Blogher ’12 – I came, I saw, I survived my own anxieties to write about what it was like, and overall it was pretty darn great.
I’ve never been to a blogging conference before this one. Blogher is “The Big Mommy” of blogging conferences (4,000+ people, BIG). I am not a person who does “big” well – I went to a small college (800 people total, including the professors), my kids go to a small school (85 families or so), and I don’t do big crowds – so I went into it fully aware that there would be some issues for me having to find my way in such a large group. All in all, the crowd was handled really well – the food was good (once you were able to get to it!) and aside from getting lost on the elevators at the Hilton in the afternoons when I was spacing out – the crowd thing wasn’t too bad.
What I Came For
My agenda in coming here was pretty basic – I just wanted to check things out, and connect with some of the friends I’ve made online. I didn’t come with any concrete goals re. my blog, I didn’t come with a networking strategy, or to arrange meet-ups with editors, possible sponsors, or to troll for writing gigs. I just wanted to check it out. Although there were panels running throughout the day, the main events I wanted to attend were the President Obama’s live address, the Voices of the Year Readings, Open Mic (where you put your name into a hat and if it gets called, you get up on stage to read a post – I didn’t get called, but this event was fantastic), and some of the sessions that interested me.
Mostly, I was looking forward to meeting up with the women I’ve met online. I didn’t expect them to be anything like what they are like online – I did not expect to actually like them, so it was a big, big gift for me that the women I met actually felt like old friends, immediately. We hit it off, immediately. I felt like I’d known them since high school (and at times, we did revert back to high school!)
They were Erin from Book for My Daughter, and her sister Kate from Millenial Monster (soul sisters!), Christine from The Aums Mama (beautiful inside and out), Deborah from Mannahattamamma (she is wonderful!), Michelle Longo (unbelievably funny), and Mary-Lauren from My Three Little Birds (love her!).
I also met up with Christie aka @TheOutlawMama (who I really related to) and Leslie from The Bearded Iris (who I wish I spent more time with).
These were really lovely peeps and I really enjoyed getting to hang out with them. It was hard to say good bye.
The most important thing I took away from the sessions came from the Mom, Stop Blogging About Me panel: to keep in mind as we blog about our children that one day in the not-so-distant future, a Lacrosse coach, a possible employer, scholarship committee or college admissions person will be reading about our children online, so it’s really important to keep this at the forefront of your mind as you blog about them.
One mom on the panel told of how her tween was thrown off of a soccer team because she had said some mean things about the coach on her blog. Another told of how she had to switch preschools because of things she had written – and then deleted – on her blog. Important stuff, so glad I heard this.
In general, though, I was disappointed with the lack of structure and helpful content in some of the sessions – and I heard this again and again from other attendees. The panel speakers seemed too casual, unaware that they had rambled off-track and lost their audience. Their conversation would often drift off-topic, attendees would whisper that they needed a moderator, or better structure, or basic public speaking skills. So – although they were okay, I wasn’t terribly impressed with the panels. Many of them needed better preparation.
The Awkward Question: Why Are There Men at Blogher?
I’m not trying to be gender-biased or discriminatory, and I am not anti-men…but this is a question that nobody wants to ask and that merits asking: Why are there men at Blogher?
It’s a topic that came up with attendees time and again. I kept hearing, Why is a man taking a coveted spot of a featured speaker at the Voices of the Year if it’s BlogHer? It was a running topic of conversation at the conference, and an important one.
Also, at more than one of the sessions some of the better known dad bloggers would kind of take over the session, and it irked some of us. Why not create a men’s conference, BlogHim? Some said it’s probably because there might not be so many of them, and we moms are their market. Also, one of the men got big applause when he walked on stage to read at Voices – was this because he is a celeblogger? Or because he is male? Although I really like this particular blogger, and what he read was great, I didn’t get it. I understand why we had men sharing their expertise with us on panels (such as CJ Bruce in the Vlogging Boot Camp session, who was excellent) – but I’m not so enamored with the idea of a man reading at Blogher’s Voices of the Year, when it is a women’s conference, and we women are really just finding our own collective voice.
Why represent women…with a man’s voice? Isn’t that kind of wrong?
If Blogher is all-inclusive, men and women bloggers – why call it BlogHer? Why pitch it as the collective voice of women?
I went to an all-girls’ school, and when something is pitched as “all-girls” or “a women’s conference” – I think it should in fact be all-girls, or a women’s conference.
Note: I know I’m probably going to get some shit for discussing this, but I’m just saying what I heard going at the conference…
When President Obama addressed the 4,000 of us, he was speaking to women bloggers. And we are important…because we are all of us together, the voice of women.
One blogger said that we have to include men, you cannot exclude someone on the basis of gender. Why would I want to take a spot at Voices of the Year – ostensibly, women’s voices – if I were male? I don’t get why they chose a man to speak at the Voices of the Year. I’m not trying to be pissy or gender-biased…I’m from San Francisco. What I’m saying is I signed up for a women’s conference, not a coed one, and it was a topic that came up so many times with attendees throughout the conference that it does merit asking: What are men doing here?
