I’m going to #BML16 with Ardo Breastpumps

You may have noticed me mention that I went away at the beginning of May to Blog On, a blogging conference in Manchester. I had a great time, mostly catching up with friends, as well as attending a few of the sessions too.

Well next weekend I’m heading to London for another blogging conference; Britmums Live (or #BML16 as it has been rebranded this year). I went to Britmums in 2014 and I really enjoyed it. At that point I’d only been blogging at Toby Goes Bananas for about 8 months and I was a bit overwhelmed by the whole experience. This time I’m older and wiser (ahem!) and I’m looking forward to meeting up with some old friends, and meeting some in person for the first time too.

This year I have been lucky enough to be sponsored to attend #BML16 by Ardo breastpumps. I reviewed an Ardo double electric pump when Gabe was first born and it was fab. It definitely helped me keep breastfeeding for longer. Although I’m no longer breastfeeding I still believe that Ardo have some great products, and their website also has lots of brilliant information and advice for breastfeeding mums.

Anyway, I thought I should probably join in the #BML16 linky and introduce myself.

Sarah (Toby Goes Bananas)

  • Is this my first blogging event? No, I went to Britmums Live in 2014 and Blog On MOSI last month.
  • I will be wearing…something comfy! Jeans probably, and a top that is clean and not covered in baby snot hopefully!
  • What I hope to gain from #BML16: A chance to catch up with friends and to be inspired to keep on blogging even when I feel like I just don’t have enough hours in the day.
  • My tips for a great conference: Choose your sessions wisely, and remember you don’t have to go to them all – spending time in the brand hub and chatting to other bloggers is just as worthwhile. Oh and stay to the end if you can!

If you see me next weekend please do come and say hi. And please accept my apologies in advance if I don’t know your name – I am rubbish at matching bloggers to their blogs!


My Britmums Live experience

So it probably hasn’t escaped your notice that this weekend 700 bloggers descended on The Brewery in London for the year’s biggest blogging conference, and I was lucky enough to be one of them! Lots of people have already written about their experiences at Britmums Live and Britmums have gathered them all together in one handy linky.

I’ve been home a few days now and I’ve been struggling to shape my thoughts about the weekend into a coherent blog post. In fact, although I thought I would come home raring to go with my blog I haven’t put fingertip to keyboard since I came back on Sunday. Don’t get me wrong here though, I had a fantastic weekend meeting lots of lovely people and getting lots of ideas and inspiration on how to make Toby Goes Bananas more of the blog I want it to be. I think the problem might be that I have so many ideas that I don’t know where to start! But also (and from reading some of the other posts I know I’m not the only one feeling this way) going to Britmums Live has actually made me realise that perhaps taking a little step back from my blog, realising that the stats don’t really matter, trying to find a better blog/ life balance and appreciating that my blog doesn’t have to be all consuming wouldn’t be such a bad idea. I’ve sat in front of the laptop a few nights this week but the words just weren’t coming and rather than trying to force it I decided just to wait until I was feeling more inspired.

And so, here it is, my Britmums Live Experience…

My Britmums Live experience

The weekend itself was amazing, if very tiring! I had to get up at 5am on the Friday morning to catch my flight from Edinburgh to London City airport. A quick ride on the DLR and I was on the tube heading to Euston. This was because Ed’s Easy Diner had sent me an email for a free birthday milkshake! They send me one every year and I never normally get to use it but seeing as I was in London with a bit of time to kill I couldn’t pass up the opportunity. So after scrambled eggs on toast (my third breakfast of the day, if you count a banana at home and rubbish cooked breakfast on the plane) and a vanilla malt to take away I was back on the tube to Old Street and making my way to my hotel.

I was so pleased there was a room ready so I got an early check in and a 45 minute power snooze before meeting up with the first bloggers of my weekend; Donna from What the Redhead Said (who I had met before at the Munchkin Lindam event) and Kate from Family Fever (whose linky, Tried & Tested, I join in with most weeks). I also met Emma from The Mini Mes and Me and Jade from Late for Reality. We made our way from the hotel to The Brewery where the main event was to be held. As promised by Britmums we were greeted by bowler-hatted doormen, we then waited in the covered outdoor courtyard area for the doors to open. Here I got chance to say hello to a few more people including Mummy Muncher from Life With Munchers and Vicki from Ellie Bear Babi, both of whom I had spoken to online before, as well as Rebecca from Mrs Mumsie and Karen from Let Kids Be Kids.

And then the doors opened and the madness began. There was a huge scrabble to collect badges and then everyone piled into The Hub where all the brands had their stands. Despite me professing my lack of nerves before I went I have to admit this part was a little bit overwhelming! There were people everywhere. There were squeals from every direction as bloggers recognised one another and people seemed to be running round grabbing every freebie they could get their hands on! And, jeez, it was LOUD! 700 excited bloggers in one place make a lot of noise. If I have a tip for those attending Britmums Live for the first time it would be to just take your time at the beginning, have a look around and take it all in, but you don’t need to talk to all the brands and sign up on all their lists in the first 5 minutes. They’ll be there all weekend and you’ll have plenty of time to talk to them when things have quietened down a bit. On that note, I would also recommend trying to find a bit of time on your own to talk to any brands you’re really interested in working with – I found it much easier to chat in a bit more depth to brands on my own than when I was with other people.

