Some time ago, (I really can’t remember which month it was), I read on The UK Money Bloggers Facebook group that there was to be this conference where UK bloggers came together. There seemed to be a real buzz about it. I didn’t see or hear any negative comments about the conference so I started going over in my head whether I wanted to go.
What sold it for me
Like I said, it was all positives but what really sold it to me were three things:
- I would get to meet face to face with some amazing people, some of whom I interact with almost daily on Facebook. This was the most nerve-wracking bit also, but still …
- I heard that there were workshops where you could learn about stuff that you struggled with or needed help with
- The goody bags! I’m a frugal lifestyle blogger and I love freebies. So when I saw a long discussion thread about the fact that we needed to bring a large, almost empty suitcase with us to put all our freebies in, I counted my lucky stars and put my name down
I was notified about when the tickets would become available but I was still a bit apprehensive about it. I think I sent a DM to Katy kicker (blogger extraordinaire) saying I’d really like to go but I was so nervous about it all and what if I didn’t know anyone there, and was ignored by everyone etc.
Of course, Katy assured me that the bloggers are very friendly and look out for each other, and also that there would be other ‘newbies’ like myself there.
Then one day, I saw a post that said that there were only a few tickets left at the reduced rate. I jumped onboard, got my debit card out, and booked my place. I couldn’t turn back now, could I?
I joined the blogonX attendees FB group and had a peek every so often to see what discussions were happening and what the general feeling was. It was all good.
Planning for the day
Like I said, I was really looking forward to meeting some other bloggers face to face and I started seeing some of the names pop up in the attendees FB group. It sometimes felt like I was stalking people! But I’d also tell myself that one day I’d be one of those bloggers that others want to meet too (you never know!)
Nearer to the date, I got on to Booking.com and got a great deal so I booked the hotel (Premier Inn, as the Hotel Football price was out of my budget as a newbie full-time blogger), and then I booked the train tickets from Birmingham to Manchester.
I didn’t plan any outfits etc, as this is England and you can never predict the weather. Afterall, we had snow and school closures in April.
Imagine my delight when I heard that the weather for the conference sessions would be a stunning scorcher! I imagined the conference outdoors, with barbecues going, and ice cream and slush ice stands dotted around.
The before party
When the day finally came and I travelled to the venue by train and tram (my first tram ride in the UK), it felt surreal. It’s hard to explain but it’s like I could see myself going there and wondering what on earth I was thinking!
On the thirteen minute walk from the tram to the Premier Inn, I kept looking around to see if I saw anyone else with a large suitcase and going in the same general direction. I did! And that is how I met Heather Black of Mothering, Mental health and Me. We introduced ourselves and we’re happy to have found each other.
After checking in and getting a little rest, we met up to go to the pre-conference party put on by Palladium. It was held on the rooftop and the organisers did an excellent job of setting up the space with tables of nibbles, sweets, party games and favours.
A few of us sat at my table. We were all newbies so we eyed up the others sat at other tables, seeming to have a good time.
The alcohol flowed freely, and those who couldn’t resist I indulged themselves. I had fun watching them getting tipsy. When one woman shared a little bit too much with me, I knew she was a goner, lol.
Soon, we found out that there were games stations set up at different places in the party room on the rooftop so we ventured out and participated in a few, winning some prizes along the way. It really was fun and helped me to loosen up a bit since I don’t drink alcohol.
I spotted Katy of Katykicker.com and a few other faces I recognised from some of the FB groups so I went over to say hi and to introduce myself. I was really surprised by their warm smiles, hugs, and friendly faces. The atmosphere was really relaxed and I made a point of going over to say hi if I saw someone sitting or standing alone.
I noticed something!
After a few games, food, hellos and smiles around the room, I looked around and noticed that I was the only black blogger there! Not that I am in any way racist, but it was noticeable. I jokingly went over to super organiser of the event, Laura Seaton, to announce what I found out and asked if I could get some complimentary tickets as a result. Do you think I got them?
Thankfully, I won a few games that I played with a few other ladies so I won some tickets and then I got to choose a few prizes myself. There were burgers, hotdog and popcorn on the house. The vegetarian hot dog was ok and the young ladies who served us were quiet but pleasant.
