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This Saturday I made my way down to London even earlier than usual to attend Cybermummy, billed as ‘The UK’s premier blogging conference”.
I missed last year’s event as it was 4 days before my c-section and we lived in Nottingham at the time – trekking my massive feet down to London for 8.30am was pretty much the last thing I wanted to do. This year it was totally different: I booked a hotel room for the evening and looked forward to a day of talking blogging, babies and wine.
Here’s what happened.
Huggies had very kindly sponsored me to attend Cybermummy and had laid on a beautiful breakfast spread for all the Huggies attendees at The Hoxton. We ate delicious fresh fruit, granola and yoghurt, French toast and bagels with smoked salmon and cream cheese – it was delicious and I really enjoyed catching up with some old friends (like Heather, Kelly and Tanya) and making new ones (hi Victoria, Peggy, Catherine!). We were joined by the lovely Ann from Tommy’s Baby Charity, which Huggies will be supporting in the coming months. I’m really excited to be getting involved with their excellent work and helping them any way I can through my blog.
The headline acts
In agreement with pretty much what everyone else has been saying I thought Sarah Brown came across brilliantly. Whether it’s her media training or the fact that she’s just a nice person she seemed personable, passionate, warm and friendly. Such a contrast to what I was expecting (and weird to hear her referring to ‘Gordon’) and truly inspirational. I still can’t get over the fact that she is Gordon Brown’s wife.
Rachel Johnson was awesome. I know not everyone thought so, but I love a woman who is completely and totally unapologetic about who they are, and stands up for what they believe in. She is this with bells on. On acid. Multiplied by 100. She began by telling us something completely irrelevant about being on Centre Court at Wimbledon, admitted she probably had gastroenteritis and ended with an interruption from Addison Lee (she gets cabs just like you and I…). I will definitely be buying her book.
Lord Richard Allen, Head of Policy at Facebook, was fascinating. He obviously knew his audience and pandered well to it and came out with some interesting facts that I have squirreled away to use at a later date. Very useful.
For me, there were good and bad bits about the sessions. If you gather 400+ bloggers together in one place and attempt to curate seminars for them, there is going to be varying levels of knowledge and ability, and this was really obvious to me. Instead of attending the controversial writing workshop I went to ‘Marketing your blog’, as this is what I do for a job I was interested to hear the views of ‘experts’ and see if their approach would be any different. For me, the advice felt way too simple. I was interested to hear what Frederic Montagnon had to say but felt the others on the panel didn’t have much to offer other than their own limited experiences, which perhaps would have been suited better to a smaller seminar rather than such a large panel. For example, I think Debbie O’Connor from Motivating Mum has done fantastic work with the site, but she’s been running it for less than a year and her experience and expertise are limited to this area and very short time span. My own blogging experience spans 11 years and I have successfully marketed several successful blogs, magazines and online campaigns, so for me there was nothing to learn from her and in fact I felt some of the questions weren’t answered as well as they should have been.
Anyway. That was my own fault for attending a panel on a topic I know inside out. Should’ve gone to the writing workshop.
For me the most effective session was blogger-to-blogger inspiration: I really enjoyed hearing the stories of other women’s blogs, why they did it and where their motivation came from. It left me remembering why I like to blog and gave me renewed focus.
The most bizarre workshop was the blog-life balance one: all the advice was pretty common sensical, and we were given tools that were pretty basic. I will return to Nadine’s site and take another look at the presentation to see if I missed anything, but I don’t think I learnt anything here.
I’d heard about the freebies you get given at Cybermummy and they were as good as the rumours had me believe. Some were a bit weird (pasta?) and others were a bit excessive (THREE packs of baby wipes?) but overall I came away with a lot of useful stuff. The full-size Protect and Perfect serum from Boots was very greatfully received, as were the Champney’s bath goodies, but I haven’t been converted to Dodo notepads – I’m too loyal to my beautiful Moleskine.
Elfie is enamoured with her Leapfrog farm magnet toy, it’s really brilliant. I’d say that was the freebie of the day.
The old friends
I absolutely loved seeing friends I’d met previously: a lot of my day was spent sniggering like a naughty schoolgirl with Notes and I really enjoyed catching up with the likes of Deb and all the Huggies mums. I met my first friend through blogging over 10 years ago now, and I am still always amazed at the bond that is created through being such a part of each other’s lives via our blogs.
The new ones
Everyone was so friendly and easy to talk to. We all had a common interest and that was visible in the freeflowing conversation and exchange of business cards that was going on. I came away knowing I have made some great new friends – Erica, Sandy, Cari, Catherine, Maria, Victoria, Hannah, Henrietta (and many more I’ve probably forgotten…) – so great to meet you all.
I had been waiting all day for the wine. It was a long day. The music was pretty horrendous (think school disco crossed with a wedding reception) so it was right up my street; and as the wine flowed so did the conversation. Thanks Naked Wines – I will be ordering from you soon!
The sneaking off
I crept away at the end to rendezvous with Notes at the All Bar One down the road for more booze and cackling. I didn’t realize we were gatecrashing some sort of NetMums party, and when they left for dinner (we weren’t invited, apparently there wasn’t space for us but I’d like to think it’s because we were too lairy) we joined the lovely Grenglish and Richmond Mummy for more booze.
I stayed at The Hoxton, where I haven’t stayed since my wedding night 3 years ago. To my eyes it was looking a bit tired and worn and the noise from the courtyard was unbelievable (that’s what I get for checking in at 11pm). I ordered a cheeseburger and ate it in bed watching Bridget Jones’s diary. It was pretty perfect.
I’d booked a late checkout because, you know, how often do I get to SLEEP as long as I’d like? But of course I woke up at 8am dying to get home to Will and Elfie. No late checkout needed.
Would I go again? Most definitely. I left perhaps not having learned a great deal, but feeling a renewed passion for my blog and a new sense of purpose. I think the organizers did a good job though I’m sure there are lots of learnings to take away and there’s no doubt the Cybermummy event will evolve and grow with the demands of the audience. I’m not sure it’s quite ‘leading the UK blogging revolution’ just yet but it’s certainly a shining beacon for parents who blog.
Do I wish it wasn’t called Cybermummy? Absolutely.