As someone who is ridiculously over organised, and cursed with obscene punctuality, the preparation for my first blog conference, #BML16, has been quite a long haul. Tickets purchased at an early bird rate in November, meant not only a money saver (ker-ching), but also plenty of time to
cack your pants get in the zone.
I planned and replanned my outfit. I purchased the essentials: a portable phone charger, a nice note book, funky business cards. I had my hair done. I scoured the agenda, and even printed it with annotations. I packed not one but two bags, filled with items for every eventuality – spare outfit, water, mints, make up, anti-humidity spray (courtesy of Batman’s belt), deoderant, two jackets, my passport. (I know, WTF? But the small print said bring photo ID?). I even shaved my legs. No idea why. I noted down train times there and back, and had my tube journey planned. I even checked with British rail there were no weekend works and bought my ticket the day before. I found myself (somehow) on a group chat with some legendary bloggers who had invited me for a post conference and awards ceremony dinner (money was on several of them being winners). My ‘I’m going to BML‘ post was written, circulated and even on the Britmums linky.
So, I had it covered. Didn’t I?
Well here’s what I learnt along the way…..
- DON’T expect the hubby to be available to cover the childcare if he has a job which sends him away with work at the most inappropriate times. Beg your parents to be on standby at 6.30am to babysit, or overnight the night before.
- DO get prepared as best as possible the night before – and remember to do the stuff you planned. If only my bowl had actually fulfilled its breakfast destiny I would have been a lot less flaky by lunchtime. [Wo]man cannot live on coffee alone.
- DO check your onward journey route…trains were perfecto, but tube? AAARGH no trains in my direction which meant getting on an actual BUS. Channel your inner fifteen year old to remember what to do on one of those.
- DON’T think you know better than the bus driver courtesy of Google and ignore his advice on where to get off.
- DO wear comfortable shoes, flats preferably if there is any chance you may be wandering lost through Graveyards in London at silly O’clock in the morning.
- DO say a prayer of thanks to the Gods of Google Maps.
- DO get a train one earlier than you think if you want to do all of this and still make it perfectly on time to the conference.
- DON’T worry too much about being late – loads of people were and it took a while for everyone to get in and get coffee and cake. (Oh, and for the record…no photo ID or ticket was required either).
- DON’T waste precious brain cell energy stressing about the weather…the event is indoors – you will be oblivious to the storms.
- DO be friendly. Chat to other people who look as lost as you feel when you arrive. The first five minutes are the hardest but after that you feel like you just met a load of people just like you.
- DON’T be surprised that your best blogging friends are equally (or more) incredible in the flesh. After all, their words on line were generated by them and their spectacular brains.
- DO take note and actions…boring boring blah blah blah BUT you may want to remember some of the stuff you want to do when you get home. (I already set up my firstname.lastname@example.org e mail AND have set about trying to increase my e mail subscribers).
- DON’T skip the lunch / pick at a tiny morsel because you were too busy chatting – take the opportunity to get some fuel into you because it’s still a long way till dinner.
- DO speak to the brands and other bloggers and be sure to network at every opportunity – the day goes SO fast. Sprinkle those lovely business cards you got printed like fairy dust.
- DO NOT accidentally lose half of your business cards somewhere in the venue (although that could have been a magical marketing tactic?…)
- DON’T expect the famous bloggers to come screaming up to you knowing you by first name. Turns out – everyone knows them, they don’t know us…you just weirdly feel like you are friends. That’s blogging.
- DO pack lightly, it turns out my two bags of useless stuff was a thorn in my side – added to the piles of free stuff I had to carry home it left me cursing why I brought my make-up bag / spare dress / two jackets.
- DO use the cloakroom service – DON’T leave your worldly beauty product collection on a random chair in a bag in a deserted arena. I came away unscathed but it took me until late afternoon to realise I needn’t have risked it.
- DO check out the break out sessions that appeal to you – keep an eye on the time so you don’t miss any key speakers.
- DO ask questions, but maybe think twice about telling THE Mother Pukka Anna Whitehouse that you love her in a (huge) room filled with people you look up to.
- DO mingle. Hang with your tribe, but make new connections too. Mix the day up and sit with different people at different sessions. Get chatting, exchange blog names.
- DON’T forget you are an anonymous blogger…if that’s your thing. It’s kind of easy to get caught up in all the selfie action – just remember to politely ask your fellow snap happy bloggers not to share on SM with you tagged.
- DON’T underestimate how draining the day may be – keep hydrated and well fed at every opportunity. Maybe had I headed for the tapas instead of the prosecco I may have made it to dinner…
- DO get home safe, and in one piece; listen to your body. I sadly ducked out of dinner with those incredible bloggers – although I have had a pang of ‘I could have been in those photo’s’ now but my legs, eyes and brain were shutting down by 7.30. A wise woman once told me…Far safer to regret leaving too early, than regret staying too long. Damn, have I FINALLY grown up?
- DO download Uber and tell that messed up tube journey to do one on the way home.
- DON’T give evil eyes to the kebab shop owner for not feeding your exhausted starving body quickly enough. It’s not his fault a chicken shish takes 12 minutes to grill…he’s only trying to prevent food poisoning.
- DO have an amazing day, filled with tears of laughter (@Cherry Healey), speakers that will move you (What Martha Did Next @5742days), learn stuff about SEO (spiders, pandas and penguins?) to impress your IT geek husband (@JudithLewis), and realise those amazing bloggers are just human beings like you and I.
- DO get a random end of the day selfie with Carol Smilie (but absolutely DO NOT call her Carol Smiley Smiley Smilie).