In my previous year’s BritMums Live! posts I have said that I felt the Friday was for the fun, socialising thing, and that the Saturday was for the getting down to business. My feelings are exactly the same this year! Before I begin to tell you about my second day at the UK’s biggest blogger conference, (you can read the first day here), let me tell you about our morning, which began with waking up from a rather sleepless night at our hotel, The Montcalm, because the bed was so hideously uncomfortable for the both of us (my husband and I, in case you haven’t read day 1), coupled with the fact that we couldn’t open the window (no doubt a safety thing), and the air con being a bit hit and miss – either too cold, or not cold enough, so we both woke up with a bit of a headache too. We were awake from around 4 in the morning, so not a good start to the day at all…
After getting showered and dressed, we walked down and out of the hotel, then around to The Jugged Hare, which is where breakfast is served. It was nice to get outside into the fresh air. It doesn’t matter where I walk to, I will always find things to take a photograph of – either for my Project 365 or to share on Instagram. On this occasion it was some flowers and a Queen Victoria post box.
We walked into the restaurant from the street (there is also a link from the hotel too) and gave our room number. We were shown to a table, and that was it… no offering of tea or coffee, no letting us know about the breakfast. So couple a crappy sleep with some early morning crappy service, and you’ve got a not particularly happy bunny.
You see, I grew up in the catering trade. My dad ran pubs and restaurants until he retired. I also worked in them for a lot of my life, including in a hotel, so my level of standards for customer service is quite high, and I often pick up on things when we are dining out. However, I rarely make a fuss, unless it is warranted (a fly in my soup for instance), especially since I know it can be easy to forget things if it is busy or whatnot. We sat in a pretty empty breakfast room – us and another table – and the waiter was just walking up and down; it felt like he was ignoring us. Most annoying since we were both anxious for a coffee hit after the bad nights sleep we had, had.
What was even more insulting was that a couple were sat down a couple of tables down from us, and the host had explained to them about the breakfast buffet and offered them coffee! Anyway, finally caught someone else’s attention to ask for some coffee, and then helped ourself to breakfast.
The breakfast was very nicely laid out, with the continental breakfast goods on one side of the restaurant (photos below) and the English cooked breakfast at the grill area, as well as breads and pastries. Everything was very well presented, and looked delicious. I decided to have some smoked salmon, ham and cheeses, because I’m posh like that! As cooked breakfasts go, this one was very good – the sausages were of fantastic quality and full of flavour, and the scrambled eggs were perfect – not to runny and not too dry. The food definitely made up for the shady service that we had at the start.
After having our fill, we walked back around to The Brewery – but not before taking a selfie, obvs! Since I wasn’t too interested in the first keynote speaker of the day, and since we’d already had breakfast, full of protein, and since I didn’t want to be tempted by pastries in The Hub, we sat in the gazebo area outside, just chilling out. It was nicely decorated again (although, I personally preferred last years look) and it is such a wonderful space to meet other bloggers in. Steve nipped into the hotel reception to tell them that the fruit and water that was listed as being in our rooms, was not there, and they promised to add them later in the day.
Whilst most of the crowd were up in BritMums 1, listening to the first keynote of the day – Carole Smillie – Steve and I were in The Hub, chatting again with brands, and I also handed in my application form to Carnival Cruises. We then went into BritMums 3 for my first chosen session of BritMums Live! 2015 – Social Media Optimisation: Doing Pinterest, Google+, Twitter, Instagram, Facebook all at once? Yes & Here’s How! with Ali Clifford from Kids Chaos and Maggy Woodley from Red Ted Art. Read my notes here.
I’ve decided to put the details about the sessions I attended into separate posts – as I wrote this, it became very, VERY, long – even for me!
Another reason I took my husband along with me to BritMums Live! was so that he could be my second pair of ears and eyes during the sessions. I’ve found over the past year or so, that my concentration levels are pretty dire, and I don’t take everything in like I used to. Plus, I thought it would be good for him to hear how things work in my world of being a full time blogger! And that way, he’ll understand some of the things I talk about when I want to waffle on about social media this and analytics that!
A coffee break followed, and I went over to the Super Savvy Me stand to chat to a blogger friend, Nadine from Juggle Mum who was doing a demo – showing us how to make bunting. Had a lovely chat with her, and a couple of the other ladies from Super Savvy Me. I also loved this too kitsch flamingo and tea cup lamp, and the flamingo paper weight!
The next session I attended was BritMums in conversation with… Bloggers & Brands, with Claire Candler (from H&K), Nadine Hill, Marianne Weekes, Susanna Scott and Jennifer Howze, who spoke how how bloggers and brands can work together. If you want to make money from writing your blog, then this is one of the avenues for you to explore. Read my notes here.
