BlogHer Conference: Not Just for Mommy Bloggers

I recently discovered that BlogHer in the media is labeled as the biggest mom-blogger conference in the country.

This is news to me. As a second-year attendee, with no children to speak of, it really bothers me.

BlogHer is an all-encompassing conference for people who blog. Men. Women. Parents. Writers. Humorists. Storytellers. Young. Old. Gay. Straight. We are unified by our desire to write and to share our stories.

Sure the HER part of BlogHer makes it a conference comprised of mostly women, but men are welcome and WELCOMED.

So here’s my wrap-up. The good, the bad and the ugly. But I gained so much more immediately following this conference than what I thought I got out of BlogHer13.

I didn’t go for the speakers or the sessions…though Jenny Lawson was fabulous, some of the things Kerry Washington  had to say resonated with me, and I learned some valuable information about publication.

I didn’t go for the swag…though I was happy to add to my board game collection thanks to Chuck E Cheese, Skype blew it out of the park with branded stuff my co-workers may be a bit jealous of, and I’m pretty excited (Read: OMG had a freakout in the hallway with another ginger blogger) about trying out the new Keurig when it comes out.

I went for the people.

The writers, the women, the friends that I’ve made in the blogosphere and the people I met on our Californiadventure. I was lucky to have met a fantastic group of women from around the world before I even made it to BlogHer, so I went into the conference with a beautiful group of new friends. I got to hang out with Joules again and Jenny (my bestie’s adorable and wonderful SIL) and so many others that I met last year (I loved that so many of us kept bumping into each other)!

I met the AMAZING Lillian Connelly finally. She was my first fan that wasn’t obligated by friendship or blood to like me. And she was my first blog friend to really welcome me into this digital community. I also met a large group of women that I spend a lot time reading and interacting with on the Book of Face. We had dinner/snacks/drinks before the closing party and they were all ABSOLUTELY wonderful. And hysterical.

Selfie with Lily

Selfie with Lily

The brands, connections and companies that help me keep this blog running. Networking with businesses that fit with my brand of crazy and meeting writers and social media mavens who offer advice, experience and contacts was an unexpected highlight of my first conference and definitely something I found yet again. You never know who you’re going to sit next to at breakfast or run into at a party.

It was awesome to hang out with my hosting company, DreamHost. Because they. Are. Awesome.

It was awesome to hang out with my hosting company, DreamHost. Because they. Are. Awesome. (Shameless plug: if you use my affiliate code, QuirkyHost, you can save $10 on a one- or two-year contract.)

On tribes, cliques and cool kids

I am lucky enough to have several groups of blog friends. I am a part of groups and tribes. But I don’t think that any one group was the be all end all of this conference. I think they were all unbelievable and better in real life than ever I imagined. I bounced around as I tend to do, flitting from event to group hangout to solo time to a little one-on-one with my honey. And still I missed whole groups of people that I wanted to spend time with.

The best part, though, is that every group I sat down in, every person I talked to, every cool kid table I moseyed my way into was cool. I learned from veterans and educated newbies. Some saw me as a relative newbie while others looked to me for advice and acceptance. But as Aussa Lorens mentioned, there’s always that .8% of people who aren’t quite as awesome. My .8% happened to be a single person who reminded me of my grandmother-though not in a bad way at all-(her personality, the way she spoke, her love of sparkly things), assumed I was a plus-size fashion blogger before even making eye-contact with me or shaking my hand, and didn’t want to exchange business cards with anyone who wasn’t a fashion blogger. But she may have been nervous. Or annoyed at the session we were in. Or having a bad day. So I don’t fault her.

Every group seemed like the “cool kids”  and almost every time they welcomed me with open arms. It was lovely.

On the expo hall, sessions, food, and parties

While the expo hall was smaller this year than last, I felt as though I didn’t have enough time to navigate to all the places I wanted to. Sure, there wasn’t as much swag free-flowing, but I feel like I made better connections with brands that I really want to work with.

