My Impressions of BlogHer 2011 – the Good and the Bad


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.  .



Meeting Scary Mommy - I acted like I'd known her my whole life. I think I scared her.


I was hanging out with the wonderful Holly Pavlika and got dragged into this group of men promoting cereal bars. We gave back the hats.


It's not the real stoop, but how cool is this? Shame my kids could care less about Elmo now.


One of my new friends from BlogHerYentas, a Jewish meet up I invented, Montreal Mom.


My roommate, Ilana, from Mommy Shorts, who is apparently happy I didn't use the hair dryer. Does she not understand the world of curly hair?

My two BFF's at BlogHer, Gina from TheTwinCoach.com and Monique from MoTravels.com

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.



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  1. This year was my first and I don’t think I “got” it at all before I went. I’m hoping to be more successful next year.

  2. I only had the party and expo pass so I literally ran around like a chicken all weekend long. I came home exhausted and feeling hungover (even though I didn’t drink!). Next year, I’m looking forward to a full pass with sessions. I hope I make it work out. I wish I would have run into you to say HI! It was so fun !

  3. Excellent recap! I feel that I attended a lot of sessions, and all the information was incredible and inspirational . . . and overwhelming. And I didn’t even to to a lot of private events!

    It was really nice to see you again!

  4. i’m really glad i got to meet you – and, blogher is so big that everyone is going to have a different experience. i went to only one private party, and stuck to the sessions, and felt like i could have gotten more out of it. it is what it is.

  5. Holly–enjoyed reading your takeway from BlogHer ’11. So many bloggers, so little time . . . For me, open mic was a highlight–having the chance to listen to others read their blogs aloud and to hear their written and speaking voice, as well as to share my blog with my fellow bloggers. It helped foster an important element that you emphasized in your post–community.

    I wish I could have met you and schmoozed with the other Yentas. Hope to connect at some point.

  6. Totally agree. It felt like it was all about the swag and parties. I actually thought some of the big brands were going overboard to woo bloggers. I really wanted more connections. The conference content was ok – I wanted more advanced tracks. A lot of the topics were about working with brands and PR – all about monetizing. I wanted to focus on blog content and connections with other bloggers. I’m wondering if a smaller blogging conference might be better for me.

  7. NYC SingleMom says

    BlogHer is such an overwhelming phenomenon at this point. i am not sure I would go again unless its in New York, I love seeing and meeting bloggers i have met and want to meet but even if I was able to meet someone, how much of a meeting would it be other my sounding like freaky fan.

    Loved reading your wrap up because I think you and I would have had the same experience.

  8. I didn’t go, but enjoyed reading your wrap up. You partied enough for both of us!

  9. Well, Holly, I do recall going to BlogHer… and that is about it at this moment. Felt like I was trying to get a sip of water out of a firehose. But I still loved it! (And I actually do remember one or two things–I got to hug you. And somehow missed your Yente party–did it happen?)

  10. Hey Holly…
    Every conference has an ‘ah-ha’ moment. It could be a big thing. It could be a small thing. Yours came as a result of your ‘mistakes’. Big deal. You’ll do it better next year on your own home turf!

  11. I hadn’t thought of that – you are right, I’ll be there in 2012 for precisely that reason Gigi. And to meet you.

  12. I think Jill S. said it best in her comment above…there is so much to take in that it probably is impossible to come away feeling like it was “complete”. She echoed my sentiments exactly. I had a fabulous time, made great connections, met my wonderful online friends, but still…I left wanting a little more.

    That’s how they get you to come back, I guess 🙂

  13. LOVE this!
    Next year, just mail me your itinerary of events so that I can follow you around and keep on track 😉

  14. Oh you. So amazing. So wonderful. So MISSED.

    Love your recap- obviously.


  15. BlogHer is a very odd thing.

    My first year, I pretty much hated it. I went to every session and wasn’t invited to a single party and it was totally lonely and pathetic.

    Last year, I didn’t go to a single session and was a social butterfly. It was a blast. I seriously loved every minute and had no second guessing at all.

    This year, I went to lots of parties and a couple BlogHer things and still had a sinking feeling that I was missing… something.

    I just don’t think you can possibly do it all– for me, it’s about the people and that’s what makes it worth it. Connecting with people like you is really the best thing about it. (And, you didn’t scare me in the least) 🙂

  16. It is totally overwhelming and there really is too many options to choose from. It’s a shame it all happens simultaneously. Maybe that’s something for them to address for the conference as a whole. An extra day where the other events take place would be nice.

    Sounds like you had an amazing time though and I love the caricature of you!

    Hopefully next year I will be able to go. So sad to miss it this year.

    • I missed you this year. Last year we were a posse! I did enjoy this one much more – last year was a blur. Can’t wait until NYC in 2012.

  17. Was so glad to run into you, even if it was at the very end for like 30 seconds. It sounds like even if it wasn’t the trip that you expected, you got some good out of it and found your people.

    There’s community, even in those parties.

  18. I totally hear you. And I THREW two events. (Glad to see one of them was mentioned as one worth going to!) And reading this, I realize that while I told you I’d be at Yentas…I totally missed it. I think the whole BlogHer is so huge and overwhelming we all missed things we wanted to do.
    Like hang out with the Blogging Yentas!

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