So if you're not a blogger, I can't say this post will hold a lot of interest for you, unless you're just completely fascinated with the inner-workings of our universe. For which I wouldn't blame you, actually....
But if you're not interested, might I direct you to these other amazing posts from bloggers I love:
- "I Am Not Your Fat Friend" from Skinned Knees
- The latest "Answerin' Stuff" from Shuggilippo
- "Things You Can't Do When You're not a Toddler" via How to be a Dad
You may recall I've been to BlogHer before, so I come in with a modicum of perspective. Overall, I would describe this year's conference as educational but perhaps not in the way you'd think...
Kara Swisher. I was previouslyonly vaguely familair wish Swisher - she is the Executive Editor of Re/Code, an outlet I've read a bit. I had no idea she was honest, witty, funny, real and all-around awesome. She interviewed Melissa Barnes, the Head of Global Brands for Twitter, and it was interesting.
In fact, most - if not all - of the keynotes were solid. One of my idols, Danah Boyd, was everything I wanted her to be. Even though I don't watch "Scandal" (I know, I know), I found Kerry Washington to be intelligent, witty, reverent and beautiful. I found new bloggers to be obsessed with in Feminista Jones and Cherylyn Harley LeBon. And The Bloggess was, as always, hilarious, a little whacky and totally insightful.
I attended a couple workshops that I enjoyed as well. I seldom learn anything new at blog conference workshops just by virtue of having been a blogger for so damned long, but I picked up a couple good tips in a monetization workshop and really enjoyed some of Charlie Capen's insights on growing your Instagram following. I wish I'd made it to the personal blogger mini-con, which I heard was excellent, but I started to crash by then and had to nap or face falling over on my face.
It is hard to beat the "B2B" networking at BlogHer. The best part of the conference is just hanging out. Is that worth the expense? Maybe. Say what you will about other aspects of the conference -- this is the opportunity to fly into one place where you can see a myriad of bloggers you may only speak to otherwise via social media. And that's pretty exciting and a lot of fun.
The closing party. They nailed it. McDonald's sponsored a terrific affair, with food, drink, lounge areas, tables, photo hot spots, a dance floor and an unmatched DJ by the name of Reverence Run (oh yes, the guy from RUN-DMC). When they were secretive about the location, and we heard whispers of it taking place in a parking lot, I think many attendees were apprehensive. But they nailed it.
As awesome as the big, closing party was, I'm afraid the sponsor suite parties were as disappointing. Crammed into fairly small suites, where you basically felt like you were in someone's hotel room (not everyone decorated). I'm not sure how they could have done it better but I'm sure that they could have. So many bodies in and out of the rooms, so little A/C, so little water to give out.
Actually, water was hard to come by all around. Which surprised me. With temperatures during the weekend being at least 95 degrees, I anticipated the A/C would be on blast and that we'd be able to find bottles of water in the Expo hall or at least for sale somewhere. But for much of the show, I was warm and thirsty. (Toward the end, I wised up and just carried a refillable cup with me -- Bailey's Creamers provided them at a couple meals and I didn't want to carry it around but then realized it was a good idea.)
As for as the Expo itself -- it was okay. It was smaller than it was the last time I attended BlogHer. There's something to be said for that, of course. It does not seem as unattainable to hit every. single. booth. at the expo but then, I also had seen the whole Expo in about three hours and then never needed to go again. Some of the booths provided truly exceptional experiences (An east coast brand, Heluva Good, had a particularly fun photo booth and tasty treats, for example; Chuck E. Cheese was giving away a prize a minute.) while some of the booths were staffed by temps who did not know how to deal with bloggers except to hand them free swag and send them on their way. (What a waste of the brand's ROI, right?)
Which brings me to the swag issue, of course. I think a lot of bloggers felt like there wasn't a lot of great swag this year. That didn't really bother me. I think the swag is nice -- everyone loves free, cool stuff -- but that is not why I personally attend these conferences so this was never a major concern for me. It was only a concern when the event itself was subpar (i.e. the sponsor suite parties) and I felt like I needed to get something out of it.
The other thing I must say is that while the networking at BlogHer can be absolutely terrific, the cliques can be pretty "terrific," too. I'm fortunate that I know a lot of bloggers from my area and otherwise. I continued to run into friendly faces wherever I went. But there were definitely a few times I tried to approach new girls and went right back to being the unpopular girl in high school, trying to talk to the cheerleaders. And I guess when you put 1500 women in a room, that kind of behavior shouldn't surprise me, but it stll disappoints me. Because one of the best things about blogging is the community it joins you to.
I want to be clear. Planning a conference like this is profoundly labor intensive and time consuming and exhausting. What the BlogHer organizers go through is pretty arduous and I don't envy them or believe I could do a better job. Nor do I want to appear ungrateful so I hope you all can see that I still very much enjoyed this trip. So will I go again? I don't know. I was originally going to write "no" but I've said that before about other events and gone back anyway and had twice as much fun.
It was, as I said, educational. I learned a lot, truth be told. Not in a direct way but by observation. I learned about bloggers and their behavior. About brands and how they represent themselves. About meeting people and not meeting people. I made assessments about the future of blogging; what it's arrived at, what it's going to be... More on that later.
Should you go to BlogHer should it even happen in 2015 (many people are speculating it won't)? My advice would be to make an honest list of why you're going and what you want to take away from it. See where they're having it and how much it costs and make the best decision that will allow you to sleep at night.
This is what happens during panels when I have a Sharpie and fresh paper.
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Last thing -- this video. This was made to celebrate ten years of BlogHer by the very talented Jessi Sanfilippo and I wanted to end with it. It's lovely.