Home » blogging conference

Tag: blogging conference

Amanda Shortman from The Family Patch

I’m Going To BlogOn MSI 2017

If you’ve been following my blog for some time, you’ll know that I love nothing more than a blogging conference! I love the opportunity to get together with like-minded people, actually have a chat over a cuppa with people I usually only ever speak to online, and attend sessions from some of the most inspirational bloggers around. So it’s no surprise that I jumped at the chance to attend another conference this year.

My biggest concern this year is not nerves, but rather a hope that I will be well enough to enjoy the event as much as possible. Last year was the first year I didn’t attend a conference since 2012, and it really upset me. This year I’m determined to make it to at least one, so keep your fingers crossed for me that I’m having a “good day” on 21st May!

I’ve never been to BlogOn before (despite hearing amazing things about it), so it’s doubly exciting for me to be preparing to attend it. Which is why I decided to take part in the Linky, to try and “get to know” some people before I get there. Blogging conferences are always quite a blur of names and faces, and so it’s always handy to have a vague idea of who you might meet (to save you staring at another person’s chest, trying to make out their name and where they blog).

So, without further ado, here are my answers to the BlogOn Linky…

Share a recent picture of you:

Um, okay, most of my recent photos are selfies from my bed, so here you go… I promise I won’t be wearing PJs on the day!!

Amanda Shortman from The Family Patch

Describe yourself in three words

Determined, Passionate, Stubborn

How long have you been blogging and what made you start?

Over a decade now… I started in 2006 as I was coming to the end of my final year at uni. I was looking towards the future – what did I want to do, what were my dreams, how might that happen etc? Blogging just seemed like the most natural thing in the world to me, as a linguist and a writer…

What was the inspiration behind your blog name?

My very first blog was called “Dream of Living” (based on my above questions!). When I met my husband, I changed to “Me and You at 22” (we lived at number 22, it wasn’t a play on our age). Then in 2010 I left my full-time job to explore other options, as I knew I wouldn’t be well enough to start a family and work full-time.

At that point I upped my game a bit with blogging, posting 5 times a week (I still wasn’t big on using social media though) and changed the blog to “Amanda’s Patch”, so it became my patch of the internet, and was a play on the fact I wrote about gardening and crafts.

When Little Man was born in 2011 I realised I wanted the blog to reflect the changed nature of my life, and so I changed it to “The Family Patch”. I sometimes wonder if it still reflects what I write about, but I can’t imagine being anything else now.

What is the best thing to come from your blog so far?

Friendships. I have some blogging friends I made way back in my early years as a blogger, people I have never even met, and yet they are still people I truly care about and who genuinely care about me too. I’ve also made some amazing friendships with people I have met at conferences, which is even more exciting as they become IRL friends as well.

That, to me, is the greatest gift blogging gives anyone!

Your most remembered thing from your childhood

Oh gosh, I’m not sure I can choose just one thing. Can I share a few?

Holidays at the caravan with my Grandparents
Having free access to the sewing kit and being able to create whatever I wanted
Getting up before anyone else at the weekend and writing stories
Spending my pocket money at the Church Bazaar to buy Christmas presents
Reading books under the covers when I should have been asleep!

Something interesting you might not know about me is . . .

Oh this is a tough one – I am such an open book I’m pretty sure I’ve shared most things on here at some point or another…

I suffer terribly with Imposter Syndrome and low self-esteem, and am constantly expecting people to rumble me and find out I haven’t got a clue and have been winging it this whole time. I undervalue my skills, feel like the smallest fish in the very big pond that is blogging, feel completely blessed that people actually like me, and am more likely to think, “I can’t do that” than “I can”.

I think this may actually surprise quite a few people, because despite battling these feelings every single day, I’m very determined and refuse to let it beat me. Sometimes I think I’d quite like a quiet life where I don’t feel sick to my stomach with worry before doing something like trying to grow my blog, walking into a crowded room, taking part in an interview etc, but then I remember how good it feels to have come out the other side and I keep going. (And, actually, once I’m doing it I usually enjoy it, it’s the worrying beforehand that gets me).

