I officially joined the “BlogOn Team” quite a while ago, and have been gradually getting more involved with helping out both at the conferences themselves, with prep beforehand, and with the website.
I do most of the graphics and other nerdy things for the conference, so spent the week leading up to the conference designing all the signs, and that sort of thing.
This year, Laura had a stroke of genius that was the Toy Awards, and so I have been a busy bee since then creating the application process, sorting out the data side of the entries, as well as creating the voting process. The voting went smoothly on the day and over three quarters of the attendees voted, which was brilliant! People could visit the website I set up on their phones and vote in each category as they walked around the room looking at the toys. I have to admit I breathed a huge sigh of relief when I logged in halfway through the day and saw that it was all working ok.
My long suffering husband James, bless him, has been driving me up to BlogOn since I started going a few years ago. We used to bring the kids when they were tiny, but now they are old enough to stay with Granny he has just been getting increasingly roped in to help more each time instead! I’m terrible and volunteer him for all sorts of heaving things about and raffle ticket selling – which I then tell him about afterwards. I think he quite enjoys it though; he gets a break from the kids with me for a weekend, and he likes to be around to support me when I am speaking so I don’t freak out and hide in the hotel room instead! We went up Saturday morning this time around and spent the day helping with organising the toy awards floor, which he then looked after all day Sunday, while selling thousands of raffle tickets. He definitely earned his goody bag!
BlogOn is easily my favourite blogger conference, and I’m pretty sure it is the only one I’d feel comfortable enough to speak at. It is just such a friendly atmosphere. I’ve now spoken at the last three BlogOns with mixed experiences & feedback. Happily, my media pack talk at last weekend’s BlogOn seemed to go well, and I had people thanking me during the day which is always nice! A few attendees have put what they learned into action already, too. After the technical difficulties of May which threw me off it’s good to know that, despite a croaky throat and my head being all over the place a bit, people still found my talk good this time around. I’ll be sure to get my notes written up soon and share the worksheets too.
For me, Sunday was a very busy day! We got there early to help finish set up, doing the last few bits on the toy awards floor and making sure the cables and things were ready for my talk. As soon as bloggers started to arrive I was busy telling them where they could chill out to wait for breakfast, explaining how the toy awards worked if they wanted to vote before the welcome talk, and then trying to usher as many as I could downstairs once the brand area opened – it was starting to get really warm on that floor and there was more breakfast downstairs. I managed to deliver a bacon butty to James, who was busy being mobbed by bloggers buying raffle tickets, by shamelessly skipping the queue declaring that I needed to feed my man.
The welcome speech was quite nice, partly because I got to sit down for a bit! The comedy keynote was flipping hilarious and the perfect way to loosen everyone up and get the crowd of bloggers laughing. As soon as that was over it was time for my talk, which I hadn’t prepared for much and was crossing my fingers would go well. Thankfully I had printed a handful of extra worksheets on a whim the day before, as I had more people than expected come to listen to me waffle on about media packs. As I already said, it wasn’t a disaster.
Once my time was up I headed to watch the Instagram talk by Harriet, which I found quite useful. I don’t know how much I will put into practise as I’m never going to have a beautifully curated feed, but it was interesting. She did brilliantly in the face of technical problems too – I know how much they can throw you off but she managed to laugh about it. I’d quite like to see her slides with all the text on though!
The rest of the day is a slight blur, I relieved James for a bit to sell raffle tickets while I ate some lunch & drank some wine (thank you very much to the lovely blogger who fetched me a glass!), and then went downstairs for a mooch in the brand area once things quieted down again. It’s really nice to see PRs and brands that I work with frequently and be able to say hi. It was soon time for cake so I headed back upstairs for a break before the toy awards closed and it was go go go time.
We had from 4:00pm to 4:45pm to find out who came first, second and third in all ten categories, shift the toys around, rearrange the room, photograph all the winners, prepare for the raffle, and pick a random voter to win the Bloggers Choice Award toy. It was all hands on deck. I was sat at James’s laptop working out the winners as speedily as I could, shouting out the winners of each category so they could be picked out and photographed, and filling in the blanks on some pre-prepared pages in my notebook so that Laura could announce the winners.
The raffle was just as chaotic as normal, despite Laura’s best efforts. People just don’t seem to have the ability to spread out in the room and let people have space to breathe! I suppose the tables full of toys waiting to be won was quite an incentive to get up near the front, though. We had fifty tickets and won five prizes; Cozmo, Beasts of Balance, Pass the Pigs, Shrinkles, and a box of Mario Kart backpack buddies – which are going to make excellent bribes for the girls. Goody bags came after the raffle, and we went home with our suitcase and arms full of some great stuff!
Overall it was a really good day, if very tiring for us both! I was completely exhausted on Monday and still pretty shattered on Tuesday, too. My heroic husband did the morning school run for me most days this week before he went to work.
I really enjoyed the new venue, and even though there were a few teething problems – only to be expected for our first time there – I’m already looking forward to going back in May to Hotel Football for the next one! I’m going to take a break from speaking, though… we’ve been playing with the idea of offering some one-on-one WordPress support sessions throughout the day since early this year, but the MSI venue never had to space to make it feasible, so it looks like we will try that out next year instead.
If I saw you over the weekend and didn’t get a chance to say hello properly or manage more than a quick wave or hug, I’m sorry! Partly I was just busy with stuff for a lot of the day, and partly I was conscious of my inability to answer the inevitable “hows things?” without pulling an awful face and possibly leak at the eyes a bit. Huge thanks to everyone who knew about my sad news and gave me hugs over the weekend – it really did help loads – and so did the chocolate the lovely Sarah brought me! After all, chocolate always helps.
If you are a fellow blogger and like the sound of a relaxed, friendly, conference full of stuff to learn, amazing goodies and great brand interaction then make sure you keep an eye out for the May conference – tickets always sell out fast. Maybe I’ll be seeing you in May!
Here’s a little video I’ve done talking about our favourite bits & pieces of what we came home with, enjoy…