A couple of days removed from the 2011 Wine Bloggers’ Conference, I’ve been trying to figure out the best way to recap my experience(s). This is the first of three pieces I plan to write on WBC 11 (the second will be a quick hit on the adventures of “Mystery Wine Bus 5;” those who stick with my WBC 11 trilogy will be in for a [hopefully] special treat).
I’ve read a few summaries written by my fellow wine blogger attendees, most notably the one penned by Richard Jennings that has received mixed reactions from those in attendance. I am admittedly using his comments as a jumping-off point. I won’t criticize his musings on the weekend, since his experience was his own. I have read several of his pieces and briefly met him at one of the events at the conference; he appears to be both committed to and knowledgeable of the wine world, so I accept his summary of the conference experience—particularly as a first-timer—as a sincere, informed, but subjective assessment (although no more or less so than those of any other attendee), despite being somewhat negative.
As a first-time attendee myself, I share some of RJ’s frustration with the “cliquishness” and lack of time to interact with others. He also makes a great point about scheduling; the tight timeline between events made it difficult to transition between sessions and, at times, resembled cattle herding (particularly when boarding busses for off-site excursions). The pacing of the event limited the opportunity (especially for newbies) to meet and mingle with others, although I’ll humbly admit some personal responsibility for my own disappointments in that regard. While I’m far from a shrinking violet, as 1) a newer wine blogger, and 2) a first-time conference attendee, the environment could—at times—be a bit intimidating. That said, I formally met several people at Thursday night’s tasting—one of whom I went to dinner with that night, and a few more that I was able to at least briefly speak with and/or acknowledge throughout the weekend.
I will say that the Saturday “Mystery Wine Bus” tour brought the opportunity to not only meet, but get to know, a couple of great twosomes from other blogs and to speak with several others. I was rewarded for this time, as I got to enjoy Saturday’s live blogging and dinner with them, as well as spend some quality time during after-hours activities. Saturday evening’s “extracurricular” activities provided the opportunity to meet several other people, one of whom was not only (surprisingly) familiar with, but complimentary of, my work. I certainly didn’t mind the ego boost I got from that chance meeting.
My overall impression of the Wine Blogger’s Conference was positive, despite a few “hiccups” (I wasn’t thrilled with dinner service on Saturday evening, but I have a feeling that may have been table-dependent; the heat was oppressive, but I’m sure conference fees would jump sharply if event planners rented out the fabled ‘UN Weather Machine’ for the weekend; and the above mentioned scheduling issues, to be specific). I was hoping for more substantive content than I feel we were given, particularly in the breakout sessions. That said, the Wine Bloggers’ Conference (at least to me) seems more about the relationship-building Jancis Robinson spoke to during her keynote than the available content. I left Charlottesville Sunday afternoon having made a fairly strong connection with several people and met several others that I had only previously ‘followed’ or interacted with in the ‘virtual’ wine world. There are dozens of people that were in attendance that I would liked to have met, but time, scope, and chance made that a difficult task. Once again, I will take responsibility for that failure, as a tweet or email probably would have been enough to prompt a meeting with those that I didn’t run into by chance. In the end, the conference ended up (for me at least) being what I made of it.
So what do I ultimately take away from my first Wine Bloggers’ Conference? Time will tell if the connections I made will be beneficial—whether in the blogosphere, professionally, personally, or otherwise. I do know, however, that I am enthusiastically looking forward to next year’s conference and see it as an opportunity to strengthen the connections I made last weekend and make some new ones as well. And I’ll probably taste a lot of wine, but as The Rib likes to say, “the worst day of tasting wine beats even the best day working in an office!”
Cheers from the Corkpit,