Last month I was lucky enough to have the chance to attend the TECHmunch Tampa Food Blogger Conference in Ybor City. TECHmunch is a series of conferences in cities around the United States designed to help food bloggers gain the hands-on digital media, marketing, and business skills they need to make their blogs more personally and financially rewarding. BakeSpace.com Founder, Babette Pepaj, started the conferences to further her mission to help communities grow and to provide a personal conference where bloggers can learn from panelists who have found success and have valuable information to share.
The event spanned two days and started with a mixer at Sono Cafe at the Tampa Museum of Art in Downtown Tampa on a Friday evening. We enjoyed some Hors d’oeuvres from crostinis to paninis and a bar as we met our fellow Florida food bloggers and panelists and learned about the many things that we all have in common as well as our specialties. It was an enjoyable evening and we stayed well past the end of the mixer and continued chatting with our new found friends into the night. The best part was that we all have a message or story we want to tell and we were all excited to learn the tools of the trade at this conference.
Sono Cafe is a great place to have a mixer with an outdoor view of Curtis Hixon park and the beautiful University of Tampa. I would recommend it to anyone looking to plan a professional mixer. Here are some photos of the great food we enjoyed:
Checkout a recap of our night via tweets here: http://storify.com/carloseats/techmunch-tampa-pre-mixer
The next morning we woke up bright and early and headed to the Roosevelt 2.0 (which also hosted Real Food Real Joel earlier in the week) for the food blogger conference. The Roosevelt 2.0 hosts many great local events and the room was a nice backdrop for yet another rally into Tampa’s rising food scene. Check out some of the tweets from the opening here: http://storify.com/carloseats/techmunch-tampa-opening
Datz Deli served us with an excellent breakfast with biscuits, fresh strawberry jam, and Nutella – all which were fantastic. In addition, they also prepared their iced coffee which kept us all wired for the entire day of food blog learning. It was my friend time having some food from Datz Deli and I loved it! I cannot wait until I finally have the chance to visit Datz in the future.
TBO Food Critic, Jeff Houck, opened up the event as our local organizer and expressed his desire to see the local food community grow and for Tampa to become a leading food city in the U.S.A. I completely agree that it is possible if we come together as a community and support our local businesses and work together. TECHmunch was a great start for that.
The first panel was “Tapping and Leveraging Food Trends in Tampa Bay”. Todd Sturtz from Tasting Tampa, Julius Mayo Jr. from Droolius, Brian Roberts from Roosevelt 2.0, and Eric from TV Fanatic shared their experiences and plans regarding food trends. Todd and Julius have been very involved in the rising food truck trend that has swept over most of Florida and been leaders in embracing the movement. Tampa is normally a few years behind food trends, but it also has to do with coverage and Tampa’s attitude about food. Without the support of the people it simply cannot thrive to the levels of other popular cities. I made sure to record all the tips from each panel and you can read a recap on the first panel tips here: http://storify.com/carloseats/techmunch-tampa-panel-1
The second panel was “Developing, Organizing, and Syndicating Multimedia Content”. The hosts were Sara O’Donnell from Average Betty (checkout her awesome YouTube channel), Merry-Jennifer Markham from the Merry Gourmet, and Sandy McKenna from Midlife Road Trip. They shared their technical tips in addition to tips for dealing with a busy blog schedule and how to set your blog on a path to success. Read their great tips here: http://storify.com/carloseats/techmunch-tampa-panel-2
The third panel was truly a treat and was “Down and Dirty about SEO Food Writing” by Josh Unseth, an SEO expert from The JAR Group. I think one of the toughest things about having a blog is learning the SEO tips behind it. There is so much information out there and so many articles about how to increase your followers or get subscribers and many of them actually share little information. Not the case with Josh! He shared many tricks of the trade and facts/websites that I have never heard about prior to this conference. I was so grateful to him for providing so many tips. #TECHmunch also started trending in Tampa during this panel which was awesome! I made sure to tweet plenty and save the tweets for you guys to get the SEO tips of the trade! Read them here: http://storify.com/carloseats/techmunch-tampa-panel-3
After our SEO enlightenment lunch arrived with the Tampa Taco Bus paying us a visit in the food truck with Mr. Rene himself! He told us some of his history with restaurants and food before lunch came. They served us tostadas and two tacos with rice and beans. All were great! I thought it was appropriate and truly a great thing to have one of Tampa Bay’s most popular and quickly growing restaurants as a part of the conference.
All this great food left us stuffed!
The fourth panel after lunch featured the topic with “Pitching Your Brand: Lessons from the Pros”. I was excited to finally meet Jaden from Steamy Kitchen (I followed her blog long before starting my own) and also got great advice from Ray Lampe from Dr. BBQ, Laura Baddish from The Baddish Group, and Jeff Houck from the Tampa Tribune. They shared advice on how to get noticed and how to get involved with PR, Media, and how to get value from your brand. Great advice from food insiders was provided. Read some tweets about the panel here: http://storify.com/carloseats/techmunch-tampa-panel-4
The fifth panel was about “The Future of Food Content…The Digital Kitchen”. We learned about making apps and some of the challenges and rewards that await you should you choose to explore this new technological path that is being increasingly used everyday as our society makes shifts to smartphones and tablets. Babette shared many of her own experiences in developing applications. In addition, Steve and Tom from Grilling Companion shared their story of how they became involved in this new technology. Checkout some of the tips here: http://storify.com/carloseats/techmunch-panel-5
After the fifth panel, TBO shared an announcement about their upcoming changes to their website. You can see their new Food section layout here and I am so grateful to them for linking to Carlos Eats! http://www2.tbo.com/life/food/
Our final, but certainly not least, panel was about something essential to sharing food experiences: “Top 10 Tips to Boost Your Site’s Photography” by Susan Filson from Sticky, Gooey, Creamy, Chewy. She shared many tips with us about how to improve our photography and also many websites and tools that can boost photo quality. I saved all ten tips and you can read them all here: http://storify.com/carloseats/techmunch-tampa-panel-6-7
After the panel ended, we chatted with all our new friends about all the great information we had learned. It had been a weekend filled with knowledge and tools for us to improve our blogs and reach new heights. I am very thankful to Babette Pepaj, Jeff Houck, and to all the great panelists for executing such a fantastic event in Tampa! It was great connecting with bloggers from new to experienced and I look forward to continuing this blogger community growth and to the future growth for Tampa food blogs and restaurants!
Thank you so much to everyone and thank you TECHmunch for the great experience.