Mumsnet Blogfest - 10th November 2012

Mumsnet Bloggers
On arrival I could tell Mumsnet Blogfest was going to be a high brow affair.  You could feel it in the air.  I had arrived at Pimlico alone, but seeing 2 ladies (looking expectant - of a conference rather than the arrival of a bundle of joy) I approached them, and even though women in London could literally be going ANYWHERE, yes we were all headed for Mumsnet Blogfest. I can't remember either of their names sadly, but they were lovely and due to shortcuts (theirs not mine) we did an 11 minute walk to Millbank Tower and its impressive views, in 5 minutes.

After a visit to the cloakroom preceded by the necessary collection of a complimentary coffee, croissant and of course The Times (which I carried around all day, despite its heaviness and the fact that I am yet to read it - why would I, I had Caitlin Moran on the way home *coughs*), the first person I laid eyes on was Liz: Cambridge Mummy << click on her link, as she writes a reaction response to Liz Jones mentioning her in the Daily Fail here - she immediately took a photo of me and tweeted it, as you do.  Thank God she did as despite carrying two cameras around all day, that's the only photo I am in. Eeek it's not flattering, and doesn't show off the flat tummy that resulted from me being sick all week, but it's my souvenir that I was indeed there.  The naff hair in a pony tail is also down to the week of sickness, as is the arrival at a conference with NO NOTEBOOK - *head bangs*!

With the lovely

@Louisewkr who I also met yesterday.

I'd normally be livid by what Liz Jones wrote - her headline sets you up for what's to come with: "You blogging mums may as well wear burkas" but it's hard to take it seriously having met her been in the same room as her (she's a lady in crisis), versus the formidable women that were present.  Her article proves yet again that she likes to poke and provoke even if she takes a stereotype or a small percentage of the mummy blogging community and assumes we're all the same.

The day began with a greeting from Mumsnet founder, Justine Roberts, who was followed by Miriam González Durántez aka Mrs Nick Clegg! (I missed the 1st few minutes before I hit "record" sorry! and double sorry as I haven't finished downloading my vid yet).  I am ashamed to say that I had never heard of her before, but I could literally listen to her for hours.  Was shocked to hear she is the wife of Nick Clegg, as I have always found him to be a bit wet; although in some ways his apology song was genius if a little staged naff ;-) 

The standard of Miriam's talk gave us an early prediction of the quality we were to expect from all speakers, who were all clearly chosen to impress and delight in equal measure, and that they did, even Liz Jones in her inimitable way.  There were times when I could neither tweet nor take notes because I was transfixed.  I did a lot of recording on my bloggie till the battery died!

After Miriam's opening keynote, the day began with us staying in the room for "Finding Your Voice" - I couldn't help but wish @TheBloggess would find hers - many times during the session the panellists forgot she was behind them on screen (on a G+ hangout from the States) so she was more like a smiley sun in the sky looking down on them all while we all silently begged her to speak.
Each and every time she uttered a word I got my bloggie out. 

(Update, video is now below)

@TheBloggess like a sun in the sky

She did get to speak thank God:
During this session an "old lady" in the audience asked a question, and we immediately all wanted to read her blog.  She apparently blogs about things she hears like "she shouldn't be allowed out on her own" said about herself :-) she blogs because although it is not fun to hear it, she knows it is funny to write and read it.

One of the panelists said we should "write like you are writing to someone you know (she writes to her sister) as it stops you over explaining".  I think I need to think about this one as I am guilty of this.
The 1st breakout session I went to was "Social Media" with Paul Armstrong @munkyfonkey  I videoed a lot of his session, but the slides can be found here.  He had a LOT of content to cover so spoke at about 90 miles an hour, but that is the speed I think at, so I was comfortable. He was an incredibly astute and knowledgeable speaker who added a certain gravitas to the material.
Lunch was laid out like a carvery with proper plates and cutlery - anyone attending a conference like this for the first time will now have set the bar high for future events of this sort.  I had the biggest tastiest lunch I have had in I don't know how long - wish I'd taken a photo of it for posterity. Beautiful salad, carved pork, potatoes, risotto, and veg! Had me full, nourished and delighted for HOURS!

I know I can be relied upon to write really detailed posts after conferences because I take notes like minutes BUT what with being sick all week, I was lucky to just get myself there, so hair was in a (nearly) greasy pony tail and I was minus a notebook, so the notes I am looking at now are scraps taken on a few sheets a fellow lovely blogger was generous enough to give me.  Sadly there WAS a notebook in the goodie bag but I only got that on the way home :-(

I went to the intermediate SEO Techniques session but he was such a gent he allowed the ladies to bambouzle him with questions without edit, and as a result he only went through half of his planned slides, and the ones we saw were the ones where he was setting the foundation to take us through to intermediate, so we were like planes that taxied the runway but did not actually take off.  Shame as he CLEARLY knew his stuff and he and his employer have some formidable clients.  He talked around a lot of his slides and made some great points so I am glad I videoed his whole talk before I ran out of juice:


He made some great points that gave us an idea where the future lies:
  • G+ is the WAY to go if you want google to love your blog.
  • Google favours content so is pushing us down the branded route, which is best done self-hosted
  • He said that SEO is in fact REALLY SIMPLE and is a case of BRAND, CONTENT, being ACCESSIBLE.
  • He said that Bing is actually Google's main competitor and not yahoo.
  • Twitter also has a better relationship with Bing.
  • Become a Google author so Google knows you wrote it
  • Link OUT to good content
When asked what is the best SEO'd site, he said without hesitation Money Supermarket.
He also advised we use the Google keyword tool to see what people are searching.