So, if you see me and think I’m a confident social butterfly, know that I’m actually just too stubborn to let nerves and shyness beat me!

Which social media platform best describes your personality and why?

Instagram. I love the intimacy that comes from sharing snapshots of your life, and am inspired by the more staged shots too. I think my life and personality is very much reflected in the delicate balance between real-life and what we show to the world on a daily basis!

What is your happy song?

Oooh good question… at the moment I think it would have to be Cleveland by Jewel. I absolutely adore this part of the song:

From the air things look so ridiculous
Our fears so small, our fights so vain
I wanna pilot a plane with you
So all our problems look small, too
It’s only an inch from me to you
Depending on what map you use

What is your favourite alcoholic drink

I don’t really drink alcohol – even the smallest amount makes my head spin, my stomach churn, and my body feel all antsy.

That being said, I do quite like a sip of my husband’s whiskey, or coffee Baileys at Christmas!

 What is your favourite cake?

Chocolate… anything chocolatey will do fine, thank you very much! Preferably without icing/frosting… I find that too sweet for me.

I’m quite suspicious of takeaway food… My husband was sick after Chinese food at the beginning of my awful pregnancy, and the first time I had a gluten free pizza delivered I was sick all night too (although that was more likely due to working late and eating too fast and getting terrible heartburn, but still, we don’t have a good track record with takeaway food!)

Where is your dream holiday destination and why?

In the UK, it will always be Glastonbury. That feels like home to me.

Abroad it would probably be Sweden. My aunt comes from Sweden and whenever she describes it I think, “wow, I really want to go there and experience that!”

What would your superhero name be?

Mrs Wing-It

Haha, I’m serious… you remember I said I am always waiting for people to figure out I’m just winging it? Well, I’m actually pretty good at it… I once led a 2 hour seminar at uni on the railway motif in Dr Zhivago and I hadn’t even finished reading the book at that point!

If you had a magical power, what would you want to have and why?

The power to heal… because I know how truly awful it is to both suffer and see those you love suffer, and not be able to do anything about it.

What one weapon would help you survive a zombie apocalypse?

I would most likely die in a zombie apocalypse… partly because I get everything going, so if a virus turned half the world’s population into zombies I’d be one of the first to catch it, and partly because I haven’t watched enough zombie movies to educate myself on the best kind of defense!

If you could send something into space, what would it be?

A copy of all the space themed books, films, and tv series I could think of… wouldn’t it be funny for someone to come across our visions of space exploration from things as far ranging as Star Trek, Star Wars, Galaxy Quest, Babylon 5, Firefly, 2001: A Space Odyssey… (I could go on, but that would just be ridiculous!)

What would you have on your gravestone?

Other than my name? Probably that I lived my life as well as I could, brought more joy than despair to the world, and am heading off on a great adventure into the unknown.

You make headline news around the world in 2 years time… but for what reason?

I’d like it to be for some kind of social reason – e.g. I was part of an initiative to change something like housing, healthcare, justice, religious tolerance etc which is having a deep impact on the health and wellbeing of many.

If an EMP wiped out all mechanical forms of transport, how would you get to BlogOn?

I’d walk… I’m assuming social media still exists, right? So I’d blog and tweet and instagram my way there, asking for suggestions of campsites and places to eat as I went. I’m not sure how many days it would take (with the state of my health right now I’d probably have to leave in February haha) but I’d try to make an adventure out of it (plus it would be great blogging fodder, wouldn’t it?)

Well that was certainly an interesting series of questions… If you’re going to BlogOn too, why not check out the Linky and join in with it too?

I Had to Miss #BML16 – My Greatest Motivation to Heal

Today hundreds of bloggers are meeting together in London for the annual conference run by BritMums, rebranded this year as #BML16 for their 5th year. I have been to BritMums Live (as it was previously named) every year since 2012 and, as always, I initially purchased my ticket as soon as they became available last year.

I had every intention of attending this year too, even writing a post about it for the BritMums blog, because the thought of not being there never even crossed my mind. Walking into The Brewery each year feels like returning home. Meeting up with old friends and making new ones is such a wonderful experience when you spend the vast majority of your time connecting online (if I ever doubted I was a people person then BritMums Live certainly confirmed it for me!) and I never, ever wanted to miss it.

