Finally I’m getting round to thinking and writing about what experienced at the BritMums Live 2012 blogging conference. I hope I’m not too late to join the linky….. I’ve seen (via twitter) so many people posting on there already. But as I said in my last post, the past week (and the week before the conference) have been incredibly busy with one thing and another, so I’ve only just had time to gather my thoughts and look back it. Luckily I have a pretty good memory, though pregnancy is clouding that somewhat, so I can still remember (most of) what I did.
Granny and Grandad kindly looked after Andrew on the Friday, and Daddy did his usual Andrew entertaining stint on Saturday until I arrived home in the evening. So a big thanks to all three of them for enabling me to go in the first place. This was the first time that I have ever been away from Andrew for more than a working day. I did miss him, and wouldn’t want to do it often, but there was so much going on that my mind was kept occupied.
I travelled down to London with Amanda from The Family Patch, and her husband kindly drove us so it was a much more restful journey for me than getting the train. After a slight hold up on the way (due to a gridlocked service station car park!) we arrived just after Ruby Wax’s talk had started. We decided to go straight into ‘The Hub’ rather than try and creep into her talk unnoticed – I’m never confident enough to do that and risk disturbing someone else’s view or ability to hear the talk. The Hub was a room with several stands run by reps from various companies which might be of interest to mums/dads. I soon got chatting to a few of them whose products interested me, and it was nice and quiet at that point so we could actually hear each other without shouting! I picked up a few freebies whilst chatting, like some Nurofen syringes (which are so handy because you can only get that stuff out of the bottle with that specific syringe and they’re easily misplaced around a toddler-inhabited flat), and a Lego goody bag with a Duplo set that’s perfect for Andrew right now (actually, they had run out of bags on the Friday, so I got one the day after, although I was told off by the Lego rep who I hadn’t spoken to the day before for just asking for a bag without talking to her first – cheeky her, I’d already done the chat!)
We managed to sneak into the main room between Ruby’s talk and the next one, which was a discussion between various top bloggers with different genres of blog about ‘British blogging now’. This was very interesting to hear, particularly as I’m still such a newbie and I’m still getting to know the blogosphere out there. They gave some useful tips from their ideas of what blogging is all about. The tea/coffee break that followed gave me a chance to find my way around the venue a bit more (e.g. locate the toilets – essential when you’re pregnant!) and be amazed at how posh it was! I’m not used to being called ‘Ma’am’ by a gentleman in a bowler hat as I’m welcomed through the door. For an old brewery, converted into a conference centre, it all looked very plush and sparkly. The cake during the break was yummy; the worst part was having to choose between all the different kinds which all sounded lovely.
Once I’d re-energised with a slice of cake, I headed to my first workshop of the conference. There was a choice of four, and I chose the one entitled ‘Crossing the Chasm – how to bring your blog to the next level’, which was given by a group of five top bloggers. I was a little unsure before going as to whether this would be relevant – would the ‘level’ they were going to talk about be the one I’m interested in getting to next? But this turned out to be one of the best workshops I attended. Rather cleverly they talked in general terms about improving your blog/blogging, as well as giving more specific tips for particular different stages of blogging that individuals in the audience might be at. I got a lot out of it, both things to work on in the future, and (perhaps more importantly) confirmation of things that I’m already doing right/well.
That brought me to the end of day one. It would have been nice to stay for the BiBs awards party, but I knew I had quite a trek across London in Friday rush hour to reach my overnight sleeping place (thanks to my brother and his girlfriend). As I’m still getting exhausted by early evening, I thought it would be unwise to stick around much longer with bump, and instead headed to the tube where I stuck bump out in the hope of getting a seat – nobody obliged, but I grabbed one quickly as someone got off a few stops down the line.
Day two started bright and breezy for me, because even without Andrew to wake me up, my own body managed to do it instead. I made the trek back east across central London, and turned up at about 8.20am, just a bit too late to join in with Bloggercise. I felt like I’d done my own muscle workout by lugging around my laptop and overnight bag all day though. A tasty almond pastry and a sit down in the again quiet Hub was just what I needed to prepare me for the long day ahead. The day started officially and promptly with a talk by Sarah Brown (as in the wife of the former Prime Minister) who does lots of work for charity through Piggy Bank Kids. She was an inspiring speaker, who honestly and genuinely spoke about her experience of finding her voice and making a difference. It was so refreshing to hear that these things don’t just happen overnight, even if you’re more publicly well-known than me, and that even as someone who now comes across so confidently as a speaker, she struggled massively with it to start with.
