I recently braved the cold and headed into London for the 2016 Vuelio Blog Awards, which were being held at The Brewery, an impressive Grade II listed venue.
I was super excited to attend as I've never been to a blog event before and was full of anticipation: Who would I meet? Would I recognise any bloggers?
Who would be presenting the awards? What will the food be like? And, most importantly, would Vuelio even let me in?!
Well, the good news is that I was let in. The bad news is that I was attending alone and felt a teeny weeny bit apprehensive and out of my comfort zone.
This however was short-lived. I walked in and the first thing that struck me was how busy it was; there were coats being collected on one side and flashes from a photographer on the other.
I was mesmerised by people queuing to have their picture taken, but as I was alone I didn't quite pluck up the courage to stand in front of the Vuelio logo. I regret that now, but we live and learn.
There seemed to be a real buzz in the air and I was excited to be part of this.
I handed in my coat and was pointed in the direction of a large hall, full of the sound of chatter.
You Had Me At ‘Hello'
Hesitating slightly, I asked the doorman where the bar was; this amateur blogger needed something to steady her nerves!
Champagne in hand (even though I'm not really a bubbles fan), I headed over to the table plan to see (a) If I was actually on the list and (b) If so, which table I was on.
I was on table 31 but I didn't recognise any of the names of the other bloggers, so I scrutinised the seating plan a bit more.
I noticed another girl doing the same and I made a comment about how many people were attending the event.
We got chatting and it turned out that she was with two of her friends and invited me to meet them.
They seemed really friendly and genuine, so I stayed with them for a while to chat.
Not Everyone Blogs!
It was then that I discovered not all attendees were bloggers; some people worked in marketing (the girls I met), others were from PR companies; and some were friends of friends and had ‘come along for the ride' – the more the merrier I say!
We were clocked by a Vuelio interviewer and her camera-man and one of the girls offered to do a quick interview with them.
I hung around thinking they'd ask me too and that this would be my ‘Face the Fear and Do It Anyway' moment, but alas they walked away.
So instead I plucked up the courage to say goodbye to the girls and do some networking.
I went over to a guy who was alone and staring at his phone. His face looked like he had just been dumped by his girlfriend, but I approached him anyway.
I can't remember his name now but our height difference (he was 6'2 and I'm 5'1) meant that I couldn't hear him very well.
What I did make out was that he knew one of the lighting guys working backstage and that was why he was there.
Oh dear! Where are all these bloggers? Making my excuses, I headed to a table where there were two girls – and they were about my height, which meant that I was more likely to hear them over all the noise!
Yes! I finally found some fellow bloggers – really nice they were too and made me feel very welcome.
The Main Event
By now I was feeling pretty confident; I could have carried on ‘working the room', but I'm an introvert at heart, and because I was enjoying the girls' company, I decided to stay put.
Steph was an older blogger (but young at heart) like me, so it felt nice to relate to her on this level.
After a while, we were summoned downstairs (and then back upstairs the other side of the building) for dinner and the main awards.
I found my table and immediately got chatting to Rosie (Girl on a Journey) and Peter – an older blogger who wrote about wine, along with a couple of colleagues from a marketing company – and finally a lovely girl called Anna (a fellow journalist) who had me in stitches most of the night.
I was really enjoying myself by this point – the food (a three-course meal) was delicious, I was surrounded by great company and the presenter – Mark Dolan – was cracking. If it wasn't Anna having me in stitches, it was Mark.
Following an introduction and presentation by the chief exec of Vuelio, the awards got underway!
I made a note of all the winners from the evening (so that I could check out their websites at a later date and steal be inspired by some of their posts)
So the winners were…cue drum roll…..
Best UK Beauty Blog
Best UK Fashion Blog
Best UK Food & Drink Blog
Best UK Fitness Blog
Best UK London Lifestyle
Best UK Traditional Media Blog
Best UK Mum Blog
Best UK Dad Blog
Best UK Political Blog
Best UK Travel Blog
Best UK Interior Design Blog
Best UK Blog
A second win from Mad About The House
It was really inspiring to see the winners go up and collect their awards.
I pictured myself going up to collect an award. I'm sure that 90% of the people in the room were also dreaming about that great recognition moment too.
Halfway through the awards, I caught sight of someone I had seen before – a YouTuber that my daughter and I love watching – Amazing Arabella – the No. 1 global teen influencer!
After the awards (and with belly full of red wine), it was party time!
I was aware that I was clock-watching now; it had taken me an hour and a half to get to the event – and I predicted it would take at least the same amount of time to get home.
So Anna and I went back to the networking hall to check out the after-party, with the view to staying for 5 minutes.
Five hours later we were curled up in a corner sloshed silly and making up crap jokes.
Actually I'm kidding – I was being sensible remember? And I do have kids that wake me up at silly o'clock most mornings.
So, ten minutes after walking in (and chatting to a heavily tattooed blogger who was there with her boyfriend), we decided to call it a night.
The final verdict
On the way home (and only a teeny bit tipsy) I asked myself if it was worth making the effort to go to the Vuelio Blog Awards 2016.
After all, I could have been snuggled up on the sofa in my PJs watching Gogglebox and eating a Curly Wurly.
But actually, yes it was. I felt genuinely happy, really positive and full of inspiration.
Had I not gone, I would never have met the lovely new friends I now have – and that alone was worth the effort of going.
However, if you're going solo then bear in mind that you need to put yourself out there and pluck up the courage to start conversations with people.
The good news is that everyone was really welcoming and I think they were happy to have someone new to talk to as well.
After all, that's what this whole blogging malarkey is all about, isn't it?… Creating new relationships with people and engaging with them. That and getting sloshed in a corner somewhere and making up crap jokes….