Ok, so I’m miles later at writing up my BML16 experience compared with everyone else. But I got there eventually, which is better than last year!
After last year and hearing this BML was changing to the 1 day format I wasn’t sure whether to buy a ticket or not. But missing out on a blogging conference and then hearing the buzz from everyone else is terrible. I didn’t want to miss out, and despite being at another conference the week before booked up an early bird ticket and an overnight stay.
I wasn’t sure what to expect. But for me the 1 day worked ok. I could have done it in one day, but the buzz of the night before and meeting up with people beforehand is all part of the experience. Plus the Saturday was a really long day, so having to catch a 7 o’clock train would have been a little hardcore for me (2 weekends on the trot). As usual I had the query about the event from the OH the day before suggesting he didn’t know about it…he did. But all was fine and I ended up on the train and tube, arriving at a similar time to my room mate Kate from Dark Tea, ready to check in.
A different hotel
The last 2 years I’ve stayed in the Travelodge. It does the job and is really close, but this time we broke with tradition because at the time of booking we got similar rates elsewhere. So we headed off in the other direction to the Apex. Great decision because it was luxury in comparison. Yes a bit further to walk, but more like a boutique hotel, really helpful staff, a big wet room and air conditioning that doesn’t make a noise and actually make the room cooler. Not many hotels give you Prosecco when you turn up either. Or a £10 voucher to spend at the bar.
The fringe event at Holiday Inn Camden
After a bit of a chill out and catch up in the room, we headed over to the Holiday Inn Camden Lock for the fringe event. It was lovely to be in an informal setting and although we headed there together, it was really easy to find people we wanted to talk to, and meet lots of bloggers we didn’t know.
It was also lovely to chat to Chloe from Holiday Inn and I had a proper chat this time with Susanna from Britmums about living in Oxfordshire. Drinks and nibbles went down well, overlooking the Camden lock. It was unbelievable (as in so much of London is) to think that we were still in the city.
The other bonus of the fringe event is that it removes some of the pressure to catch up with everyone at BML, leaving more time to catch other people, brands and go to the sessions.
Afterwards, we didn’t manage to grab others to go to dinner with, so ended up in an Italian Cucina Rosso Pomodoro just around the corner from the hotel. The food was great (although so much choice), and the restaurant itself was lovely. But crikey the service was sooooo slow. And there was a girl sitting outside chain smoking the whole evening with the smoke blowing inside and across towards our table. We nearly left without dessert because of the wait to get the waiting staff attention and actually ended up getting up to grab one of them. Not good and we didn’t leave a tip because of it.
Heading back to the hotel we decided to head to the bar for a drink…then spent ages deciding on what we wanted given the early start on Saturday. Soft drinks all round then. Poor showing!
The room was great – comfortable, wifi that we could both use at the same time, quiet and air conditioning. We decided against breakfast in the hotel so grabbed something on the way to The Brewery. The walk to The Brewery is always fun, we also pick up various people on the way, and this time bumped into Aly from Bug Bird Bee and Fiona from Coombe Mill.
BML16 at The Brewery
The queue at The Brewery always makes it such a buzz. A chance to have quick catch ups, and if you’re on your own to find someone to chat to. The arrangement of rooms was different so it took a while to rethink, but it did seem to work quite well. I got into every session I wanted too, although this year there were fewer I wanted to do. Annoyingly with blog conferences, there’s always times you don’t fancy any of the talks, but other times where you struggle to choose between 2 or 3.Top tip > At blog conferences, agree with a friend to go to different sessions & share notes… Click To Tweet
Because it was crammed into a day, I was quite focused on what I wanted to do. I’d already checked out if there were brands I wanted to see, so could head to those straight away. The LTA mini tennis was great, and given N has actually found a sport he loves in tennis, maybe I’ll get round to joining the local club so we can both play….the mini tennis proved I am extremely rusty.
Touchnote was interesting, and I spoke to a couple of other brands, including Coca Cola about their (rework) launch of Coke Zero Sugar and the Travelodge prs who were roaming, but otherwise most brands weren’t relevant to me or were too repetitive with last year. We did have a drink in the Big Little Tent Festival area, although I’d had the pack last year so wasn’t interested in it again this year.
One of the best things in the hub this year was the ice cream making. We could choose our flavour – jaffa orange was delicious. How cool to have something like this at a party.
Not seeing brands gave me more time to mingle and chat to other bloggers and catch up with friends. I was pleased to have spotted lots although as with most years, most conversations were fleeting. It was brilliant to have a proper chat with Sarah of Mum of 3 World, and to meet and have a good old natter with Tas at Not My Year Off, as well as many others.