Then I went to another workshop on photography – how to use lighting and household objects to take better pictures for your blog. This was a fantastic presentation, given by Julia Boggio, professional photographer. She talked us through some pretty basic concepts of light, positioning and using various filters (like a white shower curtain or a little black dress) and compact mirrors to reflect light. I learnt a lot from this, and photography is something that I’d like to work on, particularly for my food shots, so I’ll try to put it into practice and achieve some good results. Not only was she an excellent and easy to follow speaker, but also she revealed at the end that she had taken all the amazing shots she showed us on her iPhone, to prove that you don’t need expensive specialist photographic equipment to get great photos. I was definitely inspired by this talk and, when I get around to it, will be constructing a white screen and transparent mat to start using for photos of objects.
A well-timed tea/coffee break (I don’t know why I’m calling it that when I didn’t drink any tea or coffee – still not fancying it for pregnancy-related reasons) meant that I could refuel with some yummy cake and visit the ladies. Talking of cake, I also came across the cupcake decorating competition at the Lego stand, so gave it a shot. Even if I didn’t win the grand prize of a load of Lego that I’m sure Andrew would have appreciated at some point, it was a tasty thing to come away with. It was then time for more workshops.
The second and third workshops of the day ran back to back, so there was a lot of info to take in before the lunch break. For the first, I chose ‘Blogging for the greater good – using your voice for a worthy cause’. This was a discussion, with time for questions from the floor afterwards, between some amazing bloggers who do great works for various charities. Although my blog isn’t officially involved with any charities at the moment, this is something that I have been thinking about recently, particularly since taking part in the Keep Britain Breastfeeding scavenger hunt. I do feel passionately about spreading the word about breastfeeding, and I wondered whether I could do more through the blog for this than what I’ve so far written. The speakers gave some very useful advice, were inspiring in what they had themselves achieved for others, and also confirmed some thoughts that I’d had myself, so it was just what I needed. I’ll have more of a think, again when I get time, about what I could do along these lines.
The next workshop I attended was completely different. It was more of a technical talk about Google+. I’d seen the g+ symbol on quite a few blogs, but had never had chance to figure out exactly what it was and why I would want to use it. The speakers talked us through how it is another social networking tool, but explained how it is different from facebook and twitter. As I had my laptop out anyway, I was convinced enough to register there and then. Admittedly I haven’t had a chance to do anything else with my account other than create it, but I hope to one day find some time to sit down for an hour or two and get it set up properly. With only 24 hours in a day and only a small fraction of that available for blogging, I have to prioritise what comes first. Although Google+ looks interesting and useful for connecting with other bloggers, there are currently more important things to do in my blogging time, like actually doing some writing, since that’s the bit I love 🙂
It was definitely time for a spot of lunch after that morning of mental action. I should have guessed that a venue as nice as that would provide more than a sandwich buffet for lunch. Indeed as I walked towards The Hub I could smell that lunch was more than cold finger food. Normally I would be impressed by this, but since I can’t stand the smell of cooking still, it was a turn off. But I knew I needed to eat something, so thought I should brave the queue and see what there was – maybe there was some bread or salad lurking in amongst the hot dishes? All the meat dishes looked too meaty for someone who doesn’t really eat meat, so I moved on to the veggie end of the table. The choices were something with goats cheese (not allowed), a korma curry (not a massive fan of korma anyway, but definitely not into curry at the mo) or a pasta thing with a cheese I hadn’t heard of. So I decided to ask the staff if the pasta was suitable for pregnancy. The lady was very helpful and went off to ask behind the scenes; after a few minutes came back the answer that the pasta wasn’t suitable, and the only thing I could have as a pregnant veggie was the korma. Great! I explained that I really wasn’t feeling well enough to want curry, and without hesitation she offered to get me a salad made up. Within 5 minutes appeared a salad – an ‘interesting’ combination of flavours I have to say, with rocket, watercress, olives and blueberries, and a chilli dressing. Olives have never been something that I’ve enjoyed eating, but I thought I would try one, just to confirm that I still didn’t like them. But I was surprised to discover that I actually liked it! Amazing what pregnancy does to your taste buds – I’ve completely gone off one of my previously favourite fruits, bananas, but now I like olives! So I ate up the whole salad willingly.
