So, as many of you will know, in addition to running my blog – I also organise several blogger and journalist networking events throughout the year (you can read more about this here). I started putting them together on a smaller scale about three years ago, eager to meet other like-minded writers, in turn banishing the feeling of turning up to future brand events feeling like a complete lemon and not knowing anyone.
Several years on and they’ve been vamped up a notch, with brands coming on board to provide activities and a larger venue to host the hundreds of bloggers we welcome each year. Although I’ve never had any formal training in events – and its something I never even considered doing, I get an immense amount of satisfaction from seeing the hundreds of emails, telephone calls and tweets come together for one mammoth event which I’d envisioned several months back.
This year was no different and once again, I hosted the annual #BloggersFestival – a very chilled afternoon with the main premise standing to enable bloggers to interact in a welcoming, relaxed environment – with no pressure to speak to brands, but the opportunity to network if they so wish.
I wanted to make sure there was no limit on who could attend (we issued 25 ‘new and aspiring blogger’ tickets via EventBrite and a further amount on email) and also that even if it was a blogger’s first time and they were venturing there on their own, they’d have a great time. I started planning the event in March, a ridiculously long time ago (I appreciate) but since it was a project I was endeavouring to do on my own, I needed as much time as possible!
Although I visited several venues in the planning stages, I had my heart set on the Conrad St James from the beginning – a gorgeous five star hotel in Central London with an amazing suite for events and stunning decor throughout. Luckily, I managed to secure it rather early on in the organisation process and so from there, plans for the #BloggersFestival were set in motion.
The first people on board were Mode Media, a company I’ve worked with for almost four years alongside my blog. Formerly Glam Media, they are essentially a hub for publishers and bloggers in the UK, providing advertising, sponsored posts and advice for writers who are keen to pursue their blogs further than a hobby. I first joined in 2011 and have since benefitted greatly from being a part of an established network of experts, who have amazing contacts in the fashion and beauty world – and can help with anything from technical advice to how to approach brands for collaborations.
I always try to have brands attend that I can personally vouch for or who I have worked with in the past, as this means I can affirm how they’ve helped me specifically – so I was delighted to have them as our sponsor! A date was set – Saturday 5th September – and from there on in, a countdown began. I’ll warn you now, this is a rather lengthy post – so if you fancy catching up on what the day entailed, grab a cup of tea (and an entire packet of biscuits) and enjoy. Welcome to the #BloggersFestival…
The day itself ran really smoothly, which surprised me as usually there’s always something which goes wrong, sending me into a spiral of panic. I am really lucky that I had a wonderful team of people helping me pull everything together on the day – including members of my family, my best friend Danielle, Abi Street, Georgia Aldolpho and Charlotte Haynes. Without this help, I would probably still be lifting boxes at this moment (we had an immense amount of deliveries for the goody bags, more on this in another post).
The event began at 2pm on the dot, and soon enough, the drinks starting flowing, canapés started to arrive and guests began to flow through. To make things a little easier, I’d designed ‘exhibition guides/brochures’ to hand out to every attendee, as I know how crazy networking events can be (I quite often forget my business cards to and so leave wishing I’d got more people’s emails) and wanted to make sure everyone left with at least a bundle of new contacts, whether they managed to speak to many people, or not. These guides were kindly printed by the wonderful team at Stress Free Print, who – living up to their name – made the whole process of sizing and publishing these guides far less stressful!
These guides contained a ‘brand directory’ with PR email addresses, a little thank you from myself and the sponsors and a map of the venue, in case anyone wanted to plan a strategic route for the day. We had these printed by Stress Free Print – and I was so pleased with how these turned out! I am an amateur on InDesign at best and had suffered nightmares in the run up to the event, panicking they’d look like a child had made them. Luckily, I think I got away with it – and hopefully they were a helpful addition on the day.
As you came through the entrance and into the Mode Media Lounge foyer, a make-shift photo booth had been set up to get guests well and truly into the ‘selfie spirit’ for the competition Mode were running. From here on, guests could choose whether to stay in the Mode lounge or venture into our main exhibition space where an assortment of 21 different brands awaited the influx of bloggers. Unfortunately, I was too busy chatting with fellow bloggers to photograph the event on camera (and I thought I wouldn’t do it much justice with all the stress either) so luckily, I had help from Lix and Marcus (F22 Photography) in capturing the day. I’ll credit each photograph individually, so if you’d like to use any for your own blogs, please get in touch with the creator first.
