Why I went to BlogOn (and why I’ll keep coming back)

Last weekend I was at BlogOn, an annual blogging conference which takes place in Bracknell every October.

Except, of course, for reasons that need no explaining to anyone, it didn’t happen as an in-person event in 2020. So returning after a 24-month absence – petrol crisis or no petrol crisis – was a big deal. And that’s because BlogOn is more than just a conference to many of us. It’s an ‘event’ that we keep coming back to year after year. Let me explain why this is – and why you should consider coming if you’ve never been before.

Why bloggers should attend BlogOn

There are many good reasons to attend BlogOn. Cake, gin-tasting, goody bags and the raffle to end all raffles (over 200 prizes this year) are four of the big ones, obviously.

A three-tier multi-coloured cake

For many attendees, it’s about learning new skills and techniques in the presentation sessions during the day. These are done by bloggers from within the community, so this is real expertise from real people with real experiences. This isn’t a ‘pro’ conference, where most speakers are trying to sell you something on the side or portraying themselves as godlike gurus. As such, the sessions are more relatable; presenters aim to be helpful, not look clever. It’s a safe and interactive environment, where attendees can ask questions without fear of looking silly.

Networking is also a big part of the BlogOn experience. Whether it’s talking to brands in the Brand Den who want to work with bloggers, or picking the brains of fellow attendees and speakers, this is a rare opportunity to make so many useful connections in the same place.

Now, I’ve been a regular attendee at BlogOn and other similar events over the years. I reckon this was my tenth BlogOn in all; my fourth as a presenter. I’ve also been blogging for 14 years and in my day job I’m a social media manager. So the conference sessions are of less interest to me, although I do attend one or two. And I don’t do any commercial brand work any more. So while it’s always interesting to wander around the brand den, it’s with more of a casual observer’s eye than someone looking for work opportunities.

I attend BlogOn because …

That being the case, you might well ask why I still religiously turn up to BlogOn in the same way other people buy season tickets to see their football team. Good question.

Over the years, I’ve been asked by many conferencing newbies why I keep attending. Invariably, I give the same answer: I come for the social. Nine times out of ten, the response I get involves a look of absolute disbelief, as if I’ve just told them that my children are all adopted fish named Nemo, Marlin and Dory. (For the sake of absolute clarity: they’re neither fish nor adopted.)

Honestly, it’s true. BlogOn is, for me, a social-first event.

Let me explain. I’ve been around the blogging world for long enough to know lots of the people in it. I’m connected to and regularly interact with many of them on social media. There are some who I have come to know better than many of my ‘real world’ friends. I certainly know more about their day-to-day trials and tribulations. And yet because I have a full-time day job and never did much commercial work, I rarely meet fellow bloggers in person outside of conferences.

So. yeah, BlogOn is a big event in my calendar. It’s often the one chance in a given year that I get to catch up with many of my blogging chums. And it’s definitely the one time so many of them are together in the same place at the same time.

After the 18 months we’ve all just experienced, just being in the same room with so many familiar and friendly faces felt like a big win.

These are my people

When bloggers get together at a conference, we all share an obvious common ground. We use the same platforms. We share the same challenges and have the same gripes. And we talk the same language, one that our non-blogging friends understand even less than Japanese kanji.

It is, plain and simple, a community that transcends genres and labels. Parenting, food, travel, money. Traditional nuclear families, single parents, LGBTQ+. We are in some respects the same; in others incredibly diverse. My parent blogging friends have an incredible range of backgrounds that I might otherwise never have gained any insight into: six and seven-children families; gay adoptive parents; single mums and dads; parents of kids with Down syndrome, autism and type 1 diabetes. We share knowledge; we learn from each other’s experiences.

These are my people, my tribe. I know it sounds a bit pretentious to say this, but having a window into each other’s lives through the words we write enriches our understanding of the world beyond our four walls. The shared problems we face – and, as bloggers, we are nothing if not over-sharers – remind us that we’re not alone too. That counts for a lot after the lockdowns and pandemic-related woes we’ve all faced, often in cursed isolation.

A group of men and women at a party in Hawaiian shirts
Still going strong at 3am (image courtesy of @downssideup)

We also know how to party. In a venue full of hen dos and Saturday night clubbers, guess who the last people standing at 3am were, bellowing out the chorus of It’s Raining Men? Yep, the parent bloggers. We don’t get many child-free nights away like this, and when we do, we know how to party like a boss. We are hardcore. (But we also appreciate a nice cup of tea the morning after. Priorities.)

And they try to tell us that we don’t belong
But that’s alright, we’re millions strong
You are my people, you are my crowd
This is our music, we love it loud

Kiss, Crazy Crazy Nights

So, yeah, when I say I come to BlogOn for the social, I really do mean it. Because all work and no play … et cetera, et cetera. Everything else – the presentations, the brands, the networking – is just a bonus. For some people, those are the most important elements, of course – and they are very good reasons for attending BlogOn. But for those of us who are like that embarrassing uncle who just doesn’t know when they’ve outstayed their welcome at a party, there’s a reason for us oldies to hang around too.

I’ve already booked my ticket for BlogOn 2022 next October. It was an easy decision, because to paraphrase the ad, you can place a value on learning, but a good night out with people who just get you is priceless.

If you’re a blogger, if you haven’t given BlogOn a go before … see you next year?

BlogOn 2022 will take place at the Coppid Beech hotel in Bracknell on 8th October 2022. You can find out more and buy your ticket here.