I was a little braver this year, and didn't line up a buddy to accompany me into the conference. Nonetheless I was rather relieved when I went into the Premier Inn to check my room arrangements to recognise fellow cross stitcher Ruthy from Minibreak Mummy sitting in reception. I persuaded her to accompany me to All Bar One where I knew that some bloggers were meeting beforehand, and I was very glad that I had found her, because when we arrived I couldn't immediately see anyone that I recognised!
Once inside, it wasn't long before I discovered the Lindeman's stand giving out free wine, and my blogging buddy Swazi from Chocolate is not the Only Fruit knew exactly where to find me. It was also lovely to catch up over the conference with Kath from Dreaming of a Craft Room, and she introduced me to the equally lovely Ella from Purplemum.
As well as meeting new people and seeing familiar faces, a main focus of the event for me was the sessions, and once again I've come away with a notebook bulging with ideas and inspiration.
My first session was Writer's block and unlocking the creative process with published authors, and I was excited to see that one of the panellists was Amanda Jennings, having just received The Judas Scar to review for the Britmums book club. I've talked before about how I don't feel that I have a book in me, and that hasn't changed, but I was really inspired by how these three women (also speaking were Hannah Beckerman and Rowan Coleman) had managed to write not just one but multiple books, with less free time than I think that I have. They all had different ways of working, but what really stuck out was the fact that they had each found the time to write, whether it was capturing odd moments throughout the day or setting aside dedicated blocks of time. It really made me think about how I could use my spare time more constructively.
I also really loved my second session - Design tips to make your blog look gorgeous with Lucy Heath from Capture by Lucy. I'm well aware that my blog is in need of a makeover, and now that I'm more confident with customising Blogger I'm going to go right back to the beginning with a blog mood board and do my best to come up with a new, more professional design.
On the Friday evening it was the Brilliance in Blogging (BiBs) Party. I was so thrilled to be shortlisted again this year, and all the finalists truly deserved to be there. As well as enjoying some more free wine with Swazi I also spent time talking to Heather from Pret-A-Mummy and social media representative at Twinkl Resources. (You may have noticed that I'm always going on about Twinkl on my blog as I think it's such a fantastic website if you want to find educational resources for your children.)
|Photo thanks to Swazi!|
The second day of the conference can be quite intensive, as there are lots of sessions. After the very moving keynote speech from Benjamin Brooks-Dutton from Life as a Widower, I took a break and made some time to visit some of the sponsors of the event.
Then I attended the Pinterest session, which was presented by Lizzie Sibley, UK Community Marketing Manager for Pinterest. I love using Pinterest for myself (insert gratuitous link to my Pinterest profile) but I'm pretty useless at using it to promote my blog, so I picked up lots of tips. In particular I was very interested to learn that 75% of Pinterest usage is via a mobile device, so it's really important to make sure that your blog looks good on a mobile.
The Collaboration session was also very helpful. I've never really thought about asking other bloggers to join me in anything, despite having seen it work very successfully for others. It's a really good idea to locate and contact other bloggers in your niche that have been blogging for a similar time or are at a similar place in terms of traffic and followers, and work with them so that you can build on each other's strengths.
I also attended the Travel Blogging session. I was worried that it might be too similar to last year's session, but I did want to see Simon Calder and I picked up lots of useful tips, in particular, to include the children's point of view as I write about places that we visit. The trouble is that I'm torn between being a 'Travel Blogger' writing interesting posts written from an alternative angle, and just keeping it simple with a straight diary style, after all this blog is really about keeping a record of my memories.
After lunch came a session which I only decided to attend at the last minute thanks to Louse from A Strong Coffee, and I'm so glad that I did. YouTube with Greg Brand from Travizeo was packed with so much useful information. I've been using YouTube for a little while (insert gratuitous link to my YouTube channel) but I've slacked off a bit lately, even though some of my videos actually do quite well. I've learned a few things that I can add to my videos, like how to add associated website annotations, and it's given me the push to get up and running with the video again.
My final session was Tech Knowledge with Ruth Arnold from GeekMummy. I found that I was already doing many of the things mentioned, but it was really valuable to have some reminders about things like regular blog backups. I also learned a bit more about Google Analytics. Although I have it installed I don't find it particularly easy to use, so I'm going to make the effort to try and get to know it a little better.
I did spend a short while wandering about on my own which made me feel a bit lost for a time. I don't know why it didn't occur to me that I could actually leave the venue for a bit and take some time for a quick walk outside by myself!
I made more of an effort to talk to the sponsors this year, although I don't find it easy. I introduced myself to the representatives from Butlins, having applied for their ambassador programme this year, and I also met the ladies from Parragon books. I've been a book buddy for a year now, and I'm looking forward to helping Harry take part in their "Summer with Gold Stars" challenge to continue his learning throughout the summer holiday.
I love talking about family travel and I had a great chat with Carnival (who were giving away some fantastic sand toy sets), although I did feel a bit disrespectful talking about our cruises with other companies! Rangemaster were also handing out some lovely baked treats and there was plenty of delicious food in the Morrison's lounge.
|That was a full plate before I sat down!|
Many of the stands wanted you to pose with various props for a photo. I normally shy away from that, but actually it's quite nice to have some silly photos (even if they did then have to be shared all over Twitter!)
|Pictures thanks to Picota Jerte, Acuvue, Wyndham Vacation Rentals|
(I'm with Minibreak Mummy) and Port Aventura
BritMums 2014 ended with the keynote speeches - twelve bloggers reading out their own, always very moving, blog posts. Then we were treated to a short musical performance by The Good Enough Mums Club which I really enjoyed and it was a great way to end the conference, with catchy songs and plenty of humour.
I was feeling pretty emotional at the end, a feeling I remember very well from last year. It's a combination of having been completely overwhelmed, tiredness, emotions brought on by the bloggers' keynote readings, and of course having missed the little ones and being ready for home.
But I'm very much hoping to return for Britmums Live 2015!