The sessions were MUCH longer than last year, and thus less to my liking. I would rather have more options, and less lengthy panels with a lot of information that isn’t relevant to me. The publishing session offered a lot of information, but I think it could have been broken down into separate sessions about the different ways to publish. I made it to the style session, but it didn’t really seem to be what I thought it was, so I bounced.

The conference food was okay. I didn’t starve this time. I’m REALLY glad I’m not gluten-free this year (though I have found I feel a little better when I avoid bread and potatoes) because everything was all the bread.

Yoga and wine. At the same time.

Yoga and wine. At the same time.

The parties that I did attend were great. Eppa and One2One threw a killer yoga and sangria party. Keurig fed me the most delicious breakfast complete with Kcup coffee from the new Keurig 2.0. I also attended a beautiful and powerful panel discussing late-stage breast cancer. I tried to get into the suite parties, but they were SO crowded that I just. couldn’t. do it. Plus Brian was with me (and actually up for partying) so I couldn’t not find a less-crowded spot to hang. We met up with the lovely Joules from Pocketful of Joules and a few other ladies for karaoke and Twisted Shotz. All. The. Shotz.

Don’t worry. I’ll share the karaoke video at some point.

I was a little disappointed in the lack of a swag drop/exchange on Saturday night/Sunday when I was packing up my swag and found a few items that weren’t super relevant to me. I had no place to drop them off to be donated or snagged by someone who WOULD use them. Bummer.

On candy in a pill bottle

One of the brands at BlogHer was giving out swag with Red Hots inside of a prescription bottle with a label designed to make adults laugh. I was unlucky enough to miss this before they shut down the “drug ring.” Because this brand was a company that produces baby products, the media blew up with the mom-blogger conference sponsor that did a bad thing.

While I don’t have children (thus likely discounting my opinion, apparently), I don’t think the company made a huge mistake. First, no one complained last year when a pharmacy gave out all the drugs. Actual drugs. Because those were for grown ups. I’m pretty sure the Red Hots were for grown ups too. The swag here isn’t all for toddlers to play with.

Second, when I was about 8 or 9, I used to play with candies (usually Pez) as “pills” in used prescription bottles, while smoking my gum and powdered sugar cigarettes and swiping Mom’s expired credit cards to purchase used lotto tickets while playing bartender. Granted, I was old enough to know the difference between play and real. Maybe you think poorly of me. Or my parents. But I turned out to be a successful, smart, independent woman who never ODed on pills, picked up a smoking habit or gambled my way into Gamblers’ Anonymous.

In the same token, I don’t think poorly of the parents who disliked the swag. That’s their prerogative.

But in the end, I was a little sad I didn’t get a bottle of laughter medicine.

Thankfully, I surrounded myself with BlogHers who made me laugh.

Did you go to BlogHer? Have you been to BlogHer? Would you go to BlogHer next year? Have you been to a conference similar to this? What experiences did/would you hope to have at a conference of this magnitude?

Hey! Did you know you can buy my book on Amazon? 37 women wrote about the struggle for perfection, and I'm one of 'em. Go check it out!

The BlogHer Conference Questions You’re Afraid to Ask…Answered

Greetings! If you’re not a blogger or you’re not going to the BlogHer Conference and don’t want to read about bloggy things, might I recommend you travel down a rabbit hole of random and ridiculous by reading about that one time I went skiing and didn’t listen to my mom? (Even if you are going to BlogHer…and you haven’t read that-and the subsequent two posts–go forth and enjoy when you’re done reading about BlogHer).

Some of my bloggy friends have LOTS of questions and since I’m now a veteran, I have some answers…so I figured you might want answers, as well. In no particular order…Here are your BlogHer Conference questions answered.

The Expo Hall

Can I bring my kids? Do you have to buy them a ticket?

While I don’t have kiddos of my own, I did a little research for you. Tiny humans are totally welcome, according to BlogHer. Of course, if they’re walking and talking, I believe they need a conference pass (or an expo/networking pass) to play. Conferences in the past have offered childcare, though I couldn’t seem to find any information for this year.

Do you know how much the expo hall and party pass is?

