My Britmums Live
No, it’s not mine, it’s Susannah and Jen’s, but this is about my Britmums Live experience. My first ever blogger conference. On paper it was going to be great: there were sessions on Google+, Instagram, better photography, better video-making; there was a drinks reception, an awards ceremony, and even a mini-show, as well as keynote speeches and debates from inspirational bloggers and celebrities. What’s not to love? I travelled into London with a couple of local blogger friends which eased any newbie fears I had and, after checking into our hotel (we’d chosen the one at the venue for convenience), we joined the unofficial meet up at All Bar One and I met a couple more bloggers. Then we headed back to the venue to register (well, actually just pick up our name badge) and have a wander around the various PR stands before the official start. Susannah and Jen introduced the conference and then handed the baton to the gorgeous Emma Freud. Some of her comments were not as well received by the predominantly female audience, but I felt a connection with her words and didn’t find them offensive or derogatory. In fact, I would be the first to admit to using various feminine assets of my own to make my way in the world in days gone by – not least in my driving test! It’s not something we should celebrate but it also isn’t something we should ignore. We do live in a patriarchal society and it would be a lie to pretend that some (not all) men don’t think with their genitalia. Occasionally, playing this game to make inroads into a system or to make life easier is too tempting to eschew. And I think that was the point Emma was trying to make. She wasn’t suggesting we all turn into simpering,witless Barbies, but that if there’s a way in, then sometimes morals go out the window in the pursuit of it. And that was certainly more the case in the earlier decades from her stories. After this opener, the next session was rather appropriately a discussion on women’s voices in the media. It was inspiring and motivating and I felt really proud to be a part of a movement that has the potential to be incredibly powerful and actually enforce change. Women (and mummy) bloggers, their words, their voices, are now recognised as a force to be reckoned with and the discussion focused on how this can be a game-changer if used appropriately. I left the session feeling empowered and strong and ready for anything! After a break, the sessions started, but stupidly I lost track of time so missed the first one completely and then I joined a session that segued well with the openers, discussing the power blogging can bring to our lives. Mel from Her Melness Speaks was wonderful and had me on the verge of tears a number of times. And finally, it was the blogging event of the weekend – a drinks reception in the fabulous conservatory space in the courtyard followed by the BiBs (Brilliance in Blogging) Awards. I’ll admit (to my shame) that I didn’t actually know all of the winners, but the presenter, Katy Hill was so funny, so down to earth and natural, it didn’t matter as she made for an entertaining evening. I know time didn’t allow for it, but it would have been nice to have had the winners read their favourite post to inspire us. The keynotes the following evening certainly left me wanting more and I can’t help but wonder if a similar approach would work here. After the excitement of the opening sessions and awards, a group of us went out for dinner (well eventually, after trekking round the local area trying to find somewhere we all agreed on!). In the end, it was less about what we were eating and more about the company and it was great to get to know some other bloggers better. It really was a fun end to the day. The Saturday had a more technical feel to it with sessions on how to blog better, use social media better, take better photographs and videos. All sandwiched between incredibly moving presentations from bloggers that write so emotively there was barely a dry eye in the house. To round things off appropriately, we were treated to a performance from the Good Enough Mums Club stars, a new show that tells the story of motherhood with a no-holds barred approach to the language it employs. It was fun and uplifting and promoted the sense of togetherness that had threaded its way throughout the conference. We may blog alone in our living rooms, but we are in this together, sharing our experiences and becoming a community. As I was staying over for the second night (I was determined to treat myself to at least two nights of sleep!), I joined another group meal before heading into Soho with a couple of others to find “The Beer Place” (def.: an as yet unidentified venue selling alcoholic drinks) where we danced and giggled until closing time. So what did I actually get from the weekend? Aside from the aforementioned inspiration and empowerment, I really did take away some invaluable tips and suggestions for how to be better at blogging, writing and capturing our lives. It has given me the determination to look at how I integrate my blog with some of the key social networks and I plan to work on one at a time. So far, I’ve had a Twitter clear out, getting rid of dead accounts I’m following, I’ve checked my Google+ profile and authorship and am now focusing on Pinterest for a more in depth starting point. I am also playing around with the settings on the SLR camera and thinking more carefully about the composition of photos that I take. And on a more personal level, I’ve taken away the key advice that what others think of me is none of my business. I am trying to be less bothered by the opinions of others, and starting to take little risks in my writing that will make it more me, rather than what I think people want to read. The reality of being at a conference filled with confident, successful women (and some men and even a few babies) was certainly enough to make me address some of my insecurities. I started off feeling as though I was gatecrashing a party when the groups I was with made plans to catch up over dinner, and I avoided approaching bloggers I wanted to meet because I thought they’d think I was odd; yet I ended the weekend feeling, no believing, that I have the strength and determination to be just as good as anyone else. I have a new career that is taking off and I certainly understand a lot more about social media than the average Joe. And in my spare time, I plan on trying to write better by continuing to write, and write some more. And when you see me there next year, I’ll be the one making a beeline to say hello!