Thursday, June 20, 2024

Keep Smiling & Blog On

Not the most thrilling of posts for non-bloggers, but I couldn’t not write something about the BlogOn Conference that I went to over the weekend. Well, technically I could – I’m not contractually obliged to and I don’t have my nuts in a vice or anything, but I have chosen to write a post about it anyway because it was awesome!

This was only my 2nd ever blogging conference of all time, having lost my cherry at Blog Fest last year. I half enjoyed that one, but it was a little bit fancy and there were very very few men there. I’m not going to pretend I’m not perfectly content being surrounded by females but it was definitely nice to see 15+ dads at BlogOn over the weekend and for all of the content to be aimed at EVERYONE rather than primarily at mums.

Anyway, I’m getting ahead of myself!

I was asked by the lovely Laura from Tired Mummy Of Two (organiser of BlogOn and general superstar!) a few months ago if I could do a comedy keynote speech at Blog On, based around a post I wrote about social media and how bloody hard it is to get people to actually read your blog posts. Basically, my blogging BFF Fran, from Whinge Whinge Wine, had suggested that I would make a good job of it and that it would go down well and had twisted Laura’s arm to ask me to do it, so I said yes and didn’t think much more about it until last week!

At that stage it suddenly dawned on me that I would be speaking in front of 200 people and should really do something about making a PowerPoint to go with it and other tiny details, like booking a train and sorting a hotel for the 2nd night!

The conference had its own launch party on Saturday night sponsored by Paladone so this was the perfect chance to meet up with some bloggers I vaguely knew from Blog Fest and a few others that I had spoken to a few times online.

Blogging is very odd in that you already know a load of stuff about people’s lives before you ever actually meet them in person, so when you do finally meet you feel like you know them already! As it was with Anna from Me, Annie Bee and Erica from The Incidental Parent who I met up with following my tour of the 147 Travelodges in Manchester City Centre and turned out to be instantly lovely people who were really easy to get along with. If anyone from Travelodge is reading this, perhaps you might want to consider STICKING THE NAME OF THE BLOODY HOTEL ON THE BIG TRAVELODGE SIGN RATHER THAN JUST ON THE TINY SIGN RIGHT BY THE FRONT DOOR!!!! It was bad enough that I ended up staying in 2 different Travelodges as I hadn’t really considered the fact that Manchester Central and Manchester Central Arena were actually different hotels. Guess I can’t really blame them for that one though…

Anyway, I digress again.

Having met up with Fran, Anna and Erica we headed off in an Uber (my first ever Uber experience!) to the venue which was the ‘snazzy’ looking Hotel Football, a gnat’s piss away from Old Trafford. When I say ‘snazzy’ it looked a bit like a really trippy version of Tetris – but it was lovely inside! There was a free bar for the first couple of hours, which we made good use of and certainly helped with the process of meeting 100 or so new people!

Slightly akin to a primary school disco, I spent a decent whack of time talking to some of the other dads there, including the really rather popular Nigel from DIY Daddy, Tim from Slouching Towards Thatcham, Luke from The Woodhouse Life, John from Dad Blog UK and The Hoff, from Caversham, among others! Dads are still a bit of a rarity in parent blogging circles, so it was nice to see a few of us there doing our bit for penis-bearing-blogging-parents!

I met a load of people for the first time, as most of the people I met at Blog Fest weren’t at BlogOn – considering bloggers are meant to be socially awkward introverts, everyone I met was lovely and conversation was really easy! There were too many to name but a special mention to Alice from Life As Alice as she does a great job helping to organise Blog On, is a lifelong Reading FC supporter, is genuinely lovely and drinks about as much as I do!

Once the party was over, I went back to the hotel with John, Mike from The ShugrHeds and Kaiden from A Suffolk Dad and we inexplicably had a 2am pizza or two in the hotel bar. It seemed like a good idea at the time! A pretty much sleepless night followed, due in equal measure to fear of doing the keynote the next morning and pizza digestion, or lack thereof! A quick read through my PowerPoint presentation at 3am probably didn’t help as it all suddenly sounded shit and completely unfunny!!