$149 gives you access to all expo hall stuff and cocktail hours/parties, but not breakfast, lunch, speakers or sessions.

Is the expo hall really fun?

I loved being on the expo floor. Not only did I get to try out all sorts of tasty snacks (My favorites last year were Love with Food, Keurig Brew Over Ice, SodaStream, and Kozy Shack pudding) play games, meet cool people and interact with brands, but also I got to meet with a lot of sponsors and brand reps that I got to work with over the past year.
Keurig Brew Over Ice

Do you spend a lot of time (on the expo floor)?

Last year, I did. I got to meet Travis Stork and interview him, courtesy of Simply Saline. I was able to network with a variety of PR professionals and brands that led to sponsored posts, product reviews and other things that are helping me to monetize my blog.

Technology

Should I bring a laptop?

I brought my laptop last year and didn’t open it once. I also didn’t blog during the conference. All of my social media-ing happened on my Android phone and that worked out perfectly. This year, I’m traveling for 9 days, so I’ll bring my small laptop (it’s seriously TINY) for use in the hotels and my tablet and phone will do everything else.

Should I bring my fancy camera or is my phone enough?

I’m totally a fan of my fancy phone because it does most of what I want it to do. That being said, I finally have a camera that I love and bought specifically for blogging, so I’ll probably bring both.

Does everyone sit around with their laptops open?

Some do. Some don’t. Are you the type of person that needs their laptops to take notes? If not, stick with a pen and note pad. Type up details later if you are so inclined. You’re not going to want to cart the heavy stuff around. If you have a tablet or phone, that’s likely to be enough.

I heard the internet can be spotty with so many people trying to use it.

I didn’t have a huge problem with that, but I was also using my phone for most of my internetting.

Party Time

Are the parties really fun?

I think a lot of the parties are what you make of them. Go with your people and don’t be afraid to laugh at yourself, or even better, to introduce yourself to other bloggers. I didn’t talk to many people outside of my comfort circle, and I missed out on opportunities to meet up with and hang out with bloggers like Lisa Newlin and Kate Whine Hall.

Did you love the official parties?

Some of them. I didn’t go to all of the official parties, but I really enjoyed a few. Expo on Thursday night was awesome with appetizers and beverages, a small crowd and some of my favorite bloggers. One of the Friday night parties we went to was totally stellar with lots of fun activities.

Do some people get way too drunk?

Probably. I didn’t last year, nor did I really see many people stumbling…but there are always a few.

How do you know if you should accept an invitation to a party or not?

If it’s something you’re really interested in, accept. If you’re not sure, wait it out and think about it. You don’t want to over-book yourself and miss lunch…

Do you stay for the whole party or just pop in for a while?

That depends on the party. Some have speakers and agendas, while others are more come-and-go as you please type parties.

Food

Is it hard to eat in time to get back to the classes?

So lunch is a part of the agenda, and the keynotes are during breakfast and lunch. You should have PLENTY of time to eat those meals. Bring snacks if you get that 3 PM drop in energy, because dinners are not part of the conference, so you may be waiting a while to eat. That being said, make sure you take care of yourself and eat enough to get you through the day. One of my biggest problems was over-booking myself last year and not eating enough so that I was beyond HANGRY by the time the evening festivities rolled around. So if you’re like me, plan the con around your dinner not the other way around.

The Pioneer Woman at BlogHer13

After breakfast with Ree Drummond

So dinner is on your own?

Yes.

I better pack snacks then.

Me too. Om nom nom.

Take Care of You

Do you find yourself exhausted at one point and just hide out in your room for a while?

Definitely. That’s why I opted for the hotel that was attached to the conference hall.

If I leave early and don’t stay out until 2 am will I be a total loser/old lady?

Nope. Some people revel in the party all night conference attitude and others are ready for bed by 10 pm. There’s no one right way to rock this place. One night I was up until midnight. The other night I was asleep by 10:30. It’s your conference. Make of it what you want.

General Conference Tips

How do you keep track of parties and sessions and events?

I used my Google calendar to arrange my schedule.