But then I got sick. Or rather, the underlying illness and exhaustion I’ve been experiencing for years now took a massive turn for the worse, and despite ending 2015 with hopes that we were getting on track with my treatment, 2016 has brought more questions than ever. I’ve spent the vast majority of the year desperately hoping to feel better, but a couple of months ago I realised that I simply had to accept the fact I could not guarantee I’d be well enough to attend #BML16.

So I sold my ticket. And it turned out to be a really sound decision, as I have spent the past week pretty much confined to my bed with flu-like symptoms, yet again. Unlike the trip we have to London next week, which will be an easy day trip and possible to manage even if feeling under the weather, I knew that the full schedule of #BML16 would be impossible to manage if I weren’t 100%. Being so sick this week has reassured me that I made the right choice.

And yet, my heart is breaking. I’m seeing all these updates on Twitter and Instagram from people I know at an event that has been an integral part of my calendar for the past 4 years, and I’m not there. It is yet another blow to my already fragile heart, making it clear just how sick I am. And as much as I already know this, for some reason today it feels harder than ever.

I guess it’s because this is where my passion lies – blogging, networking, communicating, socialising, it’s what I do best. This past year has been a little bit crazy, with setting up a new blog and a new business (admittedly both of these have been very slow to grow because of my current health, but growing they are) and I actually took several months away from The Family Patch, my online home of more than 5 years.

But coming back to it has been an absolute delight, a homecoming of sorts, and quite a revelation as well that I have an awful lot of evergreen content on here that has kept my stats steady despite no updates or promotion for well over 3 months of the year! It’s another reminder that this is what I do, this is what I am good at, and this is what I love the most. So to miss out on #BML16 because of my health is like a punch in the gut.

I know that I can follow it all online, and I know that the conversation continues long after the event itself. I’m looking forward to reading everyone’s posts and sharing in their joy… but I wish I had been able to be there too. And that is where the greatest motivation lies for this healing journey I am on, to regain my health so that this time next year I’m right back there with everyone, enjoying every single moment.

That’s not to say that there aren’t other motivations to get well, because there truly are. I want to be well because, quite frankly, being this sick sucks. Big time. I don’t think I’ve ever been this ill in my entire life, and that’s saying something! I want to be well for myself, and for TJ and Little Man. I want to be well so that I can work without exhausting myself entirely. And I want to be well so that I can finally step onto this path of writing and networking that has always been my destiny but which I have shied away from making my career for such a long time.

Which is why being well enough to attend #BML17 is my greatest motivation yet – if I can find myself heading to London this time next year, with a smile on my face and the courage to say “this is who I am, this is what I want my life to be, and this is how I’m doing it”, then I shall know that I have made an incredible, life-affirming change in my life.

So thanks #BML16 for showing me all that I am missing this year – it’s the heartache of missing you that makes me so determined to change my life so I can see you again!

Breaking Boundaries with Insight and Passion Lessons from #britmumslive 2015

Breaking Boundaries with Insight and Passion – Lessons from #britmumslive 2015

As part of my BritMums Live journey this year, I have been writing up the notes that I took throughout the conference, a series I have called Lessons from #britmumslive. I feel like I took so much away from the various sessions I attended, that I wanted to share my notes with others so that they could benefit from them too. I spoke to several bloggers over the weekend about how there is sometimes a culture of “non-sharing” within blogging and social media circles, as if keeping our best tips to ourselves will somehow ensure we get “the edge” and remain one step ahead of the rest. But the whole beauty of events like BritMums Live is that we break down those barriers and share, share, share…

One of my favourite sessions throughout the entire weekend was the one held by Kate Hardcastle called Breaking Boundaries with Insight and Passion. Kate personifies the very nature of sharing success with others, as shown by just how much she gives back through her work. However she also doesn’t mince her words, and was more than happy to lay it on the line and make sure we knew exactly what it takes to make our dreams a reality.

