On Saturday, I headed over to Kings Cross for #Blogfest16, the blogging conference held annually by Mumsnet in London.
Having already made the step into the ‘real world’ side of blogging back in June for #BML16, I’m glad to say I was feeling way more relaxed and comfortable about getting stuck into what the Mumsnet #Blogfest16 had to offer. I also had the added bonus of having @AdventuresInFruit backing me, so I wanted to do them proud in representing their brand.
So with just a 25 minute train journey separating me from the Blogfest16, I packed my bag with the essentials and a few fruity extras and headed on my way.
It wasn’t long before I’d collared some familiar faces and my blog partner in crime Motherhood the Real Deal and we
set off on our well planned journey to the conference followed some other bloggers we recognised, in the miserable rain, to the venue.
The hands down best thing about attending a blog conference is the ability to meet with, and talk to, the other bloggers you have built relationships with (even if they are sometimes one sided blog-crushes). Being able to actually hang out with some of the core #coolmumclub crew was an absolute joy, and I can’t thank you all enough for being so god damn lovely.
As the day unfolded, I managed to attend loads of sessions which actually inspired me both in blogging, and in that other thing we’re known to do from time to time; living. Here’s a summary of the sessions I loved and some of my highlights…
Women Online – Where to From Here?
As the pane chatted about their experiences, I think we all fell a little in love with MP Jess Philips – I loved her strong bold hilarious style and she totally shattered any preconceptions about Women in Politics. Her response to an audience question about dealing with sexist negativity in the workplace was to “Kiss your guns and think, I’m pissing you off already'”.
From Pitch to Publication Day
It was impossible to leave this talk without wondering if I have a book in me. Unashamedly drawn to the session by my current bedside table resident, Sarah Turner aka The Unmumsy Mum, yet highly impressed by the voice of the other panelists. The incredibly youthful Kit De Waal inspired us that it’s never too late – she didn’t even start writing until her forties and begun her creative writing MA at 51. She advised to find some space in your life to get some training in writing if you are really serious. Sarah Perry encouraged us to be dangerously different, as that unpolished edge could be what makes your writing unique.
The panel clearly explained the importance of an agent as well as a publisher and editor, and made the whole process seem, well, doable.
“The difference between someone who has written a book and someone who hasn’t, is the fact that one of them wrote the book”
Sarahs lovable charm was as present in the flesh as it is through her words. She told her story of being approached via a facebook message, having made her place in the world with her hugely popular blog. I was lucky enough to be wandering past the book stand just after the session and grabbed a copy of Sarah’s book which she signed for me. I can now proudly replace my library book with my own extra special copy.
Possibly the highlight of my day for two reasons…Wilson the coconut got cracked open, and fulfilled his Blogfest destiny. There was a lot of love in the room for that little coconut with a ring pull. Yep, it’s an actual coconut. With a ring pull.
Secondly, I got to chat to another blogging Idol, Anna Whitehouse (Mother Pukka) over a bowl of fishy rice bowls. Anna was a total babe in every way – warm, funny, cool (you know we love a cool Mum). Thanks Fi (Beauty Baby and Me) for sharing both my blogger-girl-crush moments with me and snapping the moments for me to have for my own personal photo collection.
The Scummy Mummies
Any risk of post lunch lull was drop kicked out of the auditorium by two crazy-hilarious Mums in shiny skin tight spandex. Reminding us that Scummy Mummies can hold their own against the Yummy Mummies any day of the week, with their #swingandswig park wine drinking and Raw fish finger sushi.
Who’s Laughing Now?
For me, Sam Baines stole the show with her jokes. Showing us how to own ‘doing it all’, she wowed me with her ability to laugh her way through the darkest of times. Whilst my blog isn’t really a comedy gig, I could definitely remember some dark personal moments where we have been in tears of laughter and wondering what the hell is that all about.
Digital Strategy for bloggers
I don’t think you can ever ‘know it all’ when it comes to SEO and optimising your blogs reach. This was a really useful session – my take home notes and actions from this session were probably my most actionable items from the day;
- Ultimately, create good content
- Create posts around what your audience might want to read
- Use key words
- Think about what questions would be typed into google
- Don’t try to do it all – choose a couple of platforms and own them
- Check out Emily Quinton and her instagram training sessions
- Check out Mozaico for Instagram
- Include external links in your post
- Create a web of internal links throughout your blog
- Name your images and use the Alt Tag description
- Use keywords in header and throughout the text but when relevant – Google knows if you’re playing the system and will rank you based on quality of your content, time spent on page etc
- Schedule tweets
- Post platform specific content as opposed to multitasking
Know your voice
This talk really got me thinking about what is my blog voice? There are some brave, strong writers out there blogging about stuff that needs to be spoken about. I left this session wondering whether maybe this gift of a blogging platform is too precious to waste…and to think about what it is I want to say to make a real difference. The strength and courage of the women on stage left me feeling inspired, yet it was good to know even The Comeback Mum has the fear after hitting publish…
“Writing is a demon that lives inside of me, it has to come out…”
Keynote & Mumsnet Blogging Awards with Davina McCall
Davina started her chat as the erratic, funny energised character we all know and love. She had us all howling as she recalled her chaotic and familiar mum troubles earlier that day, and confessed she couldn’t wait to be here just so she could be around some other Mums who understood. She praised the man in her life, which was a welcome change of tone for the day, and then begun her unprepared motivational speech.
Davina’s advice to live with an attitude of gratitude was one of the most moving and poignant things I’ve heard in a long time. As she explained how she had ‘reframed’ her sisters final weeks into something beautiful and positive, the emotion in the room was electric. She talked about self-love; something she battled to embrace after her lowest point as a Heroin addict. As well as the daily in-the-mirror ‘I love you’ task she was set, she also got a huge cheer when she suggested we all deleted the Daily Mail app. (I’ve done it btw, a good year or so back and never regretted it!). Execute some self love with good food, with exercise and with a little bit of lipgloss, she told us. She radiated something special on that stage, and I believe we all took a little piece of that home with us. Thank you Davina.
Some cold fizz and jam jar cocktails were well deserved, and a chance to say some last minute hellos and fond farewells. New friendships formed, older ones cemented – we chatted freely away from the constraints of a screen between us. To the people who I can now call friends, you Rock.
Special Thank yous.
Without wanting to forget anyone, there were a few people who made my day extra special – with kind words, with bear hugs and with a sense that we are in this together. In fear of forgetting anyone, I’m not going to list names because you know who you are xxx
The final thank you again to my incredible sponsor, Adventures In Fruit – the campaign behind the fruit aisles of our much loved Marks and Spencers. Please check out their Instagram feed, Facebook page and Twitter – plus of course their website for inspirational fruity gems – recipes, competitions and more. A reminder that blood, sweat and tears went into developing, growing and harvesting the fruit in your fruit bowl…to make you savour it in the way it deserves. And Wilson, available from a M&S aisle near you, by the way, was delicious.