I hung around to speak to Claire, and whilst waiting, got chatting with another blogger who was waiting her turn too – Caro from The Twinkle Diaires, who I imparted some of my “wisdom” about working with brands and turns out it was good advice, so that was lovely to hear!
Next up (for me at least) was Table Talk – intimate roundtables with experts. I wanted to ask Alice from Fairy Blog Mother a few questions. She was hosting a WordPress troubleshooting session. Because I had hung around to talk to people at the previous session, I was late to the table, were three people were already sitting, talking through their problems, they were Emma and Sammy from Handbags and Snotrags who were having lots of problems, as well as with their domain name. And there was Dominique from Playing Parent who was having problems with her site being very slow. I had the same problem recently, so was able to lend a hand with that. She tweeted me to say it had really helped, so again, very lovely to hear. I will always help where I can! As the session came to an end, I quickly spoke to Alice about my tiny problem with WordPress, not so much a problem, but a bit of advice really. If you are scared of WordPress, she really is the website to visit as she explains everything in simple terms.
Lunch time had arrived, so Steve and I went into the hub to grab a box of something to eat. I wasn’t overly hungry, but wanted something to tide me over until dinner. So I picked up a salmon and rice box… well actually I’d picked something else, but when I looked at it, it looked really unappetizing, so did a trade with hubs!!
We headed outside to the other gazebo, where I found Jess from Mrs Helicopter Writes, Emily from Tea Lady Mumbles and Jade from Late For Reality. I loved the decor in this gazebo, with the brightly coloured umbrellas, flowers and fountain.
Everyone was sitting in little groups, and I can understand why some bloggers say it seems to be cliquey at BritMums Live… as it can seem that way from the outside, looking in. But the reality is, some bloggers have known each other for a long time, and have already formed a group of like minded souls. Me personally, will say hello and talk to anyone, and that is why I always say to bloggers who are nervous about going to BritMums Live! to say hello if they see me.
Between eating, drinking, chatting and laughing our way through the lunch break, I took a selfie of Jess and me, and then there were some really classy photos taken!
With lunch over, we split up and
looked for clues went to our chosen sessions. I went into Travel Blogging: The latest inspirations, press trips and more, as it’s an area I want to focus on more in the coming year. The session was with Steve Keenan, Michael Ball, Jaume Marin, Gretta Schifano and Jennifer Howze. Read my notes here.
I then sat in the How To Be A Social Media Manager session with Chelle McCan from The Mummington Post, Carol Smith from Lipstick and Lace, and Kate Sutton from Wit Wit Woo. Not because it’s something I’m actively seeking to do, but for tips and ideas of how to better manage my own social media, which I know I need to step up my game on. My notes are but scribbles…
- Sort out LinkedIn
- Google+ is good for SEO
- Have a support network
- Don’t pump out the same stuff to all social media – be different across the platforms
- Behind the scenes pictures work well on Instagram
- Plan your social media strategy
Another coffee and tea break followed, before the final keynote: Caprice who’s speech was entitled From Actress to Entrepreneur to Mother, and that I don’t have much to say about, other than I wish I could earn a million a year :P
Then it was time for the Blogger’s Keynote, which was very emotional this year, compared with other years. Thankfully there were some lighter hearted and very funny blog posts read, including one from a new blogging friend, Emily from Tea Lady Mumbles: Reasons Not To Go To Bed – Toddler Vs Mum. I felt like there should be some sort of trigger warning with the keynotes. We don’t all read the same blogs, and have no idea what is about to be spoken from the title of the post…
I was also really sad to see a rather empty room by the end of the bloggers keynotes, whether people decided to just leave early, or didn’t want to hang around any more, I don’t know.
We exchanged our lanyards for our swag bags, which I thought had some awesome goodies inside, and I know I’ve gotten more use out of more of the stuff than in previous years! I had the Brucey Bonus of having two, since my husband was also along for the ride!
We said our goodbyes, and BritMums Live! was over for another year. Steve and I went back to The Jugged Hare for dinner, but I’ll be writing a review about that in another post. In the meantime, here are photos of the dishes that we had which included scallops and ribeye steak – yum! We had another bad sleep at The Montcalm. The promised fruit and water wasn’t in our room, and we did complain to the manager on check out, who is looking into our issues. I was gutted that it didn’t live up to my expectations, especially for what I paid for the room for two nights. I’m just glad it was so close to The Brewery, so I didn’t have to stress about getting to the conference. Live and learn, as I always say!
My BritMums Live! 2015 Final Thoughts
BritMums Live! 2015 felt very different this year, I can’t quite put my finger on it, but it just did. Not in a bad way, not in a good way, just different. Maybe being there for my 3rd time helped, because I felt like I belonged.
