It’s a week since I left the Gold Coast where I attended my first ProBlogger Training Event and my head is still spinning with ideas, information and inspiration. I haven’t unpacked yet because poor me, I had to hang around in Sydney to see Bob Dylan at the Opera House last night.
So finally, before it all fades, here’s a round-up of the most important things I’ve learnt from preparing to meet and then being exposed to the energy and ideas of 550 amazing bloggers.
3 things I’ve learned that I already knew
1. Every time I try to be really organised about my travel preparations, there is an exponentially increased chance for things to go totally wrong. As a seasoned traveller, I am usually quite relaxed in the lead up to a trip, but in the weeks before my first blogging conference I got swept up in the Facebook buzz of handy blog posts by fellow attendees on what to wear, when to schedule the professional blow wave and, who would have thought, how to make it last an entire weekend.
- I did a practice pack three days out, but didn’t bother to try on my trusted set of conference shoes. When I finally did, the day before the conference, their soles dissolved like slices of apple crumble and I was faced with an impossible dilemma. Living remotely, I made the best of my reduced options, packed a pair of silver thongs and got a professional pedicure instead of new shoes. I promptly destroyed my professionally painted nails, trying to squeeze my toes into a pair of Target ballerinas, in a last minute effort to get it right.
- I had my favourite necklace mended, only to watch a rainbow of beads disappear under the security belt at the airport check-in.
- I told my hairdresser to treat me like a bride on her wedding day and give me his best ever haircut. It ended in tears. Had it been my wedding day, it would have ended in a lawsuit.
- I ordered my free business cards from Moo three weeks out and didn’t give up hope that they would arrive in time until the night before my departure, when I faced up to the fact that waiting for the morning mail would mean missing my flight. So I sat down at midnight, made my own and got away with it!
2. Which leads me to lesson two. I learnt once again that when things start to go wrong it’s best to stay calm, take a deep breath and trust that things will sort themselves out somehow. They always do. And so they did. I fully expected to attend the event hiding my paint-smeared toes in hiking boots, when my shoe fiasco took an unexpected turn as I watched my stylish neighbour take a pair of golden flat sandals to the bin. I gave them a good clean, touched up my nails with a permanent marker and my feet, yes, my feet donning hand-me-down sandals one size too small, ended up being featured in a quirky post of 16 bloggers and their stylish feet! I am not kidding, you can check it out here. Thanks Amber Melody!
3. I always sort of knew that the universe has a way hammering home important life lessons in the most surprising ways, just so you finally get it. I was still smiling at how my packing perfectionism had paned out, when Darren Rowse, the founder of ProBlogger and the man behind the conference, spelt it out for all to see in his opening address: “Take imperfect action” he said, quoting Jadah Sellner. Just start, dare to make mistakes, it’s the only way to move forward and create a blog that will have the readership it deserves. Everything else, I know, is a form of procrastination.
4 Things I’ve always suspected to be true:
1. I’d always suspected that I actually like fancy hotels, despite my penny-pinching budget travel strategies. Let’s be honest, staying in the stylish QT hotel was something I could get used to. Being invited to a gathering of travel bloggers in the penthouse of Mantra Sun City courtesy of the formidable Annabel Candy who writes Get in the Hot Spot and Seanna Smith was a real treat and inspired me to work harder so that I too may start to reach for those five star perks.
2. I always suspected that nobody could possibly be active on all social media platforms, it’s just humanly impossible. At the conference I learned over and over again from seasoned bloggers that I need to work out where my audience hangs out and focus on only two types of social media. Given that I love taking photos, I’ll have to get savvy on Pinterest or Instagram and possibly Facebook. Travellers, watch those spaces!
3. I always suspected that if I wanted to become a serious blogger, I needed to start taking selfies. The charming Geraldine DeRuiter from Everywhereist (and wife of the equally charming Rand Fishkin, and SEO ueber-guru, or put simply, the royal couple of the blogging world) insisted that taking funny photos of yourself goes a long way to endearing your readers and making them stick around because who doesn’t like somebody who can make fun of themselves. Well, here is my favourite selfie from the conference.
4. I always suspected that the best blogs are written by people who really care about their readership, who make sure their readers get quality content every time, or as Darren put it: “Put love over metrics.” And quality content, I learnt, is useful rather than pretty, it changes the reader, it is actionable, like checklists, infographics or cheatsheets. But it’s also content that reflects the voice of the blogger, it is authentic and has personality rather than just facts and figures. I suspected this all along because I love reading blogs, mainly travel blogs of course, that take me on a journey, blogs that engage me because they ask questions of me.
3 Things I totally did not expect to learn:
1. As a middle aged travel blogger I would never, ever, have expected to be inspired by two formidable mummy bloggers, Chanetelle Ellem from fatmumslim and Christie Burnett the creator of childhood101. Their respective stories of how their blogs grew from giving them something meaningful to do while their babies slept into successful self-sustaining businesses blew my mind. I loved their humble and pragmatic voices, their passion for their readership and topic and the practical tips they generously shared with us. The main thing I took away from them is the importance to create an interactive community, where bloggers support other bloggers and readers are invited to participate in a network and the blogger’s role is that of facilitator of one long conversation! Sounds great to me!
2. I never expected there to be so many wonderful free tools available to make my blogging life a whole lot easier. Donna Mortiz from Sociallysorted.com confirmed that my passion for photography isn’t a waste of time when it comes to blogging, as visuals drive traffic. She also provided a very useful overview of the most effective apps and websites that will help me become a better and more efficient visual blogger. For example canva is a free graphic design website where I’ve learned to make those pretty little photo collages. It’s been a godsend.
3. Call me weird, but I did not expect to meet anybody who had actually read my blog. After all it was only four weeks old, I had set it up just in time for the conference so that I could actually call myself a blogger and I stuttered every time I introduced myself as a travel blogger. And then I met Susan Wareham from careerignition and notquitevegetarian. She nearly had me in tears when she said that my blog had moved her and then quoted a line of my blog back to me at the Friday night networking party. Thank you Susan, you inspired me to continue this blogging journey of mine!
Of course I also learnt that to make money from a blog is very hard work. And of course, I did already sort of know that one, but that’s a whole other blog post.
Which expected and unexpected lessons did you take away from PBEVENT?
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