Close to 11 pm I walked back over to my room at the Premier Inn next door and, after thinking about the events of the day and night, I tucked into bed. By the way, the party was, I think, still in full swing when I left, but I was really tired, not a usual party goer, and just didn’t feel like I could do anymore. Also, I didn’t want to risk a headache from lack of sleep, so I made myself comfortable in my room at Premier Inn. Read my Premier Inn review here.
I hadn’t booked breakfast at the Premier Inn, thinking that I didn’t want to fill myself too much and miss out on the free food at The Hotel Football from the conference. Thankfully there was a good spread for breakfast after we had signed in and got our name cards and our first bag. We were early in the queue so we offered to help with signing people in or placing the last sheets into the bags. Let’s just say they didn’t need our help then when they got the opportunity.
We were then told where to put our large suitcases. At the time when I put mine, there were only a few there and I wondered whether it was too big as the others seemed smaller. Can you see mine? It’s the biggest one there and it has the classic Volkswagen vans on it. Stands out, doesn’t it?
While waiting for everyone to sign in, a few of us milled around outside by the entrance as it was indeed a glorious sunny day. I chatted to a few people about whether or not it was their first time at BlogonX, what their blog was about, how they were finding the blogging journey etc. It felt good to meet so many people who were new. I was less tense than the previous night and started thinking that next year, I wouldn’t be a newbie. (Great expectations!)
I liked the way the conference was set up for the day: a keynote presentation, workshops from which to choose, and lunch in between.
One ‘not so good point’
The one thing I didn’t really like about the way things were set up, is that the area where we were to meet with PRs and brand representatives was in full swing while the sessions were happening. In a way, I suppose it would be okay for those people who didn’t find the sessions useful to them. But it also meant that those people who were sat in the sessions were missing out on the meeting with the brands and with booking products for reviews etc.
Later on, I overheard that some people didn’t go to the workshop sessions at all but stayed in the PR den. They got the chance to collect several items for review and introduced themselves to several brand representatives. Not that I am jealous at all. I did get to speak to three of them after I had had my lunch.
Perhaps Laura and her super helpful team could arrange things some other way? Oooh, maybe a session for newbies to Blogon to meet the brand representatives first. What do you think? You could let me know in the comments below.
I enjoyed the sessions I went to. They were informative and I was impressed that the presenters took the time to prepare and share their knowledge and experience with others. There were two sessions that I think could be more in-depth in terms of the title of the sessions and what it promised.
Lunch was a beautiful spread of sandwiches, chicken skewers, fruits, salad, and the most interesting array of colourful tomatoes! It was delicious and filling! I even took a picture of my plate! There were different rooms for people according to their dietary requirements. I didn’t get to see them but I heard comments that the food was good too and that there was variety.
The organisers did a great job seeing to it that the place looked beautiful. Having roses and tulip bouquets (by The Coop) was a pleasure to see. By the way, the bouquets were free to collect at the end of the day. As it was predicted to be a very hot day weather wise, I would say that the temperature was bearable. Most people were sensibly dressed for the occasion. I didn’t see anyone in a coat, but I did see a few pairs of shorts being worn.
The views around (through the glass windows) were great. From my vantage point in some of the sessions, I could see people milling about on the streets below. There’s a canal running by the hotel and I could see people passing by on small ‘vessels’, enjoying the weather. Guess what? There was even a view of the good Old Trafford! There were a few reporters and cameramen too, as the day before, the club’s former manager was taken ill to hospital. We could also see a few children kitted out and playing football too.
There was a buzz of excited chatter and movement after the last session ended. People were eager to know if they had won anything in the raffle and tombola. You could hear the shrieks and the clapping when someone’s name or number was called. Needless to say, I didn’t win anything ( I’m not usually lucky that way). But I was quite excited to see so many people winning and collecting their prizes. It was a great note to end on.
Of course, there were the goody bags to look forward to at the end of the day, after handing back our name badges. I was very pleased with what I got, which I hear is one of the best. Most of the items, I must admit, were for children. But there was also some dark chocolate, alcohol, and a camera device which I have yet to explore.
Would I go back to Blogon? Yes, most definitely. It was well worth it. I did make some notes but I was more happy with the knowledge and experience I got from such a great atmosphere as BlogonX.