During my time waiting for the salad to appear, I bumped (pun intended) into the lovely Louise Lloyd of Team Lloyd who is also pregnant. She had tried to organise a bump meet-up for any pregnant mums there, but despite initial interest on twitter before the day, it only ended up being the two of us. I think there was just too much else going on. Nevermind, it was great to meet a fellow pregnant blogger, whose blog I really enjoy reading, in person. After I’d eaten and chatted to Louise and her friend Kelly, we all decided to enter a competition run by Acer to win an Android tablet. I was feeling quite left out as I seemed to be one of the only ones there who didn’t have an iPad or iPhone, so I thought it would be a handy prize if I won. To be in with a chance of winning you had to stand in a photo booth and pose how you wanted for four different photos. I decided to do some baby signs, thinking it was a bit different, but sadly I didn’t win.
Lunch was followed by two more workshops. The first one I chose was all about how to make money with your blog. It took me a while to decide on this because the other choices also looked relevant and interesting, and I don’t want to make money from my blog at the moment. But in the end I thought it would be useful to go along and find out more about making money, in case I decide this might be a route to go down in the future. Although the main speaker was very fast, I did manage to get enough info out of it to confirm that I don’t want to turn this blog into anything commercial. She said, as I thought, that parenting blogs are not usually the right place to make significant amounts of money, but that niche blogs that spin off from them can make quite a bit. For now blogging is something I do for fun, and I really don’t want to bombard my readers with adverts and marketing, because that would go against why I started doing it. But I might find in the future that I could look into making money from blogging and writing, using another blog or website set up for that purpose.
The last workshop was a rather disappointing choice, after all the other good ones that I’d been too. But I guess 5 out of 6 isn’t bad! The problem was that the title gave a false impression of what the speaker was going to talk about. It was called ‘Writing about your life for non-fiction and memoirs.’ I was interested to hear about this, because I’ve been saying for a while that maybe one day I’ll write a book about our breastfeeding (and early parenting) experience because we seemed to hit issues that aren’t widely written about beyond postnatal breastfeeding support group literature. However, the speaker only made points that were relevant if you were writing a biography (how is that ‘your life’?) or auto-biography, and focussed on researching genealogy and historic events. By that time I was exhausted anyway, so I switched off for most of it and just played around on t’internet (incidentally the wifi was soooo much faster there than our home ‘narrowband’ connection! – sorry Tom, it had to be said, again 🙂 )
Although there were a couple more things on the program for the evening, both I and Amanda were more keen to get back home to our boys and a good night’s sleep. So, after one last walk round the stands in The Hub, where I was drawn to the freshly-made bread from the Panasonic breadmaker and interested to know how I could be involved in testing/tasting in the future, we headed out of London. Oh, how could I nearly forget? – first we picked up a heavy goody bag full of bits and pieces to take home with us, most of which I or Andrew will find very useful. He’s already enjoyed the Tilda Kids risotto and Winnie the Pooh rice cakes (full marks on a review of taste from him!), and read the children’s books. Lugging in my goody bag, I arrived home to one very happy little (and one very happy big) boy who greeted me with a big hug. The littler one was all ready for bed, and we had a nice long milky snuggle to make up for the time we’d been apart.
Overall I’d say my experience of BritMumsLive was excellent, and I am definitely thinking of going back next year (though it may not work out with an 8 month old baby). I learnt a lot! The only problem I have now is finding enough time to put everything I heard, and frantically took notes on, into practice; that’ll be quite a slow process. My reason for going was primarily to hear some amazing bloggers, who have been around longer than I have, share their experiences and tips, and I wasn’t (generally) disappointed in the quality and quantity of what I heard. For me, the event wasn’t so much about who I could meet (both bloggers and companies), but I was happy that I did get to put a few faces to names and chat with speech rather than online media. I’m sure a lot of effort goes into organising an event that big, and I think BritMums pulled it off well. It seemed like there was something for everyone with all the different workshops, and if I go again, I hope some of the same or similar ones will run so that I can go to the ones I missed this time because they were on at the same time as another one that I chose. So that’s an overall positive review from me!