party invites? Don’t worry! Stay tuned to the #WBC14 twitter stream, talk to people, and mingle. You’ll get plenty!
- Have an open mind. You never know if there are wines you wouldn’t normally try, that you will love!
- Bring something from home that represents your region, style, and / or personality. This could be wine, but it could also be food, a book, or a t-shirt.
- Bring business cards. Yes it may seem archaic, but it’s the best way to quickly introduce yourself with a memorable item. The stacks of cards collected are reminders when we get home to follow, tweet, and read other peoples information.
- Don’t worry about blogging DURING the conference. Time is precious and you will stress yourself out and miss content if you try to blog during the event. Write your thoughts down and save the blogging for when you get home.
- Attend the break outs. Too many people don’t attend the core of the conference and they miss out. While You Need to choose which bits are important to you as a blogger, just to pull the meat out.
- Find a WBC Scholarship committee member, and get your free Hello Vino GoVino souvenir glass! If you’re super cool, donate to the Scholarship or buy a Rodney Strong souvenir stemless glass ($5 to buy one, 2 free with a $50 donation)! It will serve you well for the event and beyond!
- Get some Blogger Bling (namebadge ribbons) at the WBC Scholarship table on Thursday evening! They are great icebreakers and support the Scholarship.
- Say hi to the donors & Scholarship winners!
Here’s what I think I’ll be doing:
- Keynotes, of course! I cannot underestimate the importance of these opening sessions, as they set the tone for the day and really give you a peek in to how other professionals, wine writers, and tech luminaries view blogging.
- Panel of Santa Barbara County Winemakers
- Live Wine Blogging: Red and White - Also known as Speed Tasting, Speed Dating, or Insanity, I get a kick of out fast first impression tastes and the twitter storm that occurs. You can tweet or blog, or take notes to blog later. I suggest tweeting, as it’s the fastest way to keep up with the tasting.
- Friday evening excursions to wine country - this is one of the best experiences at WBC. Small groups are sent on mystery buses to various area wineries, where you get a deep dive in to the wine, winemaking philosophy, styles, and terroir of several area wineries. The fun is that you don’t know where you’re going tile you get there! No cheating now
- Saturday Breakout sessions:
- Wine Discovery Breakout Sessions or maybe the Veteran Wine Bloggers Panel since I am one
- Santa Barbara Vintners Association Lunch
- Wine Discovery Breakout sessions - these are great, since they are opportunities for you to do a focal tasting for a specific region.
- And more! Details are still being sorted out, so I will update my plans as we find out more information about the schedule.
As you can see, there are some sessions not on my personal agenda. It’s not that I don’t find them valuable; it’s just that I don’t think I will be personally interested in them. In leaving them off my “must do” list, I create some free flow, where I can catch up with my blogger friends, experience some of the local restaurants, join an off the grid get together, or just chill.
I will see you in 35 days and can’t wait to report this year’s news!