Day 1 Highlights: Virtual Edition Wine Media Conference 2020 #WMC20

Instead of tasting wine in Eugene, it was in my backyard…

We’ve all been zooming, attending live tasting sessions, and various other virtual events replacing live gatherings now for a lifetime it feels like.

In the Before Time, I had planned on attending the Wine Media Conference in Eugene Oregon this week. I’ve attended previously: 2008 and 2009 in Santa Rosa, 2010 in Walla Walla, 2012 in Portland, 2013 in BC (that’s CANADA!), 2014 in Santa Barbara, 2016 in Lodi, and 2017 in Santa Rosa again.

But COVID hit, and this one — to be held in Eugene– was postponed to 2021 with a virtual conference held instead.

The 2020 Wine Media Conference Virtual Summit took place from Thurs. August 20 to Saturday August 22, 2020 with sessions starting as early as 7am Pacific and continuing every other hour until 4pm with wine tastings in the evening for those fortunate enough to get in on them early enough.

And I must say, I think it was quite a success! And I’m quite sure that most of the attendees agree! Kudos to organizers for putting together diverse offerings and presenters! 

I attended most of all of the sessions, and took as many notes as I could considering my left wrist is broken in two places and two fingers injured on my right hand!

At previous conferences  I posted “live” by taking copious notes during the sessions, cleaning them up and publishing them immediately after. I’ve also done posts with tweets. I thought this year I’d be able to do some screen shots and tweets but just a little too much going on… broken bones will slow me down but not stop me!

This year, I’ll just share some highlights from each day in a series of four posts starting with Day 1 (all times Pacific). I’ve asked fellow attendees for their highlights or takeaways which I’ll include as possible. Session images provided by Zephyr conferences; wine images by me. The wine tasting I “attended” will be in a separate post #4 following these session highlights. Stay tuned! Subscribe! 

Missed the conference or want to revisit a session? Buy individual sessions or an all access pass.

Thursday, August 20

Up first: session with Phil Pallen about Instagram

7 AM Reasons Why Your Instagram Strategy Isn’t Working

Description: Instagram has quickly become the number one social media platform influencers use to spread their stories. If you are not using it – and using it effectively – you are missing out on a big opportunity. Yet being successful on Instagram is not automatic, with pitfalls abounding. In this session, celebrity brand strategist Phil Pallen, who’s worked with hundreds of brands around the world, will pinpoint the top misses users make on Instagram and how to avoid them. As a bonus, you’ll learn the top marketing time wasters on Instagram and lessons to learn from brands that come out on top.

I am NEW to Instagram having just posted my first images and videos at the end of July 2020; I’m @art_predator. So I was super excited about this session.

BUT DON’T BUY THIS SESSION! Unfortunately Phil was in a storm, lost power, and could not participate. He does have a course on Udemy. And we’re supposed to get a link to a session he did elsewhere so maybe that’s what they’re selling.

9 AM Wineries, Wine Writers, and the Pandemic

Description: Covid-19 has dominated all our lives for the past five months and this is no less true in the wine industry. Tasting rooms were forced to close, reopen with constraints, and in some cases close again. Wineries and other businesses have had to implement safety protocols to safeguard their workers. Consumers have changed their consumption and purchasing patterns and wineries have had to react. In this panel, we’ll hear from four wineries (Craig Camp, Troon Vineyard, Oregon; Meaghan Frank, Dr. Konstantin Frank Winery, New York; Leah Derton, William Chris Wines, Texas; Joy Sterling, Iron Horse Vineyards, California) about what effects the pandemic has had on them, what they predict for the future, and how wine writers can be involved with wineries at this crucial time. Our moderator is wine writer Fred Swan.

I found this session to be more winery centric than wine writer centric. So if you’re a winery dealing with COVID buy this session!

Biggest take-away: everyone is being really careful. And everyone is clearly worried about the impacts. Really interesting though to hear from folks in California, Oregon, Texas, and New York.

11 AM Vodcasting for Success

Description: Demand for video content is at an all-time high yet the majority of self-produced content under performs in terms of production value and messaging. This session is a quick tutorial on video webcasting or vodcasting that goes beyond looking your best on camera to explore getting the most out of the equipment and technology that you have on hand, the benefits of using a green screen, the necessity of writing a script/outline for yourself and your guests and how you can promote your videos. Deborah Parker Wong, DWSET will break down examples and show you a behind-the-scenes look at the wine industry’s top-performing virtual tastings.

