As the sun hit the beach on Australia’s Gold Coast last weekend, I was there. But instead of splashing in the surf, basking on the sand or sitting somewhere shady with a cool drink, I was holed up in a conference room with 400 other bloggers.
We’d gathered at Surfers Paradise not for sun and sea breezes, but for the chance to learn and share ideas, to meet and bleat. The fourth annual ProBlogger Training Event brought bloggers from around Australia together to find out how to be better bloggers – and I’m willing to bet that very few of them went away without learning something new.
Brilliantly and efficiently organised by a team led by ProBlogger’s Darren Rowse, it was two days of intensive talk and listening. For those who couldn’t make it, a smaller fee gave online access to all the speakers’ presentations, videoed and uploaded almost instantly. Three session streams ran across each day, with the videos available so we could see everything, not just the sessions we could get to. That’s what I call value for my registration fee!
It was serious business, but there were lighter moments too: flame-haired Aussie singer/actor Clare Bowditch revved us up as we flagged near the end of day one, and returned for a warm-up at the start of day two (she even had us singing in rounds!). And the grand finale was a surprise appearance by actor Sam Johnson, who is riding around Australia on a unicycle to raise funds and awareness for breast cancer. Sam’s sister Connie is in her third battle with cancer, and his target is to raise $1 million and create a Guinness World Record for the most distance travelled on a unicycle. Listening to Sam’s heartfelt story, I know I was not the only one in the audience wiping away a tear or two. By the end of the day, ProBlogger delegates had donated more than $2000 to Love Your Sister.
If we started to fade, there were luscious morning and afternoon teas, and a healthy lunch, to keep us going. Tiny tubs of popcorn and home-made-style lemonade were my favourite snacks. An ice-cream van and lolly stand appeared in the foyer on day two for our lunchtime dessert.
On Friday night, Tourism & Events Queensland hosted a fabulous pool-side shindig at the Hilton Surfers Paradise. There were characters from the Gold Coast’s Warner Bros Movie World, as well as fire-twirlers, stilt-walkers, a dodgy pair of surf lifesavers, and hot and cold running food and drinks.
So what did I learn? Many things that I’ll be applying to my blogging in the near future (and a few small changes I’ve already implemented in how I use social media). As someone who’s spent her whole working life in traditional mainstream publishing, I learned that my skills can be used to find greater reach in the brave new world of digital media. Not all bloggers will survive, but many of us will.
And along with the practical lessons on marketing, imagery, video-blogs, engagement, monetisation, analytics and more, I picked up a few other things too. Did you know that it’s possible for someone to have a first name with no vowels (the curiously named Tsh Oxenreider was among the speakers)? That hanging around with “3-D people” is more fun than gaming? That there’s such a thing as a “bouquet of feelings”. Yes, there were moments when I felt the strangeness of this blogging world and the people in it…but like life itself, that’s what makes it interesting. And I’m in…I’m definitely in.