I still would have attended this conference if it were BlogUs, I’m just wondering why it is billed as BlogHer. I’m not trying to insult anyone, and I have already gotten some pretty intense replies from people who are deeply offended by this post.
The Swag of Choice: The Triphoria Vibrator
Erin and Kate are the kind of people I would want to go trick-or-treating with at Halloween. They took me all over the many floors full of suites of Blogher sponsors – the halls and elevators were filled with women carrying bags given out by sponsors to carry all their swag. It was like adult trick-or-treating – you’d go to the CVS booth, and stand there and talk to them and they’d give you a lip balm. But if you stood there longer, and expressed interest, you would get a whole bag of CVS products:
Around the booths, you could make an appointment to get false eyelashes put on, grab some yogurt bars, gluten-free food for your kids, Stella and Dot jewelry (all you had to do was tweet a photo of yourself wearing one of their pieces and fill out a survey and you got a piece of jewelry etc.), and try all kinds of products. At Samsung, you could participate in six “activities” (i.e., turn on and off the appliance, watch the demo and so on) to be entered in a drawing to win a whole new media system (I didn’t). There was even a suite where you could listen to a spiel about rosacia and then get a massage:
So – this type of stuff (being marketed to) is not my scene. And there was a lot of it. I only went because Kate and Erin were so much fun to hang out with, and I was curious. Update: I’ve just heard that there was a sober place called the Serenity Suite where people could hang out, sans marketing. I wish I had known about it.
Every time you went to a booth they would scan your bar code off of your badge – collecting contact information about you, I’m assuming, so they could target market to you in the future. I’m not so into that, either. But I did get swag so I will stop kvetching about it now.
The biggest swag draw at Blogher ’12 was the definitely the vibrator booth.
Apparently in years past none of the other vendors wanted to be placed near the sexy vibrator booth but it turned out to be so popular and to attract such a never-ending crowd that this year, vendors requested to be near it. I didn’t go in search of one, but of course, Erin and Kate picked one up for me. (Prudish confession: I’ve never used one – I’m scared to, frankly. But there you have it.) I’m probably going to do a giveaway of it on my blog. (-:
The Money Thing
Part of Blogher’s mission is the economic empowerment of women. The founders mentioned several times that in this past year alone, Blogher has paid out a total of $17 million to women bloggers. Although I’m under no illusions that I will make big money on my blog, I do get paid for running ads, and occasionally for writing posts or inserting links. So one of the things I’m curious to know is, “How much money are people really making from their blogs?” – because I haven’t met anyone who is making diddly-squat on their blog.
This topic wasn’t really discussed in any of the panels I went to (I should have gone to the monetizing your blog one, where it was discussed, but I didn’t!). One panelist who is a veteran blogger did say that she doesn’t make much money from her blog but sees it as her home-base, a doorway to other paid writing opportunities, and this this is pretty typical of most bloggers. So the $17 million that Blogher paid out last year is a huge sum, and I’m just wondering – to whom did it get paid?
A snarky comment made by one of the bloggers that I overheard: “Most of it probably went to The Pioneer Woman.”
What Was Good
- Blogher co-founders Elisa Camahort Page (who for some reason I always call “Elisa Camembert”), Jory Des Jardins, and Lisa Stone are amazing and so inspirational. And they are also fantastic public speakers.
- The BIG sense of community.
- You could just pop into a session and pop out of it and go to another one without having to sign up.
- People said the writing sessions were excellent.
- President Obama addressing us. Big, big moment. (Do you feel important now?)
- I was very impressed with the caliber of writing, especially at Voices of the Year and Open Mic. I didn’t expect it to be so kick-ass, but it was.
- Hearing the sound of all those women cheering – for themselves, their goals, each other.
- Meeting Scary Mommy in person!
What Wasn’t So Good
- Having the conference in Manhattan was both good and bad – someone said it’s hard for participants because they feel torn – like they should be out exploring the city, but were inside at the conference.
- Crowd control got a little dangerous in spots – before the Martha Stewart lunch, for example, the line for lunch was miles long, people were getting snarky, the room was packed with 4,000 people – and the escalator kept delivering more and more people off of it into the jam-packed crowd and there was no one to direct the crowd. It got a little hairy in there.
- We couldn’t hear what Martha said from the back of the room because the speakers weren’t loud enough, so someone actually stood up and shouted (at Martha) WE CAN’T HEAR YOU! – and this was well, awkward.
- Some of the panels tended to ramble – losing their audience. When people would get the mic they would just sort of ramble on about themselves. This happened a lot.
- Room service at the Sheraton was pricey – $26 for coffee and OJ in the early morning, $72 for dinner. They did have food at the events but still, food at the hotel was super pricey.
- At Speed Dating, it felt a little strange when more marketing types popped up and I had to listen to their spiel, when all I really wanted to do was meet other bloggers. One of them billed herself as “the lube lady,” and when she peeked in my swag bag and saw my Triphoria, she said, “What you need is some lube with that,” and dropped some product into my bag. It was just..strange.
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