And all that counts,
Is here and now,
My universe will never be the same
I’m glad you came
The Wanted – Glad You Came
So, a few days ago I hosted my second blog party! With the first being to celebrate I’m NOT Disordered reaching 100,000 readers, and this time to celebrate one million readers, I’ve learnt a lot over the years – including lessons learnt from actually attending events. So, I thought I’d share my experiences and any advice I’d give on attending and organising an event…
So, I guess I’ll start with everything I’ve learnt about pretty much the first step in an event journey – the invitation… Now, don’t go thinking about a piece of paper with fill-in-the-blank text and yellow balloons – this isn’t a child’s Fifth Birthday party! In fact, I’m not sure I’ve ever attended an event where there’s been any kind of actual image of the event details that could be labelled an invitation. Despite this though, when I started working on my one million readers party, one of the first things I created for it was a PNG with the basic information for the event because I knew it would be more memorable, appealing, and easier to share in emails and on social media rather than a lengthy bulk of text with the ins and outs.
Mostly though, when I’ve been invited to events (including large conferences/meetings), it’s been through an email – typically just checking whether I’m free on a particular date and then a follow-up to my response with the actual plan and details. But for me – in all honesty – the most important quality to the invitation isn’t its appearance and aesthetics; it’s the meaning behind it.
THE INVITATION SIGNALS A GOOD RELATIONSHIP
Firstly, I think that being invited to an event is an illustration of you having developed a good working relationship with a particular individual or organisation. Which is why I’ve talked before about the importance of loyalty in collaborations – to stress how influential doing so, can be in securing you more partnership opportunities and experiences. If you’ve found an organisation which working with them is beneficial for you and your blog – whether that be through anything from doubling your publicity or improving your mood – then it’s worth continuing to work with them to discover what other gains you could have from future collaborations. I mean, when I first started to work with Cats Protection in 2018, by visiting my local Adoption Centre, I couldn’t have imagined that we’d still be working together four years later. Nor that one of the greatest moments in our collaboration history would be when they invited myself and a best friend to London for an exclusive screening of their Christmas animation!
FINDING CONFIDENCE IN THE INVITATION
I also think that an invitation is a great piece of evidence that a person or organisation enjoys your company and appreciates the role you play/will play. And in all honesty, this was something I struggled to accept because when I first started blogging, my confidence was actually at an all-time low since my mental health had deteriorated. I mean, for the four years between my first suicide attempt and creating I’m NOT Disordered, I was nowhere near unexperienced in the stigma, discrimination, judgments, and assumptions that surround mental health in general; never mind those comments made to/about me personally! And so, it meant that when I was being invited to events, I was dubious to see it as some kind of compliment.
Fortunately, over the nine years of my blogging career and through the many events I have now attended in that time, my confidence has built and really solidified. I think that a huge influence on that improvement has been the popularity of my blog – of course I recognise that not every single person who has visited it will have liked the content, but over one million people? Percentage of those who did like it is still pretty decent! And so, I gained a sense of sureness. A sense that if all these people have enjoyed the posts I produce, I must be doing something right.
That kind of thinking really snowballed when the event invitations began flooding in, and I seemed to just morph into a blogger who recognised these opportunities as positive feedback and complimentary of the work I produced; both on my blog and at the actual events.
THE BEST ITEMS FOR AN EVENT:
iPad 10.2”: £319.00
iPhone 13 mini: £679.00
Wireless Keyboard Case: £30.99
USB Plug Adapter: £14.99
iPhone charger cable 5 pack: £10.59
Power Bank: £30.99
Vlogger Kit: £59.99
Ballpoint Pen Set: £7.99
PRACTICAL PREPERATION FOR AN EVENT
After giving a positive response to the invitation, it’s important to begin practically, mentally, and emotionally preparing yourself for the event…
If we’re looking at things chronologically then practical preparation for an event is probably the foremost concern for a lot of people – whether you have a mental illness or not. That preparation can include everything from choosing an outfit to packing a weekend bag to charging your phone to booking your travel or accommodation to getting an early night before the event! And each of those are just as important as the other. I mean, everyone has different priorities, and everyone benefits in a varied way from those different aspects of preparation… It’s actually a real pet hate of mine; the thought that those of us who pay importance to the more material things in life are judged and assumed to be superficial and shallow. I just think that if someone benefits in a healthy and safe way, they shouldn’t be stigmatised for that.
Personally, I thrive off these practical things because they’re the parts of an event that can really impact my mental health – including my mood and level of engagement (even the outfit part!). One thing I’ve learnt over the years of events has been that expecting the unexpected can go a really long way and so any level of preparation can be key to how positive – or otherwise – an experience you have. So, I think that to an extent, a desire to prepare can be about control. About wanting to be in charge of as many things as possible because then you know you’ve done all you can to make the event – and your experience of it – go as well as possible.