I hadn’t really made a plan of which sessions I wanted to go to before I went and that wasn’t really a problem. I will say though, if there is a session you don’t want to miss then try to get there a bit early (easier said than done when you are dashing between sessions) as some of the rooms are quite small and fill up quickly for popular sessions. I’m not going to go into loads of detail about the sessions but there are a few that deserve a mention; The Dos and Don’ts of Blog Giveaways by Di Coke (SuperLucky.co.uk) was very useful, as was the session on Google+ by James Dearsley from The Digital Marketing Bureau – I actually have a vague understanding of how Google+ works now which is a massive improvement! One thing about the sessions is that it’s hard to know from the brief description in the programme what level they will be pitched at – for example I found the blog design tips, SEO and tech knowledge sessions interesting but they didn’t really tell me anything I didn’t already know, in hindsight my time could perhaps have been spent better elsewhere.

I have to say I found the BiBs party on Friday night a bit underwhelming somehow. By that point everyone was tired and hungry (food, or lack of seems to be one area that a lot of people think could be improved for next year) and the whole thing seemed to be over in a bit of a rush. There was also a bit of controversy as Katy Hill, who was presenting the awards, also won in the Fresh Voice category. I admit I have never read her blog but it does seem a bit off somehow. And anyway, that award should definitely have gone to Katie at Hurrah for Gin, who I also met and she was absolutely lovely!

Saturday was definitely a day for tissues with a very moving and inspiring keynote speech from Benjamin Brooks-Dutton (Life As A Widower) in the morning and the blogger keynotes at the end of the day. I not one for crying usually but even I found myself welling up listening to these brave bloggers standing up in a room full of their peers and speaking out loud some of their most personal blog posts. It was a good job that the event rounded off with a performance from the Good Enough Mums Club giving everyone a good laugh and able to leave with a smile on their face.

After the event I headed, laden with goodies, to my brother’s house in Essex for a relaxing evening of pizza and cider then a good night’s sleep. I spent the day there on Sunday and finally made it home at about midnight. Toby, who had been sleeping through all weekend, woke up as I came in the door, which was a great excuse for a lovely cuddle before bed!

I have to also mention some of the other people I met; it was lovely to see some of my fellow Munchkin Lindam bloggers again – Munchies and Munchkins and Debs from Super Busy Mum. It was also great to meet Emma from Me, The Man & The Baby (baby included!), Lucinda from Teacher 2 Mummy, Donna from The London Mum, Sara from mumturnedmom (over all the way from America!), Aby from You Baby Me Mummy and to get to say a quick hello to Katie from Mummy Daddy Me, Emma from Brummymummyof2, Just a Normal Mummy, and Wry Mummy. I’m sure I’ve missed some (I didn’t write anyone’s names down, or take any photos!) so please accept my apologies if I’ve missed you off. Also, sorry if I confused any of you with my surprisingly very red hair!

Last but not least a quick mention to a few of the brands I spoke to over the weekend; firstly it was fab to see the Munchkin guys again and the lovely ladies from Norton & Co. Thanks to Parragon Books for the very tasty cupcake, to Coca-Cola for my personalised Coke bottle, to Butlins for the chocolate (I may have taken more than one bar!) and to Heinz Baby for the goodies for Toby and for the lovely, and much needed massage.

So there you have it – that was my Britmums Live experience. It was pretty much everything I expected (although I didn’t end up getting drunk like I thought I might!). I think it’ll take a few weeks before I really digest it all and start putting some of my ideas into practice though. I would definitely recommend going if you get the chance and hopefully I’ll be able to go again sometime in the future, although with my return to work fast approaching I’m holding off buying my ticket for 2015 just yet!

P.S. I was really rubbish at taking photos during the weekend hence the lack of pictures in this post – sorry!

I’m going to Britmums Live!

If you’re a parent blogger, or a regular reader of parent blogs then you might be aware of a little blogging conference called Britmums Live which is happening in London this weekend. Over 500 bloggers will meet to learn more about blogging, chat to their fellow bloggers and most importantly it seems, drink gin! Despite a fruitless search for a sponsor my lovely husband has agreed to let me spend some of his hard-earned wages to join in the fun. I’m really looking forward to meeting some of the people I’ve been chatting to online, and whose blogs I have been reading…and if you read Toby Goes Bananas then please do come and say hi!

Anyway, seeing as Britmums Live is less than a week away I thought I would join in the Britmums linky and introduce myself.

Name: Sarah

Blog: Toby Goes Bananas

Twitter ID: @tobygoesbananas

Height: 5′ 5″

Hair: Very short crop, dyed red (although just how red depends on whether I get chance to dye it again before the weekend!)

Eyes: Two. (Don’t ask me what colour; they’re bluey-greeny-greyey and seemingly change colour every day!). They may be hidden behind glasses depending on how much my hayfever is bothering me and so whether or not I can wear my contact lenses.

Is this your first blogging conference? Yes!

Are you attending both days? Certainly am. I’m travelling down from Scotland so I’m not going to miss a minute!

What are you most looking forward to at BritMums Live 2014? Meeting other bloggers – especially those whose blogs I have read and who I have chatted to online before.

What are you wearing? To be honest I’m a bit concerned about how much importance everyone seems to be placing on what they are going to wear – it seems some people are spending a fortune on new outfits and have been talking about it for months. I would love to get new clothes but on maternity pay I’ll be digging something out from the wardrobe! Probably a dress/tunic and leggings on Friday and jeans with some sort of smartish top on Saturday. Definitely flat shoes, I hardly ever wear heels so I’m not about to start now!

What do you hope to gain from BritMums Live 2014? Lots of ideas of how I can improve and grow my blog; there are so many great sessions I’m struggling to choose which ones to go to.

Do you have any tips to pass on to others who may not have been before? Having not been before myself, no. But if anyone reading this has been then feel free to pass your tips my way!

And finally…there are loads of pictures of me on here but just for good measure, here’s me (although I don’t always look like I’ve just had my photo taken by my wonderfully talented sister-in-law photographer!):