Wednesday, 16 November 2016

Attending Blogest 2016 As A Social Anxiety Sufferer - My Experience

This weekend, I went along to Blogfest'16 - a blogging conference I have debated going to for a good 2 or 3 years now, but have never quite worked up the courage to attend before.

My first (and only!) blog conference experience was Britmums Live 2 years ago, and although I had enjoyed getting to spend some time with blogging friends there I didn't enjoy the conference itself much at all...I found it very cliquey and intimidating for a social anxiety sufferer such as myself, particularly as I didn't know too many bloggers back then, and I didn't really learn anything I have never been back since, and I doubt I ever will.

I ummed and ahhed for weeks over whether or not to bite the bullet and go to social anxiety is far from cured and events like these worry me a lot as I fear that I will end up not being able to speak to anybody, and tripping over my words, not finding anything to say to anyone, worrying that nobody will like me and so on.... but when Coca Cola very kindly emailed me and offered to sponsor me to attend...I had to go for it! As somebody who basically lives on Diet Coke, how could I turn down the opportunity to work with them?!

I was nervous about going along...excited but nervous...worried that I may have the same Britmums experience again I suppose...but I didn' fact I thoroughly enjoyed the day - whether it's my weekly anxiety therapy sessions helping with my social anxiety (although I still felt very very anxious!) or whether the event itself was just a bit friendlier I don't know - but I found it much more enjoyable.

The evening before, I arrived into London (accompanied by Jon as I'm a bit poorly at the moment with my Graves Disease and I needed him on hand incase of emergencies, it was lucky he was there as I took a really funny turn on the way home and would most likely have ended up underneath a tube train had he not been there to stop me collapsing...oops!).

We headed straight to Prezzo where I had arranged to meet up with some other lovely bloggers - Fiona from Dolly Dowsie, Lara from Adventures Of A Mum, Becky from The Mummy Adventure, Katy from What Katy Said and Sally from Midway Vlogs, later joined by Amber from Goblin Child - I had a really lovely evening chatting to them, and it was so lovely to get to spend some time with people I chat to online all of the time! Fiona in particular is someone I speak to every day but had never met before, so it was great to finally get to have a chat face to face and she, along with all of the other ladies, was every bit as lovely as I had hoped!

The next morning was the day of the event, and I had arranged to meet up with the super lovely Sian from Quite Frankly She Said at Kings Cross station in the morning, and I think doing that helped me a lot as walking in to a place like Blogfest alone can be intimidating...we met a few other bloggers there too, and Alex from Bump To Baby also joined us which immediately put me at ease as I have met Alex a couple of times now and we get on really well...there's definitely something very comforting about a familiar friendly face at these sorts of events!

The day itself went by quickly, and the highlights for me were definitely getting to meet some of my YouTube heroes in the form of Louise Pentland AKA Sprinkle Of Glitter and The Saccone-Jolys who I have watched for years and have always really liked...I even blogged about them a while back! They were lovely and their talks were both entertaining and inspiring.

BrummyMummyOf 2 (basically my blog-crush) was the PERFECT person to interview Louise, and I literally LOL'ed many times throughout...I would also have loved to have had a chance to talk to Louise afterwards but she was hurried off after the session so I basically only had chance to crash Leanne from A Slice Of My Life Wales' photo with her and to mumble "Thanks" when Louise commented on my "mermaid hair"...quite the wordsmith, aren't I! 

In Fact words failed me on many an occasion throughout the day....BrummyMummy is one of those people that sits somewhere near the top of my "People I want to be friends with" list but with her sitting right there in front of me I could think of absolutely bloody nothing of interest to say to fact there were quite a few people I saw that day who fall that into that category...people that I insta-stalk on the daily but just cannot find anything to say to in person other than "Oh hi, you don't know me....but I just think you're really cool..." - I stared at MummyPiggles for a good 2 minutes trying to think of something I could say to her, to no avail and decided it was better for everyone if I just didn't bother!

Am I the only one who get's ridiculously star struck by bloggers that I admire?!

As for the sessions, I really enjoyed the opening talk on Women in the media, and discovered that I have a bit of a girl crush on Jess Phillips MP who I found to be the perfect mix of passionate, ballsy and hilarious, and I now basically want to be her.

The rest of the sessions didn't really appeal to me as I felt that I had done similar before at Britmums, or they were about subjects that weren't of great interest to me such as branding and instead I stayed in the YouTube sessions all day, and although I didn't learn a great deal...I did enjoy the sessions regardless.

Annoyingly I would have loved to go to YouBabyMeMummy's round table on mental health as it's something I blog about a lot, but it clashed with the Saccone-Jolys session which had been the whole reason I'd wanted to attend blogfest in the first place.

Unfortunately I had to leave a little early to catch my train home, so I missed Davina's keynote speech and the awards - if anybody filmed the keynote do let me know as I'd love to see it!

After fearing the worst for so long, Blogfest ended up surprising me with its friendliness, and the experience has encouraged me to give more blogging conferences a go next year.

After writing last week about feeling unsure of whether or not to push myself out of my comfort zone when it comes to social anxiety, I am really glad that on this occasion I did...and it just goes to show that sometimes we can do things that seem impossible to us, and sometimes they can even end up being fun!

If you are a fellow social anxiety sufferer thinking about attending a Blog Conference next year, here are my top 3 tips:

1) Chat to people before hand - I started the Blogfest Buddies Facebook group to help other people who were feeling nervous about it, and in doing that formed a nice supportive little group of people to mull over worries such as what to wear and how to get to the event with. It was a big help! Even if you don't start your own group, just try to get chatting to other attendees beforehand.

2)Arrange to meet people to walk in with - this was such a big help as the initial few moments of walking in to a room full of people can be awful, so walking in as part of a group or even just with one other person can be a huge help. Just put a call out on one of the Facebook groups and ask if anyone fancies meeting somewhere to go in together, chances are other people will be feeling nervous too.

3) If it all starts to feel a bit too much, take a breather - At one point during the day I started to feel a bit anxious, I think it was just all a bit of a sensory overload as it was very loud and busy in the conference centre, and I had been talking non stop to different people all day...I headed upstairs to sit down in a quiet area for five minutes with Alex who was feeling similar, and that was a big help. After five minutes away from it all, I felt a million times better and ready to be social again!

All in all, I really enjoyed my day at Blogfest and I felt far more comfortable there than I ever thought I would....even if I didn't learn much from the sessions, it was just great to get to socialise with some of the bloggers who have inspired and entertained me over the last 4 years of my blogging journey - all of the people I have already mentioned and also Eilidh from Mummy & Monkeys, Jade from Raising The Rings, Aby from You Baby Me Mummy, Leanne from A Slice Of My Life Wales, AK from The German Wife, Janine from Janines Little World, Mel from Le Coin De Mel, Alex from Lamb & Bear, Jess from Lilypod & Sweetpea, Katie from MummyDaddyMe and anybody else who my silly tired brain has neglected to mention.

A huge thank you to Coca-Cola for offering to sponsor me, look out for a post later this week all about what I learned from my visit to the Coca-Cola stand!

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