Monday, 27 March 2017

Trapped at a Blog Conference

Hey Owlets,

I never normally like to post anything negative on the blog - even negative reviews I try to make as balanced as I can, but today I just can’t do that. Do you remember that scene from Alice in Wonderland where she turns up to the tea party and has no idea what’s going on? Well that was me.

I was invited to attend a new blog event in London last week - normally London blog events are great so of course I accepted. The weirdness started as soon as I turned up. The event was “from 12pm”, but when we turned up at 10 to 12 we were ushered inside and told that we were late.

Inside there were a number of stands with brands on for us to “network” with. That’s all well and good, except none of the brands were actually interested in networking. They were all selling and seemed to be like “Buy something or leave us alone” or at least that's the impression that I got, which was a shame as I love working with small brands. I had one woman offer me £5 off her product if I agreed to do a review (needless to say I didn’t take her up on her offer). It only got weirder as I walked over to a stand where they were selling handbags. I was talking to the assistant when what seemed to be the boss grabbed me and pulled me over towards her banner. 

I had a bag thrust into my hand and was told that they were taking a photo. That was weird enough - I’d barely seen the product so I didn’t feel right posing with it like I’d just bought one. As soon as the photo was taken the bag was snatched from my hands. Fair enough, I didn’t expect to keep it but I was trying to be professional so asked if they had a card, thinking we could collaborate. It was at this point that I received the response “No, love. They’re designer. Not for you”. I’m annoyed at myself over this actually. I went a bit rabbit in the headlights and didn’t say anything, but I never expected that response.

It was then that we were told that the first session was starting and we had to go upstairs. My friend and I weren’t interested in the first session so decided to stay downstairs, at which point we were told that we had to go upstairs - no other option. We said we weren’t interested in the first session and she once again responded with “you have to go upstairs”, so upstairs we went to a session we weren’t interested in. We came back downstairs afterwards and the whole strange charade continued, followed by being forced back upstairs again. The sessions were really strange too - the event was sponsored by one large company and an app - the app was a super sketchy way to make friends in your area, that when questioned they admitted had very few safety features so I’d be concerned using it. I mention this as at the beginning of every talk they made us sit in silence to watch an advert, a bit like going back to school.

It was at this point that I decided that after two sessions I was wasting my time here. I soon found out that the Eagles were right when they said “You can check out any time you like but you can never leave” when, as I made my way towards the exit, I was confronted by the same woman telling me that I had to go upstairs for the next talk. I said that I was leaving, and long story short was pushed into going back upstairs (are you seeing a pattern yet?).

On the second attempt at leaving we were stopped again, told to go back upstairs and had a gift bag thrust into our hands. I’m not the kind of person who goes along for freebies and I’m always grateful for anything that I’m offered, but I was surprised when I looked inside the bag and it seemed to be three items that could be bought from the pound shop (normally you’d hope to have business cards from the brands in there but there was nothing except these three items which seemed strange). We were then told that this was the last talk and that it would be done in ten minutes- anything for an easy life- so I ignored the fact that by this point it was an hour later than planned and begrudgingly went back upstairs - this time to something that was not even on the schedule.

It was then that I decided I’d had enough and walked downstairs to leave for the third time. Once again I was stopped by the same woman who seemed just as determined to get me to stay as I was to leave. She said “You can’t leave, it’s the last talk” to which I said I was going anyway - she’d already said it was the last talk twice and I no longer believed her. She responded with “you can’t” and repeated this several times. It was at this point that I mentioned the £40 I’d wasted on train fare to get here and that I wanted to make the most of the time I had left in the city, at which point she resumed the goody bag talk. She then asked “Don’t you want to get your photo taken with (insert name of someone I’ve never heard of but is obviously important to them)”. I said no - in my eyes bloggers are bloggers - we’re all equal and having an extra few 0s on your followers list doesn’t make you a celebrity. Things suddenly started to get even more uncomfortable - when I went to leave she kept stepping in front to stop me. 

She asked if I had a goody bag even though she’d handed it to me 5 minutes earlier (I’d left it upstairs as I didn’t want to be rude), so I said yes I had one, then as she blocked me leaving again she asked if I wanted more items. By now I was beginning to feel like I’d stepped through the looking glass to a place where it’s acceptable to hold bloggers against their will. I said no thank you once again and walked past her and to the door as quickly as possible.

I feel like this is the blog equivalent of those “story time” videos on YouTube where some things are so weird that you aren’t sure if you believe them. That, mixed with "angry Trip Advisor review" vibes. I was half waiting for someone to jump out from behind a curtain saying it was a prank and I was live on TV. I’m not one for negative posts and I really don’t like to slag off companies for the sake of it, but seriously. If you come across another event like this just avoid it at all costs. I’ve definitely learnt my lesson - research more into events and who is running it before you go. I’ll be fair- if you knew nothing about marketing or social media or you wanted to meet these “bigger bloggers” then maybe you would’ve enjoyed the day and learnt something - just be prepared that once you go in you won’t be allowed to leave.

I hope this has served as a bit of a warning in case you're invited to attend one of these kind of events. I’m £40 down and wasted an entire day feeling trapped and uneasy, so I hope that my story stops you from doing the same. 

Take care and stay safe.

Love and Feathers, 
 The Owlet 💜 

You can find me on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram & Snapchat.

N.B. I made this post to share my experience and to warn you about visiting an event without doing proper research. I am speaking purely from my own experience, and my views are solely my own and do not represent that of anyone else who attended.  

UPDATE: I've had quite a few messages asking me to name the event where this happened. I have chosen to keep this anonymous due to legal reasons. However, I can confirm that this was not organised by any of the larger event companies, and is a small and fairly new venture. If you have any concerns about an event you have been invited to please contact me privately and I will confirm.