Wine Bloggers Conference Agenda and Format: Under Review, Invites Input

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This summer from August 12-16, 2015  the 8th Wine Bloggers Conference will be held at the Radisson Hotel in the town of Corning in the The Finger Lakes region of New York. The Finger Lakes Wine Country hosts over 100 wineries which grow 90% of New York’s wine around the four main lakes: Cayuga, Seneca, Keuka and Canandaigua.  Corning, New York, home to the Corning Glass Company,was named “Best Fun Small Town in America” in 2013 by Rand McNally.I’ve attended seven of the conferences so far, thanks to convenient locations and two scholarships (to 2010’s WBC in Walla Walla and in 2013 to Penticton); I missed the one in Virgina due to the expense of travel. Instead that year I visited wine regions in Idaho, Washington, Oregon, and California on an extensive road trip. But I am planning on getting to the Finger Lakes, a region that I’ve heard a lot about over the years, and been favorably impressed with their wines, especially their Riesling, which I’ve had the opportunity to taste in several virtual events.
Recently Allan Wright, organizer of the annual Wine Bloggers Conference, wrote alums to say that they are considering “making substantial changes to the agenda and format of the 2015 Wine Bloggers Conference.”
He asked if we’d take a survey to let them know about which of these suggestions they should implement. I never heard what they thought about the community’s response to the previous survey. I did however find results on their website in a recent blog post.Below are the questions,  excerpts of my responses followed some of the results with comments, plus excerpts from their new survey about content which closed on Friday (check in case it is still open!). The tentative WBC15 agenda is posted here.

Beginner, Advanced, and Industry Tracks: Should we have three tracks for all breakout sessions: beginner, advanced, and industry (focused on those who are not Citizen Bloggers)?

I needed more details on this in order to answer the question.

Beginner Intro to Blogging: Alternatively, should we have a three-hour Intro to Blogging session on Thursday afternoon designed solely for beginner bloggers, allowing us to tailor all the content the rest of the conference to more experienced bloggers?

I think there should probably be 2 tracks –one for industry and one for citizens; these sessions should have 2-3 people leading it–someone who knows how to teach and who blogs, someone who knows WordPress from the tech and SEO end.
Top Wine Bloggers: Should we create a new session where we ask six top wine bloggers to do 10-minute “tell all” presentations to the whole group and then combine these experts into interesting panels on various wine blogging subjects later that day. This would be a shift more towards getting the best wine bloggers to provide content rather than on covering specific topics.

I like this shift but not clear on how this would work: would they do 10 minutes on best practices then they as bloggers would provide a bloggers perspective to other panels?
Blog-To-X: Should we create a series of “blog-to-X” presentations on Sunday morning (blog-to-job, blog-to-book, blog-to-consultant, blog-to-winemaker, etc)? We would run all sessions simultaneously and offer them three times in a row, letting attendees choose the three sessions of most interest to them. This would be especially helpful for people looking to take their blog to a new level.

I’d prefer one session and people could choose which instead of taking up so much time. make the sessions small so they are more intimate and meaningful. Perhaps have 3 or more people who have successfully transitioned on each panel instead of one talking head…
Blog Review Workshops: Should we have two-hour “blog review” workshops on Sunday morning in which we break into 10 groups and analyze each others’ blogs? Each session would be led by an advanced blogger. This would provide direct feedback for each blogger on their own blog.
I like this idea. Last year a number of people were disgruntled by the writing workshop. Not only do they need advanced bloggers leading these sessions but people who know how to lead a workshop, people who know how to teach, how to teach writing, and how to blog about wine. Perhaps a pair of bloggers leading it would help. Maybe each blogger would have a theme –kind of like the unconference.
Do you have any other suggestions for us related to structural changes of the conference agenda?
  • How about a workshop or workshop series where we start by discussing the writing on a blog then move onto the layout use of images etc to the blog itself to SEO etc ?
  • What about a preconference that had a writing workshop –where people would have a few intimate sponsored experiences, then write about them and get feedback on their writing and images then on SEO? there would be a really great chance then that the sponsors would get great content!
  • One of the best blogging conference experiences I had was in Portugal when Charles Metcalf led a tasting of Portuguese wines.
  • Another really amazing experience in Portugal was going to the cork forests and learning about the whole process of making corks. We had lunch and 2 small wine tastings.
  • Jo Diaz does this for her Petit Sirah symposium: Have Finger Lakes winemakers sit with us at tables for a meal–spread out the wine makers amongst the bloggers.
  • WBC has become so cliquey. –efforts need to be made to get people out of their cliques and comfort level to meet more people and mix it up. The Conference needs to figure out ways to create a more inclusive community.