Breaking Boundaries with Insight and Passion Lessons from #britmumslive 2015

 

Starting Out

  • Only get involved with something if you can make a difference
  • If you’re setting up a business, pitch it to the person most unlikely to accept your idea. If they show interest, then you know it has a chance. Don’t accept responses from friends and family, as they will always support your ideas.
  • Face your fear factor at the start, plan your journey and discover what you are most scared of. Don’t put it off, as this could become the mountain you cannot climb further down the line. Face it now, and you know you can face anything.
  • Know your destination – running a business may be like a journey, but you need to know the end result so that you know what you are aiming for (e.g. in 5 years time I’d like to be…)

Finding balance in business

  • Most businesses that are struggling are focusing too much on one area rather than having a balanced approach (e.g. too much focus on budget and not enough on consumer relations). Kate described this as being like one of those toy mazes you get in Christmas crackers, or on the top of bottles of bubbles, where you need to get the ball bearing into the centre. To do so, you need to hold the maze flat, otherwise you have no chance of getting it into the middle.
  • There is a target image on Insight with Passion which you may find useful when looking at finding balance in business

Key skills to help you succeed

  • Passion – you need this to make sure you keep going even through the hardest days
  • Persuasion – it isn’t about how good you are at promoting yourself, but rather how good you are at understanding what someone wants/needs and how you can provide this
  • Persistence – this will help you stick it out and have patience along the way
  • Politeness – the more your brand is out there, the more people will talk about you. The impression you give is really important, so always be polite.

Beyond the basics

  • Business can, and should, be attainable for everyone. However it is often clouded in language we are unfamiliar with.
  • Add the word “respect” to all your literature. It is key word that is universally understood and gives a great feeling of trust. Independent businesses are doing so well because of this.
  • Listening provides you with all the answersAs Kate mentions, you have two ears and only one mouth, so you should remember this and use them in that ratio.
  • If you don’t like the word “sell”, change the language. Selling yourself (or your product) simply means you are “serving” a solution to a problem.
  • Think outside in, not inside out. Do your research and know that business is selfish – you need to tell people about themselves and how you will serve them, not about who you are and what you have done.
  • Have heart – consumers want real people to deal with. This is especially crucial in today’s climate.

Know your limitations

  • You’ll always have to make sacrifices, so you need to know what is most important to you.
  • Say no when you need to, so that when you say yes you mean it (and it means something to you)
  • Be very honest with your friends and family – it is so easy to feel bound to them and guilty when you can’t meet up all the time. Make the time you can spend with them count.
  • Make sure that whatever you do, you are there 100% – this makes all the difference!
  • Accept help when you need it and know your own faults and limitations
  • Use technology to help you organise yourself.

There is always help available

  • Access for All is a free business helping hand provided by Insight with Passion. There is a waiting list for this, but it is worth trying if you have a burning business idea.
  • Customer at the Heart awards celebrate independent businesses throughout the UK who put their customers first. Often award nominations can be challenging as you have to write about yourself, but with these awards the customers can nominate you themselves.
  • Charity Dreamgirls support smaller, lesser known charities and help them spread their message further.

I’m sure there is plenty more help available, however these are the points that Kate brought up in her session. I do hope that these notes help, they sure have inspired me. I had a lovely chat with Kate following the session and she reminded me to be realistic, knowing when I can change something and when I can’t, and looking for new ways of working when necessary.

This post is part of my series Lessons from #britmumslive. You can find my other session notes below:

Turning Pitches into Profit
Social Media Optimisation
Pinning Ideas

#britmumslive 2015 selfies

What I learned about myself at #britmumslive 2015

This year was my fourth time attending BritMums Live, and I did for a brief moment wonder whether there was anything else for me to learn or if I had already picked up most of the tips available in the previous years. But I shouldn’t have worried, because Jen and Susanna came up trumps (yet again) with an agenda jam-packed full of sessions I wanted to attend and I came away brimming with ideas and enthusiasm for taking my blog to the next level.

It only took until my fourth year at #britmumslive to meet the BritMums Founders Jen and Susanna!

Jen and Susanna did such a fab job, yet again, by organising the best ever #britmumslive!

