Before we begin, this is a long post, best read with a cup of tea and a chocolate biscuit! This will be my last post on Blogtacular, at least for a while. I intend to reflect properly in a few months time to fully understand what I got from the day and what changes I’ve made, but for now, lets focus on the event itself. I’ve already written about the wonderful people, and the inspiring photo walk, but what about the main event, the actual conference?
I woke up at 7am raring to go, doing my usual morning routine of going on Instagram straight away; it appeared that I wasn’t the only one excited! As I packed my bag, it felt a bit like the first day of school, but this would actually be fun and the people were probably a lot more welcoming.
As we walked in to the venue, some gorgeous gold balloons hanging over the doorway greeted us. Inside was a sea of colour (both decorations and outfits) and a general sense of excitement in the air. The first hour was spent generally chatting, scoffing some breakfast, and scouting out the event space.
As I sat down for the first session, Lisa Congdon’s keynote speech, the excitement was beginning to wear off, and the doubts had begun to set in. Was I really worthy of being here? Little did I know that shortly I was going to be completely reassured, empowered, and inspired. Lisa talked about a ‘vulnerability hangover’, which I realise has been featuring quite heavily in my life. But it hit me that I’m not the only one to constantly over-think what I’ve done the day before, cringe at what I’ve said, and generally be too harsh on myself.
Lisa ended with The Girl Power Manifesto (look it up, it’s good), which I have now printed out and displayed both at home and at the day job. When I’m having a bad day, or I’m being too harsh on myself, I look at the last sentence, ‘I AM ENOUGH’ and remember to be kinder to myself.
During the break, I thought I’d make the most of the creative genius bar. There was one lady who was top of my list, the lovely Allison Sadler. Allison is one of my creative heroes, the perfect mixture of inspiring whilst still being completely down to earth. I’ve spoken before about how Allison has had words of encouragement for all of us Blogtacular newbies, and in person she was no different. After being greeted with a warm hug (is there anything this lady can’t do well?), we sat down for a general natter. Even in only 5 minutes, I gained some valuable advice, which I’m already putting into practice.
For the first workshop, I’d really hoped to attend the Community session, but as often happens, I got distracted (talking) and by the time I arrived, it was already full. I’ll be catching up on the session later, but in a way, it worked out for the best, as Developing Content Ideas by Kirsty Smith was just fantastic. The session was run in a classroom-style room, would I actually have to speak to people? Luckily, my desk buddies were fab, and I had a mini fan-girl moment when the lovely Jo from Hello Sunshine spotted that we had matching pencil cases (mine containing one of her badges!).
Kirsty delivered a fantastic session, making it all seem so achievable. Encouraging us to write down all of our ideas, even if they are rubbish, seems so obvious now. Although I’m yet to hold an ideas meeting, I have bought myself a teeny notebook to keep in my handbag, to write down all of my ideas (the good AND the bad!). I’m generally quite an imaginative person, so I’m hoping this will help make sense of my many random thoughts and ideas.
Lunch was spent chatting over the most delicious food, getting a book signed by Lisa Congdon, and then chatting some more. By now, I could feel my confidence growing and I was getting into the hang of just going up and saying hello!
The first workshop of the afternoon focused on Pinterest. I LOVE Pinterest, but have never really thought of it as an extension of my blog. I used it for wedding ideas and then for décor ideas for our new home, but have never created my own content. I came out of this session keen to have a go!
The final workshop was a Writing Workshop hosted by Laura Jane Williams. Laura’s straight-to-the-point style was refreshing. I’ve often worried that I’m blogging just for the sake of it, does anyone actually read this (please wave frantically if you are), but this is not a bad thing. In the words of Laura, ‘Nobody cares’ but this means I can find my voice, and experiment. I’m still discovering my style, and that’s ok!
Laura’s workshop provided a warm, safe, creative environment. As we worked on short pieces of writing, we were invited to read them out if we wanted. After a few people had spoken, I found my hand shooting up in the air. As I spoke into the microphone, my heart was racing, but it felt good, and a large round of applause made it all sound better.
The day ended with a closing keynote speech from Enid Hwang from Pinterest. This provided another generally inspiring, uplifting session. Pinterest started small, it wasn’t always easy, but it is now a huge social media platform. I’m by no means going to reach Pinterest level with my little blog, but if I work hard, then maybe it will grow a little bigger. By the end of Enid’s speech, my confidence levels were almost normal, and I found myself asking the first question. This is quite unprecedented for me!
As Kat spoke to us for the last time, it hit me that the event had come to an end. This was momentarily put to one side as we got given our goodie bags. Goodie bags can be like the rubbish party bags you used to get given at the end of a party. The initial excitement soon fades as you open a soggy piece of cake, and a crap yo-yo that doesn’t even spin. Blogtacular Goodie Bags are about as far away from that as you can get! There are lots of other awesome posts about them, so I’m not going to go on too much, and I’ll be sharing lots of pics on my Instagram. So for now, here is a picture of our awesome swag!
Once the initial excitement of goodie bags had faded, a sense of sadness hit me, I’d been looking forward to Blogtacular for 9 months, and now it was all done. Was it worth the wait? Definitely. Was it everything I hoped it would be? Yes, and more. As I sat on the train home with Rachel, drinking prosecco, squealing with delight as we rooted through the goodie bags, I was tired, but my mind was racing with ideas and thoughts (all positive, no vulnerability hangovers here).
We didn't want to leave! (Photo: @Sewgertie)
From all the information that I gained over the two days, I’ve tried to pull together my 5 key findings/thoughts:
- It’s ok to start out small. I can experiment, find my voice, and establish what I want my blog to be.
- Networking is key. In the words of Lisa Congdon ‘The core of happiness is connection’.
- It’s not just about the pictures. This really rings true for my Instagram; I need to think about the words too!
- Don’t be scared to experiment. I’m already doing this on my Instagram feed. I’d tried to overhaul it earlier this year. Natural light, white backgrounds, new filters, and it worked. But it was starting to get a bit samey. I’ve already started to experiment more, mainly thanks to the Photo walk, and as a result, I’m getting more likes than ever before.
- I AM ENOUGH. I am, and it doesn’t matter how many likes I get, or how many followers I have. If I’m creating a blog with content that I’m proud of, that’s enough for me.
If you’ve made it this far, THANK YOU. I’m excited to see what the next chapter of Em Makes and Bakes holds!
It wouldn't be right to end this mini-series of posts without a few thank yous. First of all, a huge thank you to Kat, Kelly, and the rest of the Blogtacular team for not only running such a fantastic event, but for making us all feel so welcome. To the wonderful speakers and presenters, for giving such inspiring talks. Finally, to every single person who I spoke to over the weekend, whether it was a quick hello, or an in-depth chat, I enjoyed every second. It is because of all of you that I came away feeling so happy/excited/inspired.