I am not big on conferences. I have had to cover a fair few - usually political, occasionally educational. I associate them with late nights, thick heads, deadlines and trying to look like I know what's going on when I haven't a clue. I spoke at a Britmums blog meet-up a couple of years ago and this weekend I went along to the Mumsnet Blogfest. I admit I was slightly wary. It is one thing covering a conference when you are being paid to be there as a hack, it is fair enough if you are speaking or chairing an event which I have also done, but going along as a punter implies you are a believer or an enthusiast, and that is a hard admission to make if you are a natural sceptic like me.
Anyway on the basis that I am a mum, I am a blogger, I have a net and I am all for festing, I went. Here are my top ten things I took away from the conference. (There are 12 that is because I am adding value to my blog bulging as it is with unique content.)
1. I need to buy a wrap-dress in jersey with a nice geometric print immediately. Similarly, I need an expensive leather handbag.
2. Don't presume if you go to a conference on your own that you will spend the day friendless. I worried that it might be cliquey, that I would be left standing by myself talking to an aspidistra. I was entirely wrong (and I hope the lovely girl in tears I met in the Ladies at the start of the day recovered herself.)
3. "Why Miriam Gonzales Durante?" I asked myself looking at the agenda which had her down as the opening keynote speaker. "Because she's absolutely great" I answered once I'd heard her. Miriam is a partner in a law firm specialising in EU Trade and EU Government affairs.(She also happens to be married to the deputy prime minister.) She is seriously clever, warm and very glamorous. (The woman next to me described her as "like Jackie Kennedy" when she first appeared with her shiny, shiny dark hair and chic white top. Tell me I wasn't the only one in the audience thinking "Miriam, baby - Nick Clegg? Nick. Clegg. Why?"
4. Bloggers over-think the troll thing. Occasionally horrible people stumble into your world - real or virtual. Courtesy of psychologist Professor Tanya Byron, I realised that they are probably damaged, and that what they say is their problem and not yours.
5. Bloggers who are writing for themselves rather than on behalf of a company should forget about including keywords in titles, tags or disappearing down any such SEO (search engine optimisation)rabbit-holes. Where is the fun in angsting about rankings when you could be writing?
6. Similarly social media. Apparently we all need to get on google+. Which I am on. It is just I have forgotten what to do with it. I know it has circles like Dante's inferno and you have to send different things to each circle. As far as I can see this leads to a permanent sense of anxiety that you are sending the wrong thing to the wrong people.
7. Do not get there late if you want a cupcake.
8. The dos and don'ts of blogging about children is a coming issue. Blogging is growing up. As are the children some bloggers write about. Best question of the day - what do you do if your 16-year-old tells you he doesn't want you to write about him anymore?
9. There are some women out there who want to wear Caitlin Moran's skin. Personally I'm settling for throwing away my hairbrush and giving myself one of those fetching blond Mallon streaks that make you look like you are licked awake every morning by a golden retriever.
10. Don't invite Mail on Sunday columnist Liz Jones and expect her to send a floral notelet saying "thank you" and "how nice it was to meet you" - it ain't gonna happen. Don't feel hurt or bitch about her attitude when she accuses mumsnet bloggers of being patsies whose view of the world is so restricted they might as well be wearing burkas. Laugh. In a burka, noone can see you laughing.
11. I am all for writing. I have written three books Wife in the North, the-novel-that-lives-in-a-drawer-that-is-pants, and the one due out in January called A Year of Doing Good. I want to write more books. I also want to be happy. I'd like to think these things were not mutually exclusive.
12. If you paint your nails with a wacky chocolatey-plummy varnish courtesy of nails inc. that came in the goody bag, apparently it is flammable and your fingers catch fire as you type.
Was lovely to see you again yesterday and awfully glad that you haven't combusted as a result of putting on the nail varnish. And god, yes, SO many wrap dresses yet I didn't see one double. Fab post. Looking forward to the book! R x
Excellent summing up! I too arrived wondering if there was an aspidistra to save me, but no need! It was good to see people I knew and good meet new people. I missed you though! I left the wrap dress and expensive handbag at home (the handbag is still in the shop, actually) and instead went dressed as a writer: black turtleneck.
Oh, and clever Liz Jones, did just what she set out to do--sell more papers ;) Her life seems terribly Faustian though.
Ha ha! And I had a wrap dress! Come to Oxfam, Herne Hill. You might find one too for £7.50. Have to say, they are marvellously flattering. Except for when one's sitting down and being photographed practically from underneath.
Ha ha. Brilliant summing up. You're not the only one thinking 'Miriam. Nick Clegg? Nick Clegg? Why?'
Oh, how I wish I'd known you were there, I would love to have come and said hello. Next time. Looking forward to the book x
This is an absolutely fabulous summary of points gleaned from the day.
Love it and will be following your blog from now on.
For anyone who wants to know why you (and we) were all blown away by Miriam, I did capture (all but the opening sentences) here. Lovely to watch it again:
Wish I'd known you were going - I liked your book and would have chatted.
Yes, must get a wrap dress!
I hate conferences mainly because I'm an evangelical freak. I believe everything that I hear, get over excited and it takes me weeks to calm down again. Best stay home and eat chocolate.
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