Au revoir, BlogOn

All good things must come to an end. BlogOn closed the doors on its last ever bloggers’ conference last week. And while it was a bittersweet experience, we went out with a bang. I left with friends and memories that will endure long after the final slide was presented.

Ten years and nearly 20 events is a pretty good run, really. I’ve attended each of the last 13 – possibly 14 – and BlogOn has always been my favourite blogging conference. Others were bigger and glitzier, but BlogOn was always more down-to-earth and more fun. And it offered speakers from the blogging community who were more interested in genuinely sharing their skills than trying to sell you something thinly disguised as an educational session. I’ve learned about topics as diverse as SEO, mobile photography and handling trolls. And I’ve even run four sessions myself.

It’s all about the people

For all that I’ve learned, though, it’s the less tangible benefits that stick with me the most. I’ve met an incredible diversity of people who have opened my eyes to a wider world. Parents of children with Down syndrome, autism and other special educational needs. Single parents and mums with five, six, even seven children. LGBTQ bloggers. Through BlogOn, I’ve become – and remain – good friends with two Sunday Times Bestseller authors, bringing my total of such relationships to, well, two.

What else has BlogOn done for me? I’ve become more comfortable presenting in front of large rooms. On more occasions than I’d care to mention – okay, two – I’ve sung solo and a cappella in front of an audience without a karaoke machine or microphone to hide behind. I’ve been turfed out of a nightclub at 3am after our group outlasted all the hen nights and regular clubbers. (One thing you soon learn about parent bloggers: on a child-free night, we are a force to reckon with.) I’ve made friendships that are just as close as some of my ‘real world’ friends. In some cases even closer because we’re constantly following each other’s lives via our blogs and chatting on social media.

At a time in life when you generally lose more friends than you gain, I’ve developed a whole new friendship group. More than that, even: I’ve found my tribe. Some have become close friends. Others I may only interact with occasionally, but we’re connected well enough that we can happily chat and catch up. As an introvert who doesn’t make friends easily, it’s an unusually comfortable feeling to slide so easily into a community where everyone has something so obviously in common.

Au revoir, not adieu

The final BlogOn conference was in many ways no different from the others, although tinged with sadness knowing that this would be the last time we would all be together for this kind of event. I spent time (never quite enough) with old friends, made new ones and rued the absence of others who couldn’t make it. We drank beer and ate cake (a BlogOn tradition). I refused to dance at the club. (No, SJ, twitching my leg in time to the music while belting out Summer of 69 is not dancing.)

It was, in summary, a good weekend. The end of an era, yes, but not the end. Not by a long chalk. A “see you soon” rather than a “farewell”.

I first started blogging 15 years ago. BlogOn has been part of my life for the past seven. But my blogging friendships will continue on, even after I’ve hung up my keyboard. BlogOn’s legacy (and that of its founder, Laura) is the network it has created. It has had a discernible impact on my life and blogging career. I’d like to think that, in return, I’ve had a positive impact on others too.

Which reminds me, I’ve got a social to organise …