SXSWi, Techmunch And A Puppy

Mar 14th, 2011 by Gemma

I’ll be honest, today’s post is kinda cobbled together. 10 days ago we came back from a two week trip to England, visiting my family and having a good time. I’ve yet to decide if I’m going to write about it here, it’s not food related in any way, either way nothing will be happening with that until I edit all 1036 photos that we took!

9 days ago we got a puppy, 10 weeks old and full of puppy-ness. The rest of those 9 days passed in a blur. We cooked simple, easy dinners. The only extraneous cooking that got done was a king cake for Mardi Gras. She’s settled in now, and we’re settling into the routine of having her about. She hits 12 weeks on Thursday, tomorrow she starts her puppy classes. This bundle of cuteness is the reason I have no food post for today, hopefully this week I’ll actually get some cooking done and have something more to talk about.

This weekend I was at Techmunch. Techmunch is a food blogger conference created by Babette of Bakespace, designed to provide useful, real world information that the attendees can go away and use straight away. The first Techmunch was held last year in Austin, you may recall we went along and wrote about our experience. Two further conferences took place last year in NYC and Vegas and a year on it was back in Austin, once more as part of SXSWi. The bonus of it being held during SXSWi is that all the killer panellists are already in town!

Only this time it was a full two days of panels, plus a pre-party on the Friday night and a cupcake social to round it off.

I lucked out this year, when I saw they were in need of volunteers I put my name forward and got to attend for the small price of helping out. Sure, I missed some of the panels, but there was such an excellent team of volunteers we were able to arrange ourselves to make sure everyone got to sit in on the panels they really wanted to. As such I can’t give a full review or run down of what happened.

It was held at Whole Foods, and a better place could not have been had (aside from them really needing to fix the air conditioning), coffee and snacks always available, water coolers, gift cards to buy lunch both days and a kick-ass goodie bag to take home at the end! Whole Foods really were amazing and the staff directly involved were friendly and helpful, I really can’t thank them enough for being so wonderful.

I didn’t make it to the pre-party, though I’m told everyone had a blast. You could check in from 8am on the Saturday, being a volunteer I was there earlier, desperate for the coffee, and muffins kindly provided by Kerbey Lane Cafe. The first panel was at 9, Ben Huh (I Can Haz Cheezburger), Brett Erlich (Current TV), Sean Percival (MySpace) and Robert Scoble (Rackspace) talked on socialising your content. The main things I recall are going viral is not necessarily beneficial, will all those people ever come back, keep focused on what is core to the community. And give the google what the google wants!

Eric Schwartzman, Sarah Evans and Erik Deutsch followed up with some amazing information on building your PR plan. Listen to what the community is talking about, plan your pitch and find the right audience, build relationships even when you aren’t pitching and make your site accessible to the media if that is what you are aiming for.

Lee Odden took the before lunch slot to talk about the art and science of SEO.. While a large part of it was fascinating and wonderfully useful, talking with others we found a general consensus that a proportion of it went way above our heads and beyond our understanding. It probably didn’t help that we were hungry come the end. Some of it I was hitting my forehead for.. precisely why had I never considered using image-alt tags, are my urls keyword rich enough?

After a lunch thoughtfully provided by Whole Foods (and cold brew coffee from Chameleon Cold Brew – coming from a tea drinker, it was pretty damn good!) we had Rene Lynch (LA Times), Jeff Houck (Tampa Tribune), Kat Kinsman (Eatocracy) and Addie Broyles (Austin Statesman)  giving tips on how to leverage traditional media. Traditional media is relying more on bloggers as their budgets are cut, pay attention to what they are doing, develop that relationship, let your passion shine through. Don’t be mean, don’t over promote yourself and for goodness sake, check your spelling!

Creating kick-ass content was the domain of Jane Goldman (Chow), Nadia Glosia (Bitchin Kitchen) and the wonderful Penny De Los Santos (saveur) moderated (superbly, possibly the best moderation I’ve seen) by Andrew Warner (Mixergy). It’s all about the story, self-assign your dream assignment, and do what you think is good, if you guess what people want you dilute yourself. Really, there was so much good advice I can’t even begin to convey it all, three marvellous women with such good advice, I feel honoured to have been present.

The time change didn’t help anyone be alert on the Sunday morning, Whole Foods came to the rescue with danish pastries and more coffee!

