A massive conference (there were 500 people there), it had a busy schedule of workshops and discussions, stalls to look over, style advice to take, goodie bags to claim, competitions to enter, PR people to speak to and other bloggers to meet. It was a day and a half long, intense and immense!
I turned up on my own and felt like the new kid at school on my first day. It was very daunting to be confronted by such a huge crowd of people and I suddenly felt like a very small, insignificant fish in a very large pond. If you're not a natural social butterfly (and I can be shy at the best of times) it can be hard to break the ice with strangers and jump into conversations. Thankfully, I got talking to a couple of people who were also there for the first time (one coming all the way from Edinburgh - now that's dedication!), which helped to calm my nerves a little. Once inside, I was fortunate to spot a few bloggers whom I had met before, I got talking to a few more and before I knew it, it was a whirlwind of speakers, networking, drinks and nibbles. And that was just the Friday!
So, what did I learn whilst at BritMums Live? Let me share...
- Meeting people, old and new. I met a veritable array of bloggers at this conference. Some I’ve met and chatted to before like Helen (Actually Mummy), Annie (AKA Mammasaurus), Lucy (Dear Beautiful Boy), Kerry (Multiple Mummy) and Otilia (Romanian Mum). It was so nice seeing people that I’d had the pleasure of meeting before but, even more than that, it was great to meet people who I’ve not met but spent many an hour reading their blogs (and even meeting some people whose blogs I hadn’t come across but are now on my list) like Alice (An Essex Wife), Katie (Mummy Daddy and Me Makes Three), Fi (Childcare is Fun), Kate of Kate on Thin Ice fame, Cathey who writes the hilarious My Funny Mummy, Jenny (Cheetahs in my Shoes) and Renata who writes Just Bring the Chocolate, to name but a few. As I've mentioned, it did help to know someone and if you're going to go to something like this, I'd definitely recommend arranging to meet someone beforehand so you can walk in together. You may not stick by each other’s side once you're there, but it will give you a bit of confidence and will help to avoid that dreaded feeling of intimidation when you go to these bustling events.
- Using twitter to arrange meet ups with other attendees. Because the conference was so big, I realised I didn't stand a chance of accidentally bumping into people I really wanted to speak to. So, I experimented with the power of twitter to see if I could arrange to meet a couple of bloggers. I was surprised by how well this worked and will definitely be doing this again next time I'm at a conference to make sure I see all of those 'must meet' people on my list. You have been warned!
- Inspiring speakers. I enjoyed listening to Ruby Wax kick off the conference, although surprised when she started asking the audience for tips on how to connect with people through her website and on Facebook! Sarah Brown was inspiring to listen to. It was refreshing to see a more personal side to her too.
- Leaving with some great ideas and tips. The sessions were varied and interesting. I learnt lots of technical things to improve my blog (especially photography; that session was like a breath of fresh air!), but even more so than that, it gave me ideas for my new, more commercial website venture. I can’t wait to put those into practice.
- People actually read my blog. One of the surprises for me was having people see my blog name and actually recognise it!
- People wanted to talk to me. And not just because they felt sorry for me - phew!
- Being called 'high profile'! Yes, someone did. No, I can’t believe it either. I’m sure it was all the Prosecco talking (it was during the ‘wine buffs’ party on the Friday night before the Brilliance in Blogging awards). Either that, or she was talking to someone tall who was stood just behind me – Jenny from Cheetahs in my Shoes or Daddacool, perhaps? (They are both very, very tall...and from St Albans. Maybe there’s something in the water?!)
- The swag. There were heaps of goodies to take home. And, because it’d have been just plain rude to ignore it all (the words ‘gift’ ‘horse’ and ‘mouth’ spring to mind), I felt compelled to take as much home as I could possibly carry. Just doing my duty. You're welcome.
- Not meeting enough people! As I've mentioned, I met a veritable array of bloggers at this event but there were so many more people I wanted to meet.
- Leaving the conference still feeling confused about Google+. I went to a session about this and thought it would be useful. It wasn’t particularly. Not because it wasn’t good, but because I just don’t get it. And no-one could tell me why I’ve managed to end up with two personal profiles on the damned thing!
- A lack of comfy seats to chill-out in, away from PRs and brands. The event would definitely have benefited from some comfy seating, away from the hustle and bustle of the stands. Somewhere for bloggers to sit down in peace and chat. The need for seating was most evident at lunch when most of us ended up sitting on the floor.
- Getting the "hard sell" from a charity of all things! I was surprised by this. I know it was a charity and they rely on donations to function but I didn’t expect what I received. I may as well name them because it’ll be obvious which one I’m talking about. Piggy Bank Kids was holding a piggy bank painting competition. Neat, I thought so enquired about taking part. I was told that in return for a donation, I could pain a piggy and enter it to win a prize. I didn’t see a problem with that. Then, the guy on the stand told me it was £5 per pig. “That’s not a donation, you’re trying to sell me something,” I thought but didn’t voice that as I didn’t want to appear uncharitable. I didn’t have that amount of money in my purse (I wanted to paint two, one each for my children) so the man on the stand leaned over me, told me I could text me money to them, gave me the instructions and practically typed out the text for me all while standing over me. I felt uncomfortable, a little intimidated. It felt like a pressurised sales pitch rather than something charitable but maybe it was just me.
- Having to leave early. Despite knowing that I would be at this conference all day on the Saturday, my husband booked some work for himself on that day without checking whether anyone could look after the children. Typical! It meant I had to rush home mid-afternoon and miss the last part of the conference, which meant...
- Pulling out of the bloggers keynote session. I was chosen to be part of the very last session where a number of bloggers read out one of their posts to the rest of the audience. I was supposed to present my One Fine Day video but couldn’t (a technical hiccup also meant I couldn’t do it so it wasn’t all my husband’s fault).
- Not winning a Brilliance in Blogging award. Despite promising to make a stupendous video if I won my category at the BiBs (which was video if you were wondering, I know I haven’t gone on about it much...), I didn’t win. So now you’ll never know how amazing that video would have been. I was chuffed to bits to be a finalist though, I am only eight months old after all (in blog terms obviously!)