Ten is a nice round number, isn’t it? Last weekend was the tenth BlogOn event – hence the moniker ‘BlogOnX’. And it was also my tenth blogging conference (and fifth BlogOn).
So, now that I am officially an Old Man of the Blogosphere™ as opposed to a Nervous Newbie™, here are four thoughts on a thoroughly enjoyable weekend in Manchester.
1. Every blogging event is different
As a parent blogger, the three big conferences on my calendar used to be BritMums’ BML, Mumsnet’s Blogfest and BlogOn. You might think they’d all be similar. However, they’ve always had distinct vibes of their own. BML used to be the big blogging bash but last year scaled back to take a more professional, almost corporate approach. Blogfest focussed more on writing, issues and big-name speakers but last year Mumsnet switched to smaller focussed events.
BlogOn has more of a ‘community’ feel. Virtually all the speakers are fellow bloggers. There is more of a focus on brands who want to work with influencers. It attracts a broader range of blogging niches.
If the old-style BML and Blogfest were the big summer festivals, then BlogOn is more like a village fete – in a positive, ‘doing-it-for-the-local-community’ way.
2. Different things to different people
Let me just expand on that last point. One of the things I like most about BlogOn is that it caters well for different needs.
If your objective is to improve your blogging skills, last weekend’s schedule included sessions by Grace Hall (Eats Amazing) on Pinterest and Emma Conway (Brummy Mummy of 2) on building your YouTube fanbase. Emily Leary (A Mummy Too) ran a workshop on flat-lay photography. Zoe Corkhill (Mama Geek) held one-to-one WordPress clinic sessions.
There’s something appealing about bloggers educating other bloggers by sharing genuinely practical tips. And for those of us who have presented before – I’ve previously run two sessions – it’s a way for us to put something back into the community.
For those seeking to monetise their blogs, the Brand Den offers up a wide range of brands and PR companies. These range from big companies such as the Co-op, Snopake and Varta to smaller start-ups. Either way, it’s an opportunity for bloggers to explore new products and build relationships.
And finally, there’s the social. The event kicks off on the Saturday evening with a launch party. It’s an opportunity to meet friends old and new and let your hair down a bit. (Beer pong, anyone? Don’t tell the kids we’re out having fun, though.) And while much of Sunday is devoted to sessions, there is plenty of time for catching up with people too. The social aspect of BlogOn is one of its biggest benefits.
Oh, and did I mention the prosecco, wine, Pimm’s and cake? Not to mention the legendary goodie bag which has a little something for everyone. This time round, the total retail value of items in the bag was something like £191 – or more than three times the cost of the conference ticket itself. And that was before factoring in other giveaways, samples or raffle and tombola winnings.
3. It’s all about the people
I’m an experienced blogger. I’ve started seven blogs over the past 11 years. So I don’t spend much time in the formal sessions.
I only do a little commercial activity on the side. So while I will speak to a few brands it’s not a big focus for me.
So, for me it’s all about the social – which means the people.
Now I am a painfully shy person. In large groups I am usually the last to speak. When I go to conferences for work, I’m usually that person you see sidling off to a quiet corner – often behind a large pot plant – intently checking my phone, which I’m holding up in front of me like a personal anti-small talk force-field.
But I’ve come to recognise that I’m different at blogging events. I’m more confident and outgoing rather than my usual anxious and introverted. Why? I’m not entirely sure. But when I went to my first blogging conference three years ago – having never met another blogger in person before – I realised that I wasn’t walking into a room of complete strangers. These were people with a shared interest in blogging, many of whom I already interacted with frequently online.
So when I turn up at BlogOn, I know there is always someone to speak to. It may be people such as Tas (Not My Year Off) and Sarah (Mum of Three World), both of whom I’ve known since my very first event.
Or there are fellow dads such as James (A Life Just Ordinary) and Lewis (Dad Who Blogs). Some friends are established stars of the blogging firmament – or the ‘bloggerati’ as absolutely nobody calls them – while others are lesser known but write blogs I love.
And at every BlogOn I make new friends, even if my inability to remember names and faces makes Dory from Finding Nemo look like she has a photographic memory. Among others, I finally got to meet Rebecca (Glutarama), who I’d known on social media for a while but never actually met.
There is never enough time, of course. I inevitably come away from BlogOn with a mix of emotions. Pleased to have caught up with so many people. A tinge of regret at not having had time to do more than say hi to others in passing. And sadness at not seeing friends who weren’t there. But ‘not enough time’ is better than ‘none at all’. It’s always fun to reconnect with friends, even if only briefly.
4. An antidote to negativity
There is a lot of negativity surrounding the blogging world at the moment. We are often portrayed as self-important freeloaders by the mainstream media and the general public. Some of the tricks of the trade used to drive growth are considered sharp practice at best and deceitful at worst. There’s bitching. And back-stabbing. And, legend has it, someone once took the last After Eight from the box.
It’s easy to become disillusioned with blogging as a result. Something that should give us pleasure becomes a source or anxiety, stress and general negative emotions.
In truth, blogging is no different and no worse than any other human environment where competition and the pursuit of money/success/recognition/truth, justice and the American way rears its head. There are good things and there is stuff that is … not so good.
But I invariably come back from BlogOn feeling positive and inspired by my peers. I see a talented group of content creators. I see a community of people willing to share knowledge. Most of all, though, I enjoy spending time with friends who offer a diverse array of windows into different forms of family life.
So that was my weekend. Blogging conferences aren’t for everyone. But if you’re a blogger and you’ve never given it a go before, you’ll never know if you don’t try, will you? So, see you at the next BlogOn, then?
The next BlogOn conference will be in late September (date TBC) at Hotel Football in Manchester. To keep informed, register your interest here.