I’ve been going to blogging conferences for a few years now (I think this is my 5th year), but this year was the first year going to Blog on Xmas in Manchester. Blog on conferences are many bloggers’ highlights of the year so although I tend to be a bit meh about brands at events now, and often don’t get excited about the sessions, I didn’t want to miss out seeing why everyone gets so excited about Laura’s events! FOMO has a lot to answer for. But it was worth it.
With Blog On changing venue to Hotel Football next to Old Trafford, and the launch party in the same place, my room buddy Kate from Darktea and I decided we would stay at Hotel Football. We managed to get a good deal directly with the hotel, which ended up better value than the event room deal. I love a bargain, and with another hotel to pay for another blogging conference the week after, cheaper is good.
While the hotel is nicely decorated and doesn’t look like another Travelodge or Premier Inn, football isn’t totally rammed down your throat. It’s bearable, and if you’re a fan, then it’s the perfect hotel – overlooking the football stadium. Our room was quite subtle, and we were impressed that there was no charge for the fun items in the mini fridge. Water, and then retro sweets, crisps (pickled onion space raiders – I used to love those when I was at secondary school) and Vimto.
The beds were comfy, the air con was a nice touch (especially as you couldn’t open the windows), the huge shower was amazing, and it was generally quite quiet. At the moment the roads nearby are being worked on so there wasn’t much traffic, but we didn’t hear much outside the room in the hotel or outside the window. There’s a small car park which we managed to have a choice of spaces at 3pm check in, but leave it til the evening and you’ll have to find somewhere else to park.
We went all out and had breakfast in the hotel as well. The only annoying (but unsurprising given the hotel name) thing was all the tvs with football on. Again the staff were lovely and attentive without being too much. The continental breakfast was buffet style, with you able to order hot food. I had a very delicious eggs benedict, and Kate chose smoked salmon and scrambled egg and said the egg was perfect. A good way to start the day.
Staying at the venue on the Saturday night meant we could head out to the Paladone launch party. I’m not a natural party goer (rubbish at small talk until I get going), but it was nice to try and bump into people I knew would be going to Blog on Xmas. I know there must have been more there I should have recognised, but several of us spent a bit of time trying to work out who the people we recognised actually were. Damn not having name badges until the Sunday.
We did have a bit of a laugh playing (non-) beer pong. Highly addictive, and after a good start, my aim into the cups was severely lacking, getting pipped at the last. I’m going to have to practice at home – I can see N quite liking it.
I think I took 1 photo all night. The party certainly got me in the chatty mood ready for the conference itself.
Blog on Xmas
I wasn’t too sure about conferences on Sundays. Dodgy train replacements means that the car for me was the only option just in case, plus the train wouldn’t have left early enough in the morning. But then you get stuck in mad Sunday commuting traffic. Although it worked out well having the Saturday night rather than a Friday after work nightmare with traffic. It worked pretty well.
I enjoyed all of the sessions I went to.
James’ funny keynote had me in hysterics (so true everything!) about the realities of blogging and social media.
Sara-Jayne’s photography session was interesting. I know and shoot on manual most of the time anyway (although less so when photographing N because of the blur and needing to be ready), but I was amazed at how much she does in the editing stage. I try and get everything in mine as I want it beforehand, then just do a little editing afterwards, but Sara-Jayne’s signature look is mostly editing. I know I should do RAW, but I’m happy at the moment doing the upfront work rather than having to spend the time afterwards.
Key take out – get down in the mud, and underexpose if you’re post editing RAW.
Harriet spoke well about Instagram despite the mac doing funny things to her powerpoint slides. I’ve realised that much as I can’t be bothered with IG stories (especially not watching them), they really are needed, although I’m not sure I’ll be doing 5-30 a day. Maybe I’ll try 2 and see how it goes.
Key take out – IG stories are pretty much essential. Do what you want to do and sod what others think about it. Brands are starting to ask for impressions and reach, so a business account is the only way you can get to this.
I’m not really a flat lay person but I can’t resist hearing Mel and Lucy speak, plus the creative sessions were up in the Heaven area, overlooking the football stadium so it was nice to check it out. Plus I got to meet lots of my IG friends up there. Hey, we’re all obsessed with photography, so there was a great crowd of us there to meet up.
