“First, if you could ask the person next to you what they’d never blog about, what they’d love to blog about, and what they hope to learn today – then we’ll go round the room and everyone can introduce their neighbour.”
A ripple of nervousness spread from the overhead projector and all the way round the tables. “Now you know how we feel,” said a smiling Kirsty Rice, co-founder of Blogging ME, the first blogging agency of its kind in the Middle East.
I was attending Blogging ME’s inaugural conference in Doha, Qatar, and found myself among a receptive audience of writers, bloggers and wannabe bloggers, gathered at the city’s fabulous Four Seasons hotel.
As we introduced ourselves, little did we know that later that afternoon we’d all don personalised, white dressing gowns – gifted to us by the hotel – and jump into bed together. Not just any old bed, but the very bed that David Beckham recently slept in when he stayed at the Four Seasons, in one of their regally furnished, villa-sized state suites.
Kirsty, the writer behind the spectacularly successful expat blog 4 Kids, 20 Suitcases and a Beagle, and co-host Sarah Derrig, the author of the lovely Lady Sadie’s Emporium, needn’t have felt nervous. Everyone was keen to hear what they had to say, and the rest was taken care of by the Four Seasons, which laid on an amazing spread of food, followed by a sundown reception with champagne and chefs at live cooking stations. Bubbles and bloggers, it turns out, are a great combination.
“A new blog is started every minute,” Kirsty told us. “From the online diaries of the 90s to the political blogs of the 2000s and the launch of wordpress in 2003, people have been sharing online for two-and-a-half decades.
“Now, there are personal blogs, business blogs and blogs covering fashion, food and photography, to name just a few. There are also niches within niches, such as children fleeing the nest. After about two years, I found that expat life was my niche.”
Informative sessions on all aspects of blogging followed, from choosing a platform (wordpress, Blogger or Squarespace?) to blog stats and widgets. “From Google Analytics, I know that there’s a lady in Russia who reads my blog every single day,” said Sarah.
We learnt about logos, fonts and colours (choose wisely: red is aggressive; orange less so; blue denotes authority; and green is associated with wellness). It hadn’t occurred to me before, but the wrong font is apparently a buzz-kill. Sarah then revealed her photography tricks, including how to do pretty – while we all got busy instagraming under the table. The prize for the best picture – a weekend at the Four Seasons!
There was tonnes more I could write about, but I don’t want to give too much away about the wonderful afternoon – as the exciting news for any Middle East bloggers reading this is that Blogging ME has plans to expand into Dubai, Oman and Kuwait. I highly recommend subscribing here to receive Blogging ME’s regular updates!
Over to Kirsty for the last word: “Just 20 minutes of creative writing a day is wonderfully therapeutic. As I told my teen, if you get it out on the page, how you feel becomes much clearer.”