Well, I’m a few months late, but that doesn’t mean that I can’t still plug the excellent FABlogCon!
What is FABlogCon, you might ask? Well, it’s none other than the Food Allergy Blogger’s Conference! Hubby and I were thrilled last year when we discovered that FABlogCon 2015 would be in our neck of the woods! After all, we were a tiny start-up just discovering that nearly ALL of the food allergy events are on one of the coasts, with the east coast hoarding the majority of them. Being landlocked and stranded in the Mountain Region, it was nice for a food allergy event to come to us! We were so excited about the opportunity to meet and connect with other food allergy companies and personalities that we decided to sponsor the event!
The weekend was truly outstanding. The wonderful Jenny Sprague put together an amazing weekend filled with informational panels, fabulous food, and a great dose of fun! We made so many connections, our heads are still spinning and we’re still following up on some of them!
You don’t have to be a blogger to get something out of FABlogCon. There were informational panels for bloggers looking to create/change/solidify/improve their brand, but there were also panels on food allergies in general, along with the chance to meet (and try samples of) some amazing allergy-friendly brands and meet the “rock stars” of the food allergy community. The networking alone was totally worth it!
I thought I’d recap our experience through pictures, so you’ll have an idea of what to expect when you come next year!
Even though we’re local, conference events started early and went late into the night. Hubby and I decided it was worth the splurge to stay at the hotel with everybody else, so we wouldn’t have to worry about traffic, commuting, or anything else.
The Denver Renaissance Hotel has a fun shape and an even more interesting interior.
I couldn’t help but take a few artistic shots when we arrived late Thursday night.
Friday began with a couple of Sponsor-only panels, the first on how allergy-friendly brands are changing the way American’s eat, given by Enjoy Life Foods‘ own Joel Warady. I was awesome to meet him in person! He’s very approachable online, and thinks that responsiveness to customers is one of the big mistakes massive food companies are making. He’s a great (and funny) guy and it was excellent to meet him!
Next came a panel from Keeley McGuire (of Keely McGuire Blog) and Erica Dermer (of Celiac and the Beast) with tips on how brands should approach bloggers when looking for a review, an endorsement, or when looking to start a relationship.
It was cool to meet these two in person, since we see so much of them online. They really dominate the online Food Allergy conversation!
After the panels, we went into the Expo Hall to set up. This was only our second expo (and the first was gluten-specific) so we were excited! Our table was labeled and waiting for us.
We broke the mold and turned our table sideways, so we could more easily get out and engage with people. We learned some important lessons about where we ought to request our table though, as this made our space a little crowded.
Here’s a close-up of our new table drape! Since our allergens are villains and a table is long and narrow, it was a perfect fit to set them all up in a Police Lineup!
This is the second reason we turned our table sideways: we needed room for our Whack-an-Allergen game! We gave attendees the chance to whack their (or their children’s) allergens!
People had a lot of fun with this! We gave them a small prize for playing, and offered them a percentage off any order if they managed to hit three allergens in a row (a-la tick-tac-toe.)
Once we were set up, it was time for lunch. And boy, were we in for a treat!
All of the food at FABlogCon was carefully set up and labeled in order to remain safe for all attendees. Some allergens were absent entirely, others were present but served in such a way that anyone allergic to them could see where they were and avoid them. There was always a good amount of space between dishes, and everything always had its own serving spoon. Foods were simply but elegantly made, with as few ingredients as possible, and ingredients were always listed. If only every buffet and school cafeteria could emulate this, dining out with food allergies would be SO much easier!
After lunch, the Expo Hall opened and people started arriving! We chatted with the people who came through, but it wasn’t busy yet so we had plenty of time to get to know our neighbors.
We wanted to attend the Conference panels, but Hubby and I also didn’t want to leave our booth unattended, so we took turns going to panels. On Friday, that meant I stayed at the booth while Hubby went to some social media panels: Advanced Twitter and Periscope, led by Missy Berggren (of Marketing Mama.)
We just have one Twitter account for the business and it’s on both of our phones. I was amused about halfway through the Twitter panel when I suddenly got close to a dozen Twitter notifications all at once. I knew Hubby must’ve said or done something in the panel!
After the panels and the Expo Hall closed, it was time for dinner and the Welcome Party. More “build-your-own” salads and entrees, along with this stir-fry bar (complete with Coconut Aminos instead of soy sauce.) Truly great food! (I think I ate more than I should have all weekend, because it was just so good!)
Something else all FABlogCon Attendees got was a Swag Bag full of samples from the sponsors. And it wasn’t just sponsors-in-residence that were represented, quite a few other companies sponsored only the swag bags. They were so full, each person actually received TWO full bags! When you come to FABlogCon next year, make sure you bring an extra suitcase or duffel bag so you can bring all of your swag home (or plan to visit the post office to ship swag to yourself!)
