I travelled down with Leyla from This Day I Love. Being our second year, we weren't quite as giddy has we had been the previous year and chatted about what we hoped to learn over the weekend and who we were looking forward to seeing. I was quite excited to finally meet some girls who I had talked to for years but never met, Vikki in particular being one of those, and catch up with bloggers that I only get to see once a year.
As we made our way into the Brewery it was absolutely jam-packed, but we grabbed our badges and along with a few of our blogging friends head into the brands room. Again it was really busy and I began to feel immediately overwhelmed, and after a few minutes I had to get out of there, so we decided to go to the main room and find some seats. The lovely Laura and Bex were already in there, right at the front, so we got a great view! I went over to say hello to my good friend Katie and got to meet the lovely Charlotte whose blog I absolutely adore.
We listened to Emma Freud give the keynote, who was amusing but not quite as good as Kirstie Allsop had been the previous year. There was then a session on Women's Voices and the Media, but by then I needed some time out so Leyla and I went back into the brands room and I grabbed a brew and had a wander.
The rest of Friday went into a bit of a blur - I enjoyed the "How I Did It" session with Emily from Fashion Foie Gras, who I heard speak at the Next Blogger Event and found really interesting to listen to. The key message from this session was to be true to yourself - I often find myself comparing other blogs and wishing I had done something they have done and I think I really need to focus on me and what I can offer.
I was really looking forward to the design session with Lucy, and so were most other people it seemed as the room was absolutely crammed. I loved this session as Lucy is someone else who I love listening to and she is so passionate and insightful you can't help but walk away inspired. I also had time to catch up with my lovely friend Jennie, who is looking absolutely gorgeous with her rainbow baby! One tip I picked up from Lucy's session was:
Lucy also suggested having a photo of yourself in the sidebar to welcome people to your blog, and to use your navigational bar to highlight what you want people to read, and maybe condense your about me and pr pages into one section.
After Lucy's session we attended the BIB's - every year I have to admit I am a little envious of those in the finals and am determined one year I will see my name up there, even if I don't win! I was really happy for some of my favourite blogs who did win - Lucy and Katie in particular.
After the BIB's we head out for some food. After wandering around aimlessly for some time Leyla and I ended up making our way back to hotel and grabbing a bite close by. If I learnt anything this year, it's either book somewhere for food or just go close to your hotel. The BIB's finish late and if you are then wandering around for ages it's not enjoyable.
The next day I woke feel refreshed and more prepared for the day. We went into the Brewery and grabbed breakfast before going to listen to Ben from Life As A Widower give his keynote. I really wanted to go to this and am definitely glad I did - Ben's story is certainly a sad one, but also uplifting. One thing he told us all was to ask your children every day what their favourite moment was.
I tried to plan my day a little bit so I didn't go to every session and had time to rest. It turns out, even with preparation, rest is quite hard to find at this event. Even when you go for some quiet time, you inevitably end up chatting or sitting on your phone, your mind whirring. However there was a lovely area set up outside this year and with the weather beaming it was nice to sit and have a moment or two.
One of the sessions I really got a lot out of was the Advanced Social Media session - as advertised, it was fast-moving, but Paul had lots of advice and tips to share. The things he highlighted we should all be doing is:
*Using Twitter lists more
*Trying Google Ripples
*Checking analytics more to see what works on twitter
*The Beatrix Platform for finding content
*Social Bakers for checking out the competition.
My favourite session of the weekend was definitely the Youtube session with Greg Brand from Travizeo. Greg certainly knew his stuff, and rather than focus on Youtube basics he went into a lot more detail about the more advanced, but not complicated, things you can do with your channel. His top points were he recommended were:
*Using annotations in your video to create clickable links.
*Adding a slide at the end of your video showcasing other videos and including a clickable subscribe link.
*The Glif iPhone attachment for tripod
*Audio Jungle and Pond 5 for music
*Yala for a third party SEO host
*The Youtube Creators Handbook
After a long day we all gathered in the main room to hear the bloggers' keynotes. Just as I did last year, I sat there thinking I wish I could write as well as these bloggers do, and I was completely overwhelmed by the stories they told - particularly Grenglish's We Need To Talk About the M-Word and All At Sea's beautiful dedication to her husband, Ross. However the story that touched me the most was Kirsty from My Two Mums guest post from Real Housewife of Suffolk, entitled I Don't Have To Be The Target. I love both Lauren and Clara & Kirsty's blogs and I was so inspired by Kirsty's story.
After a tiring weekend, Leyla and I piled onto the train, our minds and feet exhausted. Over the last week I have reflected a lot on my time there and whilst at times I found it very hard, I have realised I wasn't in the best place myself so it was inevitable. I really enjoyed speaking to the people that I did and I hope next year I feel better to be able to make the most of it. I think I decided next year that I want to stay over the Thursday night, so I am a lot more fresh for Friday and try not to speak to absolutely everyone, rather actually have proper conversations with people.
Despite my head, I did still enjoy the weekend and would definitely tell anyone to go, it is just one of those experiences you have to see to believe. I'd like to say a huge thank you to my sponsors - Freckled Frog and Creeper Crawlers, both who sell beautiful products for babies and toddlers, so if you have a little one do check the out!
Anyway, here-s to next year - I've already booked my ticket for next year so it can't be all bad!