I have made copious notes from each of the sessions I attended, which include Turning Pitches into ProfitSocial Media OptimisationYour Child’s Digital FootprintBreaking Boundaries with Insight and Passion, and Pinning Ideas. I had initially thought I could summarise all of these points into one blog post, but looking back over it all I am very aware that I cannot. So I am going to write a separate post for each and link to it here. I hope that by doing so, those of you who missed these sessions will also be able to benefit from the knowledge and experience of those who led them!

However, in the meantime, I thought I would focus on what I learned about myself during the weekend, and how that is changing the direction I am heading…

1. I’m a different person now, and that’s a good thing!

It’s a bit of an understatement to say that my life now is so very different to what it was a year ago. I wrote recently about all the changes in the past 6 months, but as one of my blogging friends Emma quite rightly mentioned, the past year has been crazy for me, not just the past 6 months.

A year ago, I was so busy with charity work and the forthcoming publication of the book that I don’t think I even knew who I was any more. The past 6 months has seen a change in this, as I have slowly begun to find who I am and who I want to be, and whilst I may not know exactly who I am, the journey of discovery and change itself is a beautiful thing.

2. I’m a real social butterfly

Last year I spent the vast majority of the conference with a small group of people. Whilst that was lovely, I came away feeling like I had missed something. During my first two BritMums Lives (can your pluralise the name like that?) I had met so many different people, that I had come to see the weekend as a chance to connect with as many bloggers as possible. So it felt strange not to do so last year.

This year I went all out. I don’t think I stopped meeting people, and whilst there is still a list of bloggers I wish I had bumped into or had longer to chat with, I feel like I didn’t miss a single opportunity to catch up or connect with someone new and that makes me happy. In fact poor Emma and Katrina must have wondered what was happening when, mid-sentence, I would suddenly shoot off to grab a hug (and a selfie) from someone I had spotted whizzing by. It’s a good job the three of us had dinner together Friday night, otherwise I don’t think we’d have had chance to catch up at all!

#britmumslive 2015 selfies

Just a few of the amazing bloggers I met up with this year – Emma from Adventures of Adam and Katrina from Mummy Whiskers (my hotel buddies this year), Steph from I’m Counting UFOs (go check out her book if you haven’t already), Tim from Slouching Towards Thatcham, Vicky from Single Mother Ahoy, MIchelle from Bod For Tea, and Caroline from My Family Ties.

What you have to understand about all this is that, up until my mid-twenties, I was terribly shy and in my teen years that shyness was cripplingly strong. I fought long and hard to overcome it and promised myself that I would never, ever allow fear to hold me back again. Last year shook me a fair bit, as I wondered if I had lost the enthusiasm for social events that I had once held. So I am overjoyed to have had such a wonderful (if exhausting) time this year and cannot wait for the next one.

3. I enjoy public speaking (yes, really I do!)

Leading on quite significantly from the last point, I was surprised by just how much I enjoyed being a part of the Bloggers’ Keynote. I knew, going in, what a huge honour it was and leading up to the event I had a fair few wobbles of “why on earth did I think this was a good idea?” But once I actually sat down at the table waiting to go up on stage, I began to simply feel excited to be a part of something so special.

Sitting next to Rachel from The Ordinary Lovely during the Bloggers' Keynote

I got to sit next to Rachel from The Ordinary Lovely during the Bloggers’ Keynote – what a weekend for Rachel, as she also won the Fresh Voice Category in The BiBs!

I got up on stage and, aside from feeling rather more emotional than I had expected to (that lump in my throat came out of nowhere, I swear!), I actually had a really good time. Looking out over the room full of bloggers was incredibly powerful, and made me realise just how privileged we are to belong to such an amazing community. I felt calmer than I’d ever imagined I would, and it has inspired me to take up opportunities of this kind whenever they present themselves. I’m a communicator, and an encourager, so this feels like the perfect way to combine two things I love which come pretty naturally to me.