As you walked through the doors, the first brand you came to was the very popular Jewellerybox.co.uk stall, which featured an ‘enchanted garden’ style photo set-up, perfect for snapping a pretty Instagram! I absolutely love the company itself, which has struck a great balance between creating really unique, pretty pieces of jewellery and maintaining affordability so that it isn’t priced out of the regular person’s reach. The stall set-up was an indication of how much care and detail they go into for each one of their designs, so I’d definitely recommend a peek at their website if you have a moment. They were generously handing out the most adorable little parcels, each containing a different necklace and earring set.
We then had Bravura London – an incredible skincare company run by Amanda (who I’ve had the pleasure of knowing for several years also). They have a great ethos and always produce great quality products which really live up to the claims they make and cater for even the most sensitive of skin types.
Next up was The Perfume Shop, a sure favourite of many bloggers I’m sure. They had a really unique dolls house set-up, displaying their upcoming fragrances alongside an assortment of rather on-trend Barbies and adorable mini cupcakes.
Leading further round the room, we then had LEGO, Toad Diaries, Smallman Media, Bon Prix and Cloud Nine showcasing, each offering a whole host of Twitter competitions, giveaways and activities. Cloud Nine in particular have been a fixture at each of my previous events, primarily because I love the brand so much. Created by the same people who founded ghd, they consistently bring out incredible hair styling tools which are a cut above what else is being offered on the beauty market at the same time. They always have a wonderful team of people behind them – and at each event, they have wowed bloggers with their ‘hair touch-up appointments’.
Nanshy, the specialist in make-up brushes, also put on a rather spectacular display for guests – creating one of my favourite stalls of the day!
BareMinerals were on hand to provide make-up tweaks and touch-ups at the event, which was handy as the time ticked by – since the room itself (which was illuminated by hundreds of spotlights) soon heated up (never a good thing for a full face of make-up).
Grace Foods showcased some of their speciality sauces and marinades, including their very own Aloe drink – which although sounds odd, is one of my new favourites – and has a whole host of health benefits.
Exuviance fronted a very popular stall throughout the day, offering mini skin consultations and providing full-size products to bloggers based on their specific needs. I had a lot of really positive feedback about them afterwards – and am really intrigued to see how bloggers get on with their new routines!
Bee Good were another popular fixture. A regular at blogger events, they showcased their range of gorgeous, natural products – each of which when purchased support British bees. Their new lip balm (a tasty sounding White Chocolate and Raspberry edition) was actually created by bloggers, so it seemed rather fitting that this was their staple product at the event!
Brodie & Stone, Browhaus, Simply Be and Minimum also exhibited in the main show-space, with a large range of activities and social media competitions on offer. Browhaus, who create the most amazing (yet natural looking) brows using a mix of waxing, tinting, threading and plucking, were offering mini appointments throughout the day, which I would have taken full advantage of if I wasn’t so busy. I’m hoping to visit them in store again soon, so watch this space!
Then Yoogaia, Taisir Gibreel and Yours Truly Organic dominated the middle of the room, complimented by two large networking tables for bloggers to sit at – which also displayed our gorgeous pick and mix stall – which I can’t take credit for at all, as it was the handiwork of Abi Street.
In case guests forgot why they were there, four large pink balloons re-affirmed it for us all…
A live feed of everyone’s tweets took centre stage in our main exhibition space, which was a last minute addition to the event but I really thought it worked well in uniting everyone together and providing a real sense of ‘community’ (as cliche as that many sound). Although these events provide lots of opportunities to sample new products and chat to brands, the main premise behind setting them up was to bring together like-minded people and so I think it was an interesting addition to have these tweets pop up throughout the day!
Once guests had perused the stalls at their own pace, they could either take a seat in our lounge or pick up a goody bag from our huge mound and head home.
I’d like to say a massive thank you not only to the wonderful brands who gave up their Saturday’s to attend but also to the 200 bloggers who chose to spend their Saturday’s with us also. I know many of you travelled a long way to be there – and I’m so grateful to have the support of everyone who came! I had so many great comments from you about meeting new people (some of whom are friends from last year’s event) and inspiring new content, so it was such a lovely feeling to hear that you’d enjoyed yourself.
I will be organising other events in the near future (once the mad panic of my dissertation and third year is out of the way) and if you’re interested in these, please head on over to this page and leave your details in the comments.
Once again, thank you for all your amazing support – it means the absolute world to me!
Did you attend this year’s event – if so, what did you think? Do you think I could have improved on anything – or would you recommend anything for the next event? Have you attended a blogging event in the past?