Next morning I headed back to Hotel Football with Nicola from Nicola Says, Di from Super Lucky and Lynn from Mrs Mummy Penny and we did all the bag dropping / name badge acquiring bits and pieces before heading up to set up the presentations! Given I was the first speech of the day I was pretty much in panic mode by that stage, although I have developed a neat trick over the years of convincing my brain that the feelings of terror and impending doom are actually excitement and joy!

And then it was time!

As Laura did her opening logistical bits I sat on the front row like someone waiting at the dentist with the sound of drilling and screaming in the background and a pool of blood pouring out from under the door! But people laughed in the right places, the PowerPoint I had convinced myself a few hours before was absolute wank turned out to be quite funny and the 10 minutes went by quicker than a bottle of Jack Daniels in the Hopes household. It’s here is you wanted to have a read…

And if you’re really interested the original post it was based on is here:

Once it was all over a really rather pleasant feeling of relaxation came over me and 5 months of slight panic / abject terror disappeared.

Happy days.

I then disappeared to the back row and watched the first proper session of the day with the awesome photographic whizz Sara-Jayne from Keep Up With The Jones Family who told us more things about cameras than you could shake a stick at. It was genuinely fascinating, although clearly a lot of hard work to perfect!

It was then on to the talk on Monetisation with my hotel mate Lynn. Again it was really interesting and lots of things to think about in terms of diversifying, finding a niche and getting your blog out there!

The only other talk I made it to was my other hotel mate, John’s talk on Blog / Life Balance which gave a good few tips on how to not let blogging take over your life. Or at least no more than it already has!

All the rest of my day was spent chatting to new and old friends, drinking wine, eating food and chatting to the many and varied different brands who were there to wow us with their wares! And there were some awesome products on display, including a crazily realistic doll that you could potentially imagine crawling up onto your bed in the night and staring at you while you sleep, loads of brilliant games including Giggle Wiggle from John Adams, a mobile battery pack from Varta that I could really do with at the moment as my own battery lasts around 5 hours recently, mini drones, instant dry pens and some awesome Brio products that we need to get a load of for Christmas for Joshua!

Even The Grinch was there. I’ve seen a few comments which indicate that he was very popular with other bloggers. Open minded as I am, I could also appreciate the validity of other comments from people that would have happily kicked the annoying bastard squarely in his furry green bollocks. Repeatedly.

All of the brands were really lovely to talk to as well – as no one was actually selling anything there was no pressure to do anything apart from look at some cool present ideas and have a chat with some genuinely nice people – perfect!

I also finally got a photo with my You Have To Laugh partner in crime – albeit whilst wearing PJ Masks masks!

The most surreal part of the day was having lots of people come up to me to tell me how much they had enjoyed my speech and getting tagged on social media with lovely comments! Something I could definitely get used to, but am pretty sure will be a definite one off!

The day ended with a massive raffle for the 200+ toys that had been part of the toy awards (I won absolutely nothing!) and two awesome goody bags which were full of samples, toys, candles and all sorts. Such a nice thing to get at the end of a brilliant day. And I Joshua now owns my his first fidget spinner!!

Special mention to all of the people involved in organising such an excellent event and for inviting me along in the first place. Also a big thanks to all the people that have said nice things about my presentation – it really was unexpected and actually feels pretty nice! Sometimes writing stuff and sending it out into the world can feel a bit lonely, but events like these really help to make you feel part of the blogging community and remind you that there are actual real-life people out there. And they’re not all axe-wielding weirdos. Or at least they hide it well if they are.

Also a final shout out to Laura from Autumn’s Mummy for definitely the best hat on display at BlogOn, to Claire from Clean Supper Club for being very easy to talk to (for a foodie blogger) and to Sammi-Jo from Mother Freckle for perfectly demonstrating part of my presentation…

Can’t wait for the next one! And by the time I go back through this post to tag everyone it will pretty much be time for the next one anyway…

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