4. My writing is my greatest creative skill

I love so many different creative mediums, but the truth is I am not a photographer, or an artist, I’m a writer. It can be so easy to fall into the trap of feeling like you have to do it all, that your blog needs to be visually stunning in order to make it in the world of blogging. But here’s the thing – my blog is not one of the “big” ones, I don’t attract thousands of hits per month, and I’ll never be in the big leagues in that respect. But my poem was still chosen to be part of the Bloggers’ Keynote, and that means something. It means that my writing strikes a chord with others, and that is the way I can connect best with the world.

I have come away from the conference more enthused than ever about my writing, something which was unfortunately quashed quite a bit by my work on the HG book (yes, I published a book, but as an incredibly specific factual piece of work it wasn’t really in my natural style!) I also felt very unsure of writing anything on my blog whilst the book was in the process of being written, as I didn’t want my writing here to be in conflict with the importance of the work I was doing for charity or the book itself. It feels incredibly freeing to realise that the blog is, once again, an entirely empty page on which I can write whatever feels right for me at any given moment.

5. It’s okay to let things go, in fact it can be the best thing you could ever do

This is, perhaps, the biggest thing I learned throughout the entire weekend. My whole BritMums Live journey has focused quite significantly on the writing of the HG book. My very first year I connected with other HG survivors as I shared my plans for the book. My second year I met with a literary agent to discuss publication prospects. Last year I went with a group of fellow HG survivors and my business cards even included information on the upcoming publication of the book. This year, things were different…

The book has been published and I am looking into letting it go completely. And I no longer work for the charity I put so much time and effort into. I won’t lie, I was nervous about meeting up with people I had worked so closely with for such a long time, people who knew me just through the HG world, especially as things hadn’t ended all that well. I wondered whether it would cloud over the weekend and cast a shadow over all the changes I had been making in my life.

But the truth was, I needed have worried. I’m Amanda, not “the HG lady”, and within blogging circles in particular I’m “the one from The Family Patch”. It doesn’t matter that I am no longer defined by my work, because I don’t need to be. It is actually incredibly powerful to realise this, and I am so glad I went so that I could discover this. I’m also very grateful for my chat with Kate Hardcastle at the end of her session, for helping me see through what had happened and acknowledging that letting go didn’t automatically equate to no longer caring.

 

So, needless to say, I came away from BritMums Live with so much insight into who I am now and where I am heading, both personally and via the blog. And that’s going to take quite some time to digest.

Tell me… what did you take from the weekend?

 

 

#britmumslive welcome

#BritMumsLive – My Top Tips for a Great Weekend

I can hardly believe that BritMums Live is just a few short days away. It feels like an absolute age since we last met at The Brewery, and I am so excited to get back there and meet up with friends old and new. This will be my fourth year and I know exactly what I want to get out of the weekend. However I remember the feeling of uncertainty in my first year, having no idea what to expect, and I have seen so many bloggers write of similar feelings in the #britmumslive meme lately. So I thought I would bring all my thoughts together and create a “Top Tips” style post to help ease those nerves and enjoy the best weekend you can.

My Top Tips for #britmumslive blogging conference

1. Set Some Goals

Whilst we’re all going to BritMums Live because we’re all bloggers, everyone is going to have a slightly different set of reasons for going. Some want to go to meet other bloggers, some to network with brands, and some will be going specifically for the sessions. In fact, I imagine most of us go for a combination of these reasons (and more). And with such a varied programme, it is easy to get whatever you want from the weekend. It’s also incredibly easy not to do so too, if you get swept away by the enormity of it all.

Last year I felt like I missed out on the opportunity to meet more people. I had a fantastic time with some amazing friends, but I just didn’t balance out the in-depth chats with the opportunity to network and meet as many people as possible. It’s not that I didn’t enjoy spending the weekend with a few good friends, because I really did, it’s just that I had met so many people in previous years that it felt a bit odd not swapping business cards with more people and finding more new blogs to read. So this year one of my goals is to get out there and just say “hi” to more people.

Your goals may be completely different to mine – you may want to spend your time with a few good friends, or network with as many brands as you can, or even attend very specific sessions because of where you feel your blog is heading. Whatever your goals are, just keep them in mind throughout the conference to try and keep yourself on track and ensure you make the most of a weekend that is packed full and passes far too quickly!

