Well, BlogHer was a little fast and intense. Comparing it to past blogging conferences, I would say that Altitude Design Summit is a blogger group hug and BlogHer ’11 is a blogger mosh pit. I met so many people and saw so many cool things this weekend that it’s all just running out of my brain before I can process it. So, here is the quick and dirty recap:
On the conference…
This conference is big and overwhelming. I’m so grateful that I thought out exactly what I wanted to get out of the trip before I went, because it helped me relax about missing thing A when I had to be over at thing B.
Past conferences I’ve been to have been all about the sessions. You have meet and greets and lunches, but really you’re there to learn in the sessions. This conference really seemed to be more about getting together with sponsors and bloggers on the side than about being in the actual classes.
I’d definitely go back if it wasn’t in New York City next year. (August seems like a very crummy time to go to NYC and I think the conference would feel even more chaotic and crowded than it did this year.) Hopefully I can make it out to BlogHer ’13…
On the sessions…
There were a lot of sessions offered, but surprisingly few had a mass appeal. I went to five classes and was only able to get a lot out of one of them. They were either not exactly what I was looking for or it seemed like the speakers didn’t have a handle on what they were supposed to be talking about. I did step out of two of the classes only to find that the one I wanted to switch over into was full, but I know other people had more success with session hopping.
I would have loved to have seen more sessions on sponsor relationships and fewer sessions on personal growth, but obviously there are a lot of different motivations for why you’d attend BlogHer.
Most of the sessions were liveblogged, so if you want to see the type of stuff that the speakers were sharing, you should check out the liveblogs.
On the attendees…
HUGE range of people at this conference. I met lots of mommy bloggers, but also a bunch of sponsor reps, marketing pros, artists, photographers, and entrepreneurs. There were also a ton of professional bloggers with law degrees, so I guess it’s not that weird after all!
I admit that I wasn’t a fan of the attendees with babies, just because it seemed problematic. Two of the sessions that I was in were “cried out” by a fussy baby and I walked out of one fairly decent session because the woman next to me was reading her toddler a picture book to quiet him down. (Note: if you’re in a session and you’re reading a picture book out loud, you aren’t getting anything out of the session. So go out in the hall and quit bugging everyone!) Last year I might have thought that I just didn’t understand, but since I made the sacrifice to leave Eva at home for the conference, I felt fine thinking that all those mommies needed to take those babies elsewhere.
It was impossible to make solid connections because there were just too many people. I have two fistfuls of business cards and a very hazy grasp on who I met this week. To really connect with bloggers, I think you’d have to arrange a dinner meet or just catch them at another event.
On the expo…
Overwhelming, but really fun. The expo is the meeting hall where bloggers and sponsors can steal a little face-to-face time. Tons of companies were there giving out free samples and introducing the bloggers to new products. Not everything was for me, but I loved exploring!
I do think it’s easy to start feeling a little entitled, with everyone shoving free stuff in your face. I was thrilled with the first few free samples, but by the end I was turning things down right and left and wishing the samples were bigger and better. I had to keep reminding myself that these were free gifts and I needed to not be greedy.
The giveaways were definitely worth my time! I won something on all three nights of being at the expo. Day one was a year’s worth of Downy Unstopables from P&G, day two was a portable device charger from SwagBucks, and day three was an iPad2 from YoCrunch. (Thanks again for the goodies!)
On the swag…
Even beyond the big swag I came home with (like the iPad2), I was really impressed with the swag they gave out. Lots of full-size products and cute custom items. I can honestly say that I plan to blog about the majority of the things I picked up and I tried out some things that I never would have known about or purchased on my own. (Did you know that McDonalds has an apple and walnut snack that comes with a little dip-able thing of yogurt? So good!)
Some of the swag they gave out on the expo floor was downright surprising. Like the pancake-wrapped turkey sausage on a stick. And the sex toys from Eden Fantasys.
One of the best parts about the conference was the swag exchange, where you could drop off what you didn’t want and pick up things you didn’t have. I dropped off two bags of stuff, including DVDs we weren’t going to watch, water bottles I didn’t need, t-shirts I didn’t fit, and appliances we’d never use. I picked up four full-size Disney baby dolls, six Sesame Street baby toys, three card games, six CDs, and a few blank journals. I had to cut back because I didn’t have very much room in my luggage, but I saw kitchenware, photo frames, suitcases, yoga mats, tennis shoes, cases of bottled water…it was like a hoarder’s dream. Hopefully everything found a home!
On the parties…
There were three kinds of parties at BlogHer ’11: parties for everyone, parties for anyone who had managed to RSVP fast enough to grab a spot, and parties for people who were specially invited to the event. I went to two of each and, not surprisingly, liked the last category the best. (It helped that those were both Disney-hosted parties.)
I thought all of the parties were well-hosted, particularly the large BlogHer parties that were for all invitees. The food was good, the music was energetic, and there were fun surprises at each event.
There seemed to be a little bit of envy/competition surrounding the different private parties and the gift bags that came from them. Neither of the general parties that I had RSVP’d to had very good gift bags, though, and it seemed to be more about connecting with the sponsors. The invite-only parties, however, had the best swag out of the whole conference and I’m glad that I reached out to the hosts and asked about the events early to grab a spot.
On the fashion…
For as much as people were worried about looking good at BlogHer and wearing all new clothes, I thought it was going to be like fashion week. Instead, there were so many people that I didn’t really notice what anyone was wearing. I remember a few people who looked a little too dressed up during the day and a few people who needed longer skirts. That’s it.
Lots of people were either limping or went barefoot by the end of the first day. We walked a solid four miles between events during the conference…they weren’t kidding about taking comfortable shoes!
I wore clothes from Target and H&M and still got plenty of compliments. My advice is to wear something comfortable that could go either way depending on whether you’re at a day session or a party in the evening.
Best part of the trip: even with as much fun as I had and winning the iPad2 and hitting all of those parties, I’d still have to say that the best part of the trip was seeing Kyle and Eva at the airport. It’s so much fun to be the mom coming home!
Worst part of the trip: There was a nasty stomach virus going around BlogHer ’11 (as well as a streak of wallet thefts) and Carrie and I were really worried about catching something. You shake a lot of hands and share a lot of buffet food at a conference like this, so I’m sure it would be easy to pick something up. Luckily, we seem to have Purell-ed our way out of danger, but I feel bad for the attendees who were not so lucky…
Favorite new product tried: Stacy’s Cinnamon Sugar Pita Chips. (Who knew they were that good?)
Best thing I packed: Comfy flip-flops. My nice flip flops and nice dress shoes both lasted about two hours, before I realized nobody was looking at my feet.
Silliest thing I packed: I took a cloth grocery bag, thinking I might need something to carry my swag in at the expo. Didn’t even occur to me that someone might be passing out cloth bags. I think I came home with 15 or 16?
I‘m glad that I: left Eva at home, even though I missed her. I had no time free during the conference and would have been a crazy person if I’d been worried about her on top of everything else. Plus, it was amazing to come home after four days and just squeeze her up.
I wish that I’d: trained a little bit more for the BlogHer 5K. I finished it, but my hip joints are still complaining…
Next time I’m going to: drive if I can and see if I can extend the trip out for a few days. After the madness, it would have been really nice to take a little vacation!