Sunday, 1 October 2017

Reflections on BML17 - the blogging conference from Britmums

The Britmum's conference returned yesterday with a new venue, new time of year and a new format. The previously 2 day conference suffered last year from trying to fit it all into 1 day, but did the new concept work for BML17? The answer is yes and no.

Around 200 white cotton bags filled with stuff as the goodybags for BML17. On the bag it says "Britmums leading the conversation"


The Location


The new venue in County Hall on London's South Bank was lovely with gorgeous views over the Thames towards Westminster. For the BIBS17 (the annual Brilliance in Blogging Awards) we moved over to the London Eye Pier to catch a City Cruise. Unfortunately the rain stopped us fully enjoying the views of London at night as we cruised along the Thames, but it made for an interesting evening. The negative was some guests felt sea sick and others were put off attending as once on board you were committed to staying for the whole 2 hours. A little daunting if you didn’t really know anyone. 

The Format


The timetable for the day was completely overhauled from previous years with the removal of the normal welcome talks and addition of Deep Dive sessions in SEO, You Tube and Photography. Going straight into the sessions meant more time to learn, but I felt not having the initial ice breakers and motivational speakers meant the day started without it’s normal oomph. It’s a tough call to make. 

I attended Judith Lewis’s Deep Dive SEO session and that alone was worth attending the event. Normally in SEO talks the same things are covered each time and you never get beyond the basics. Judith sent out prereading and pitched the session at an intermediate fast moving level. This was perfect for me and anyone who really wanted to get to grips with understanding how it works and improve their SEO. A few beginners found the talk bewildering, but I suspect they weren’t aware of the pre reading and I'm sure everyone learnt a lot. 

Attending the SEO session all morning meant I missed out on going to up to 4 shorter sessions which I haven’t really heard much feedback on.

After lunch there were a couple of sessions run by the brands and more normal length sessions. I attended a talk with Wear White Again/ Am I Number 5 about Heavy Periods with Dr Dawn Harper and the Queen of the overshare (and regular Britmums attendee) Katy Hill. This was an interesting talk and something I plan to talk about in more detail another time. 

In the Spanish Tourist Board session there was a wine tasting, and I’m not sure about the other two. It would have been helpful to have more information about what was in these sessions to encourage attendance because it felt like just a massive gap between normal sessions of nearly 3 hours.

There has been criticism in previous years that the day was too busy and there wasn’t enough time to talk to brands or people. This year there was plenty of time, but with less people, a layout which didn’t help you meet new people and far less brands there ended up being far too much time.

The main conference ended with the Bloggers Keynote as normal. Featuring funny and moving blog posts read by the author. The posts made everyone in the room laugh, and a fair number cry especially at Little Ladies Big World’s post about suffering extreme Hyperemesis Gravidarium and losing her second baby as a result. 

A red and blue bird in water colours with white outlines

The Food


Bring a group of people together and food is always going to be an important part of the day. The breakfast offering was a continental selection of pastries, bread, meat and cheese, coffee breaks had little cakes and other nibbles and lunch was a bento box which you could fill with a range of salads and hot food. On the cruise there was hot finger foods and sandwiches.

Being dairy free I struggled a bit with the food as it was unclear at which times there was a special dairy free option for me or how to get it. I ended up having dry bread and apple juice for breakfast, an apple for the first coffee break and nothing for the second one. I asked at lunchtime and on the cruise and was brought a special plate of food, but I missed out on pudding at lunch as I didn’t fancy more fruit. Today I will be stuffing my face with cake to make up for it. There may have been dairy free options available at other times, but I felt like I was an inconvenience asking.

The People


Britmums had intentionally reduced the size of the event and I liked the more intimate size. What I found hard was the lack of opportunities to meet new people. It is always intimidating to go up to people you don’t know and start talking, but that was pretty much what you needed to do if you didn't want to stand around on your own. Ice breakers or small group activities would have helped a lot. I knew a number of people who attended, but I still found plenty of times I was on my own.

I managed to overcome my fear and at least say “hi” to lots of bloggers I recognised in celebrity fashion including the lovely Al and Jen Ferguson, Sarah from This Mama Life, Laura from Five Little Doves, Kate from Wit Wit Woo and Jodie from Life With Pink Princesses. I also chatted to some "old friends" and found some new bloggers too, but I had to push myself well out of my comfort zone. 

The Brands


The brand area has always been a highlight for me at the previous Britmum’s conferences with rooms full of both big names and new brands. This year there were just a small number of brands and I found it hard to talk to them as in the biggest break I had to fill (lunch and the brand sessions) they weren’t really on their stalls. I ended up only speaking to two of the brands compared to normally speaking to over 15. The brands sponsored the event so big thanks to them to help it happen. I didn’t feel any of them would be interested in working with me and that’s the main reason I want to talk to brands at blogging events. 

