It's October, so that can only mean one thing...it's time for the annual FBC conference! FBC2016 Toronto to be exact!
Last year, we put together a detailed account of what to wear, what to bring, how to prep and generally what to expect for Montreal and FBC2015. It was a popular post, so we've decided to refresh it with a Toronto and FBC2016 angle!
So whether this is your very first conference (ever), your first food blogging conference or you consider yourself a seasoned conference veteran, this post will have you covered on what to bring, what to wear, how to prepare and how to have an amazing time!
Do The Work!
Last year, our theme was "Take the Leap" which began with our keynote Ricardo sharing how his whole career has been about taking a leap! This year, our theme is "Do The Work" and Deb Perelman from Smitten Kitchen is going to kick things off on Friday evening with that message in mind to carry us through the weekend. The weekend is going to be a ton of fun and awesome eats but we also want every single person to leave Sunday afternoon with a newfound passion and excitement to be the very best version of themselves and it starts with putting in the work!
Put Yourself Out There (Take a Deep Breath and Just Do It!)
Whether it's your first event or 25th, entering a room full of strangers can be overwhelming and it's ok to admit it. Actually, the first step in overcoming the nerves is admitting it. But, here's the good news...lots of other people are nervous too and just looking for a friendly face to chat with.
From personal experience and in talking with others from previous years, we can guarantee that everyone there will be a little anxious. Chances are you've chatted with a lot of these people online so you know each other already, just not face-to-face. Look for name badges or better yet, make a point of heading down to the cocktail reception with someone!
Just remember, you're not alone with the nerves. Have a read-through the recap posts from FBC2013, FBC2014 and FBC2015. There are always nerves. And don't forget, Friday night dinner is assigned seating. We've done it three years in a row and it's always been very well received! Your table number will be on your name badge and you're set to mingle!
And be prepared for lots of hugs! You might have never met a lot of fellow attendees face-to-face but after with them for years, you'll feel like long-lost friends!
Come with a (Rough) Game Plan
To get the most out of anything in life, you have to put something in. Think about what prompted you to come to FBC2016 and what you want to get out of this conference.
- What has been holding you back lately?
- Are you there to learn?
- Are you there to network with other bloggers and make new friends?
- Are you there to make face-to-face brand contacts?
- Are you there to eat a lot of great food?
- Are you hoping to visit parts of the city?
- Some of the above? all of the above?
All those things are totally doable - you just need to prepare and, possibly, give yourself a little pep talk!
Research your fellow attendees. Know who's going to be there and think about who you'd like to talk to. Check out their blogs and their social media profiles (we have the Official FBC2016 Twitter list of all attendees including bloggers, brands and speakers to make it easy to tweet to your fellow attendees). Feel free to introduce yourself on social media and let them know you're looking forward to connecting! We also have a private Facebook Group for FBC2016 attendees. If you're not there, join us!
What To Expect Weather-wise in Toronto in October
The forecast is expected to be a little of everything, sun, clouds and rain! Expect typical Canadian fall weather for Toronto! You will be in the hotel for the majority of the weekend but you will also have some time to explore outside as well. Before you pack up your suitcase, we recommend checking the forecast and pack appropriately. If we had to guess, it will be sunny with a slight chill in the air and expect some rain.
What To Bring:
What's the Swag Bag Situation this year?
Ahh the million dollar question. The swag this year is awesome as usual! It includes two cookbooks, S'well water bottle, tasty snacks, and lots of other goodies. There will also be a cutting board as a gift on Sunday for breakfast from Breville! The swag bag itself is a good size and will be perfect for your grocery-shopping and market-wandering needs when you get home.
The swag bag will fit a lot but it'll also be pretty heavy. We believe you'll need to include a couple of items into your suitcase to fit all the swag and take it home. So we recommend saving a bit of space when you're packing for Toronto. If your carry-on suitcase is FULL on your way to Toronto, it's very unlikely you'll be able to fit everything on your way back.
AND, there will be some fun giveaways and chances for prizes over the course of the weekend which is great if you win, but it will add some extra bulk to your suitcase!
If you don't want any stress, our recommendation is to bring a larger suitcase so you have lots of room for your swag and also allows you some extra space if you sneak in some Toronto shopping 😉
Other things to bring or consider bringing:
- Business cards - yes, you read that right! You will be meeting a lot of new people - make it easy for them to remember and find you after you go home.
- Laptop, tablet, phone, pen, paper - whatever you need to take notes and tweet and instagram. You will have wifi in your rooms and wifi where the sessions and meals are taking place.
- Don't forget your CHARGERS for all those devices!!
- Stretchy pants and comfy shoes (trust us)
- A big smile - nothing puts a person who is nervous more at ease than being greeted by a big welcoming smile
**NOTE: if you are attending Dennis Prescott's pre-conference photography workshop on Friday, please ensure you have something to shoot with, DSLR, Point & Shoot or phone. If you want to bring your tripod, go for it! If you would like to bring a small fold-up reflector, by all means. Wear comfy shoes and clothing - you will be on your feet and moving for four hours. Coffee, tea and lunch will be provided.
What Not To Bring
- an attitude - we will have an ego check at the door!
Blogger and Brand Speed Dating (Networking Session)
It's back! After the success of last year's networking session, it's back with some new tweaks. You should come prepared with business cards, media kit (if you have one - either on paper or your laptop/tablet) and your pitch to put your best foot forward. The goal is to make a few connections with the sponsors in attendance and determine about how to best work together down the road.
IMPORTANT: Remember - do your homework with the sponsors. Have a good sense of whether or not you fit with their brand, or if they fit with yours. Don't go in expecting them to make you an offer or pitch you or tell you what they're going to do for you. Instead, you need to go in with a proposal of how you can work together. So plan ahead and have a very good idea of the type of projects you want to suggest that will showcase their brand and be useful to your readers and followers.
