Tuesday, 24 June 2014

My BritMums Live

After almost a year of build up, this weekend finally saw the arrival of Britmums 2014.

Britmums is an annual conference held in the capital which unites in excess of 500 parent bloggers from across the country - it was an event I had been so looking forward to and also sort of dreading from an anxiety point of view.

It's hard to believe that it's all over & done with after such a long build up!

And of course, it wouldn't even have been possible for me to attend if not for my amazing sponsors My1stYears who have been so wonderful to work with over the last year in the lead up to the event so I want to say one last enormous THANK YOU to them!

So...how was my first BritMums experience?

It all started for me on the Friday morning, and when I waved bye bye to Tyne from the train I was pretty upset and very anxious at what may lie ahead.

Luckily I had booked into first class and once I discovered that there was free cake, I was sorted! My worries were soon drowned in copious amounts of free tea and I began to feel excited!

I arrived at Paddington station and waited for my roomates for the weekend, Emma from Handbags To Changebags and Emily from London Mummy Of Two, to come and meet me.

These girls are people I met through blogging and people I talk to most days online - I knew we got on well in the online world but of course there is always the worry that people may not be exactly who they seem to be when you meet them in reality - as soon as I met these girls, I knew we weren't going to have that problem.

There was no awkwardness, no silences to fill, no "phone voices" to put on....I felt like I was just meeting up with old friends, and was immediately at ease. These were normal, funny, down to earth girls I could have a laugh with....my kind of people!

We made our way to our hotel, and after we'd freshened up a bit we met up with lovely Alex from Bump To Baby and headed off to find the Britmums venue.

After a pretty massive detour, we eventually found The Brewery and armed ourselves with wine!

If I'm being totally honest - I found the Friday at Britmums to be pretty overwhelming, chaotic, busy, and not all that enjoyable although I did love bumping in to some bloggers I had hoped to meet, including Lucinda from Teacher 2 Mummy who was so nice and I wish I'd bumped her into her again for a longer chat!

I also had a quick chat with Kerry from Oh So Amelia & Lotte from Berice Baby who were lovely, I wish I'd got to talk to them for longer and had chance for more than a quick hello with people like James from DaddySpace & Vikki from LoveFromMummy.

With Jade from Late For Reality

There seemed to be just too many people everywhere I turned, we didn't really know what we should be doing, and I spent a lot of time feeling pretty out of place and awkward.

Emma & Emily felt the same way, and we headed off after the BIB Awards feeling a bit deflated (Although I loved seeing Katie from MummyDaddyMe and Just A Normal Mummy win their awards as I am a huge fan of both of theirs!)

We bumped in to Becca from Keeping Up With The Joneses, who invited us out for drinks with a group of bloggers so we went along to All Bar One and met up with them....I'm so glad we did as Becca was such a lovely girl and it was so lovely to have a chat & get to know her better.

One of the other ladies at the bar was Diana from Paint Sew Glue Chew and she was also really lovely to talk to.

After the drinks, the three of us went for an Indian meal....big mistake but I won't go into too much detail on that one!!!

After a few hours of bed-related giggles ("You want a FOURTH BED?!") and chatting, we went to sleep.

On Saturday morning, we weren't exactly raring to go so we had a bit of breakfast at Pret A Manger on the way and arrived at Britmums mid-morning.

We immediately noticed a huge difference in the atmosphere.

The whole thing seemed much more chilled out!

We wandered around chatting with brands and getting involved in their various competitions and photo opps.

We spent a LOT of time in the Heinz room as it was so light & airy in there, with lovely comfy seats and free massages!!

Plus they happened to have the friendliest and most hilarious brand rep there - Nicola was amazing! She really knew how to do her job properly, and kept us engaged and entertained the whole time we were in that room - Top marks to Heinz on having such fantastic brand representatives! 

I had been so looking forward to networking with brands at the event and felt that some of the stands didn't do much to interact with bloggers - At quite a few stands I felt like I was the one having to make conversation and that I was the one doing all the work without getting much back - I had expected Britmums to be a chance to get familiar with a brand, to find out more about them and how they liked to work with bloggers, but with some I walked away feeling that I had no idea what they were there to do despite my best efforts to engage with them.

*Photo credit - HandbagstoChangebags

Thankfully this wasn't the case with all the brands, and Heinz in particular got their approach right....A friendly face like Nicola's really does make all the difference!

As for the sessions, I found the ones I went along to very helpful. In particular the YouTube session taught me a lot and I'm very excited to put what I learnt into practice!

We also bumped in to the lovely Katy Hill and she was very obliging in posing for photos with us, although I'm sure she was probably sick of being asked by everyone!

My only irritation was that there were some time slots were I couldn't find any talks of interest, and some were EVERY talk was of interest - I know this is hard to avoid, but perhaps having only 3 talks at once instead of 5 or offering talks twice across the 2 day event would mean that people don't need to miss out on topics of interest as much if there's a time clash.

On the whole, I thoroughly enjoyed the Saturday at Britmums and would say that next year I would be tempted to attend on just the Saturday.

*photo credit - In My Bubble

After the event, I went out for dinner with a group of bloggers at Pizza Express which was a really fun evening.
It was so nice to spend some time with bloggers I love like Jade from Late for Reality, Emma from The Mini Mes and Me, Laura from The Life & Times Of The Working Mum, Bex from The Mummy Adventure,Sally  from Faded Seaside Mama, Debs from SuperBusyMum and Amy from InMyBubble.

After the meal, myself & Emma (unfortunately Emily had to leave early) went to Debs and Amy's hotel room where we spent what felt like an hour but was actually more like 3 hours laughing and chatting about all sorts of things....from TV Shows and movies, to MintyCraic! (Don't ask!)

Once back in our hotel room, Emma & I carried on chatting until gone 5 am - we were shattered the next day of course but how often do you get to live like a teenager at a sleepover and spend all night chatting with friends once you're a grown up?!

All in all, after a rocky start I ended up thoroughly enjoying my first Britmums experience and I am already looking forward to the next one!

My Low Points? 

*The lack of drink other than wine (Not usually a bad thing, but for an all day long event a soft drink of some sort is necessary! Even a bar to buy our own would be preferable to there being none available)
*The clashing of sessions of interest (Though I realise that is difficult to avoid).
*Being too shy to talk to some Bloggers I really admire like MyTwoMums, Edspire & Just A Normal Mummy....and MummyDaddyMe although I never actually managed to spot her! (I did spot the others but was just too nervous!)

My High Points? 

*Meeting some fantastic friends in person and making new ones
*Learning new things that will help me to improve on what I do
*Spending a weekend around like minded people - I can't tell you how nice it felt at dinner to NOT be the only one scrolling through my social media feeds on my phone and to not need to worry about looking rude because when you're on a table full of bloggers...everybody else is doing it too! 

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