As I have mentioned before, this isn’t my first blog. I did a blog while I attended the Ballymaloe Cookery School for three months back in 2007. I called it www.karenincork.blogspot.com. It is actually still accessible in cyber space and is really like a wonderful travel diary for me. And I enjoy going back for the odd trip down memory lane. That was early days for blogging. Now everyone and their dog has a blog. Literally! Though I think if a dog has a blog it should be called a Dlog!
However, what IS a first for me is the amazing opportunity I had to attend the IBA16 Conference and Awards in Dublin on April 30th. It was a mix of emotions. I was excited, scared, happy, you name it. Having never been to a blogging conference before that was understandable. I’ve only had my blog up and running now since the end of August 2015 so it was such a blessing to be able to attend this prestigious event. As well it was in my home town of Dublin and any chance to come back is a plus! Obviously, the highlight for me and many others was the chance to meet people in person that you might be connected with through social media, but to be in the physical presence is all together a different thing. I mean, you actually get to see that people have legs!
It was a jam packed conference day at the Radisson Blu Hotel, starting at 10 am and finishing just after 5:30. With 23 speakers in rapid fire succession, my brain was melting near the end. But I haven’t felt that invigorated in a long time. The wealth, depth and breadth of information was astounding. I learned about the legalities of sponsorships on blogs, how to monetize your blog, the ins and outs of branding, as well as how to optimize visibility. As if that wasn’t enough there were touching, heartfelt and poignant stories of triumph of spirit over adversity which only made the theme of INSPIRATION resonate more fully. I cried, I laughed, I even got embarrassed. Yep, Ciamhie Mc Digital called me out for not MFE (measuring feckin everything). Oops!
Since I am so new to social media, and am doing so at 51 years old, it can be daunting and overwhelming. On top of that, I have a tech-disability. As a chef, give me pots and pans and I can whip up anything. But with a computer or mobile device, I am still finding my way around. Yet I still felt I belonged in that room. I felt I was part of the blogging community. Everyone was kind, friendly, open, helpful and supportive. I give all the credit to Fiona Ried. The IBA is under her nurturing wing and she sets the standard of excellence and also of respect. Even the awards dinner felt more like a birthday celebration than a competition. All the nominees were encouraging one another prior to their category announcement. And then afterwards they were congratulating the winners.
So that is the main take away for me from the IBA16. Yes I learned pointers about how to hone my skills and network better etc. But what will stay with me is how I was made to feel. Blogging is a funny aul hobby, and yes a profession for some. Yet it is a legitimate community made up of some incredible people that are smart, funny and opinionated. All of that diversity of thought comes together as a family and it is wonderful. So I will savour this feeling of belonging to a family that is as rich and colorful as a beautifully woven and precious keepsake quilt. Bring on IBA17 I can hardly wait!
P.S. I am reminded of the great Maya Angelou quote, “people will forget what you said, they will forget what you did, but they will never forget how you made them feel.” Thanks IBA and everyone involved, from speakers to vendors, and of course to my fellow bloggers. I am utterly grateful to you for making me feel like I belong in this awesome family!