My teen is REALLY GOOD  and LOVES editing video, so he is in the process of purchasing a desktop with editing capacity and I just upgraded from a MacBook Air circa 2012 to a 2020 Pro.

You can imagine I was thrilled to sign up for this topic. And Deborah Parker Wong is an exceptional presenter I knew from her Lugana presentation a few years ago,

But the first thing I learned is VOD and VLOG are two different concepts, and this session was all about how to VODcast aka do a video podcast not VLOG or do a video blog, and our wonderful presenter is NOT keen on editing! (I’m not either unless doing it with a pro which I’ve been fortunate to do.) My sense is that someone ca listen to a VLOG or VOD cast as easily as a podcast …

She started out with a lot of technical detail about equipment and hacks so just for that run down you might want to buy the session– it went by real fast b ut again I’ve got a broken wrist and injured fingers…. Based on her recommendations that day I bought an external hub with ethernet. She also recommends a Logitech c920 which is $150 on Amazon.

Best tip of the day: get a bright neon green fleece blanket for a green screen!

We will have desktop set up in my teen’s room which is already MineCraft Green so we may already be set. She talked a lot about lighting also — you don”t want to look like ghoul!

In terms of content:

  • Write a script in advance.
  • Prep the person you will be interviewing.
  • Warm them up beforehand.
  • Use a consistent format.

UPDATE: Today, August 26, Deborah Parker Wong posted about her presentation. Check it out!

1 PM Reporting Techniques for Better Wine Writing

Description: Anybody can have an opinion, but a great blog or news post is based on facts, and those come from reporting. W. Blake Gray brings a journalist’s eye to blogging, and can help you improve your work with some very simple thoughts and processes. When writing about a wine or winery, what should you look up? How much should you trust information from a press release? What information should you take from other blog posts or sites? When do you need to interview someone, and when is it OK to just use Wikipedia? When you do need an interview, how do you set it up? And what do you ask? If you want to make the leap to selling your work to publications with editors, you’ll need the reporting fundamentals. Even if you’re content to keep all your work on your own blog, you’ll earn more readers by writing the definitive blog post about whatever wine or story you’re interested in. W. Blake Gray is well known for his investigative journalism, his willingness to find and report on stories others ignore, and his confidence in not holding back his opinions when he feels it is needed. In this session, join Blake and interviewer Randy Caparoso as we learn how to expand your writing arsenal to include investigative journalism in the wine industry.

Great story first.
Wine story second.

This was the first of several journalism oriented sessions, and this was a recurring theme.

My background is in journalism so this is obvious to me, but that’s not true for everyone so this was important content. If you do not have a background in journalism, this session is well worth your $$ and your time.

Blake suggests a number of important sources:

  • CA grape acreage report
  • CA grape crush report
  • CA wine institute
  • OIV

3 PM Conversation With Dorothy Gaiter and John Brecher

Description: Dorothy Gaiter and John Brecher have been tasting and studying wine since 1973, conceived and wrote The Wall Street Journal’s wine column, “Tastings,” from 1998 to 2010, and created the annual, international “Open That Bottle Night” celebration of wine and friendship. They have a lot of experience in the world of wine media. In this session, their publisher at Grape Collective where they currently write, Christopher Barnes, will lead Dorothy and John through an hour of their thoughts on wine writing. We’ll learn how things have changed since they started writing and in the ten years since they stopped their WSJ column, what their views are on the effects of 2020’s news stories on wine media, how they feel about being seen as the preeminent couple of wine writing, and their advice for aspiring and established wine writers of today.

This was very enjoyable and interesting but I didn’t really take a lot of notes to share. Lots of great stories though.

4:30 PM  Velenosi Wines At-Home Tasting

Fifteen bloggers and I joined Laura Donadoni for a 30-minute introduction followed by a 30 minute guided wine tasting of four wines from the La Marche Wine Region sponsored by Velenosi.

Detailed notes to come in a separate blog post.

Lots more to come from Day 2 (now published here):

  • SEO: write for humans, optimize for search
  • newsletters
  • photography tips
  • social media tips

and Day 3 (published now here):

  • writing about the business of wine
  • wine travel
  • more wine travel
  • wrap up


4 thoughts on “Day 1 Highlights: Virtual Edition Wine Media Conference 2020 #WMC20

  1. Thank you so much for your notes and for doing this while you’re so incapacitated! I wanted to attend a lot of these sessions but I had too many scheduling conflicts and couldn’t manage it. Your notes are helpful.

    Liked by 1 person

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