The majority of our sponsors will be in attendance and we have carved out eight (8) minute time slots from 1:30-3:30pm. When people check-in and register on Friday, they'll be permitted to sign-up for two slots which will allow everyone a chance to fill it out during the registration period. Those attendees that are here all weekend but arriving after the registration period ends at 6pm, we will make sure you also have the chance to sign up Friday evening or Saturday. Attendees that have bought a Sunday day pass will be able to sign up when they arrive on Sunday.
Once Sunday attendees have the chance to fill in their times, attendees can fill in the other time slots.
How To Get There
If you are flying in to Toronto through Pearson airport, the easiest way to get to the Delta Toronto is by train - the UP Express. It's 25 minutes and $12 for a one-way ticket directly to Union Station. The Delta Toronto is located in an extremely high traffic area, sandwiched between Rogers Centre, the CN Tower, The Metro Toronto Trade and Convention Centre and Air Canada Centre. If there is one or more events happening, it is virtually impossible to get to the hotel on time by driving or taking a cab - this does not include rush hour which will double your frustration.
The Delta Toronto is a short 5-10 minute walk from Union Station. Just look for the PATH signage and it'll take you directly to the third floor of the hotel.
If you do take a taxi. The address is 75 Lower Simcoe Street but just tell the driver Delta Toronto near the CN Tower and it'll cost you about $60. Our recommendation is to take the UP Express!
If you're flying in to Billy Bishop Airport, you're pretty close to the Delta. It's a short taxi ride or there's a free shuttle that will take you to Union Station and you can walk to the hotel from there.
For those driving to the conference, hotel parking is $35/day or $42/day for valet parking. There are other lots nearby but please be aware, parking rates are dependant on events happening in the area.
What To Wear
We're a casual bunch so wear what you feel most comfortable in. But here are some suggestions:
- It's a hotel so we recommend light layers that you can easily take off or add to if you're too hot or cold. A cardigan or scarf are always good to have handy
- Wear clothes you're comfortable in - you'll be sitting a lot and eating a lot - but there will also be a lot of picture taking happening!
- For Friday's cocktail reception and our two dinners, get as snazzy as you'd like (but you don't have to)!
- Blogger/brand networking sessions on Sunday. You don't need to dress up BUT - this is a professional meeting and you're there to make a good face to face impression. Brands don't expect you to be in business attire and let's face it - most of them will have spent time with you all weekend already but, smart casual would definitely be a good recommendation (i.e. jeans are ok but pair them with nice shoes, a nice top, etc).serve you well. It is a hotel though, so
Free Time on Saturday
You'll have a few hours of free time on Saturday between lunch and dinner so if you're from out of town and want some things to do, here are some of our suggestions that are close to the hotel:
- St. Lawrence Market - one of Toronto's best public markets for the food lover!
- The Distillery District - funky shops, art galleries, restaurants and great food destinations all housed in the historic buildings of Gooderham and Worts Distillery (one of two Soma Chocolates locations is in the Distillery District)
- Steam Whistle Brewery is right across the street from the hotel
- We're steps away from the CN Tower, The Hockey Hall of Fame and the Entertainment District
- you can hop on a subway or streetcar and visit the AGO, ROM, Graffiti Alley (runs behind the south side of Queen street between Spadina and Bathurst), Chinatown, and Kensington Market
- Queen street has very fun shops and loads of restaurants and bakeries (we're fans of Nadege near Trinity Bellwod Park)
- Make a local friend and ask them for suggestions
A Final Word on Pre-Conference Nerves And How To Deal With Them
Pre-conference nerves are so completely normal. Everyone will have them. Remembering that is key! Also remember... every single one of you have at least three things in common: you're bloggers, you love food and you don't have to apologize for taking photos of your food!
If you're taking a pre-con workshop with Dennis, say hi to the people sitting next to you. Think of it as pre-camp! You'll have the chance to make friends before 150 other people show up! It's always easier to make friends and bond in a smaller group setting.
If you bought a double occupancy ticket you'll be making a new friend with a roommate and you have a built in date to the cocktail reception!
Put a smile on your face and introduce yourself to somebody new. If you see somebody standing nervously on their own, go say hello! They're probably just wishing somebody would come talk to them.
Don't be intimidated by brands - they're there specifically to meet you so say hi. A great ice breaker is to thank them for being a sponsor - we couldn't put on FBC2016 without their help! A bunch of them will have stations during the cocktail reception. They are there to feed you and chat with you!
If you're an established blogger - introduce yourself to a newer blogger - you'll make their day!
Say hi to one of our volunteers: Sondi Bruner, Heather Mitchell, Samantha Gutmanis, & Ksenia Prints will be FBC ambassadors and helpers all weekend long and are there to make you feel at home. And Beth Dunham will be our conference photographer so don't forget to say cheese :). Lisa Bolton and Heather Travis will be helping out behind the scenes on Thursday and Friday but they'll be in "civilian" clothes once the conference starts.
If you're attending and you already have lots of friends that are there as well, break away from the crowd and introduce yourself to some new people. Don't pay all this money to hang out with people you already see regularly. (hint - we will be making this very easy for you all on Friday night so bring your extrovert card to dinner!)
Please say hi and introduce yourself to us - Melissa & Ethan. And please don't be nervous to say hi because we've heard that for every single conference! We might have to run off quickly to handle something, but maybe not! Stick out your hand, give us a hug (we hug back), tell us who you are since we might not remember your face from a tiny avatar photo but there's a 99.9% chance we'll know exactly who you are 😉
We want to meet all of you too! We may not be able to chat for as long as we'd like, but at the end of the conference, we want to know we said "HI" to everyone!