Chatting to brands normally helps pass time in breaks and slots when there are no sessions which interest me so I felt there were big bits of time with not much to do. Fortunately I passed around half an hour painting a bird with the Jennie Maizals Sketchbook Club and having my nails painted for the Am I No 5? campaign. More activities would definitely have been welcomed.

Flowers in the background with natural colour nail vanish and one finger on each hand decorated with flowers transfers.

The Goody Bag


The goody bag can end a conference on a high or a low and initial investigation of the BML17 bag suggested disappointment. When I got home and fully checked out the contents I thought it had a good range of items for all ages. 
The Hipp Baby Food has dairy in so is no use for us, there’s also a delicious looking Lily O’Briens chocolate bar I can’t eat. My children both love little bottles of water so they were excited by the Highland Spring, there is a new Tom Fletcher book my eldest will enjoy, some curry powder courtesy of the Mauritius Tourism Promotion Authority, a Pinterest cup, products from the new La Roche Posay baby range, Professor Scrubbingtons Hair and Body Wash, Clothes Plasters, nail vanish and a few pens (including those helpful ends you can use on a touch screen).

Jar of Hipp Baby Food, Lily O’Briens chocolate bar,  Highland Spring little bottles, there is a new Tom Fletcher book my eldest will enjoy, some curry powder courtesy of the Mauritius Tourism Promotion Authority, a Pinterest cup, products from the new La Roche Posay baby range, Professor Scrubbingtons Hair and Body Wash, Clothes Plasters, nail vanish and a few pens

The Experiences


In addition to the conference and awards you  could sign up for a number of fantastic experience before and after the conference. I went to the SEALIFE centre which I have wanted to go to for ages and it didn’t disappoint. Other options included: a tour of Parliament, The London Eye, Shreks Adventure, Big Bus Tour and an Instawalk. It was a great chance for attendees to be a tourist and experience some of the best London has to offer. A great addition for anyone able to travel in for more than the day.

A large fish tank with big fish swimming around and fake bones of a large animal

Overall thoughts on BML17


I think the format of the day still needs a bit more tweaking and it would appeal to more if it wasn’t sandwiched in between two other popular conferences for parent bloggers (3 conferences in 2 weeks is a bit much) with BML17 the most expensive. I learnt more than last year, but I felt less inspired and had less fun. The highlights of the conference for me were: the experiences, the SEO deep dive and the blogger keynote. Will I go again next year? We'll see, it depends on the timing and agenda.

In case you are interested I blogged about my thoughts on  BML16 too.
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11 comments

  1. I really liked this - such a balanced view and I think that everyone who went to the SEO session really enjoyed it. It was so lovely to spend time with you too x

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    1. Thank you Donna, it's always so lovely to catch up with you x

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  2. Thanks for your honest overview. I’ve never been before and it’s great to have this insight.

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    1. Thank you. I've seen feedback from some people who had an amazing day so I'm sure with a bit of tweaking they can make it better for everyone

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  3. I liked the addition of the experiences- for people travelling from outside London they definitely added to the value! Venue was really easy to get to too. I had a good time overall but do concur with you here on many points too :)

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    1. Thank you. If I was able to be childfree or was staying in London I would definitely have tried to do more of the experiences, there were other ones which sounded great, but I didn't have the childcare.

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  4. Thanks so much for attending the "deep dive" SEO session I have. It was absolutely intended as a half-day training and so very much pitched at an intermediate level so that bloggers who had been going for years got the most out of it. I'm glad that made it valuable for you because that's something I really work hard on :-)
    I totally understand your comments about the conference and venue. I've been in that venue before and know the limitations of it, as well as the benefits.
    I'm sure Jen and all the amazing volunteers will take this feedback on board and look at making next year even better. Don't know if they'll have me back but it'll be hard to top this year!

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    1. Thank you Judith. I have a huge to do list following your session. It's really exciting to think I now have an understanding of SEO, or at least enough of an understanding for my needs.

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  5. A great write up Kate and it was a pleasure to meet you x

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  6. I totally agree - the highlight was the SEO and I think it was pitched at just the right level. Judith's always really enthusiastic which helps what could be a dry subject. I felt it was all a bit flat. Too much hanging around - if I'd not been able to/interested in sitting painting for 1.5 hours, I'd have been bored stiff and sick of talking to people. I did talk to a couple of random lone people, who must have thought I was a little nuts! I enjoyed the instawalk, but the other experiences I couldn't get there for and were things I've already done before. I'm not sure I'll be back again. Timing was a poor decision with blogon before it, and there just wasn't enough for me other than SEO, good food, good venue, the pinterest talk and the people.

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  7. A really balanced view, I loved reading this. I would've loved to have chatted with you properly xx

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