I arrived early to the conference and was one of the first people in the conference wing of the host hotel. Greeted by a team of smiling staffers, and a nice conference swag bag, I was really excited, yet nervous, about the day's events. After a while, I met up with Alexis from Gluten Free in Orlando and Sarah from Gluten and Dairy Free Walt Disney World, two bloggers who inspired me to take the leap of faith into the gluten free blogging world. I must admit that meeting fellow bloggers in real life was a surreal and awesome experience. Our conversation felt like it was between old friends. I felt more at ease and confident about entering the day.
Blogger U was set up in a true "lecture hall" fashion. Each "class" was headed by a "professor" who was an expert in their field. The schedule went as follows:
Recipes: Start to Finish with Flair
Amie Valpone (The Healthy Apple)
How to Succeed in Blogness
Jules Shepard (Jules Gluten Free)
Beefing Up Your Blog
Amy Leger (The Savvy Celiac)
Lights, Camera, Munchin'
Mia Moran (Stay Basic)
Amy Ratner (editor of Gluten Free Living) and Aubrey Everett (editor The Writer)
Each session was jam-packed with great information for bloggers of every level of experience. Although some of it was too advanced to apply to my "baby blog," I am so glad I have the tips and tricks provided to rely on as Eating Out Without grows up and out. I was inspired by the success of the speakers and have come back to my blog with new inspiration on how to make it better than ever. One such measure I have already taken is starting up a twitter page for the blog.
One unexpected treat of the conference was getting to partake in a catered lunch. After spending so much of my time worrying about eating out, it was almost bizarre to see a whole buffet that was gluten free and safe for me to eat. While I couldn't partake in some of the fun thanks to dairy lurking in some of the items, I definitely enjoyed what I could eat, especially the roasted vegetables. Although I had packed a lunch "just in case" I was excited to partake in a real business lunch, a rarity for those with allergies or intolerances. While at lunch, I enjoyed a friendly conversation with Mark from The Gluten Free Glutton, a Jacksonville-based blog, and Alicia from Gluten Free in Chapel Hill.
Last but not least, was the finale of the event- the "homecoming." Advertised as a happy hour, I was pleasantly surprised again by an impressive spread of gluten free eats ranging from a tex-mex station, custom pasta station, and a stir fry station in addition to the drinks (no comment there- I'm under 21!). Again, it was completely mystifying to see so much food and know that it was completely safe for me to eat (again, hold the dairy!). Although I was exhausted and my brain was still trying to digest the plethora of information shared, I really enjoyed meeting more attendees and swapping stories. Under a picture-perfect cerulean sky, I felt more confident than ever and felt a validation of sorts of my efforts. Sure, I'm pretty new to the table, but I'm there. What I write has an impact, and will enable me to connect with others over a shared gluten free experience.
After coming home and recharging, I am eagerly awaiting day two of the conference. My goal for the day is devouring the exhibitor show and exploring all of the unique vendors who've come out for the event. More information about the conference can be found here. My recap of the product expo can be found here.