BritMums Live 2013 - My experience
I booked my ticket to the London blogging event, BritMums Live almost a year in advance.
I had only just started this blog and was slowly falling in love with Twitter, when my timeline was bursting at the seams with tweets from last year's event. As soon as the tickets went on sale, I snapped one up along with my best and first blogging friend at that time, Natalie. It felt quite sad that at Christmas she stopped blogging and wasn't there with me but with a year's blogging under my belt, I had a list as long as my leg, of other bloggers I hoped to meet.
I really had no idea what to expect. Everyone raved about the venue and the event last year, that my expectations were through the roof! And to top it all I was going as a Finalist in Brilliance in Blogging Awards!
I was very lucky to be sponsored to go to the event by Imotiv and Nuffnang UK, a blog community and reader app based in London. After I had checked into to a very swanky hotel, met my cousin and his wife and 5 day old daughter Cordelia, (how lucky they live 5 minutes from the venue) I still had enough time to meet Jesse from Nuffnang UK for a lemonade in a bustling street and then walk down to The Brewery to join the long line of excited bloggers.
As I was a little early, I headed to a bar just along from the venue and had a chance to burn some of my nervous excitement, meeting a good few of the bloggers I follow and converse with on a daily basis on Twitter.
It felt so strange introducing yourselves like mini blog celebrities and even stranger when someone said "oh I know you!"
I was initially so flustered I forgot to make an appointment with the literary agent and by the time I had pulled myself together all the spots had gone!
The main room was a large ballroom sized space with dark brick walls and rows of circular tables covered in white tablecloths. On Twitter you never hear people's voices so for a moment, when the two founders of BritMums welcomed everyone, I was a little surprised to hear their American accents! Two very smart women who have done wonders for the parent blogging community in the UK.
The opening speeches from Kirsty Allsopp and the BritMums ladies were funny, engaging and definitely set the positive tone for the weekend.
I looked around the room (as I did in all the sessions over the 2 day event) and it's strange to see so many heads down. On a couple of occasion's I felt like I was so busy, head down engrossed on my phone tweeting about what was happening that I missed what was actually happening!
The first day passed in a whirlwind. The atmosphere was buzzing, I felt confident to introduce myself to complete strangers and within a couple of hours had checked in all my bags and was snapping away on my instant camera! Asking strangers to smile for an instant selfie!
Things I learnt from BritMums:
- I want to work with companies, but I want to build my own relationships. Yes that may sound naive and foolish, but at the moment I would prefer to work with a small number of companies that share my vision and support my blog than fight amongst lots in the same circle. It makes me downhearted when I see other bloggers disheartened by ranks and scores and when people feel excluded because they haven't been invited to a new baby shop opening. But on a lot of occasions I also see bloggers have paid their own expenses, paid for childcare so they can attend. I think I have realised that it's better to focus on what I want my blog to achieve, which at the moment is a happy family journal, an excuse to set up silly photo shoots and an opportunity to showcase my product photography which is where I have found my home.
- Blog less. I had got into a (quite exhausting but enjoyable) habit of posting everyday. I realised over the weekend that not only is a lot of my content probably being missed but that not everyone is as glued to their laptops as I am and daily emails may not get read on a daily basis. One tip I picked up, is instead to try out a weekly newsletter. Post 3 or 4 times a week and send out a weekly round up. Let me know what you think?!
- You don't have to be a cook to blog about food. Hooray as I am a hopeless cook but I feel completely inspired to try out more food photography and therefore will learn to cook by default!
- Be braver. You don't always have to play it safe. Whilst I know I will never be a controversial writer, your blog is your space to write whatever you like! You don't always have to please everyone and tread on eggshells. The best thing about blogging is that if you don't like something, you can just stop reading!
- I don't really feel like a Mummy blogger. I listened to the incredible keynote speakers and realised that they way they write about their families is both commendable and inspirational, but I don't fit in very well. It doesn't mean I don't love and adore my family, I do, just that I think I want my blog to be more for me than for them overall. A place I can write about our family times but also a space to explore other hobbies and interests. At some point in the not too distant future, the boys are going to be lanky lads who will forbid me to blog about them, as it will be far too embarrassing! So it will be good to have all the different aspects of my life forming my blog content for when they refuse to pose for a photo!
Things I would change for BritMums Live 2014:
- The date! Can you believe I have one thing in our calendar next year. A wedding on the weekend of next years's event. Boo hoo.