I thought it was fun to have Hubby take a picture of me amidst all of the swag. (And by the way, this was not all of it! This was in the bags, but most of the Sponsor tables offered more swag in the Expo Hall!)
Saturday began early with a fabulous breakfast, followed by the Expo Hall and more panels.
In the morning, Hubby stayed at our booth while I attended some blogging panels, first on how to create a Media Kit with Annelies Zijderveld (from http://anneliesz.com/)…
…and then on Defining Your Brand and Making Your Plan, led by Erica, Keeley, and Holly Yzquierdo (of My Plant Based Family.) Both of these panels made me think a lot about how I fit into the Food Allergy Blogging Community, since I am both a blogger and the face of a business. I’ll be making some changes in the coming months to better integrate the two.
Next came lunch with a keynote speech from Robyn O’Brien, and then more panels in the afternoon. Hubby went to a Pinterest panel with Michelle Palin (of My Gluten-free Kitchen) and Chandice Probst (of Gluten Free Frenzy.)
He came back from that one telling me how I needed to change my recipe picture-taking to fit Pinterest better.
After a long day and lots of chatting with people in this community, it was time to again close the Expo hall and get ready for dinner. Saturday night was the “Wine and Sign” Party along with dinner. In fact, in addition to all the fabulous food, we also got free drink coupons for both evenings, with alcoholic (and non-alcoholic) beverages to fit any diet.
Matthew Smith, the author of the Food Allergy book “Another Person’s Poison,” was there to talk about his research and then sign books. I had to step out of the room for part of his speech to talk to our kids on the phone, but when I came back in, Hubby told me Matthew was giving away a few copies. I was excited, because I’d just checked his book out via Interlibrary Loan, but there was no way I was going to get it finished before it was due. Instead, I was able to walk away from the evening with a free, signed copy to read at my leisure! Woot! Free books for the win!
Friday night had been a bit more reserved, but Saturday night turned into quite the party! There was music both nights, but on Saturday there was dancing!
There was also a photo booth sponsored by Sunbutter, which encouraged everyone to get goofy!
Saturday night was a lot of fun!
There were several “Info about Food Allergies” and “Living with Food Allergies” panels throughout the weekend, but we weren’t able to fit everything in. In fact, we didn’t make it to any panels Sunday morning. We stayed in the Expo Hall for its few remaining hours and chatted with still more people.
It’s really impossible to list everybody we connected with at FABLogCon, but here are a few highlights:
Meet the man responsible for the awesome and safe food! Chef Keith Norman came from Las Vegas to Denver to oversee the food prep for FABlogCon. During its first two years, FABlogCon went to him, but Jenny was so impressed with him that she asked him to follow FABlogCon as it came to its new home. We were sure glad to meet such a caring individual. (And we were super thrilled with his interest in our shirts!)
It was an honor to meet Jules Shepard (GF Jules)
And to see Gina (Dairy Free Gina) again (we met once before when a funeral took us into her neck of the woods.)
After a good deal of online interaction, we were thrilled to meet Caroline Moassessi (of Grateful Foodie)…
…and Cindy Gordon (of Vegetarian Mamma.)
It was also great to meet the Carolyn and Rebecca, the ladies behind Freedible
And it was awesome to spend the weekend in the prestigious company of so many great Allergy-Friendly brands.
This is Dec. He took our pictures all weekend, and he was awesome too!
After the Expo Hall closed, there was time for one more excellent meal…
…with some closing remarks from Jenny…
…followed by the Raffle Prize drawings!
There were tons of prizes to win. In order to enter, each attendee received a sheet listing all of the sponsors in the Expo Hall. They were supposed to get the sponsors to sign off that they’d chatted (or at least met.) Attendees received one raffle ticket for each sponsor they visited. There were goldfish bowls set up for each prize, and attendees put their tickets into whichever bowl(s) they wanted. Sponsors were allowed to enter as well, but they couldn’t sign off on their own organization. There were all sorts of allergy-friendly foods, kitchen appliances, and books, etc. The grand prize was a trip to Chicago to visit the Enjoy Life Foods headquarters!
We didn’t win anything :'(
Following lunch there were a few more panels to attend, the first of which was on book publishing. Hubby and I both came from the world of writing, so it was a different perspective to hear about publishing for such a niche market. There may be a cookbook in my future though, so it was good information.
The final panel was on emerging Social Media platforms by Ritesh Patel.
After that, it was time to say goodbye. Nothing but empty rooms and a dwindling number of people as flights were caught or folks wandered away to pursue their own interests.
I can truly say that FABlogCon was a delight to attend, and was a highlight of our first year as a business. We met amazing people, made great connections, learned priceless information, and made some lasting friendships. I can’t thank Jenny enough for her tireless efforts in this tremendous undertaking. If you didn’t go, we hope to see you there next year!
And guess what? Next year has been scheduled!
November 4-6, 2016, once again at the Denver Renaissance Hotel. Check out http://fablogcon.com/ for more details!