Events like this are exciting, overwhelming, inspiring, fun and exhausting. It was a big day - and here's how it all happened, from my perspective...
Melbourne has never been more beautiful - the sun shining on Flinders Street station in the morning, and a rainbow framing Federation Square in the evening. So lovely for all the interstate visitors to see our wonderful city at its best.
What does a blogging conference look like?
A room packed with people who just 'get' what you do - and where talk of RSS feeds, social media, blogging platforms, sponsored posts and community building is the norm.
Meeting bloggers I'd never come across before; putting faces to the names of those I've chatted to on Twitter and whose blogs I've read; seeing the familiar faces of those I'd met before; strangers who offer you a charger when your iPhone turns to black - there is friendliness everywhere you turn at a blogging conference.
The funniest thing at these events is the technology and multi-tasking happening. While listening intently to a speaker, watching their presentation slides and reading the screens showing the steady stream of tweets, many of us were tweeting / blogging / photo-sharing on our iPhones / laptops / iPads.
With iPhone in hand all day, I was among the crowd of tweeters, sharing my opinions and conference notes with others reading along.
In fact, I tweeted so much that my name trended in Melbourne!
There were seven sessions at Blogopolis, each giving various speakers the chance to share the knowledge they've gained throughout their time as bloggers. Here is a very brief summary of each:
1. Tools of the Trade
Much information was shared about feeds, platforms, technological gadgets and social media tools - all very technical really, and a session I struggled to get into. I did get a bit ranty on Twitter about the whole Wordpress versus Blogger discussion though!
2. Blog Photography
This session was quite focused on general photography tips - composition, point of view, lighting, things like that. Equipment was discussed with a small discussion about what you need to take great pictures for your blog, with the consensus being it's all about technique and not so much about fancy cameras.
Whether you use your phone camera or the best DSLR, always remember your photos are part of your blog voice so have fun with them.
3. Improving Blog Content
Christie from Childhood101 echoed my sentiments about blog content - quality over quantity. The key to long term blogging is fitting it in with your life and getting your priorities sorted, and if that means posting less each week then so be it.
I also loved Nikki from Styling You's comment that a blog is all about personality and voice, so let yours shine through.
4. Working with Brands
Some really interesting information about brands and their views of social media. Many corporates are still asking 'what's a blog?' but most of those who have got on board have been thrilled with the reach and recognition blogs have brought their brands.
As noted above, blogging is all about personality and voice - and that remains true when it comes to collaborating with businesses. Jaclyn Ely from Ikon Communications gave us her top tips for working with brands: know your style, know your audience, understand the brief and what the brand wants to achieve, stay honest, and go the extra mile to make it work.
5. Editorial vs. Advertorial
This was a discussion about incorporating sponsored posts into blog content, and about payment. The overwhelming message from this session was to know your value - bloggers are influential and valuable to brands, and that isn't something to be taken lightly. Don't let yourself be taken for granted.
Although all the panelists were interesting, I would have liked to see a lower profile blogger on the panel to give some balance and perspective. Although a highly successful blogging businessperson can expect large payments, that doesn't mean that's where it's at for many of us. And judging by the reaction when I tweeted that opinion, lots of other attendees agreed with me.
6. Blog Branding and Marketing
Darren from Problogger's session was a highlight for me - a great speaker and full of valuable information.
Darren said that the key to a successful blog is to try new things and evolve. In his words: "Experiment, tweak. Repeat."
When it comes to readers, he suggested the best focus is on current readers as opposed to constantly trying to reach new audiences. Look after your readers, take interest in them and enjoy the connections.
We heard a story from Darren's life as a work-at-home-dad, too. His son, upon being told his dad was 'talking to the world' on the computer said, "Tell them something important". A wise sentiment for bloggers.
7. The Australian Blogosphere
Nicole from Planning With Kids led an interesting discussion about the blogosphere - past, present and future. All agreed that this is a turning point for bloggers and that it's all taking off in Australia. Exciting!
There were lots of promotional items being handed out (except from me... I had business cards printed and didn't hand out one. I just feel like a bit of an idiot giving people my card!) but one stood out. When I saw them I had to have one.
SPEAK: such a simple message, but anyone who's read Lori's blog knows how important it is. A strong and powerful reminder - speak your truth.
There were lots of great speakers, but the one who inspired me most was Darren from Problogger. A great presenter with loads of blogging information - but not once did he utter the words 'should' or 'must'. Being given information, other perspectives and advice to tailor to your own blog is what these events are all about for me.
"Inform, inspire, interact" - Darren's words and a great summary of blogging.
I began blogging with one clear aim: to write. That's it.
But the one thing that keeps me blogging, even when I experience blocks, fears and uncertainty with my other writing, is a connection. Connecting with other bloggers, readers, commenters, online friends.
The message I came away with was that while it's still about writing, it's really about connecting.
And I thank you for giving me that.