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Attending the Wine Bloggers Conference 2018 in Walla Walla, Washington was a rather interesting experience, especially as our first-ever wine media conference .
It was incredible.
We are very, very seriously considering attending the Wine Media Conference 2019 (the new name), which will be in the Hunter Valley, Australia. We bought our tickets in anticipation. Tickets purchased prior to November 1, 2018 are only $95 USD, eventually rising to $220 on October 1, 2019, so if you are at all contemplating going, register now, as tickets are 50% refundable until September 1, 2019.
Lesson 1: Conferences Are Awesome
The Wine Bloggers Conference was one of the most fun vacations that we’ve taken, ever. Getting to spend time in an environment full of people who are passionate about the same things as you are is inspiring and a great way to spend time. There were wine geeks everywhere! And they were all enjoying the free flowing wine, wine knowledge and wine conversations.
We seriously got to meet so many awesome people, like Amber from SpitBucket.net, Rob & Liz from Name That Wine, Noelle from Outwines, Nancy from The Oethical Oenologist, Drinky LaRue and dozens more that I am currently forgetting!
Lesson 2: Wine Bloggers Tend To Have Passion Blogs, Not Online Businesses
I hail from the land of personal finance bloggers. Many started blogging to document their journeys out of debt, or their relationship to money. As a result, many more are likely to make the jump into freelance writing, or to pivot their websites to become online businesses. The wine blogging crowd that we met tended to get into wine blogging due to their passion for wine or their studying for various credentials.
In fact, many folks had not even considered earning any revenue from their sites, which I found surprising. Many did not view free wine samples as monetization, but, encouragingly, there are a TON of bloggers who receive samples. Hopefully that holds for these Canadian bloggers, too!
I believe it was Stub, of Cork Envy, who told me that a few years ago, the percentage of full-timers was closer to 25%, while now it is likely 10%. We did meet a few, like Mary and Sean from Vindulge.
That is not to say that no one is doing this full time, or that no one is monetizing, just that the general view of running a wine website was different than I anticipated.
Lesson 3: It Becomes Easier to Swap Business Cards
The first few times I busted out cards to swap, it felt awkward. After doing it a few dozen times, I just go for it, I’m a lot more comfortable. Conferences are a good place to get comfortable, because you get to practice so many times in rapid succession.
Big props to Dabble Media for designing my business cards, they received quite a few compliments! I highly recommend cards with photos on them, figuring out who is who afterward can be confusing.
Lesson 4: Wine is a Social Lubricant
People were friendly, whew. I was afraid my wine knowledge wouldn’t be able to hold up, but no one was a judgey pants. I don’t know how much of the crowd was extroverts like us, but with a few beverages under everyone’s belts, everyone was friendly and social! Plus, we had lots of awesome conversations until the wee hours of the morning. (Every night. Do not plan to get much done the week after a conference.)
Lesson 5: The American Palate Has Certain Characteristics
While we were in Walla Walla, we were surprised by the lack of Riesling, particularly given the climate. Several winemakers mentioned that it grows very well in the area, but there isn’t much of a market for the wine. By the end of the conference, it was more obvious why that was the case, as we repeatedly found people’s preferences tended toward lower acid wines. That held for both reds and whites. Some reds we tried were bordering on flabby and scored very well with the groups we were in.
It’s a shame, because Washington can produce some wonderful Rieslings!
Lesson 6: Getting Up On Stage is a Good Idea, Even If You’re Scared
When the email went out asking for folks to get up on stage and do an Ignite style talk, where you get 20 slides which auto-advance every 15 seconds, I immediately thought that I should do it. Then I spent the weekend debating with myself – I’d never before attended a conference, let alone spoken at one before – before sending in an email saying I’d like a slot. However, I know I have a ton of blogging knowledge and that a fantastic way to make a lot of connections in the wine world would be to stand up in front of hundreds of people and introduce myself to everyone all at once.
Cue a few weeks of massively regretting my decision. Have you ever tried to give a talk that has to be perfectly timed? I hadn’t either! I was also afraid the other 7 talks would be specifically about wine and not at all about blogging, so that I would stand out like a sore thumb. Thankfully, it was almost a 50/50 mix, so I fit in just fine.
It went well! It was definitely a way to meet people, I had several folks come up to me after and introduce themselves specifically to talk about my speech! So mission accomplished 🙂
Lesson 7: SO Much Work Comes After the Conference
The conference was a whirlwind of fun, but good golly is there a lot of work to do afterward!
Here’s a sampling of what’s on our to-do list:
- Follow up emails to new contacts
- Following new contacts on social media
- Organizing collaborations with everyone
- Writing content, editing photos (so many photos!)
- Once content is published, emailing and tagging everyone mentioned on social media
- Maintaining the new connections we have
- Actually executing all of the new plans and ideas that came out of the conference!
I’m going to estimate that between the two of us, we came home with 40 or 50 business cards. I already spent an entire day solely sending emails and I didn’t even get through the whole stack yet! This is the hardest step, that TONS of people miss out on when they go to conferences, but it is absolutely worthwhile. If I had a form email, it would be a lot faster, but I’ve been writing customized emails for everyone, after checking out their websites and social first. Slower, but it allows me to offer more value when I do email people.
Honestly, there’s so many things bouncing around in my head, I’m having trouble not getting overwhelmed. I can’t wait until Jeff has all of the photos edited, so we can put together blog posts featuring all of the awesome events, wineries and excursions that we were able to do.
Those are my seven lessons learned from my first-ever blogging conference. It was definitely a success and I highly recommend you go to one.
So, will we see you at WMC Australia?