Sunday, August 5, 2012

My thoughts on BlogHer12 - A tale of two conferences

Note: If you're not a blogger, you may just want to skip this post. It's kinda rambly.

I had an idea for a truly hilarious post comparing BlogHer12 to a wedding all written out in my head. There were so many similarities from the hotel ballroom setting to the outrageous outfits and the heavy drinking of some of the guests. I thought I could even work in a swag-as-wedding-favor angle.

But, in the end, it didn't come out very funny. It came out kinda bitter instead.

And I guess that's because I kinda am.

Having no prior BlogHer conference to compare this one to, I have no idea what it was like once. But I do know that this BlogHer that I went to felt very much like it was split into groups. And these groups weren't separate-but-equal, there groups were haves and have-nots.

The number of private parties, in my opinion, had jumped the shark. Or I guess more precisely, caused BlogHer to jump the shark.

It seemed that a majority of the seasoned bloggers were skipping almost all of the actual BlogHer conference to attend off site events. And while everyone needs to make the choice that is right for them, at some point the conference itself seemed at best a minor side show instead of the main event.

I had made my peace with being one of the masses following the conference agenda and attending the open-to-all parties. I was fine with not having made any effort to join one of the off-site activities - and to be fair there were some private events that were open to anyone provided you signed-up before they sold-out, so it was my own choice not to do this.

But even with my positive outlook, and sticking to the main conference site, there was still exclusivity. At one point I was turned away from the Starbucks sponsor suite for not having an appointment - which let's face it, seems a little much.

On the way to a session, I walked by a private event for a car company with a rep checking-off names on a list. Again, no big deal but at some point it is a big deal. You wonder why you're there, except to add a few more dollars to the BlogHer conference ticket sales.

To read this, I sound like just a whiny blogger. Before the conference there were tons of posts urging bloggers that BlogHer is what you make of it! If you don't have a good time, it's your fault! You can't worry about what you didn't get invited to, life is like that!

And I agree with all that, of course it's all good - and true - advice.

But even so, at some point I think it needs to be admitted that the stratification at the conference had exceeded what would be acceptable to the average, reasonable person.

At some point you have to admit that for a new, unconnected blogger having a good time just is not quite as easy as you make it sound.

In fairness, I must add that despite my cranky tone above, I had a blast at BlogHer. I saw lots of local friends I rarely see even though we all live in the New York metro area, and I met tons of fantastic people. I also got to meet people who I felt I already knew from reading their blogs, and it was amazing to meet them in person.

I got to hear my bloggy buddy Liz of Flourish in Progress give a killer reading at Voices of the Year:

I shared a room with the three best roomies ever, had a great Friday night out in Manhattan, and even got to make s'mores with two of my favorite Jersey girls:

I learned a lot at the sessions, too. But even with all the positives, I wanted to write this post because I think that BlogHer can do better.

With such a huge number of attendees (over 4,500), and with even more expected next year, I think that BlogHer can be more things to more people.

And next year, I hope they will be. And I hope I'm there in Chicago to find out.

These thoughts are admittedly not particularly well-articulated, as I chose timeliness of publishing over a decent editing effort. I'm totally up for hearing your different points of view about the BlogHer conference experience.


Gooddayregularpeople said...

I have never been invited to a private party, I've been blogging for 2.5 years and have never been invited off site.

i prefer to fill out my own dance card and feel loyal to the brands onsite that sponsor BlogHer and keep our conference ticket affordable. I'm sure you've priced other conferences and seen how much ONE DAY IS. Just one day is almost 300 bucks at writing conferences.

So, hang with me. I stay in sessions till I have to pee then go pee and pop in on something else.

Do it with me. Just do separate stalls, though.

SO GREAT TO MEET YOU and have you in the No Special Party Invite club. It's full of mildly interesting and curious folk.


Elizabeth-FlourishinProgress said...

I am so so happy that I got to see you and hang with you. Always a little thrilled that a classy lady such as yourself would be friends with me. I love you for that.

