7 reasons I enjoyed #BML17 (even though I didn’t really)

#BML17 lacked a certain something for me but I still had a great time.

I’m not going to do a full-blown review here but suffice to say it was a mixed bag for me. I thought the new venue (County Hall) was great and I appreciated the efforts to shake up the format after a disappointing 2016 event. However, too many of those changes didn’t work, from the decision to hold the BiB Awards as a separate evening event on a river-boat to the lack of an inspirational celebrity speaker and the inclusion of separate sessions for brands that didn’t interest me. As a whole, the day felt a little flat. BML isn’t what it was in its heyday. (Are any of us?)

I don’t want to dwell on the negatives, though. So instead I’m going to look back on the parts of the day I enjoyed. Let the name-dropping commence …

1. I learnt something new

One of the big attractions of blogging conferences is the opportunity to attend sessions to develop your writing, photographic, creative and technical skills.

Even me. I’m a blogger with 10 years’ experience, I wrote for Metro for three years and I’m a professional social media manager. I know stuff. But I got a lot out of the half-day SEO session, which was pitched at just the right level for me. I would have benefitted from the Instagram session too, had I not attended the equivalent presentation the weekend before given by the brilliant Harriet from Toby and Roo.

2. Seeing old friends …

I remember my first ever blogging conference as clearly as if it was yesterday: BritMums Live (as it was then called) in 2015. I arrived, terrified, having previously met the grand total of – hang on, let me do the complex calculation – zero bloggers.

I left having made a load of friends. It was like joining a new family.

Nowadays I pitch up at events and know I will find friends to catch up with. Some I met back at BritMums in 2015. Others I have only come to know recently. Either way, they are the sort of friends where you run across a room to each other – sappy music, slow motion and soft focus optional – hug and pick up conversations as if it was only last week that you saw each other. (In some cases, it was only last week, but anyway.) People such as Vicky (Verily Victoria Vocalises, with baby Rex), Fran (Whinge Whinge Wine), James (A Life Just Ordinary), Donna (What the Redhead Said), Emily (A Mummy Too), Grace (Eats Amazing), Mel (Le Coin de Mel), Sophie (Mama Mei) and John (Dad Blog UK). They’re good people whose company I love and they make any event a less scary place to attend.

3. … And making new ones

Of course, every conference is an opportunity to make new friends.

I met lots of new people at BML this year. There are too many to mention all of them but a few off the top of my head: Kimberly (Media Mummy), Mary (The Hearty Life), Jenny (Accidental Hipster Mum) and Reneé (Mummy Tries), who I have known for ages but had never met in person.

And a special word for Matt Coyne from Man vs Baby, author of the Sunday Times bestseller Dummy and, as I discovered, the perfect beer-and-pizza partner at 1:30am on a Sunday. He’s a top bloke and a reminder that success can happen to people who are genuinely talented and down-to-earth. Bromance ahoy!

4. Pleasant surprises

It’s always a pleasure to meet up with people you know are going to be there. But it’s a huge joy to find people you didn’t realise were coming.

So when the award-winning Ting (My Travel Monkey) came over to say hi after the ceremony, I was pleased. But then I saw she had brought Sian (formerly Potty Mouthed Mummy) as her plus-one.

Sian was one of the first parent bloggers I really connected with. Her son is a similar age to our Kara and we share similar tastes in films and music. I’d only actually met her face-to-face once before but I’d interviewed her for my old podcast and having time for a proper chat here was a lovely unexpected bonus.

5. Celebration & inspiration

Claire (Life, Love and Dirty Dishes) and I were two of the eight finalists for the Readers’ Choice Award. I didn’t win; she did. And while I won’t deny I was disappointed, I was equally pleased for Claire, whose blog always makes me chuckle. Almost as much as this photo of her (4’9″) with Mark from Lad Baby (6’8″). Sometimes comedy does not require words.

Image with permission from Claire Kirby (Life, Love and Dirty Dishes)

Better still, I was deep in conversation with Kara (Chelsea Mamma and Are We Nearly There Yet?) when she was announced as the winner of the BritMums’ Choice Award for her all-round contribution to the blogging world. Kara has been a multiple finalist without ever winning before, so to witness her surprise and share in her joy was something special. She was still shaking five minutes later when she asked me to take this photo of her.

Image with permission from Kara Guppy (Chelsea Mamma/Are We Nearly There Yet?)

I know awards ceremonies aren’t everyone’s cup of tea but I enjoy them. To see talented friends recognised is something I find inspiring and it reminds me to try that little bit harder to be that little bit better. I always come back from conferences with a surge of inspiration and with ideas cascading from finger to keyboard as fast as I can type.

6. Stroke my ego

I am a painfully shy person with sometimes crippling self-confidence issues. So it’s nice to know that I can be a big, sweaty, fat bloke who can’t remember anyone’s names or faces – and yet people will still talk to me.

And I’m not going to deny that it pleases me when people ask me my age and then go, “You’re 47? Really?!?” when I tell them.

The same goes for when fellow bloggers come up to me asking to take a selfie with them and saying they were too star-struck to introduce themselves to me before. Yes, me! I’m as bemused as I am flattered and that isn’t false modesty. Sometimes I’m so busy writing in my little bubble that I forget other people might be reading – and enjoying – my work. It’s quite humbling. It’s also the closest I will ever get to what it feels like to be a rock-star.

You might think my self-esteem would have been a bit dented when I didn’t win the Readers’ Choice Award. It wasn’t. And the rumour that I had a three-minute acceptance speech tucked away in my back pocket is patently untrue. It was a five-minute speech.)

The thing is, I was already chuffed because I had received a particularly loud cheer when my name was read out. It meant a lot to me to know that I’m rated by my peers. I’ll file that personal little memory away for the future. It’s a small win but I’ll take it.

7. It’s a night away from the kids

Well, duh. Enough said.

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