For a start, the cups of tea are always tiny. You have to drink at least three to equal a normal mug size.
But it’s not the tiny teas that are the worst thing. Not by a long shot. It’s all the bloody networking. It reminds me of the very first work party I ever attended in my first job after uni.
I was working for a newspaper and the work party happened to be taking place a fortnight after I had started. Nervous enough already (of being in an office; of being expected to know how to do things like filing and replying to emails and generally behaving like an adult), the thought of having to stand and sip champagne and make small talk with all these deeply intelligent journalists, whose photo bylines I had been looking at for years, was absolutely terrifying.
I arrived at the party, and stood at the back, clutching a glass of champagne and talking to the next most junior person in the office.
He filled me in on some gossip, we had a bit of a laugh and I started to unwind. And then after ten minutes he cheerfully declared, “Well, there’s no point standing here and talking to you, is there? I must go and network now and see what prospects I can get lined up.”
I swear, it honestly took me a good minute to realise he wasn’t joking.
But Blogtacular, the blogging conference I went to yesterday (of my own volition!) isn’t anything like that, of course.
Yes, there are the faces you recognise from the About pages, the bloggers you’ve followed for years and deeply admire, the same sense of trepidation on entering the room with everybody else chatting and laughing.
But Blogtacular is billed as a place of creativity where people can come together. And this year, 2015, the overriding theme was collaboration.
It was a packed day, almost overwhelmingly so, and there is really far too much to try and squeeze into one blog post. Plus, I know there are likely to be hundreds of posts popping up over the next few weeks with all sorts of information about the event.
So, rather than a full account of what I did, here is just a gathering of some of the things I found most inspiring.
- In a completely fabulous talk about food styling and photography, Marte Marie Forsberg shared this poem, which I found so unbelievably beautiful as it popped up on the projector that I had to subtly brush away a tear. (Luckily, I was sitting in the front row, so I don’t think anyone noticed me blubbing…)
Tea for Two (A Tragedy)
For Richard Brautigan, who couldn’t be with us
It wasn’t until after
I poured the second cup
that I realized
I was alone.
Post-event Googling, I’ve discovered it is by Pamela August Russell. Beautiful, taut and haunting.
- Grace Bonney’s opening talk about harnessing fear of change was filled with fabulous soundbites. Perhaps my favourite was her belief that a blog “isn’t just about more, more, more…” We shouldn’t be on a constant mission to increase the numbers; more readers, more likes, more shares. But instead, we should be searching for “an engaged reader” – someone who gets us, is interested in what we have to say, and wants to come back time and again.
- I went to a second talk by Marte Marie Forsberg on creativity and inspiration. She told us that in her house when she was growing up there was a craft room, referred to by the family as The Blue Room, that was filled with everything you could need to be creative in any imaginable discipline. Every Monday evening, parents and children sat down together for a few hours of making. I was practically texting my husband to demand an extension to our house asap, so we can do the same.
- And a final thought from Marte Marie: “Creativity is just about problem solving.”
- Cate Sevilla from Buzzfeed took part in a panel discussion about growing your audience. She was fabulous and direct and had a brilliant point of view on just about everything that was discussed. Including: “You can’t grow an audience by doing the same thing over and over again.”
- The closing keynote presentation was by Anthony Peters, who showed a trailer for his film, “Made you look”. It contained the most excellent quote:
“Twitter’s a bit like shouting into a cupboard, or talking into a cupboard… No-one hears you. No-one cares.”
Ha! My sentiment, exactly.
- As well as the talks, I met lots of really lovely bloggers, some of whom I felt I already knew well having read their blog for ages, some of whom were new discoveries. But, I’m restricting myself to telling you about just one awesome person I met: Sarah from A Life Less Physical. I got chatting to Sarah at the very start of the day and she was witty, dry and refreshingly honest. After having a good read of her blog this morning, I can say she writes in the same way. Do check it out.
So, across the day, a huge great wallop in the face of inspiration, ideas and things to mull over for where I want this blog to go and what I can do to take it there. (Regular readers will know I’m already prone to somewhat constant blog navel gazing, so I’m hoping I don’t fall into a rabbit hole for too long and remember, instead, the main thing: just keep writing.)
And the best thing of all: every single person I spoke to seemed genuine and interested. And not a single one told me they needed to end a gossipy conversation in order to go and network with someone more important.
Grace Bonney’s Design*Sponge