Compared to what others have said, I found this year’s BML more friendly and less cliquey than last years. Last year a lot of people I wanted to meet were in groups and didn’t budge from them. This year while a lot of people were in groups, they seemed to spread themselves around more easily. Plus after 4 years, I’m not too worried about talking to people while waiting for food, and I always try and introduce myself to the people at the tables in sessions. I found people were introducing people to others as well (Colette from Going on an Adventure was a star at this). Yes there are still people I missed, or who were in groups so I just got to say a fleeting hi and moved on, but I also had good long chats with a lot of new people. The fringe event was really good for this.
I only went to the main sessions. The Instagram panel was interesting to me. It felt like those on the panel fell into being successful on Instagram and without going all out with a huge plan, lots of scheduling, using only proper cameras and not knowing much about photography. That’s refreshing in this day and age where everyone seems to be more calculating on their instagram usage which I’m not so keen on.
I dipped into the innovative ways to make money panel session too. I’m not a big fan of panels because they aren’t structured, they really need questions beforehand, and often you don’t really get much out of it. I didn’t gain much information, and some of the numbers of views caused gasps on our table from newer bloggers that they’d never reach those numbers, and it wasn’t particularly innovative. But then I didn’t have many expectations in the first place, given I already know quite a bit about the options. Much of it is dependent on having more time free in the day, being able to meet and go to events (damn full time working), and having consistently stronger views. I was getting there, but my views have plummeted the last few months.
I enjoyed Charly Dove’s Compelling storytelling with photos session. Her photography is beautiful and she makes you feel like you want to get back out there with your camera…and makes you feel normal for carrying your camera round everywhere.
The most useful session was Gori’s Google Analytics one. I hadn’t planned to go to this because I use analytics a lot, but there were some really useful tips, an introduction to what free training is available at Digital Garage, plus more tools to try out.
I felt mixed about the keynote speakers. I wasn’t keen on the poetry – it just didn’t rock my boat.
Despite not being a runner and never going to be one, I loved Julie from Too fat to run – helped by meeting her and having a good chat at the Fringe event, and she’s lovely and very inspiring.
I love Cherry Healey’s documentaries, but I wasn’t keen on the slot. It’s just not my idea of funny really, and I’d have rather have found out about her other work.
Ann-Marie spoke in the morning about her daughter Martha who died from an accidental overdose. It was so moving, and with most people being parents there, you can’t help but get emotional about their story.
Blogger keynote speeches
I usually leave Britmums before the blogger keynote speeches so had never heard them before. Again, because they’re written from the heart, even the lighter posts you feel more for, whether you’ve read the post or not, or whether you know the blogger or not. Tim’s very funny performance was inspired, and the others all read their posts beautifully as well. I did love Al from The Dad Network’s job interview video. It certainly lightened the mood again.
While I’d love to win a blog award I’m unlikely to ever do so mostly because I can’t be bothered to do anything about it. Plus actual award ceremonies are a bit boring. It’s great to see friends and blogs that you read win, but I didn’t stay until the end because after a long day and a half away from home I wanted to get back.
I just about made my train after my aching shoulders had carried my bags and goody bag back to Marylebone, and was back home by 9pm. It had been a good BML and I was glad I checked out the new format. Now the decision just has to be whether I’d go again next year. For the socialising, because we never get round to organising anything outside of conferences definitely, for the blogging probably less likely.
For those who’re debating it in future, here’s my tips for not being overwhelmed:
- The first time will be overwhelming. Know that, and just ignore it and look for the positives. It won’t feel as overwhelming then.
- Don’t aim to do everything at once. Don’t expect to talk to every brand but still go to every session and find everyone you want to.
- Speak to people. Especially those on their own. Prime times are queues – for the toilets, before The Brewery opens, waiting for lunch. And unless you arrange to meet people, don’t count on seeing and getting to speak to everyone you want to.
- If you go with friends, do split up. People may want to talk to you as well as you wanting to find others. Give people a chance to speak to you as well. Remember if you think others are in cliques, you might be seen to be as well.
- Take time out if you need it. At lunch or in between sessions. If you’re feeling worried take time out, or find someone else feeling the same.
- If possible do go the night before – if there’s a fringe event try it. Yes it was very informal, and a funny time that wasn’t that great for sorting out dinner, but meeting people then means you’ll have more time to see others on the Saturday.
- Have the expectation that you will enjoy it but don’t put the event on a pedestal. I did that with Blog on Win after everyone raved about Blog on Mosi, and I was really disappointed. But you’ll still come away having learnt something.
- Take business cards (and connect with people you met afterwards – I’m really bad at not getting round to doing that). You’ll never remember people otherwise, and they’ll never remember you. And it’s a great talking point, and makes people feel special if you ask for their card.
If I met you at BML16, it was great to chat (see final point above on why I’ve not said hi since), and hopefully meet you at the next event.