I’ve been struggling to figure out how to tell you one last thing about the International Food Bloggers Conference.
Although it was useful and educational and I met a lot of great people, it was also—uncomfortable.
Not because of the reasons I thought it’d be—that my fellow attendees would be younger and smarter and prettier than me. They may have been, but I was fine with it.
What wasn’t so fine was the super-blatant product promotion, and how my fellow bloggers didn’t seem to notice or mind.
I’ve been to food conferences before and, yes, various parts and pieces are sponsored by food companies in the hopes of garnering my attention. I understand that their presence subsidizes my attendance and that’s okay with me. In fact, I appreciate it. I get to be there for less than otherwise and I get to learn about products and services I might not be aware of. Both of which make me a better culinary professional.
But IFBC, to me, went over the line. In two ways.
One was one of the general sessions—as in, not a session that was an option for its time slot, but a session designed for all to attend. It was devoted to presenting us with samples of various food products, one every ninety seconds, accompanied by a pitch from a company representative, so that we could blog, tweet, or otherwise publicize it live, in the moment, right then and there.
In other words, I wasn’t simply exposed to a product, I was expected to shill for it. Right then.
And it was supposed to be fun!
As best as I could tell, most of my fellow bloggers thought it was fun, which was also troubling. Maybe it was me? I tried to get into it and sent out a few tweets. But it felt—icky.
Lest you think me holier than they, here’s the other uncomfortable thing. In exchange for a low registration fee, IFBC attendees were asked to blog about the conference three times. And I agreed.
On hindsight, paying an additional two or three hundred dollars would’ve waaay preferable to spending all this time feeling like a prostitute.
But a promise is a promise, and with this post that obligation is complete. So here’s a new promise—I’ll never enter into a similar agreement again. I may write about people, places, or things that I appreciate, but not because I’m obliged to. And if and when I share about something I’m getting paid for—a book I’m writing or recipes I’m developing for a client—I’ll make sure that’s clear.
And all those products at IFBC? Here’s what I can recommend—homemade minestrone.
There’s nothing like a pot of it to wash away ickiness and restore one’s sense of what’s important.
Amen to that.