I just came back from BlogHer 2011, a conference I’d been eagerly awaiting for some time. Five days in San Diego never sounded like a bad idea in the first place. It’s a stunning city, one that I love going back to and still need to explore. I love its scenery, weather and as a bonus, one of my best friends lives there.
I had such plans for this BlogHer. Having blogged for more than a year now, I knew what I needed to learn and who I wanted to meet in the world of my favorite bloggers. I felt confident that this would be my best BlogHer yet (it was my second).
I went armed with a schedule, a list of contacts to look out for and a plan. I was also representing my company, so I had that very much in mind. Last year I wasn’t invited to many private functions and sat in many of the sessions. Meeting 3,000 other bloggers at a time when I had only been blogging for half a year was over-whelming, to say the least. I didn’t know how to talk to the brands. I didn’t know what I wanted out of the conference and actually didn’t gain much from the sessions. This year would be different, or so I thought.
This year I received a lot of private invitations to events that were outside the convention center. These were private events hosted by brands that I somehow had a connection to. I was honored to be invited to them, and as I made my schedule, I included them wrapped around all the wonderful BlogHer sessions I intended to go to. I had every intention to do both, while representing my web site you’re reading now, and the company that I work for. I’m a doer, why couldn’t I do it all?
When all was said and done, and the conference ended yesterday, I realized that I had somehow left many of the sessions off my schedule. I hadn’t heard so many of the fabulous women I had come to hear. While I did enjoy meeting some of the most amazing women ever, I had somehow skipped several sessions they were speaking on stage at. CecilyK stated this very thing so well in her article on Babble Crunch today, which you should read. She stated, “The private parties and events may offer fun opportunities and swag, delicious food and entertainment, but they do not offer the thing that I find the most valuable over the long term when it comes to blogging: COMMUNITY.”
She is so right. I did benefit greatly from the Geek Bar sessions where I learned valuable information on analytics and social media platforms and I loved the session with the ladies from The Huffington Post where parenting coach Susan Stiffelman talked about the work at home moms and the importance of being fully present for your kids and I got to hear and see one of my heroes, Lisa Belkin from Motherlode get up and comment. I went to a few other miscellaneous sessions on blog design with my heroine, Jill Smokler from Scary Mommy and others that revolved around changing the world. However, I felt like I was being pulled in a million impressions and before I knew it, the conference had ended. How had I missed the sessions that I had specifically carved out in my mind that I would not miss? Why did I choose to go from party to party instead of the sessions that mattered most? I won’t tell you which they were, but they were clearly later in the day.
Hint: keynotes. I was invited to a Dreamworks screening of the film “The Help“. Don’t get me wrong – I did love it and wept to no end, but I could have seen it upon release. While it felt good to sit down for a few hours in complete darkness, I was missing out on a powerful keynote about “Women Creating Media” with Ricki Lake. While I was chugging down margaritas at one party another night and everyone was jumping in pedicabs to hit another party, I somehow didn’t make it back for another evening event which was part of my whole purpose for being at BlogHer. Honestly, I don’t want to talk about it.
Cecily is right. Last year, I wondered what kind of impression I could make before a brand when 3600 other attendees were barking up the same tree. This year, I went to the parties because several people I knew were going and I thought it was a privilege to be invited. And while some of them were marvelous, particularly the Clever Girls Collective party, where I had the cartoon portrait drawn that you are staring at and wondering if I really looks anything like me (I actually do), I now realize that would have been enough for me. I didn’t need to go any other parties. I needed the sessions. Live and learn, as they say.
Thankfully, there were a few private events that were stunning and very educational. The event hosted by my friends from the Blogging Angels was empowering. It was called “Enough About Us. What About you?” and was a good 101 course on growing your brand. The message was that top brands rock it by cultivating an image at every turn, and I took home a lot of useful notes to grow the ones I’m working on. I also spent the day before BlogHer started at another conference called Women Create Media where I heard from the brilliant Brene Brown on courage and one of my long-time heroes, Aliza Sherman. I was a member of her organization Web Girls long ago and she, herself, taught me HTML. I really listened when she said to write with passion, and then money will follow. She told us to write what’s important to us. Content is everything.
I also went to a fantastic event hosted by The Big Toy Book called “Sweet Suite” with my good friends from KidsVuz. I loved seeing all the hottest products coming out in the toy market and catching up my friends at Hasbro, who co-branded my company’s latest app, Chuck and Friends. I had a ball playing on the Kinect for XBox 360 for the first time with my friends, dancing like there’s no tomorrow.
I had amazing, long conversations with the most brilliant women, including Gretchen Rubin, the author of The Happiness Project who encouraged me to get more sleep. I picked up her book immediately at the airport on the way out of town and am figuring out small ways to make improve my life through her beautifully written words, #1 requiring more sleep. Together, Gretchen and I witnessed the premiere of an ABC news segment featuring my amazing friends from The Motherhood. They’ve just arrived back from a week in Kenya where they met HIV-positive mothers testing their children for the virus, saw the dramatic difference a malaria vaccine could make in the lives of Kenyan women and children and met health care workers who bike, or walk, miles to reach their patients. It moved me so much that I officially became a One Moms Partner and I, too, am hoping to make a change in a mother or child’s life one day.
I also had a long, personal conversation with Barbara Field, a communications consultant and a brilliant writer. We talked about life-changing moments, detours, being a mom and what’s most important to us. That conversation will stay with me for some time to come.
I have to end my post on a not so serious note. Despite the fact that I was torn about what to do and who to hear, I gave myself time to have a bit of a laugh which is portrayed in the photos below. .
Oh, and next year, I’ll see you at all the key notes and the only party I might be going to is the one I might be throwing myself. Amen.
Disclosure: All experiences expressed are my own.