A LIST OF PRACTICAL PREPARATIONS RARELY CONSIDERED:
ü Dress code
Mapping out your journey to the venue
ü Costs involved e.g., food and drinks
ü Follow other attendees on social media to tag them in posts on the event
ü Checking in on pandemic or lockdown restrictions
ü Ascertain permission for photos and videos where necessary
ü Clarify your role and any payments for it
MENTAL & EMOTIONAL PREPERATION
In expecting the unexpected, it isn’t just about clinging onto the practical things you can control; it’s also about ensuring you’re mentally and emotionally prepared in some way that will enable you to cope well with anything that happens.
With my one million readers party, the one thing that was both practical and emotional that I hadn’t really prepared for was the number of guests! I mean, at one point I had invited more than the amount I had paid for food for; and was so anxious that everyone was going to turn up and I’d be left forking out more money right there and then for them all to be allowed into the venue! But then, as the time drew nearer, I began receiving some cancellations; saying either that they felt poorly, had family who were poorly, or colleagues who were poorly. And initially, I was like ‘oh! Now no one’s going to turn up!’ It was like either way I hadn’t prepared myself practically or emotionally – I hadn’t thought of how I would feel with this aspect of the party. I hadn’t weighed up the impact it could have. Fortunately, my mental health is pretty robust, and my Mum really helped in encouraging me to consider how important the people who were coming are to my life and to I’m NOT Disordered’s journey.
BUILDING THE CONFIDENCE FOR SPEECHES, PRESENTATIONS, & MEETING NEW PEOPLE
The first event I gave a speech at had me on the phone to my Mum almost in tears and full of panic. And I’m not an anxious person… I mean, I used to have panic attacks when I was a teenager for a little while but after those? Well, I remember when I was in that psychiatric hospital for over two years and so many of the other inpatients would talk about their crippling anxiety and have panic attacks so severe that they’d be completely drained afterwards. It left me feeling so grateful that I don’t have those experiences. So, when I was anxious for that first speech, I didn’t really know what to do with it. I didn’t know how to cope with it – so I called my Mum and of course she managed to reassure and encourage me to go ahead with it.
Over the years, I’ve made so many speeches and delivered so many presentations that I’ve learnt to thrive off any nerves or anxiety. I’ve learnt to use it as drive and determination instead. So that rather than seeing it as a fault or a flaw and detrimental to my talk; I use it as motivation to fight against these anxious and doubtful thoughts and do well with my role in the event.
I’ve found another drive for me to give it my all too, my passion. I sort of had the realisation that if I really wanted to change something – to have an impact on something I really care about – then I needed to go out there and do it! You can’t just sit back and rest on your laurels whilst complaining about something you could be preventing or contributing to. I mean, I really want to be able to say that I’ve played a part in eradicating mental health stigma, in encouraging abuse survivors to report their experiences, and in better educating psychiatric professionals to help and support service users – particularly those with a Personality Disorder diagnosis. And so in wanting those things, I’ve learnt to channel that passion and determination into being enthusiastic and confident in giving speeches and meeting new people at events.
MAKING THE MOST OF AN INTERMISSION
FIVE ESSENTIALS FOR A BLOG POST ABOUT AN EVENT:
1. Links for the hosting organisation/person, the venue, and attendees and speakers mentioned
Photos and/or vlogs to attract and engage readers
3. Using a perspective or angle that other attendees might not be able to write from/cover
4. An honest account of the event – don’t fill readers with unreasonable expectations of events
5. Channel your enthusiasm into your words
MANAGING THE AFTERMATH OF AN EVENT
I think this has been one of the key aspects of events that I’ve found really helpful…I find that during an event, I kind of run on some nervous/excited energy and it means that once the event is over, I’m either really drained or still buzzing! No matter which way it goes though, it’s an obvious struggle. I mean, if I’m drained that I find it difficult to turn my attention and energy to anything that needs to be done after the event e.g., getting home, making dinner, having a shower, writing a blog post etc. If I’m buzzing, then I struggle to wind down and settle to get a good sleep that night or to sit still long enough to do any work or tasks expected of me.
Speaking of the tasks expected; that’s the other part of an event’s aftermath that deserves to have light shed on it. Whether you’re also a blogger or not, chances are you will be assigned some sort of responsibility when you’re invited to an event; and that role will often continue beyond the time of the actual event. I mean, usually, my role is to produce some sort of content about the event on I’m NOT Disordered and that typically means that there’s actually more work to be done after the event rather than during it! To manage this, I tend to plan ahead in ensuring that the organisation which have invited me are given a reasonable time frame for expectations of the content being finished and published. That way, I’m not overwhelmed by stress and pressure and feeling rushed to produce the work.
A big thank you to everyone who attended my one million readers party, but in particular: to Gill, Pedro and the rest of the staff at Room 305 for having all of us!