The day started with Anna Gonzales (CNN) and Jenna Gruhala Oltersdorf (Snackbox) giving advice on how to plan, create and distribute great content. Editorial calendars are a must (and I fail there), collaborate with people who have similar interests and show your personality otherwise the blog will be boring. Be part of the community, don’t just broadcast, you need to take part too.

I have to say, the next speaker was one of my favourites. Cathy Brooks. She was fantastic last year and even better this year, this woman leaves me in awe. She talked about balancing multiple identities (who are you and why should I care?) starting with a 30 second meditation, do we spend that much time contemplating before we hit send on a tweet, or posting on facebook? As she put it, social media is like herding cats, and to make it interesting some of the cats are drunk and stupid!  The main point – perception requires participation. Not taking part is like getting out of bed without putting your feet on the floor.. messy! The people you connect with are the people who share and make themselves vulnerable, it’s not about the information, it’s about the person who brings the story I love this woman!

Eric Trinidad (Fancy Fast Food), Stefani Michaels (Adventure Girl). Gaby Dalkin (What’s Gaby Cooking) and Emily Cavalier (Mouth Of The Border)  were the panel on Creating your empire and building your personal brand. Establish a niche, solve and problem and hey presto, you have a brand! Do what you’re passionate about, if you’re not then it’ll never do well. Eric believes FB to be the most powerful tool to connect with your audience and you have to get involved with your community.. Finding a way to incorporate people will elevate your brand.

Babette had a quick talk herself on monetising. Get a “big fish” brand for low cost, it’s all about their competitors. Stick to brands who mean something to you, if you associate with crappy brands then they’re only going to have crappy competitors and the big fish won’t care about you. Get traction, build to something bigger. Position yourself as a business, people will take you much more seriously.

After lunch was the how to attract brands and build partnerships. I only caught pieces of this but as far as I can tell it boiled down to don’t be an ass! You’re not the only person asking for something, make friends, build that relationship, approach them with an idea and figure out what you can give them in return.

Marc from the amazing NoRecipes talked on how to scale your site. I’m afraid I completely missed that one so if anyone can fill me in I’d be eternally grateful.

Representatives from Food Network, ShopWell, Dinevore and TasteSpotting talked about Apps. If you want to create an app, you need to be a crazy app user. Use them all, see what they do and don’t keep it a secret or nothing will ever get done! The idea is nothing, it’s all in the execution.

Chris Pearson (DIYThemes) was absolutely fascinating on design and page optimisation. People are flakes, you need to flirt with them, on every page, if you give them links out of the page they’ll take it, and interestingly, on a purchase page, people need some white space so they can think!

I have not much interest in live streaming, so I didn’t take many notes on that, but the speakers were very helpful and informative on the subject. Be consistent, mistakes show that you’re human, and involve your audience!

Rick Bakas ended the day by waving about a flaccid cow tongue! After conning us into giving him a standing ovation he gave us wine and chicken! A palate bootcamp, a quick introduction into the balance of flavours. Funny, entertaining and he gave us wine! He couldn’t lose!

So there you have it, two action packed, crazy informative days.. I’m still processing all the information!

An honourable mention needs to go to Miles of Chocolate, made by Miles Compton, a cross between a brownie and a truffle and completely gluten free. Words cannot describe the awesomeness, the explosion of taste, and how crazy everybody went over them. Never pass up the opportunity to try them!

If you don’t happen to be in Austin there are 3 more conferences planned for this year; New York, Boston and Los Angeles. If you are nearby I strongly recommend going along, for the amount you learn and the fun you have and the new people you meet, it is worth every penny. I’m hoping they make it back to Austin next year too!


  1. 10 Things I Learned at TECHmunch | said:

    […] seen some other great TECHmunch wrap-up posts by Rene Lynch, Gemma Matherne, Jessica Elizarraras, Megan Warncke and Natanya Anderson. If you’re a blogger I met this […]

  2. Gemma said:

    You’re very welcome, I was a little concerned I rambled on too much about it. It was such a great weekend and fantastic to meet everyone!

  3. Hilah said:

    Thank you so much for this post, Gemma! Your notes are great and concise.

  4. 10 Things I Learned at TECHmunch | The Austin Gastronomist said:

    […] seen some other great TECHmunch wrap-up posts by Rene Lynch, Gemma Matherne, Jessica Elizarraras, and Natanya Anderson. If you’re a blogger I met this weekend and […]