The Blogging Can Change The World session was truly awesome and more importantly humbling (in fact if Liz Jones had been in the room she couldn't possibly have wrote what she has).  It was like watching an episode of Question Time, minus the questions and minus the men, but to a MUCH higher standard as women are the intelligent sex right?  I had run out of juice by this point but I saw a video man in the room, with a tripod for the whole session so I hope it is posted on you tube, as it would be a great session for you all to watch from home.  My favourite speaker in this session was  Stella Creasy, Labour MP for Walthamstow (which actually is not that far from me).  She had a "keeping it real" quality about her, and was really grounded every time she spoke.  Stella said that we have to rebalance power to be heard and hold people to account, and give them a call to action.  For example, she said there is NO POINT meeting an MP unless you have an "ask" as otherwise it is just a pointless meeting with no outcome.  Social media is part of the fabric of how we can create social change.

 The after tea, afternoon Keynote Panel was entitled "Private Lives on a Public Stage" which clearly explains why each guest was picked, including the infamous Liz Jones, Daily Mail, along with Tim Dowling, the Guardian, Zoe Margolis, Eliza Gray and Fi Glover (Chair). Zoe Margolis is the rather infamous sexy @girlonetrack who was outed by the Sunday Times, a few days after releasing her book.

So back to my notes:

Liz Jones said
  • she DOES care what people think
  • regrets what she writes 
  • has a nervous breakdown when she hits send (obviously to an Editor! She should try hitting "publish" instead, that feeling is even worse)
  • writing should be difficult
  • women not allowed a voice like men 
  • she entertains people and it is her job to get readers
  • she doesn't enjoy it but thinks equally people do not enjoy going to the office everyday
  • she draws the line at writing about her nieces and nephews (glad she has got SOME parameters at least)! 
  • writing personal stuff is not worth it as it resulted in her having to move house
  • she started in 1999 on millennium eve when she did not have a date, and said she wouldn't do it again.
  • she doesn't blame it on her editor and takes full account for her actions. 
Eliza said "if you can't hack it don't blog it" which after the comments I got on yesterday's blog post DID give me pause for thought.  What I find odd is that that they all commented on mass, in the space of the same hour, a whole day AFTER I'd posted the blog post, like someone had circulated a link to me (wonders why!)....  Anyway it is a subject I feel passionate about and have read extensively about in the recent weeks, although you'd never tell from the brief post I wrote, but I HAVE researched A LOT!

Sorry I digress...

Zoe (Girl with a One Track Mind) is now engaged.  It was easier to blog about sex when she was anonymous, but she'll never forget after she was outed (by the Sunday Times) her Mum read a 800 word blog post about Zoe sitting on a man's face, and swore she'd never read anything else.  This difficult conversation was had with daughter and Mum with Dad alongside *eeek*.  This was 6 years ago and she still hasn't recovered.

So the day has come to an end.  We're brain dead from being overwhelmed and smug at having met and heard some great things.  The day could not get any better and then


THIS is where I am gutted that my bloggie video camera had died a death although at the time I was too enthralled and captivated to even give it a thought!

Justine Roberts mumsnet founder tried to introduce Caitlin by saying she needed no introduction, but Caitlin was already positioned at the back and shouted out that she wanted one.  This was the beginning of the pantomine extrovert talk that was about to come, yes, she was behind me.

I can't do her justice by writing here what she said, but trust me, buy her book, in fact buy both of them (we got Moranthology in our goodie bags but she is more famous for How To Be a Woman) and keep an eye out for the trilogy she is currently writing, beginning with writing about her teenage years, but in the style of a novel - she said it will be inhaling as you should "inhale a life" when you read a book, so that you have their wisdom and yours.  One memorable thing she said was "fake it till you make it" and "pretend to be cheerful".  We all had a good chuckle when she said a dash of whiskey in your afternoon tea means the kids are great.  She's NEVER suffered from writer's block and never had a fear of the blank page but then she has been professionally writing since she was like FIFTEEN!

I loved it when she said that if everyone is writing about the same thing, we all have the same pool table, so we should walk around the table again and again till we decide what angle to come at the ball from.  She also said your THIRD thought is usually the one you should write about.  She was extremely humble concerning the success of How to Be a Woman, saying that she was waiting for someone, anyone, to write the book and when they didn't, she did; she said it'd have been a success whoever wrote it - humble in the extreme and I think her millions of fans would queue to disagree, of which I am fast becoming one.

Here is a footnote for the Sponsors, without which none of it would have been possible.  They bankrolled Mumsnet being able to pull off a SUPERB event in RECORD speed to a standard I had not thought possible.

Without further ado
Nintendo 3DS
The Portland Hospital
Pizza Express
Mama Mio are not listed in the Timetable as a Sponsor, but they were by far my favourite exhibitor during the day.
And to all of the detractors on Twitter (when the tickets were on sale), yeah, you missed out! You missed a REALLY good conference.  You were quick & wrong to criticise in haste and I hope you repent in leisure.  And you know what? The day was ALL the better for being surrounded in people who WANTED to be there!

Liska xx 

The views were spectacular from the venue that was the Millbank Tower: