This year is my third on the bloggers’ conference circuit, and I feel like a bit of an old hand. My newbie jitters have been banished to the past; instead, in the run-up to events like BritMums Live, I mainly look forward to seeing old friends. And to putting real faces to those avatars I’ve been hounding round the blogosphere (some of whom I’ve been chatting to since 2012, but still haven’t managed to track down in real life. Do they actually exist??)
BritMums Live takes place at The Brewery, a spacious, elegant venue that’s comfortably close to where I live in London. Of course, the elegance was ever-so-slightly diminished by the welcome party of giant CBeebies characters (Twirlywoos, in this case). But it wouldn’t be a parent blogger conference without something to send home for the kids (and my two were beside themselves when they saw this picture of me, on Daddy’s phone).
I’m finding these conferences more enjoyable every year. As well as catching up with mates, I always find myself coming away with new insights and inspirations. BritMums Live 2015 was no exception. Here’s what I learned.
Social media doesn’t have to be dizzyingly complicated
I was late in adding ‘social media’ to my portfolio of blogger skills. I resisted signing up to Twitter until a good 6 months after I launched the Pigeon Pair and Me; and BritMums Live 2015 is the first conference I’ve been to where I decided to make sure I went to some SEO and social media workshops. But I came away from the social media optimisation session by Ali Clifford and Maggie Woodley with a clear plan of attack. It is possible to make all those social media platforms bring more readers to this blog – I just need to do a bit of tweaking. Phew. And Paul Armstrong‘s talk on understanding social media better was damn near visionary in the range of possibilities it set out for social media promotion. A lot of them seemed to involve payment, which is a bridge I’m not sure I’m ready to cross yet. But Paul made a convincing case.
Costa Brava is a beautiful place
Aside from the social media sessions, my favourite had to be the Saturday wine-tasting gig by Pirineu Girona Costa Brava Tourist Board. And not just because they were generous with three different types of wine, including the most sensational dessert wine I’ve tried. It wasn’t even the hunky Costa Brava campsite rep that did it for me (apparently, Costa Brava has some of the best campsites in Europe, rated for tourism quality or environmental quality). No, the talk given by Jaume Marin and his colleagues gave us a feast of holiday ideas. I visited the Dali Museum in Figueres many years ago, when I was 22; although we have a picture of Dali’s muse Gala hanging above our bath, I’d kind of forgotten about this special place. I came away from BritMums determined to take the children there (the museum is completely kid-friendly, apparently). The picnics in Costa Brave vineyards, with wine, cheese and fresh bread specially packed for you, and the cooking workshops for kids, also looked incredibly tempting.
Community is alive
In his talk, Paul Armstrong said that it wasn’t profitable to invest too much in community. He was talking in terms of social media, of course, and perhaps it’s true that some groups fall apart when a particular platform becomes less popular. But I’d like to think that events like BritMums Live help make the community of parent bloggers a force that would be undented if – just say – G+ fades away to nothing.
Over the course of two days, I gossiped, shared trade secrets, and drank far too much wine (thanks, Lindemanns, for that) with a group of people – mainly women, I have to admit – for whom I’m beginning to feel a remarkable fondness. At the final bloggers keynote, I cried when Helen Wills and Jenny Leonard read out their posts about love and the preciousness of life. And I smiled at Rachel from the Ordinary Lovely’s post about how she wants to always remember the sweet, simple moments in her life as a parent of two boys.
I left BritMums Live early. Those beautiful keynote posts had reminded me that life is short; I was aching to see my son, and my small daughter, who was covered in chicken pox. The weird, wonderful and inspiring community of parent bloggers, of which I’m proud to be a part, has made me appreciate even more this short time I have with my children.
And for that, BritMums Live 2015, I thank you.