While there was a brief moment in time when the EWBC crew was stuck in the BCN airport, fearful that we wouldn’t make it to the WBC in Sonoma/Napa, we are very pleased to say that we both made it and had an incredible time. Joel, Alan and the whole crew at Zephyr Adventures did a great job and pulled off a very memorable event. Seeing that the wine blogg-o-sphere is full of commentary recapping the various activities and tastings that took place, I don’t want to get into the details as much as point out what we learned as organizers of the EWBC and what we hope to take away from the event.
First off ,when you get 250+ living, breathing avatars in the same room, it can be quite surreal. Purely from a branding point of view, we highly suggest that all you bloggers out there adopt avatars for your twitter accounts and gravatar identity which show your face. This is not purely for the sake of people recognizing you at the EWBC, but because I tended to connect in a more significant way with people who were already displaying their real identity as their avatar. Maybe it was subliminal, but it did matter! That said, the biggest benefit and result of the conference was vast amount of networking opportunities. This was driven home by all the great “out of session/on the bus” discussions, which both Gabriella and I participated in. We knew this before going into the event, but it’s nice to have it reinforced. The lesson: provide ample downtime or break time to network. With hundreds of bloggers in the same room, overflowing with ideas, it’s impossible not to appreciate and add to the conversation.
Get into the Vineyards
At the EWBC 2008 in Logrono, there were suggestions that we spend more time in the vineyards and among the grapes. We knew this going into the event, but having been the first conference, frantically scrambling to make sure all points were covered, we failed to remember that we need to physically connect with the natural elements that make the wines we love. At the WBC this year, we landed in the vineyards most of Saturday; and while we wish we had been with larger groups, we were able to breathe the fresh air and feel the terroir which crafted the wines we drank. Lesson learned: although we would love to have the entire group together, smaller groups can be both effective and useful.
Speaking of wine, the entire reason why we even found ourselves in CA was as result of ViniPortugal, our Premiere sponsor of the EWBC. And because of this relationship, we had the pleasure of hosting a Portuguese wine tasting on Saturday night – a highlight not only for us, but for many of the participants as well. With over 40 wines poured, ranging from light Vinho Verdes to the dense Port wines of the Douro, people continually voiced what a pleasure it was to taste wines with so much distinct character. Having spent the last 5 years writing about them, we’re already sold, but to know how eager and excited other people are to try them only makes this year’s EWBC all the more interesting. And let’s not forget that ViniPortugal graciously offered an all expense paid trip for one lucky blogger to come to the EWBC in Lisbon this October. To enter, simply write a post on the event and link it up here! Can’t wait to see who wins!
Sunday brought us a chance to discuss wine blogging in a series of parallel sessions, where everything from law, to video, to SEO was discussed. This is the heart of both conferences. However, when you have 2 streams of sessions, it’s impossible to attend every one. We were fortunate, because as we were two, we could split ourselves up and attend every session. For me, the Search Engine session with Doug Cook of Ablegrape contained content everyone should know about, while Gabriella felt that David Honig’s (founder of Palate Press) session on legalities of blogging was equally important. Lesson Learned: videotape all sessions! The EWBC will also have parallel sessions, but we’ll now ensure that everything is recorded and archived online. 2nd Lesson Learned: make the sessions either longer or the talks shorter. Why? Questions! The question section can often times be the most exciting, and sadly, there was little time for them at the WBC. This is hard for any conference organizer, but we are going to do our best to figure it out.
We have always struggled with this. Winebloggers are by their very nature strong willed and verbose. Consequently, the EWBC has always supported the unconference model, which allows anyone to be a speaker, and we have considered having Keynote speakers. It was great to see how the WBC pulled it off. There were 3 speakers over the weekend: Chris Alden of SixApart, Barry Schuler of AOL, and Jim Gordon of Wines & Vines magazine. Each and every one offered quality content, and generally, in a very engaging manner. While we still don’t have plans to bring in a Keynote, we were very appreciative in seeing firsthand how effective it can potentially be.
I need to preface my argument by saying that WIFI is notoriously difficult to organize for a large group. And although the organizers are partially to blame, the Flamingo Hotel royally failed by not having an adequate connection for all 250+ people, receiving a big #FAIL sign by all attending participants. Lesson Learned: it is fundamental to a tech conference to make sure that we’re logged in at all times, and we promise to do our very best at the EWBC in Lisbon!!!
So there you go a brief wrap up. Now, we suggest you surf over to Delicious and search wbc09, not to mention the wide range of both photos and videos uploaded from the event. We want to wholeheartedly thank Joel and Alan for the great time we had, and we hope that next year, we might be able to get to Walla Walla for the 2010 version!
Ryan and Gabriella Opaz