Last Friday, at the Problogger Training Day in Melbourne, someone commented to me that they were surprised to see me there. “I didn’t think you’d need to come to an event like this,” they said. After all, I’ve been blogging since 2006 and am no newbie in the blogosphere.
However, the real attraction of an event like this is rarely the sessions (even though they were great). It’s the people. It’s the conversations you have during the breaks, over lunch and in the networking sessions that become priceless.
I’ve previously written about the value of lobby conferences – where the most valuable connections you make are when you simply hang out in the lobby at the hotel where the conference is being held. And this conference was no different.
Don’t get me wrong. Darren Rowse (@problogger) and his team organised a stellar event. I found most sessions worthwhile. And even when you’ve been blogging for as long as I have, you still learn new ideas and find inspiration from unlikely places.
So who were the highlights?
I finally had the opportunity to meet Nikki Parkinson (@stylingyou) in real life, the blogger behind Styling You. I first came to know of Sunshine Coast-based Nikki through the Sydney Writers’ Centre’s Best Australian Blogs Competition 2011. Not only did she win the Business category, she took out top honours to be named Best Australian Blog for this year.
So far, our chats have been via email or Skype, so it was great to finally meet Nikki in person. I was even more thrilled to hear how our Best Australian Blog Award has had an impact on Nikki’s business and life.
Ever since winning the award in May 2011, Nikki says the media coverage hasn’t stopped. She has been featured in The Australian, Sky News, radio, TV, Queensland newspapers and, most recently, in a New Zealand magazine. “If you have a look at the press section of my blog, you’ll see there’s just so much coverage.”
What I love about Nikki’s story is that she initially started her blog as a marketing tool for her personal styling business. But, since then, it’s taken on a life of its own. The award has cemented her credibility as a leading blogger in Australia and has even spawned a new arm to her business. She is now in demand as a blog consultant, helping other businesses to navigate their way into the blogosphere.
I first saw Nicole Avery in action at Digital Parents Unplugged last month, an evening organised by the dynamic Brenda Gaddi from The Mother Media to help bloggers and brands (PRs) meet. While I didn’t get to chat to Nicole (@planningqueen) that evening, I was immediately impressed by her eloquence and graciousness – traits she demonstrated in spades at the Problogger event.
Nicole facilitated or spoke on a number of panels (and was instrumental in coordinating the lineup of speakers). Even though I have very little in common with Nicole when it comes to what she blogs about (she has five kids – they’re humans, my five are furry), I knew I would get along with her. This event gave me the chance to chat to Nicole face to face – a vital opportunity in a world where we otherwise get used to communicating via 140 character DMs and emails-sent-on-the-go.
We’re going to see A LOT more of Nicole in the future.
I was thrilled to catch up with Trevor Young (@trevoryoung) a.k.a The PR Warrior. He’s been blogging forever. Ok, well maybe not forever, but a long time. Trevor’s blog was one of the first Australian blogs that I read all the time (and still do) way back when most people were wondering what a blog was.
Trevor was also a Finalist in the Business category of the Best Australian Blogs Competition this year. He’s since started Bloghub, an online directory of Australian blogs.
The blogger behind Edenland (@edenland), Eden was one of my students five years ago at the Sydney Writers’ Centre. I’ve kept up with her through Twitter and, of course, her blog. Back then, she had long hair, no kids and no blog. Now, as you can see, her hair is shorter, there are two munchkins in her life and she has a popular blog that has a devoted readership.
When I first saw her words on the page all those years ago, I knew she could write. More than that, she had something special about her. Still does. I hope she realises that.
(Gratuitous mention of my cat: As an aside, Eden was also part of a group of students who have been the only class in the history of the Sydney Writers’ Centre to have my cat Rex sit in on a class. Odd, but true.)
Chris’s blog Bike Exif has a whopping 1.2 million views per month. Yes you read that correctly. 1.2 millions views per month. It’s a bit hard to fathom. So it’s no surprise that Chris was speaking at the event.
What was nice to know was that the organisers found Chris because his blog won the People’s Choice Awards in the Sydney Writers’ Centre’s Best Australian Blogs Competition. It was great to finally meet Chris in real life.
I’ll admit, a blog about motorbikes, which is Chris’s expertise, is not my usual reading fare. However, that was one of the fabulous aspects of the event: meeting bloggers from all walks of life including hair enthusiasts, dinosaur lovers, social media experts, business owners and foodies – the list goes on.
Now this takes the cake. I knew Tim Ferriss was in town for another event. But his surprise appearance at the Problogger event was certainly a highlight. Darren Rowse told me that Tim said he’d drop in (at five minutes notice) so he wasn’t on the agenda and there was no inkling that he was going to be there.
Tim and Darren connected at a conference in the US a few years ago, well before his phenomenon The 4-Hour Work Week was even released. As regular readers will know, I’ve been a fan of Tim ever since he spent three hours in my office at the Sydney Writers’ Centre a couple of years ago when I interviewed him about his book. And, more recently, I was at a conference he ran in the Napa Valley two months ago about book marketing and publishing. Tim’s a freakishly smart guy – if you haven’t read his books, you should.
It was fab to catch up with everyone else – particularly those who I have known through Twitter but had not yet met in real life, and also my usual buddies. There certainly wasn’t enough time to connect with over 250 people in the room – I only wish the event was longer! Congratulations to Darren Rowse on a successful day. I can’t wait for the next one.