Last month I attended the BlogHer Conference – a gathering of 3,000+ bloggers, social media users, marketers, publicists, business owners, writers, and a whole you-name-it bunch of other people who descended upon the San Diego Convention Center for two days of panels and workshops and cocktail parties focusing on the business and craft of online content.
Except it wasn’t just two days, and it wasn’t just panels and workshops and cocktail parties. I know now that the event is much more than a conference. And I came prepared this time.
At BlogHer 2009 I arrived with a suitcase full of expectations – I had watched online since the first conference in 2005, every year unable to attend for one reason or another. In ’09 lightning struck and I was first able to justify the trip to Chicago as a business trip. I did everything: attended panel discussions, took notes, chatted with people in the hallway, befriended brand reps, got stuck in traffic, stayed up late, drank too much, packed my bags full of swag (including laundry detergent), witnessed a streaking, made new friends, exhausted myself. I had looked forward to learning new tricks at BlogHer that would help me focus my blogging and take me to a new level in my career. In the months immediately after the conference, I found that I was more overwhelmed than ever.
In 2010 I was sent to the conference by a client: all expenses paid, with obligations. I did everything above except attend the panel discussions – replacing that activity with the promotion of the brand I represented. I came away from that experience feeling like I had done a good, solid job. But again exhausted and overwhelmed.
Between August 2010 and August 2011, I have slowly come to realize that attending BlogHer in 2009 did indeed take my work to another level. At the time I was not able to see the bigger picture, or what level, exactly, I was hoping to reach. Just the simple fact that I had attended the conference -that behemoth of an event, that speedball of online/IRL collision among friends and friends-of-friends and soon-to-be-friends and maybe-we-shouldn’t-be-friends and yes, clients and business colleagues – gave me a leg up for the next experience. It gave me the base knowledge of how massive we are, our community, and how influential. It’s easy to measure our “reach” with our online metrics, but it’s so much easier to feel the impact, the gut-punch, when all of those wonderful ladies are right up there in your face.
And so in 2010 that’s what it was. Business. I used what I had learned the year before. I reached out to my colleagues/friends. I spread a message. Mission accomplished, but still my body suffered from some serious overdoing of the things that were available to be done.
With all of that hindsight I entered BlogHer 2011 – not just the two days of the conference itself, but the season. As party invitations started flying about the internet and events and alternate events showed up on calendars and websites, I sat back and calmly took note. I measured every offer against the question “What do I want out of BlogHer ’11?”
Here is what I wanted out of BlogHer ’11:
-Learn more about writing from people I respect as good writers
-Reconnect with friends inside the computer
-Attend some kickass parties
I selected panels and workshops from the BlogHer schedule and stuck to that plan. I actually did attend several of these. I danced in the flashmob. I hugged what felt like hundreds of people. I got a manicure. I took copious notes. I did a couple of drive-by hugs in the hallway or the bathroom. I attended some kickass parties. I had a great conversation after hours in my hotel room. I went to bed when my body got tired, even if that meant missing out on some other fun somewhere else. I got up early to do yoga one day. I met new friends randomly. I cemented online friendships IRL. I learned something new about writing a blog post. I was inspired.
Here are all the events I attended surrounding BlogHer ’11:
- Women Create Media
- The OC Blogger Bash Happy Hour produced by MomsLA
- Clever Rock Star Party
- Yoga sponsored by Pfizer
- BlogHer breakfast
- Manicure in the Trop50 booth
- The Power of Cause Marketing sponsored by Jimmy Dean
- Essential Blog Content Development Workshop (first slot)
- Operation Glory (Flashmob during BlogHer lunch)
- Old School Bloggers
- Expo Hall
- Voices of the Year Community Keynote
- Nintendo Wuhu Island Luau at the Hotel Del Coronado
- BlogHer Breakfast
- How To Pitch Freelance Editorial Work
- BlogHer Lunch Keynote starring the head of PepsiCo
- Hallmark’s sponsored suite
- How To Pitch a Book/Revolutions Are Happening Online
- Kick A$$ Proposal
- Expo Hall
- Wine Tasting Soiree sponsored by Cameron Hughes Wines
- Secret Style Suite party
- Cheeseburgher 2011
- Ladies Who Tech Brunch
ZOMG I was tired already but I am now even more tired just remembering all of this. There is one thing missing, though: a hangover. I was smart and grown-up this year and I took it easy on the drinks and I went to bed when I was too tired to convince myself to stay up. It totally worked. I came home tired, happy, and ready to write the shit out of something.