2. Make a “Must-Meet” List

Whether one of your goals is to meet certain bloggers (or brands) or not, I think we all have someone we desperately want to meet. However actually finding them amongst the crowds can be more challenging than you’d realise. It can be so easy to go through the weekend thinking you’ll bump into one of your favourite bloggers, only to come away having barely spotted a glimpse of them. I have done exactly this with a couple of bloggers, people I have failed to meet even after 3 years!

So, if there is someone you really want to meet, make a list and then make an effort to find them at some point during the conference. You may find twitter helpful for this – if you can’t find them, send out a tweet and tag them in it. Ask them where they are and what sessions they are planning to attend. Make sure you find them, otherwise you’ll come home kicking yourself, with another year to wait before your next chance to meet them.

3. Pack Wisely

Do not underestimate the sheer amount of free stuff you will amass throughout the weekend. If you visit any of the brands, you’ll likely come away with samples (and looking through the Sponsors list this year, it looks like this will include some books again too). Talking of books, you may find yourself buying some if your favourite author happens to be signing copies at the conference. And then, of course, there is the big bag of goodies you will be given as you leave The Brewery at the end of it all. I cannot stress enough how much space this will take up – last year I actually took an empty suitcase so that I wasn’t trying to juggle multiple bags on the train home.

Leaving plenty of space for all this free stuff also means you need to pack wisely for your journey down. You will not need half the things you think you will (like your laptop), and probably find you’ve forgotten something you wish you’d taken (like plasters). I wrote about my Essentials List last year, which is pretty much everything I plan on taking this year too.

4. Plan Ahead

Similar to my first two points, you’ll want to look at the Agenda and plan which sessions you really do not want to miss and which ones you’re happy to skip. I always find this part the hardest, as there is usually a clash between two or three sessions at least once during the two days. This is when planning ahead can really come in handy. Know what you want to get from the conference and use it to help you decide which sessions are an absolute must.

For me, this includes opting for sessions which will help me with work rather than sessions I would like to do just for fun. Whilst I would have enjoyed some of the sessions because of the speakers, I am opting for those which will help me build and develop key skills which will help me professionally over the next 12 months. I have not done this since my very first year at BritMums Live and it feels a bit odd, but I know that if I don’t do it I will come home feeling like I wasted a fantastic opportunity to learn as much as I could.

I’m also planning on skipping a session or two so that I can wander around The Hub and meet the brands or take part in activities that I usually miss because I am so busy attending every single session possible! I have been meaning to do this for at least the past 2 years, but I just never seem to do it. But that also means that I end up coming home and seeing photos of all the things other bloggers have done with the brands that I didn’t even know were there, and I want to try and change that this year. The Hub gets very busy during the breaks, so it is easy to miss things or have a very hasty chat with a brand, rather than a more meaningful one.

5. Be Flexible

This is a big one. All my other points focus on planning ahead and making sure you get everything you want out of the conference. But you can be too specific and miss out on some fantastic opportunities by simply going with the flow. If you’ve met someone new who is going to a session you hadn’t planned on attending but are happy to change your plans, then do it. If you planned on going back to your hotel room straight after the BiBs but are then invited out to dinner with a group of bloggers and don’t really need that early night, then go out and have fun (even if it means a hangover the next morning). Whatever happens, just go with it and enjoy yourself.

I do hope this helps some of you, and I look forward to meeting as many of you as possible at the weekend!

 

I'm Going to BritMums Live 2015

I’m going to BritMums Live 2015

It’s that time of year again… June is almost upon us and I am beginning to get excited about travelling to London to meet with as many bloggers as is humanly possible in two days! No, seriously, BritMums Live is all about meeting up with old friends and new for me. So it’s about time I wrote my annual “I’m going to BritMums Live” post and started working my way through the linky and catching up with people on social media!

I'm Going to BritMums Live 2015

The I’m Going to BritMums Live 2015 Meme

Name – Amanda

Blog – The Family Patch (this one!)

Twitter ID@thefamilypatch

Height – 5’4″ (I think… I may be an inch or two off!)

Hair – brown (with a reddish tint if it has been sunny). It should be in a bob, but with the recent relocation and starting two new jobs I am overdue a trim.