Should I blog about the conference while I am at the conference?

You can. I’m sure your bloggy friends at home would love the play by play, but you may miss some of the fun if you’re busy writing about it.

Do you stay in touch with new people you have met at the conference after the conference?

Isn’t that what this is all about? For me, the best part of blogging conferences and networking with other bloggers is meeting new people who really fit into your tribe. I’ve started attending a lot of events in the Chicago area and I love running into other bloggers that I’ve met and followed.

I read to skip the classes and mingle with people because that’s better for your blog than the classes are; is that true?

This TOTALLY depends on the workshops and how they relate to you. If it sounds like information you already know? Don’t go. If it sounds like something you don’t want to know about? Don’t go. If you want to learn about the topic or improve yourself on the topic, then go. I didn’t go to many of the sessions, but this year there are more that appeal to me. So you may see me in a session or two.

Does going to BlogHer make you a better blogger or is more about seeing people you are friends with?

I think everything we do makes us better bloggers. Whether we’re actively attending workshops or reading new bloggers to get some inspiration or meeting your blog friends for hilarious blog fodder, you’re going to get something out of this conference to improve your blog.

If you’re not really into brands or doing product reviews, is it worth going to BlogHer? Will you make other types of connections that will make it all worthwhile?

I think so. Last year, I stayed in a little bubble of bloggers I knew, but ventured out a smidge. I wanted to network with brands and see where that could take me, but I think there’s a lot of opportunities for bloggers who don’t want to monetize with brands. If you’re an artist or Etsy seller, showcase wearable products. Design a bag on Zazzle with your art that you can carry your stuff in. Make friends. Exchange business cards.

Is voices of the year something I’d want to miss part of?

I think it really depends on you. I also think that last year I had a very unusual experience because Queen Latifah was REALLY late and they wouldn’t start without her. And I had missed lunch. And I was starving. And crabby. Beyond Hangry. So you might see me there. With a snack pack.

Should I really pack an extra suitcase for all of the free stuff? Will it really be that much stuff?

I don’t want the bloggers who hate girls who love free stuff to hate me…
But that’s what I’m doing. (I’m also going to be in San Francisco and Sonoma the week before the conference and bringing home souvenirs, so there’s that.)

Brands

Do brands ask you to do reviews, etc at the expo or is it more like they take your info and get back to you later?

Some of the brands will ask you to use social media at the expo, but for reviews on your blog or sponsored posts will likely be later.

Did you see any artsy-type brands at the expo, last time?

You can actually go check out who the past and future brand sponsors are!
BlogHer 2012 sponsors
BlogHer 2013 sponsors
BlogHer 2014 sponsors

What to Pack

What should I wear?

Seriously–BE comfortable. You can look professional and be comfortable at the same time. There was a point one day last year where I had worn a strapless bra and was so miserable that I hid behind a wall in the expo hall, pulled it off, and continued with the rest of my day. I’m a fan of cropped yoga pants with nice shirts, skirts and comfortable, but clean and adorable, sandals most of the time. (I wear yoga shorts and crops under skirts for fear that I’m going to fall down and show everyone my lady bits.)

What about shoes?

I bought several pairs of shoes from brands I know and trust in order to be comfortable while still looking cute and showing off the pedicure I’m going to get…I made you a little Amazon widget with the shoes I’ll be sporting. (Yes, I’ll get a teensy tiny affiliate commission if you buy them, but they’re really awesome shoes.) I swear by Merrell and Naturalizer. The Bare Trap shoes aren’t as supportive, so I had to add arch support to keep them comfortable.

Should I wear a fancy dress to the cocktail parties?

I ended up wearing dresses and outfits that could easily transition from day to night. Some people were wearing jeans; others wore dresses. I still say stick with your comfort zone.

Blog Friends, do you have other questions? How can I help you get ready for BlogHer? BlogHer veterans, what tips do you have? If you’re going, look for me and say hi!

Hey! Did you know you can buy my book on Amazon? 37 women wrote about the struggle for perfection, and I'm one of 'em. Go check it out!