In response to this and other post-conference surveys, organizers say that WBC15 will:

  • Have more local wines from smaller wineries with Live Wine Blogging wines from the host region like at WBC13 in the Okanagon, BC, giving us more opportunities to taste more Finger Lakes wines.
  • Get us out of the host hotel multiple times in addition to the Friday wine country excursions. This is great because last year’s host hotel was not great. Here we were in a beautiful area with perfect weather and we were cooped up.
  • However, there will only be one wine country excursion. Friday wine country excursions will be one hour longer and be organized by WBC instead of AVA; in the past, attendees have had really varied experiences. When you get on a bus, you may not know where you are going. Or if you do, it can be tough when you get sandwiches and others a gourmet meal and elaborate gifts. If you wanted to go on a walking and tasting tour of Solvang, and you had the option of a choice, that would be great. But if that sounds like a personal hell and others are having amazing tastings in the vineyards, it can be tough if you get on the wrong bus.
  • While there will only be one excursion pre-conference and/or post-conference excursions are an option. I’m hoping to go up early for a few days; I’m also planning on doing some tasting on Long Island.
  • There will be two dinners and two lunches –other meals on your own. For influential bloggers, this means you will be invited to exclusive events. For others, you will feel left out. Make sure you register for the conference early so your name is on the lists!
  • Multiple breakout sessions offer more topics to please everyone.
  • Book early if you want to be in the conference hotel.

To further get a sense of attendees interests, organizers survey us about which all-group sessions we’d like: (sorry for the wonky formatting):

Veteran Blogger Panel: Hear from a panel of top wine bloggers about their past experiences and lessons they learned along the way.
Please indicate which of the following ALL-GROUP SESSIONS you would like to see presented at WBC15. Veteran Blogger Panel: Hear from a panel of top wine bloggers about their past experiences and lessons they learned along the way. Yes, definitely
Veteran Blogger Panel: Hear from a panel of top wine bloggers about their past experiences and lessons they learned along the way. Maybe
Veteran Blogger Panel: Hear from a panel of top wine bloggers about their past experiences and lessons they learned along the way. No, not interested
Wine Writer Panel: Hear from three established print wine writers about writing in the wine industry. This would be a repeat of 2014 but with diverse speakers and a focus on writing for blogs.
Wine Writer Panel: Hear from three established print wine writers about writing in the wine industry. This would be a repeat of 2014 but with diverse speakers and a focus on writing for blogs. Yes, definitely
Wine Writer Panel: Hear from three established print wine writers about writing in the wine industry. This would be a repeat of 2014 but with diverse speakers and a focus on writing for blogs. Maybe
Wine Writer Panel: Hear from three established print wine writers about writing in the wine industry. This would be a repeat of 2014 but with diverse speakers and a focus on writing for blogs. No, not interested
Ignite Wine: Hear from eight of your fellow bloggers in five-minute sessions about what they are doing in the world of wine blogging. This is a fast-paced, fun event.
Ignite Wine: Hear from eight of your fellow bloggers in five-minute sessions about what they are doing in the world of wine blogging. This is a fast-paced, fun event. Yes, definitely
Ignite Wine: Hear from eight of your fellow bloggers in five-minute sessions about what they are doing in the world of wine blogging. This is a fast-paced, fun event. Maybe
Ignite Wine: Hear from eight of your fellow bloggers in five-minute sessions about what they are doing in the world of wine blogging. This is a fast-paced, fun event. No, not interested
Finger Lakes Wine: Hear from a panel featuring a Geologist, a Winemaker, and a Retailer about the challenges and successes of growing wine in the Finger Lakes.

Here are a few of the options for breakout sessions being reviewed:

Blog to X: Hear from a panel of bloggers who have successfully made the transition from blogging as a hobby to publishing a book, consulting in social media, and getting a job at a winery.

Advanced Search Engine Optimization: Learn from an expert how to maximize your visibility on search engines.

Advanced Social Media for Wine Bloggers: Learn the newest practices for engaging your community via social media.

Crowdfunding Your Wine Blog: Wine blogging is a hobby for most. But what if you could do it full time? A blogger who successfully crowd funded several wine blogging projects will relate his experiences and tips.

Writing Tasting Notes: One of the reasons many industry folks claim they don’t read wine blogs is because of the poorly written tasting notes. Wine is a very subjective matter and everyone tastes differently, however, there are some core principles good tasting notes should follow.

Not sure how much longer the survey will be up, but you can give it a try! Check in case it is still open. The tentative WBC15 agenda is posted here.Or email your opinions to organizers; I’m sure they’d love to hear from you.

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