At 7:10am on Saturday 12th May, this small town girl hopped on to a train and headed off to the bright lights of London town. Why, I hear you cry, would anyone get out of bed at that time on a Saturday?! Your concern is understandable, as 7:10am is practically the middle of the night. But this particular Saturday was extra-ordinary, as it happened to be the date of the very first UK conference for female bloggers, Cybher.
Held in the heart of London, just a stone’s throw from the Embankment (you know, where the big ferris wheel is?) at the rather freaking swanky 8 Northumberland (complete with pink lighting throughout; oh yes), Cybher set about to bring together blogesses of all creed, colour and style for one action packed day of corporate schmoozing, social mingling and inspirational speaking.
I have to say, I was a little nervous at the prospect of being flung into the world of real-life bloggers; after all, us bloggers aren’t used to communicating with each other face-to-face, and I wasn’t sure how we would all get along without the shield of technological gadgetry to hide behind. Plus, I was acutely aware that several of my most favourite bloggers would be there, and was concerned I would be like a little fish in a very large pond (or worse still, a rabbit caught in headlights).
|Handmade Business Cards!|
I needn’t have worried at all, the day was amazing and from speaking to other bloggers, it quickly became evident that we all felt like the underdogs. There was business card swapping (I made my own!) and outfit admiring, cooing over cute babes-in-arms safely tucked in colourful slings and gorging on biscuits displayed in tall sweetie jars. An incredible, inspiring day, all made possible thanks to Fran’s generosity.
Here’s my low-down of Cybher 2012:
The talks were organised into sessions, each with four different speakers to choose from. Choosing was HARD. Despite studying the schedule the night before, and even calling upon Fran’s wisdom to help me choose, there were still a couple of sessions where I had to make a last-minute ‘eenie meenie miny mo’ style judgement call.
I was pretty pleased with my choices. Every single one of them was utterly engaging, and there was not a dull moment to be had. Woman of the Day has to go to El Jones (a.k.a A Thrifty Mrs) who utterly nailed her talk on being a Thrifty Blogger. She was terrified, bless her, but provided tons of really handy, common sense blogging tips and was just generally very sweet. I loved her before Cybher, but she is now officially my new favourite person.
We had a great time with Mario Cacciottolo of Someone Once Told Me, who had us all up and about taking mug shots of one another in his photography workshop − a great way to get chatting to other bloggers. Below is my portrait of the lovely Ellen from Hymt:
Zoe Margolis (Girl with a One Track Mind) gave the opening speech, chatting ‘talk show style’ with conference organiser Sian about her experience of having her identity exposed by the media. Zoe’s blog, which is sadly no longer updated, was one of the first I ever followed, and I clearly remember the time in 2006 that she described. I feel very privileged to have heard her speak (plus she smiled at me in the loo queue – woohoo!).
I wish I could tell you about all the talks I saw - they were all so super-fab -but I would literally be here all day! Other speakers I saw include:
Upon entering the conference building, we were gently herded into the registration room, where we were handed possibly THE most incredible conference bag I have ever seen. Not a standard crappy drawstring thing made out of paper-like fabric with conference logo haphazardly pasted all over it in lime-green, oh no. We’re talking a real leather, discreetly embossed, laptop-compatible satchel, available in a range of colours to suit all tastes. My oh my. I made a beeline for the blue one, to coordinate with my outfit (naturally).
Now, I’m going to be very honest here. I went looting. It was early, and not many people had arrived yet, so I decided to go round and gather as many sponsor freebies as I possibly could before they all ran out. I had a lovely chat with a lady from Freya about their current range of booby-holders, after which she somehow managed to coerce me in to having my chest measured (I think something went through my mind along the lines of ‘hey, if I do this I might get a free pair of pants or something’. I didn’t). Palmer’s, on the other hand, were clearly angling after the ‘people’s favourite sponsor’ award, giving away huge bags containing at least 10 different full-size products, including their famous stretch-mark creams, which went down a storm with the mummy-bloggers. (Since the conference, I’ve tried out their gradual tan lotion, which resulted in me smelling strongly of chocolate digestives for two days straight.) I also picked up Grey’s Anatomy series six from the nice lady with the wooden glasses on the Disney stand and got my obligatory conference pen from the World Vision team.
It was not until after lunch that I realised the error of my looting ways – I was dashing back and forth from talk to talk carrying three very heavy bags, trying to squeeze through crowds and generally getting under people’s feet. At the end of the day, as I wearily collected my coat, I realised that less-idiotic conference attendees had taken the simple, yet life-saving step of depositing their goodies in the cloakroom for the day...lesson learnt.
The Take Home Messages
Despite the wide variety of talks going on throughout the day, a few common themes did emerge. A big one was the ‘follow/no follow’ link discussion. This relates to how bloggers should link to companies who are featured in their posts. This was the first time I had ever heard of a no-follow link, so it was quite an eye-opener. If you want to learn more, you can do so here.
Photography was also a big topic, understandably, as it is a key feature of many blogs. I bought a dSLR at Christmas in a bid to take better blog photos, and I also use Photoshop occasionally to collage images or add text. I honestly believed that all the best bloggers needed fancy photography equipment. How very way off the mark was I? As I learnt, there are so many excellent, free tools out there to help you create an eye-catching blog. Here are the key ones mentioned at Cybher:
On a more personal level, Cybher taught me that I’m not such a little fish after all. I’m a medium size fish, surrounded by a whole bunch of other medium size fish. We are all swimming in the same pond, we all have our insecurities (the amount of times I heard people describe their blogs as ‘oh, it’s just about being a mum’, or ‘it’s just about food’...less of the ‘justs’ people!) and we all need to take more pride in the things we have achieved.
Oh, and I also learnt not to be a greedy freebie hoarder...
If you’re feeling a bit gutted that you missed out, never fear! Tickets are already on sale for Cybher 2013, to be held on the 1st June. There’s even a special early-bird rate of £80, if you’re quick!
*All photos are from the official Cybher event collection, except where otherwise stated.
Nik is about to give up the day-job, move to the seaside and embark on a freelance career as a writer, proofreader and whatever-else-comes-her-way-er. Her personal blog, Little House in Town, is a place for all things ethical, sustainable, handmade and seaside-y - so go say hello! :)