There were elements I really enjoyed – having some new friends to meet up with, having my husband with me for moral support of my anxiety issues, as well as him being able to step foot into my world, that I spent a bit more time socialising than on previous years (where I spent more time in sessions), that the sessions I attended were of great use to me, and as always, I’ve come away with inspiration for my blog.
And there were some elements that I didn’t – I wasn’t overly keen on this year’s keynotes. I didn’t go to Carol Smillie’s keynote as the product she would be talking about – Diary Doll – pants to wear during your period and for pelvic floor weakness, don’t go up to my size (they stop at as size 18-20) so no use for me as a lady who is a size 30. I could do with a few pairs of those pants, just sayin’. Caprice’s keynote, didn’t do much for me either, I just couldn’t relate to it at all. My favourite will always be Katie Piper from my very first BritMums Live! in 2013.
I felt that the BiBs award ceremony was really rushed – at least, it felt that way to me. I wish that there could be a party afterwards, as it felt like it seemed to end abruptly. I wish that there was more time to be social with other bloggers – grabbing a quick 2 minute chat here and there between sessions is hard work!
I know I’d love BritMums Live! to be a 2½ day event, instead of the 1½ day event that it currently is. The Friday could be all about the social side – even blogger roundtables, to chat freely. I know that Steph from Steph’s Two Girls has mentioned a blogger speed dating type thing, which I think would be a great idea too! Ending the day with the blogger’s keynotes, so that there is some support afterwards for them. I felt like it was another abrupt ending – or maybe I was just very emotional hearing the posts being read from the heart. Boxes of tissues required please!
I loved the entertainment we had at last year’s BML, and wish there had been something similar this year.
I think the hour break between the sessions is looong – and then you have no breaks between some of them. Perhaps split them up a bit – especially as some sessions do over run. It often feels like everything is a rush!
I spoke to some bloggers who said sessions were not what they thought they would be after reading the titles. A synopsis of what will be happening would be helpful I think. I know I’ve walked out of sessions in the previous years because they’ve not really been what I wanted.
I loved the roundtable idea! Smaller groups, I find are much more engaging, and it means there is scope for lots of different things going on in one room. The Guinness World Record™ attempt was fun and a great ice breaker too!
There seemed to be a good mixture of brands this year, but at the same time, the room felt empty. I heard that some brands didn’t seem bothered about talking to bloggers, but that wasn’t my experience. I feel like I got what I wanted out of my opportunities to talk with the ones that were relevant to me.
There were lots of new bloggers, which is a great thing! I’m just an “old” blogger now! I hope that they enjoyed their experience… although, I do know that a lot of bloggers say that it wasn’t what they were expecting! Nothing ever is, is it?!
Overall though, I had a great BritMums Live! 2015. I know I missed talking to some bloggers (always in a rush!) but I saw the lovely people that I want to see. I had lots of laughs with them, and had my mood and spirits picked up considerably by both Jess and Ceri (Ginger Warrior). I was so sad to say goodbye to them both.
The team at BritMums must work so hard to put on and pull off a huge event like this, and they are simply not going to be able to please all of the people. A big hat tip to them! And if Jen or Suzanna read this, then I would actually love to help out in some way next year!
When 2016’s event is announced, I know I will be buying a ticket… BritMums Live! is one of the highlights of my blogging year!
And since my husband came along with me for the ride, here is a non-blogger’s view of BritMums Live! 2015…
“I offered to attend BritMums with Michelle after I could see she was suffering from anxiety at the thought of going on her own. I would be there to support her if she felt she couldn’t cope. But after the weekend was over, I have to say that I think she coped extremely well and loved being part of her blogging family.
Whilst I know Michelle blogs for a living, I thought it would also be insightful to see the background working of blogging. Where people get their inspiration and how they go about promoting their blog, etc.
To say I was nervous was an understatement. Being called BritMums, I was worried that I was going to be the only man there! But I needn’t have feared because despite being called BritMums, there were several male bloggers in attendance as well. Not only that, we had a great ice breaker to ease the tension and had a great laugh and a joke over our Guinness World Record™ attempt.
I guess I’d always thought that there was a lot of competition in the blogging world and that it was a very cut-throat business with people wanting to step over others so that they can be the best. I was however very happy to see that I was completely wrong on that count. Not only did I see loads of bloggers happily chatting away and exchanging ideas, but it all seemed to be one big happy family as well.
The classes and sessions over the 2 days were very inspiring and very useful. I certainly got a lot out of it and I’m not even a blogger!
All in all, I have to say that this was a great insight into Michelle’s world and the blogging world as a whole and I for one can’t wait to go back again next year :-)”