Blogtacular 2017: My Creative Tribe
At the beginning of June I took the train to London for my first ever Blogtacular. For those of you less familiar, Blogtacular is an annual conference full of workshops and inspiration for bloggers and indie business owners. It's the talked about conference and one I've been wanting to attend for years.
Having recently moved counties to begin a new, happier chapter in my life, I've had more of an urge to meet new people who are on the same wave length as me, be with positive and friendly people and well, find my creative tribe. With that all-encompassing thought, I knew this was the year to finally go and find out what Blogtacular was all about. And my aim? I wanted to go and learn, be inspired, meet my friends and quite simply, hang out with a creative tribe; a good enough reason as any.
Heading over on the Friday, I checked into my hotel, quickly changed, then dashed over to Shoreditch in time for the Photowalk hosted by Nikki McWilliams. Only knowing a few people who were due to be at the walk, I was a little nervous to say the least, worrying that I would be stood like a big lemon and have no one to talk to. I don't know why I even worried for as soon as I turned up Kat waved at me (was it my bright yellow dress and pink tights that gave me away as one of the Photowalk attendees Kat? Ha-ha!) as I headed over to join the group where I instantly started chatting to so many lovely, wonderful people, feeling completely at home and not in the slightest bit nervous.
As soon as we were gathered we set off, spending two glorious hours taking photos of the most colourful things we could find including incredible street art, colourful doors and anything that caught our eye (more pics here). I really enjoyed the walk because we simply took our time and enjoyed taking photos, recording funny Boomerang videos and chatting as we walked. It didn't feel rushed and was a real geek out over taking pretty pictures. It was also a fantastic ice breaker.
Before I knew it, I was back at my hotel getting ready to meet one of my longest online friends and head off together to the next Blogtacular event, the West Elm party. This particular friend I had never met in person before but we've been emailing and chatting about blogs, business and life for a good 5+ years, so I was very excited to finally meet Sophie from Onetenzeroseven. And my word, it was amazing! I know we've been online friends for so long but it seriously felt like I'd known Sophie my entire life.
Chatting ten-to-the-dozen, we headed off to the Blogtacular party, hosted by West Elm where we ate slider burgers, drank unicorn smooties (yes, that is a thing!) before being put into groups to have discussions on set topics. At 9pm, it was time for West Elm to shut up shop, quite literally, so that we could all head off and get some sleep before the main event on the Saturday.
Heading back to my hotel I proceeded to spend the entire night not sleeping a wink. The hotel itself was wonderful - clean, tidy, quiet and comfortable - but being in a strange place on my own resulted in my brain staying alert and so I got very little sleep. Still I got myself up, full of tea and off to the conference.
Unsure quite what to expect from the main part of Blogtacular I was more than pleasantly surprised by the venue, which was spacious, light and well laid out. There was a small market place full of gorgeous goodies to buy, a colour themed balloon extravaganza of a photo booth, a genius bar full of experts to put your questions to and an entire area full of food and drinks, with plenty of places to sit. There was a great vibe on entering as everyone was greeted with a very friendly welcome, given a free conference programme and presented with a mountain of food and drinks to choose from, so I was one happy bunny.
With an hour dedicated to eating, filling my sleepy bones with caffeine and meeting more long time internet friends, including the super inspiring Claire of Claireabellemakes, this was another great ice breaker and chunk of time to mingle, check the programme and eat even more food!
Blogtacular Goodie Bag Contents
The programme was cleverly designed giving you a choice of workshops to attend with tea, coffee and food breaks between each one, so no rushing from one workshop to another and a lovely long lunch break to allow you time for more mingling, a rest to take it all in and time to browse the market place.
After hoovering up breakfast, the day truly began with a keynote presentation by the incredible Natalie Lue, an author, blogger and podcaster. Natalie definitely set the tone for the day with her over-riding point about listening to yourself, not being afraid and going for it and being true to yourself.
Feeling set up and motivated I chose to attend Kayte Ferris's 'Foundations of marketing' workshop, which was fantastic! Not only did I make copious notes, learn so much about marketing but Kayte's presentation style was incredible. She's engaging, inspiring, approachable and really knows her stuff. Something that also stood out for me was the fact that Kayte stayed for the entire conference, chatting and mingling with everyone, being on hand to answer any questions and being so approachable and friendly.
After lunch I was completely torn about which workshop to attend, I could easily have gone to all three but opted for Cath Dean's 'Finding your niche'. Being the editor of Mollie Makes, Cath knows her stuff and she really got us thinking about how to discover what your niche is. I've since used the exercises she taught us and feel like I have gained a better understanding where I fit as a blog and business.
For the last workshop I didn't even have to make a decision, it had to be the 'Creative business masterclass' run by biscuit queen Nikki McWilliams, Kim Lawler of Finest Imaginary and Rachel Basinger of ONR Shop. Their group presentation was brilliantly done, giving not only a whole load of incredible tips on approaching, balancing and building your business but crucially, the inspiration to do it. I came away feeling I can and should carry on with Adventures & Tea Parties.
The day ended with a keynote presentation by Emma Gannon, which rounded the theme of the day off nicely - being true to yourself, playing to your strengths and working with people, not against them.
I learnt so much from Blogtacular that it took a while for it all to truly sink in, which is why I decided to hold off writing this blog post until I'd given it further thought and reflection.
If I have the chance to go again next year, then there's one over-riding thing that I would change and that's to have longer conversations when mingling, rather than those 5 minute introductory style chats you have at conferences. Having lengthier, more meaningful conversations at conferences is a tough one because everyone is wanting to do the same and time is limited but I would definitely push myself to not just find out a name and what the person does but actually go grab a cup of tea and spend more valuable time chatting with new and familiar faces.
That aside, the positives I got out of it were not only the wealth of knowledge from the workshops and being with a creative tribe who get what I do but gaining confidence by going on my own, even staying in a hotel on my own for the first time ever and just being myself; I think that's the biggest achievement of all. I feel like I can do more things on my own now and that feels good.