I’ve always admired Next for their blogger outreach programme and the genuine effort they seem to make to stay connected with bloggers at all stages – from the up-and-coming to complete beginners, they provide a community and a way to stay part of the loop through their monthly emails and engagement.
I was thrilled, then, to be chosen to attend the NBNworkshop at the end of October in the gorgeous Hoxton Hotel on Great Eastern Street. After a weekend away in Whitstable and a slight panic that I wasn’t going to make it back to London during the onslaught of the St Jude’s Storm, I turned up two hours late and exasperated after a morning of cancelled trains and delayed taxis. Event organiser, Gemma, was fantastic though and brought me up to date on the day’s events whilst handing over a goody bag and telling me to enjoy the huge selection of food on offer. Mood lightened.
Once settled, I met up with the lovely Lauren of nakedfashions.com who I’d met a few day’s previously at another event, and she introduced me to a group of bloggers who I spent the rest of the afternoon chatting with. I’m sure anyone else who regularly turns up to events alone can appreciate how daunting it can be, so it was really lovely to see a familiar face and make some new friends during the day.
After gorging myself on sweets, as ever, I headed to my first workshop: Photography and Film. I’d been looking forward to this session, lead by Lily (lilypebbles.co.uk), Kit Lee (styleslicker.com) and Anna (viviannadoesmakeup.com), as Lily’s was one of the first blogs I ever read and a huge part of the reason I plucked up the courage to begin blogging in the first place.
The girls were great, and gave us some practical guidance on lighting, composition, the importance of back drops in product photography, and tips on confidence for those considering vlogging. Personally, I’d love to begin a Youtube channel and post videos to my blog but I’ve always had a real fear of putting myself out there on film, so it was refreshing to hear that the girls were nervous to begin with and have learned to ignore any negativity.
After that, it was time for yet more food (my kind of event) and the final workshop of the day, Web Design and SEO. As someone who has to delve into the deep dark realms of html on a daily basis at work and with some serious OCD over the design and layout of my blog, this is something I have a particular interest in.
Faye of @fashionbeautetc gave us some great tips on how to spruce up our blog designs, from the importance of using a simple, legible font to how to decide on a colour palette. One of the most useful things I took from this session was her advice on page loading speed – I use a fair few (very large) photos for each of my posts and this can really affect the time it takes the page to load. Faye’s advice was to upload photos at the size you want them to display at, rather than resizing them when they’re already uploaded. Much quicker!
She was joined by an SEO guru from the agency Greenlight, who took us back to basics and explained from the bottom up the importance of optimising SEO in blogging. It was a great refresher and brought up the debate around balancing SEO optimisation with interesting, relevant content. He explained how small things such as including all key words within post titles can make a real difference, as well as reminding us of the importance of building the authority of our sites through Google Authorship and inbound links.
Following on from the final session it was time to unwind with a cocktail in the conservatory at the Hoxton Hotel and a chance to reflect on the day. Although frustrated that the storm stopped me from attending the first session (with Fashion Foie Grois and Abi Marvel – sob), the day was fantastic and genuinely really informative. I think most of us left the workshop feeling inspired, and I’d even managed to pick up a few new friends along the way (check out their blogs – links below)!