- The butterflies. I loved the idea of the butterflies floating around spying people on their own and offering a smiley friendly face and thought it would have been great if they had been "working the rope line" before the doors opened too. There were a lot of bloggers queuing up on their own, getting more nervous by the minute and a quick hello and welcome whilst we all were waiting, might have helped settle some nerves. I also think it would have been good for them to have circulated and sat around the main room, almost like the Bride and Groom at a wedding. I sat at the back with two bloggers and their babies during a couple of the main speeches and around us were lots of half empty tables with bloggers who might have benefitted from a piece of the atmosphere down at the front!
- More structured presentations. For me, the most effective speakers were those who seemed fully prepared and who spoke from the podium. There was no less interaction with the audience, in fact I think there was more, and it was those sessions where I scribbled like mad on a notebook. I wished that during the panel sessions they had prepared a few slides, especially when talking about their inspiration and other recommended blogs to read, as it would have been helpful to talk through why those had great design or engaging food photography.
- Spilt sessions for different levels of bloggers. I know I am not alone in thinking that it would have been useful to have asked delegates to categorise themselves into say beginners and intermediate/advanced. When I read Fritha's post I remembered a conversation we had had just before we all said goodbye. Whilst I am by no means an expert in blogging, far from it, I feel I have got to a stage where I am content with the design, confident it reflects me and my style and I'm in my own writing rhythm. But it's impossible to cater for all I know!
- It's A. O.K. to use a DSLR on AUTO! Hooray! The photography session from Julia Boggio was by far the best workshop session I attended. Well paced, informative, covering basic and advanced tips, I was completely inspired. She confirmed what I have long suspected that unless you are a pro pro photographer, why not let your beautiful camera do the hard work for you! If you want to learn how to use your camera on Manual - great, but there is nothing wrong with using the presets either. Phew.
- The awards. It is going to be impossible to write this without it sounding like I have a touch of the sad loser about me, but here goes. All the Finalists in my category had been asked to sit with the sponsor of that category, all be on a table together soaking up the atmosphere and congratulating the winner. But when it came to the start of the awards it all was a little rushed. They started promptly after the last workshop of the day, there was no opportunity for the Finalists to meet and I ended up on a table at the back with my fellow Finalist's Katie and Hayley all a little bewildered and experiencing a little anti climax. And that was before none of the three of us won! Maybe I had first time Finalist expectations?! But I think it would be lovely to make more of them, get everyone together for a photo before it all kicks off, read out the names of the blogs listed before the winner is announced. For me it was a really big deal and I was immensely proud to see my name on that screen.
What I loved at BritMums Live 2013:
- The people. Lauren made me feel like a celebrity! I adore her. I was thrilled to finally get my arms around Jennie and give her a long overdue hug. Watch this space for an amazing night of fun in aid of The Lullaby Trust (my party planning skills are hopefully going to come in handy). Getting to say hello to Liz, Fiona, Sarah, F and Vicki, who quite frankly is the most glamorous blogger on the planet! Who else could get away with a smokey eye at 9am! Nicola was positively the most beautiful person there with the kindest nature.
- The power of community. For anyone who thinks blogging is a strange waste of real time and that real friendships can't come from the internet are wrong. My heart exploded with pride when 500 bloggers stood up and sang, united in tears, for a woman who tragically died last year leaving her husband to care for their three small children. I felt privileged to witness and be part of such a community of supportive writers who together can actually change lives. More parents will be aware of the tragedy of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome because of a courageous blogger. More women will seek help for postnatal depression because of honest bloggers who offer support and guidance. And hopefully more men will take up blogging in the parent blogging arena.
- It doesn't matter if you don't win. Of course I was disappointed - who wouldn't be?! Not quite as much as my Sammy, bless his heart, who cried watching the live stream when his Mama's name wasn't called out! I had no idea they were watching until Rich text me just as the Photo category came up! But I ended up having the most wonderful evening with 2 strangers Sam and Sharon, who I hope I can now count as friends. We ate incredible food at Jamie Oliver's restaurant Fifteen, hardly paused for breath and ended up chatting late into the night.
I came home feeling exhausted and exhilarated, armed with one of the Finalist's poster boards for a souvenir which will go on my office wall and a bag of glass mini milk bottles for my boy's parties which The Boy and Me very kindly bought, drank and washed out for me during the week before the event! What a woman!
I want to thank my sponsor and all the people who voted for me. To be in a room for 2 days with people as obsessed with blogging as I am was fantastic! I was able to totally indulge in my hobby without anyone rolling their eyes!
If you get the chance to go next year grab it with both hands! Oh and take notes for me I shall be absolutely gutted to miss it!