Eyes – dark brown

Is this your first blogging conference? – no, this is my fourth time at BritMums Live. Rocking up to The Brewery feels like coming home these days. I’ve lost the nerves I had in my first couple of years and now sink down into the seats with a sigh of relief, knowing that the entire weekend is going to be filled with plenty of chatter, lots of useful information, and a huge amount of inspiration.

Are you attending both days? – you betcha! I was a little concerned when I was first made redundant that I would have to sell my ticket or attend on one day only to reduce costs, but thankfully it has all worked out okay. One of the first things I did when I started my new job was ensure that I had these two days off!

What are you most looking forward to at BritMums Live 2015? – I always hate this question – how do you choose just one thing you’re most looking forward to? As I’ve mentioned above, I love the opportunity to meet up with people, so that always comes high on my list. There are some old friends I am hoping to bump into, but also bloggers I have only started to interact with online during the past few months and I do hope to say “hi” to them this year.

Then, of course, there are the sessions. I really struggled last year to work out the best ones to attend. I was up to my neck in book edits and charity work and I just had no time for blogging. This year though I have a renewed passion for blogging, more so than I have since my first conference in 2012 in fact, so I’m super excited about the sessions this year.

And finally, I found out on Friday that one of my blog posts has been chosen for the Bloggers’ Keynote on the Saturday, so I can’t tell you how much I am looking forward to that. The Bloggers’ Keynote is always such an emotional and inspiring moment in the weekend, when you are reminded just how special the blogging community is. I always leave on a high after listening to others read their posts, and so I feel incredibly honoured to be a part of it this year.

What are you wearing? – I have no idea. None. Last year I ended up wearing dresses, which was fun as it was a hot summery weekend. But the year before I wore jeans and a tee and that was really relaxed and comfortable. So I’m not sure which way I’ll go this year. Maybe another photo shoot is in order?

What do you hope to gain from BritMums Live 2015? – New friendships and connections. Last year I spent the vast majority of the weekend with a small group of friends, and it was really fun to share it all with them. But I found that when I came home I felt a sense of “loss” in some way at the fact I had not met with more people. In my first year I had gone with one friend and we only met up a few times throughout the weekend and the rest of the time was spent just meeting new people. Then in my second year I went completely on my own and, once my initial nerves were overcome, I made loads of new connections. I’m hoping that this year I can strike a balance between the two, making time for a good long catch up with old friends but still wandering off on my own at times so that I reach out and say “hi” to people I’ve not met before.

I’m also hoping to learn lots from the sessions. Since my redundancy I have been working on a new way of supporting my family and striking a better work/life balance. This means that I am hoping to be inspired by those who are embracing all that life has to offer, whilst also learning more about promoting myself and my work. I haven’t done any freelance work in years, so I’m hoping to find out how others are doing it.

Do you have any tips to pass on to others who may not have been before? – oh yes, lots…

  • remember we all get nervous, whether it’s our first time or our fourth, so don’t feel like you’re the only one!
  • if you’re nervous about meeting people, take a deep breath and just go for it – you’ll feel so proud of yourself for doing it and that’s a much better feeling than going home disappointed that you missed out
  • if you really don’t feel confident approaching people, visit the BritMums Butterflies. They are a lovely bunch of people who will give you a warm welcome and help you meet up with others
  • Twitter will be your best friend! Use the #britmumslive hashtag to find out where people are, join in opportunities with brands, and chat with others about the talks and sessions you have attended
  • have a vague plan for the sessions you want to attend, but be aware that this is likely to change throughout the weekend! Sometimes a session is busier than you expected it to be, or you find you’re having a great chat with a new friend who is planning to attend a different session which suddenly sounds much more interesting than your original plan. Just go with the flow – have your “must-do” list and then be flexible the rest of the time, it is much more fun that way
  • pack lightly – you will come home with a huge amount of goodies, so you don’t want to be weighed down from the start! If you’re not sure what to pack, check out my BritMums Live Essentials post from last year

I can’t wait to see you there!!

Are you going to BritMums Live this year? If so, have you joined in the linky? You can do so here…