Visiting Miami is kind of like coming home for a week. When my family left Cuba, we came to Miami first, like most Cubans seeking political asylum. We ended up leaving the American “Little Havana,” and settled for the most picture perfect “American Dream” life in DC suburbs. My paternal grandparents, older brother and uncle stayed in Miami. That means I get to come to the super hot cuidad, at least once a year to embrace all things Cuban and Latin vibra!
It also means lots and lots of espresso, a la cubano, pastelitos de guayaba, chancletas, batido de mamey and loud “¡y que chica!” Who wouldn’t want to experience that for a few days? I don’t get an all encompassing Latin vibe in D.C., let alone Atlanta. When I was asked to speak on two panels at Hispanicize, a mega event designed by Manny Ruiz, a forthright Cuban, I was a bit reluctant. I don’t do big crowds really well. I’m a loner and don’t like cliquish environments. Yes, we’ve all been to conferences where the same group of people are leeched together as if no one else where there. But, I liked the idea of speaking about the the things I share online: cooking, fashion/styling, traveling, writing and blogging. But, coming down for four days, stuck in a hotel and moving from floor to floor, trying to attend as many sessions as possible, was not my idea of spending time in Miami.
I quickly scanned the objective and mission of the event, slated to be the Latin South by Southwest, saw the massive amount of sessions that were sure to inspire teach and Latin celebs like Cesar Milan (the Dog Whisperer) and Emilio Estefan speaking during lunches, and jumped on board. I had to see this for myself.
I arrived last Tuesday with a very open mind and looking forward to engaging with other social media gurus, enthusiasts and Latinos in this amazing realm of digital information. When I met over twenty women that I’d been networking with over the past 2.5 years at the first tryst sponsored by Latina Mom Bloggers, it all came full circle. Their stories were instantly more powerful and more inspiring.
As I made my way to a few of the 1st day sessions, I knew the entire experience was going to be a great success. Conversations before and after sessions really underscored themes addressed by the panel speakers. A common sentiment expressed was connecting with an audience in an organic way. Readers want to read real, honest and relevant content. That’s really the only way to attract new readers and keep them engaged and interested in coming back.
What does that mean for your blog?
The lifestyle panel I spoke on was well-received, with more than 100 attendees standing against the wall find a spot on the floor. ¿Que, qué? That many people wanted hear me and 2 other chicas talk about our loca vidas!?! Why, come. Have a seat. My co-panelists and I shared our motivation behind running a blog that covers general lifestyle, in my case, all things food, fashion, travel, music and art. Questions from the audience raised good points. Some noteworthy quotes from us as shared on Twitter from other bloggers:
I also spoke on the food blogging panel which didn’t attract as many as the lifestyle session, but still, a good headcount to get excited about. This session focused more on how to work with brands, assuming you’ve already established a solid blog. I got to share my very proud moment of producing a winning commercial for I Can’t Believe it’s Not Butter and highlight points on how I select brands I like to work with. My relationship with POM Wonderful was another good example of partnering up with brands that have strong messages that mean something to you. Nicole of Presley’s Pantry talked about her relationship with KitchenAid as a result of a video she did using a fancy mixer, while Ericka of Nibbles & Feasts hablo sobre the California Milk Advisory Board and the Idaho Potato Commission.
(L to R: Moderator, Libby; Divina Rodriguez from Dancing Hotdogs; Helena Osorio from PinkGuayoyo and moi at our Lifestyle panel. Image courtesy of Divina Rodriguez)
One major takeaway I hope other bloggers and brands noted was the affect of working with brands that reflect both my culinary point of view and ones that take the time to get to know me as a creative person, blogger, and personality. If a brand wants to partner up for the sake of a quick hit, if you will, I’d rather pass up and focus on nurturing a relationship that is long-lasting and mutually admirable. After some reflection and considering everything we shared, individually and collectively, I realize there are some things I wish I would have done differently and earlier on Flanboyant Eats™, but things evolve a certain way for a reason and all lessons learned can only make for a better, more efficient approach going forward.
Between lunches, sessions, wine lounges, cocktail hours, boat rides, giveaways, product demos and private meetings, you know I was enjoying café con leche! Conference food is generally very genetic and not the fanciest, inclusive of the coffee, hence beelines for the nearest esquinita serving up Cuban espresso. Even the hotel’s bistro had some good cafecito… which I enjoyed several times during the week. You can’t endure 11 hour days, 4 days straight, without indulging in bold, strong and robust coffee. It’s just as important as the shoes you wear!
I left Hispanicize feeling pretty good about the direction of my blogs, the new friendships I made, the opportunities presented to collaborate with some impressive brands and the exciting platform that social media offers us all. If nothing else, I know I have a strong voice that resonates with you, my dear, dear readers! This space if for you to be inspired with my stories, recipes and travel recaps. If I don’t inspire you, uhm, I need to go back to the drawing board and figure it out!
P’lante con mas café cubano!