On Saturday, I was able to experience the joy of planning, attending, and thoroughly enjoying a successful blogger meet-up, affectionally titled Virginia is 4 Bloggers.*
*Although I categorically hate using the number 4 in lieu of its homophone, it worked for a twitter hash tag…and then it just stuck.
After moving back to Virginia, I was craving the regular meet-ups of the blogger community into which I had been welcomed in Austin, so I set out to bring together bloggers from around the state. Our laid-back lunch at feast! on Saturday only served to remind me of why I love being a blogger. [That would be the community, friendship, and connections formed with like-minded ladies who don’t look at you funny when you take a hundred pictures of your soup spoon in various positions.]Main Street Market proved to be the perfect place for our gathering. We feasted* on scrumptious soup, salad, and sandwich offerings and strolled through the various vendors of the market, sampling snacks, sniffing spices, making imaginary wishlists of various kitchen gadgets, and wishing we could buy all of the gourmet foodstuffs on display.
*Excuse the pun. 😉Although I took copious photos of Lauren‘s Winter Salad (featuring curried lentils, roasted winter squash, and contraband-to-me chevre)––I chose one of the always-reliable soups from the ever-changing menu.The Spicy Chickpea + (Local) Chard Soup was a thick, hearty stew full of vegetables and perfectly cooked garbanzos, with just enough heat to keep my tastebuds on their toes, but not enough to overpower the subtle nuances of flavor and texture (or make me feel like I was in training for a Man v. Food fire-eating competition).Once I saw that the featured cheese plate was centered around my new favorite apple, I simply had to request that some slices of the gorgeous Gold Rush apples be added to the side of my plate. [They graciously obliged.]Obviously, I enjoyed my meal immensely (and it was gone all too soon). Both Brittany and I were shocked at just how filling the soup was……so filling that I couldn’t even sample the decadent Gearhart’s truffles Lauren had brought for everyone, or Brittany’s Heady Goo Balls: amped up, lottery-style power balls made with dates, nut butter, honey, and more exotic ingredients like bee pollen…and grass. Amazing Grass, that is. (Not the kind of grass that might make you ‘heady,’ if you will.) It’s time to get out the calamine lotion, because I had such a lovely time that I am already itching* to plan another meet-up. My suggestion for the next one? “Let’s go to Richmond and meet inside of Trader Joe’s.” [What? That doesn’t sound fun to you?]
*I can’t believe I said that, either.
Speaking of planning another meet-up, you might have noticed the title of this post was not “Virginia is 4 Bloggers,” but “How To Host a Blogger Meet-Up.” That’s because once Heather over at Healthy Living Blogs heard what was happening here in Central Virginia, she asked me to write up a little something about how one goes about planning such an event. This will be featured as a Blog Tip Thursday at some point in the future…but I’m revealing my secrets to you now.
Because I can.
How to Host a Blogger Meet-Up
[AKA Organizing a Lunch(eon) for People You’ve Never Actually Met]
- Find bloggers! You can’t have a meet-up without people to meet (up). How do you do this? Well, hopefully you know a few in the area. If not, the Healthy Living Blogs database is a good place to start, as well as searching the many blogs you read or people you follow on twitter for ‘locations’ near you. Stay open-minded, and include bloggers as well as blog readers.
- Pick a date. Don’t give people too many options. Pick two days that work for you–you can’t host(ess) a meet-up if you aren’t there, now can you?–and offer those up in a mass e-mail. [Picking more than one date inevitably leads to a downward spiral of confusion involving such questions as, “Wait, did you mean the 20th or the 21st?” and “I thought you meant Saturday, not Sunday!”] Try to keep the time frame within two or three weeks. This gives people time to commit, but not forget about it!
- Pick a location. Once you have a good idea of how many people are coming, you can choose the right place to meet. How do you know it’s the right place? Well, ideally it is a small, but accommodating, local restaurant with a creative menu adaptable to lots of dietary desires. If you can all order separately, that is all the better. [How awkward to have just met someone and then have to passive aggressively encourage them to contribute the extra $2.00 they owe for tax on the split bill!]
- Recruit a wing(wo)man. Before you confirm a date with the rest of the blogger invitees, secure a reliable blog reader and/or writer friend who you know will commit 100% to being there. That way if no one else shows up, at least you won’t be sitting awkwardly alone at a table for ten.
- Send the invite. No need for fancy schmancy e-vites (although when did those become “fancy” invitations?), a simple e-mail will do. Try to NOT be like me and, rather than quipping around the bush, quickly get to the point and avoid any loquaciousness-induced confusion.
- Amp up the excitement! Tweet about it. Blog about it. Come up with a cute moniker that might look nice as a hashtag or on a T-shirt. [I mean, don’t you want a “Virginia is 4 Bloggers” tee?]
- Send a reminder. Not too soon, and not too late. I would say about 36 hours is enough time for everyone who never write anything down to remember they had committed and come to the realization that–hooray!–they can still attend…or–booooo!–made other promises to other “real-life” friends.
- Call ahead. You don’t have to do this, but I find it’s a good idea to warn a restaurant that there will be a gaggle of girls entering the establishment waving around cameras, begging for a table near natural light arriving at the establishment, and potentially making lots of special requests with regards to menu alterations and “oh, but I’d really like to try a bite of that, too” substitutions. [Maybe that’s just when I’m around?]
- Bring party favors! Every host(ess) should give her guests something to take home. Besides, it’s a good idea to prove that you actually do make things actually worth eating and you aren’t just lying all the time about how yummy your creations are. [Even if it is peanut butter you made using pre-roasted nuts.]
- Relax and enjoy. Seriously, it’s not like you’re going to run out of things to say. Any awkward pauses can be alleviated by just randomly throwing out blogger trigger words, like oatmeal, chia seeds, or kale. [When in doubt, I also find that House Hunters, the Kardashians, and Kate Middleton are also good common ground.]
It will undoubtedly be a success.
Even if it IS just you and your wing(wo)man at a very large table.
[Perhaps you could just take that as an opportunity to actually stand on the table for an aerial photo?]