At the beginning of May, I went to my first blogging conference. This was Blog On MOSI, and I wrote my introduction to it here.
The day itself was great. There wasn’t a train which would get me to MOSI in time on a Sunday, so Tim dropped me in to the city centre. Next to Starbucks. I had half an hour to kill before the conference opened, so I had a solitary coffee and played around with Tim’s fancy camera, a Sony hybrid. It had been one of my aims to learn to use it, and I hadn’t actually sat down and got to grips with it. Well, I learned to focus it that morning, so there’s a start.
The conference was held at Manchester’s Museum of Science and Industry, which was a great venue. On registering, we were given a coloured lanyard to wear, which sorted us into one of 3 groups. I was in blue group. Your colour simply dictated the order of the sessions you attended.
There were three sessions, each lasting an hour: social media, writing and photography. Each one was hosted by a group of experts in that field, each with their own particular specialism. In between the sessions there was time for mingling, meeting other bloggers and meeting ‘The Brands.’
When I first saw the programme, I was a bit apprehensive. A whole hour for morning break? And again at lunch? And another in the afternoon? That was a lot of time for mingling. I’m ok at small talk, but that’s a lot of small talk to make. I didn’t know any other bloggers, in real life or virtually, and that was a lot of time to kill if no-one wanted to talk to me.
As I’ve mentioned before, I’d never been to anything like this before, and the interactions with other bloggers were fascinating. “What’s your name? What do you blog about?” were standard opening questions. Then, “What’s your twitter?” Before I knew it, everyone had their phones out and were following me. Lots of people did seem to know each other, and many were talking about Brit Mums, another blogging conference, but there were definitely a few newbies. It was also kind of reassuring to see that people were tweeting about the same things that I was!
Then there were the brands. Sweets, children’s clothes, food, events and activities were all represented. All were keen to work with bloggers. Many of the bloggers there do sponsored posts, which they may get paid for or receive certain products. I was curious to find out more. We had been offered the chance to get business cards before arriving, but I didn’t take up the offer. More than once throughout the day, I wished I had.
I’ve never worked with brands. Since signing up for Blog On MOSI, I’ve had some opportunities. If you look for them, they are there. And at the time of the conference, I wasn’t really sure about working with brands. I thought I was open to it. But actually, I think it might be a bit like selling my soul. Blogging, for me, is a really nice hobby. I do all those cliched things, like ‘finding my voice’ and ‘think things through as I write about them.’ I love reading other blogs. I love that I choose what I put on the blog. I didn’t want to lose any of that. Also, with the prospect of moving away from our friends in the very near future, I think the blog might be another way of keeping in touch with people. I don’t want brands or products to get in the way of that.
So. That was the brands and the breaks. But what we were really there for was the workshops. Three workshops, on writing, photography and social media.
Social media is a strange one. I love facebook, but it doesn’t really generate any traffic or help me to promote the blog. I do have a blog facebook page, and you can ‘Like’ it here. The facebook discussion was an interesting one, but the main point seemed to be that facebook isn’t great for promoting your blog. Hmm.
I also love Pinterest. I could happily spend hours on Pinterest. Rebecca from Here Come the Girls held the discussion on Pinterest, and she uses it proactively to promote her blog. I’ve been following her, and she is really systematic. I think it helps if you have a real niche – hers is Children’s Activities. Perhaps I’m just a bit too vague and drifting for that.
I also spent some time listening to a discussion on Google+. I have to admit, it’s something I haven’t come across, and haven’t done anything about. One for the to-do list, perhaps.
The writing session was really good: three experienced bloggers from the following blogs held a discussion. Penny from A Residence, Helen from Actually Mummy and Jane from Northern Mum. They took questions, and had some really interesting and perceptive points. It was good to be reminded that we can let our blogs evolve – they don’t have to emerge onto the Internet fully formed. It was helpful to think about my own voice – not getting sucked in with other peoples’ style. I also absolutely loved what Penny said about her English teacher influencing her, and I’ve bookmarked her post about writing creative copy. The session reminded me of one of my original aims of the blog, which was to improve my own writing. Completely selfish, but true nevertheless.
My last session of the day was the highlight. Photography is definitely not one of my strengths, but I was inspired (as were many other people) by Lucy from Capture by Lucy. She had an incredible set-up, and spoke about props and styling. And she had a lot of props! She must have taken over three tables with trays, tins, flowers, books, papers, fabrics and so on. She had also set up a fabulous display with all kinds of bits and pieces on it. It’s probably easiest to link to her post about the day rather than try to do it justice myself, but here are a few photos I took during her session.
Lucy also did a good tutorial on styling food that doesn’t look too appetising. This was originally a microwave meal stew.
I still have a long way to go before I take decent photos. I have to really think about it, and I don’t have a natural instinct for it at all. However, I believe it is a great skill to have, and worth working on.
I do have the occasional crisis of confidence when it comes to the blog. You do put yourself out there, to coin a cliche. I’m not sure that I’m really creating the kinds of blog I admire. Yet at the same time, I’m aware that life is running on all cylinders, and there’s rarely time to fit everything it. When I go back to work full time in September, my time will be even more limited.
But I want to keep blogging. Mostly because I enjoy it. It’s a great resource for us, particularly with recipes and reminders of things. But also, I hope it’ll become a way of us keeping in touch with many of the people we see more regularly when we move. One day, yes, I might have time to really focus it onto something specific. But I’m not there yet.
The blog is still evolving. That’s ok.