I spent the weekend at a blogging conference/networking/marketing event – called CyberMummy. Despite the alarming title, it probably should assure you I have not come home made of aluminium, with my brains sucked out and vomit on my shoulder. On the other hand, I do wonder if when it was originally given it’s name, it occurred to anyone that such an image might spring to mind (could have made a great logo!) or perhaps it was close enough to the perceived public perception of mothers who blog to seem fortuitous
I went to CyberMummy fairly open minded about what it might be like. Given our job running 3 large toy websites, I’m used to the smoozing and enormous world of trade fairs? but I am extremely shy and a bit socially inept in the small talk department so the thought of the non-conference/trade stand element was a bit scary. I was lucky to be going with Rachael so I knew I’d start off okay and I know Josie and Emily and Jax – but my greatest social panic is outstaying my welcome. However, socially I got a lot from it, which I’ll write about in Part 2.
Here’s a thing I learned at CyberMummy11; apparently in the world of parenting bloggers, there is a ‘Big Six’. I didn’t know this (I still don’t actually know who is in it) but I think I may have had dinner with one of them. She was quite tall, but reassuringly normal and without any identifying marks of being An. Important. Blogger. that I could see. It’s possible there was even more than one of them at the table, but like I say, given I don’t know who they are, I can’t actually say. What I did discover is that many of the people with big names, large followings and great reputations have them because they are interesting, erudite, funny, welcoming, warm and giving people
I’m certainly not Big 6, nor Big 26 or even Big 60 but here’s what I thought.
It was a phenomenally well organised event. The venue (The Brewery) was beautiful and perfect for it, the day ran smoothly and without hitches to be seen. It looked good, felt good and had nice touches. From my trade show experience there isn’t anything new about offering make up and massages, but they do make a difference to the feel good factor and the chill out room was great. The organisers marshalled the people well, had the timings right and everything felt well controlled. I assume they are people with a background in such things because they did a sterling job.
Sarah Brown’s keynote speech at the beginning of the day was spot on perfect; she knew her audience, was polished and on topic and treated us like the intelligent and interested people we were. Given my history of irritation with her husband’s political party, I wasn’t entirely disposed to like her (how wrong is that!) but I really warmed to her. Human, interesting and engaging; thank you.
The ‘Working with Charities’ talk was unbelievably inspiring. Josie, Sian and Rosie spoke so passionately about the work they have done, the places they have been and the difference that social networks make to the understanding we have of the hardships through the world. I cried all the way through, particularly at the description of the mother who tried to give them her baby for a chance of life. It’s the thing I want to come back to most in Part 2, because that 45 minutes probably changed my life.
The Crowd Sourced Keynote at the end of the day; 11 bloggers reading entries aloud from their own blogs. I cried several times, they did themselves proud and I was properly inspired to keep writing in the way I am beginning to do more; writing about my passions and aiming to write it well. Personally, I was giddy to find myself sat at a table with perhaps 10 of the 15 women I had most wanted to meet from the day, people who really have inspired me. It gave me a huge amount of confidence to find myself on equal footings.
Plenty has been written about the Writing Workshop which I attended, so I won’t add to it here other than to say that this lady and also a speaker from later in the day, Rachel Johnson, had vastly underestimated their audiences. The Writing Workshop was essentially a waste of time; bloggers who can be bothered to attend an event like this have already got a voice, already found a niche and already have a brand. We wanted A Level and got NVQ information. Rachel Johnson, (sister of Boris!) while funny and with a good and interesting point about choosing what to publish and the potential repercussions of doing so, didn’t seem to have prepared a speech and I found that a little irritating. Anecdotes are great but something a little more concrete would have been better. In comparison to the polished performance Sarah Brown gave, it was upper level mediocre.
I didn’t attend any of the blogger run events; I wish I had because to be honest it sounds like they did massively better. My gut feeling is that CyberMummy needs to use what it already has in the fold – and reward them properly for their time and effort too. The BritMum/CyberMummy has masses of expertise in the fold already and would do well to use it fully.
A View for the Future
I went for lots of reasons – and I mostly achieved them – but I also went wanting real content and to learn knew things and be exposed to some challenges and opportunities. I think that this concept of Mummy Bloggers is superficially very new, but by thinking it got invented along with the badge and the forum, they’ve underestimated the calibre of their audience. I think this was illustrated in some ways by the PR companies attending and the Swag Bags -? it may have as much to do with a public perception, but it would be great if CyberMummy worked at pushing the boundaries. Someone thinks they are at the head of a vast band of young mums with buggies who blog to relieve the tedium before they go back to work and get to put make up back on. The PR companies were predominantly baby orientated or in some way very consumer, ‘get something for free’, ‘have some pampering’, ‘get back the old you’ centred.
There were a lot of bloggers there who didn’t need 3 packs of baby wipes, endless feeder cups or chances to win things. Those things are great, but they aren’t the be all and end all. I, and a significant quantity of other people there, have older children, stories to tell, a maturity of blogging that stretches well beyond toddlers and nappies and getting a free toy and well beyond having blogged for a few months or couple of years. I’d have liked more meat to the content, companies attending who were interested in talking to us as people to work with, more opportunities to have our blogs looked at and given personal feedback and tailored advice. I’d have loved to see the charities represented, more magazines, more businesses looking to use bloggers for promotion of ideas as well as brands.
All of that sounds a bit negative; I’m well aware many of those types of people could have been invited and not taken up the challenge, but if I was asked to give a vision of CyberMummy in the future, that’s what I’d say.
Beyond that, I will say that I think it was a day which changed many of the things I think about myself, my blog, my abilities and my future. I think CyberMummy altered me in some very fundamental ways, all of them good and all of them about how I see myself and where I might direct myself in the future. I had, it is no exaggeration, a blinding flash of clarity about myself which I am going to have to act on. All those are pretty amazing things to come from one day in a conference hall. But I’m saving them for Part 2.