I hope you don't mind that I copied the pic you took. I don't have any pics except for some crowd shots I took from the balcony. I'm so happy you took this!

RandomHandprints said...

I wish my pics came out better! I'll email you a few more I have too!

RandomHandprints said...

Truly a royal pleasure to meet your lovely self! And you make a good point about supporting the brands that are there.

Flora Moreno de Thompson said...

I think you summed up BlogHer quite well, especially the haves and the have nots part. Nothing against the bloggers who were a part of those clique-y groups and invites. I just think there was too much emphasis on "stuff" and brands and not enough on truly connecting with folks.

The sessions really made it worthwhile for me. Even though they were super crowded.

Glamamom said...

I could have told you all this ahead of time but as you pointed out, those in the homecoming court wrote all those posts about BlogHer "being what you make it," which of course is laughable when you and your friends are the self-proclaimed "top bloggers" and the ones getting paid to host these fabulous, must-attend events. It's quite valuable to have learned what you did and know how {not} to spend your time and money in the future. So happy I got to see you, although brief, but that's about as much time as I wanted to spend in an inadequately sized venue with brands that see my hard-earned audience as available to them for a $.99 sample.

And so there are no misconceptions, private events are just another way for someone to get paid to assemble bloggers. The feedback on those parties this year is the worst I've ever heard, from over-crowding, to no A/C, to no "thank you" swag for the time and promo involved.

If I have to give advice to newer bloggers, it is this: define why you blog and what you hope to accomplish. If it is to network/meet people and have a good time or hone your writing skills, then conferences makes a lot of sense. If you hope to earn money or become a spokesperson/brand ambassador, then conferences probably aren't the best place to spend your time. Instead, write diligently about the topics you're passionate about and actively pitch/pursue brands you want to work.

Flora Moreno de Thompson said...

LOVE this response. "Homecoming court" is such a fitting description.

Katy said...

I'm so glad I got to see you! I wasn't there long enough to form a true opinion, but I think you made some very valid points.

MannahattaMamma said...

I chose not to see the private parties. Which is to say, wasn't invited to any, and didn't see those who were. But fine. Leave the (crowded) premises because then there is more room for us, newbies and oldbies alike. It was a totally odd experience, this blogher, and I'm still sorting it out in myhead, but mostly it was good because mostly? I got to meet face-to-face people like YOU. Harumph. I'm thinking about going to chicago and I think you should do. After all, if people like us keep going, then the conference becomes much more "ours" ... right?

kim @the fordeville diaries said...

Well said, all around. Totally agree on all points -- but you knew that since we roomed together and held down the "open to all" events throughout the course of the weekend.

That said, I did come home with some valuable tips and I met some great people. I came home with very conflicted feelings about the whole thing -- or was that just my head clouded with wine? Hard to tell.

RandomHandprints said...

Yes, so happy to see you! I had a good time at BlogHer, I'm just kvetchy by nature.

RandomHandprints said...

I thought a lot of it was very positive as well, just didn't like the stratification - and am hopeful steps will be taken to make the best conference experience possible for as many people as possible next year.

Tara Settembre said...

Sorry if the show was a bit disappointing. This was my 4th time attending and even I felt a little left out, because although I was invited to some private parties, there definitely were sooo many others. I also kept running into the same people and didn't get to meet many new bloggers. I think NYC is just too big for this kind of show, it makes it even harder to connect. My favorite blogher was in Chicago in 09, so hopefully next year's conference in Chicago again will be better. Plus, you'll be a sophmore and will be an old pro at it ;)

Jennifer said...

I've read many bubbly, gushing recap posts about BlogHer12 over the past couple of days. Thank you for this one. I'm glad for the honest take. I wasn't at BlogHer, but I suspect you're spot on. I've been to many conferences in different industries during my professional years. Big conferences, too. The focus should be on providing an equal learning and engagement experience for all. Not on fancy, private add-ons. Still, I have to say I wish I went to BlogHer12. I REALLY wish I went, mostly to hang with you and all the NY/NJ blogger mamas I <3.

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