Mel’s session was pretty interactive getting us thinking about options for festive photos and what was important. Then it was flatlay time, which surprisingly I zoomed straight in on a little rocking horse, and went for a slightly Scandinavian traditional theme. Highlight time was Mel loving it and taking just as many photos of it as I did!
Key take out – don’t always take photos because you have to, but because you want to make those memories. If you hate being in photos, take photos of details and part of you (hands, partial face etc) or just be silly and dress up to get the real you.
Lucy’s always so passionate about photography and her session reminded us that anti-niche can be good. If you want to enjoy photography and what you do on your blog, then do what you want to do. Lucy set us a challenge to do a flatlay which portrayed our blogs. I opted for duck egg blues with a theme of outdoors – this was harder because there was so much choice, and while I knew the colours, having a mishmash of everything on the blog does make theming hard.
Key take out – a niche isn’t always best for everyone. Do what you want to do with your photography and IG. Build up a prop collection of useful things.
Blog on deliver when it comes to food. I didn’t have breakfast (sausage sandwiches) having only just had some at the hotel, but lunch was delicious and on a Christmas theme. You can’t beat turkey sliders, pigs in blankets and halloumi and pepper skewers which were delicious and made me feel ready for Christmas. We ate downstairs in the brand room which gave a bit of a chance afterwards to wander round.
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I left it til one of the later sessions to miss one and go and visit the brands. I’d hoped it would be quieter, but I found things were still busy at most of the stands I wanted to visit and several stands didn’t have people to talk to. I also missed out a chunk because they just weren’t for me.
It was lovely to meet the Three guys, as I’ve worked with them before and am in their blogger group. And I had a quick talk with Ane representing some of the toys brands I’ve recently reviewed like Spinbladez and Pass the Pigs. I hadn’t realised that Young Drivers were going to be there – I’d only tweeted them the other day because they’re on my to do list to book for Christmas presents for N and his cousin. I struggled to find any dates available, so hopefully they’ll be able to sort that out for me.
Everyone got excited about the new Platignum pens. Because who doesn’t love stationery? And I was a little bit in love with Univerity Games’ Staccups. I’m thinking that needs to be a Christmas present (or even birthday present option). I can see that going down well at our news years day get togethers.
Ravensburger had some great new puzzles and I was lucky enough to be allowed to take one before the end. N is going to love the Minions 3D converse boot puzzle for Christmas. And I won a prize in the mammoth raffle and chose a huge Christmas 2 in 1 puzzle. So we’re certainly going to have some family time over the weeks getting stuck in.
I hate formal networking with a passion. But that’s what’s great about blog conferences. You get to meet people who you’ve been talking to online for ages, who you feel you know through reading their blogs, and seeing friends time and time again. There’s always much to talk about even though there’s never enough time. And you always see people on social media afterwards talking about being there, and you totally missed seeing them on the day!
Of course I didn’t take any photos of people – I rarely do (am I the only one who forgets to do group photos or selfies with people at events!?), but it was lovely to meet Steve from A Cornish Mum, Bridget from Bridie by the Sea, Laura from Five Little Doves and Clare from Mudpie Fridays amongst others.
If you’re debating going to Blog On in future, I’d definitely say bite the bullet and book your tickets. It’s good value, people do travel from all over the country even though it’s up north, and it’s smaller than other conferences so easier to find people you want to speak to.
My tips for getting the most out of it (and not what I necessarily did):
1, Book tickets. If you don’t get them, get on the waiting list, because people book early to get a ticket, then drop out, so lots on the waiting list get them
2, Join the Blog on attendee group on Facebook for early chat and planning
3, Stalk people – ie, do read the blogs, facebook pages and follow the twitter lists of those who’re attending so you can plan who you might want to speak to
4, Speak to people – start with people on their own (I apologise to Jenny from the bear and the fox for being a random talker to her at the bar on Saturday night then looking blank – because I couldn’t then hear anything).
5, Don’t feel obliged to do everything – try and get to the brands during earlier sessions when they’ll be quieter
6, Buy raffle tickets – the prizes are usually numerous, and the money goes to the blogging community fund which is a great cause and helps out those who’re going through hard time
7, Share your session notes with others – although several of the session speakers do put their notes up sometime afterwards.
Thanks to Laura and Blog On for a great conference. I might do it again next year.
Did you go or fancy going? How did you find it?