BlogHer or SponsHer?

The BlogHer Conference I attended last week didn't do much for me.

As a first-timer, I hoped to meet some new people and learn some new tricks -- and I didn't really accomplish either of those objectives.
 
With the exception of the company I kept, I walked away from the conference feeling like I had wasted my time. Here is why.
I attended the conference on Friday with my sweet six-month-old who was
a perfect angel throughout. However, he did demand to be fed, played
with and changed throughout the day and so those activities were my
priority. I admit that I didn't really bring my "A game" when it came
to focus -- but I did learn that I am not able to breastfeed, twitter,
network, and live blog all at the same time (this is good to know for
future conferences).

Despite all of my oohing and ahhing over my
baby, I did manage to attend two breakout sessions that I would
describe as . . . fine. No revelations. No particularly wise insights.

Although
as I walked around the conference, I did overhear other bloggers saying
things like, "Wow, this and that session was so great. I learned so
much." So maybe I just made bad picks. And from what I heard, the
community keynote was amazing, but I had to skip out on that to get
home and relieve my babysitter.

Then there was the sponsors and the swag (my clever friend Alma
coined the phrase "SponsHer"). (Edited to add: Ack! I got my clever companions confused! "SponsHer" is actually the brainchild of Sara.)

I get that events like this are
sponsored. I understand that companies and money make the world go
round. But the sponsorship at BlogHer 2009 was so completely garish and
out-of-control that it ended up being a giant distraction to the
conference itself. I felt like I was at a trade show, rather than a
writing conference.

Although I found the focus on "stuff" to
be really off-putting, most of the other conference-goers didn't seem
to see it that way. Many of the blogging ladies were acting like they
were at some sort of freebie free-for-all. I have never seen such
unabashed excitement over free laundry detergent samples, tampons and
macaroni and cheese.

And to the lady outside of the Method Suite who was stuffing her bag with baby wash when she thought no one was looking -- I saw you. Classy, really classy.

When
it came to networking, I admit that I was just too shy/overwhelmed to
really get out there and meet people. I mostly hung with my fellow Chicago Moms and was glad to have a chance to reconnect.

During the welcome breakfast, it was announced that BlogHer 2010 is going to be in New York.

I won't be there.

Filed under: blogging

Tags: BlogHer '09

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  • BlogHer ended up being two $150 lunches for me. I read this post which I thought put it nicely.

    I ended up spending the whole time in the Shutter Suite, and that was just fine with me.

  • I get what you mean. The moment I walked into the conference, I was urged to take a picture with a giant bottle of Ragu. Granted, it was kind of funny, but still. http://twitpic.com/bkpku

  • Good post. I see you got @ColonelTribune's approval, he just tweeted it...

    Also wanted to alert you of this new post at Breaking Tweets Chicago of Moms on Twitter in Chicago (you're also mentioned): http://www.chicagonow.com/blogs/breaking-tweets-chicago/2009/07/moms-on-twitter-in-chicago.html

  • Thanks for the great link, Sarah -- I always love to read Mom 101's take on things.

    My friend Steph also wrote a really thoughtful post today addressing all of the controversy about people bringing their babies to the conference. Here is the link in case you want to have a look. http://su.pr/1EIu9x

  • From a Marketing perspective, I thought it was a fantastic event. I met so many friendly people all willing to network. The companies that participated were first rate and very willing to sit down and have conversations with me and my friends.

    At most conferences, high level people at big companies shy away from talking to people. I felt very appreciated.

    The breakout sessions were just mediocre overall, but there were a few hidden gems. One thing that really upset me was that there was a totally packed session and lots of people standing. There was on very pregnant lady and no one offered her a seat. I was SHOCKED.

  • And thank you Anna for that fabulous picture. I too was approached several times and asked if I wanted to be photographed with the very same jar of Ragu (made all out of vegetables!).

    That Ragu lunch/decor was something, wasn't it?

  • I hear you, but I think with blogging events--as with many tradeshows, conferences, expositions, and the like--you get out what you put in. The free chips, dancing marinara jars, and mounds of gratis goodies can be distracting, and the sessions might be repetitive yawners, but the networking sessions can add up to half or more of the value of attending the event. You learn as much from speaking to your colleagues about common experiences and trading contact info with bloggers on similar topics, as you do attending the 'official' events. Staying back and not participating, attending to your baby (lovely though I'm sure your child is), or falling victim to Schwag-Whore Syndrome all take away from your experience and prevent you from fully benefiting.

    I didn't have tickets to BlogHer, but I attended a few events around/after the show. I made a bunch of friends and new blog colleagues, and I heard several inspirational stories and ideas, so I feel like my experience was worthwhile. Then again, I'm a native Chicagoan and didn't fork out dough for expensive Loop dinners and hotel rooms.

  • Spinner -- thanks for your comment. You make a great point.

    I wasn't in a position to leave my baby home so I decided to bring him with me (as did many other women) and get as much out of the experience as I could under the circumstances. Would I have had a different experience if I stayed at the Sheraton for the whole three-day shebang and went to the eight or nine different parties I was invited to? Absolutely.

    I agree that these types of events are mostly about the networking -- and that is something that doesn't always come easily to me.

    I've always been the kind of gal who wants to sit in the back row -- but I am working on that.

  • dude- I love you and love your post and totally agree, but I coined SponsHer! LOL!!! Alma can't have ALL the good marketing jingles :)

  • So sorry Sara! I thought Alma tweeted #sponsher! Gosh, I really wasn't focused on Friday, was I?

  • haha, no worries, I am just making fun of the whole thing- the more the merrier! :)

  • Hi Caitlin, did you see this article on Chicago Tribune?
    http://www.chicagotribune.com/business/technology/chi-0727-blogherjul27,0,3148339.story

  • Also, take a look at this from Frugalista:
    http://www.chicagonow.com/blogs/frugalista/2009/07/live-blogging-from-blogher-09----seo.html

    Were there any panels you found interesting?

  • Thanks for the links Alicia. I did hear other people talking about panels they enjoyed -- the one that Carrie from Frugalista live blogged sounds like it was really informative. The two that I attended on Friday were more question and answer sessions and the content just didn't really speak to me.

    As for the mention of community in the Trib article, I did have one instance where I met a woman who reads my blog for the first time IRL and that was very cool. But overall, I didn't really get much of a community vibe. From the recaps and feedback I have been reading today, I get the impression that many attendees didn't really get the community connection they came for.

    What about you? Did you attend any sessions that you really liked? Did you feel like there was a sense of community?

  • This was my 3rd BlogHer and my best so far, and I am definitely planning to go to NYC next year. I will say that in the past I attended mommyblogging sessions and didn't enjoy them that much, except that I learned things that were going on that I had no idea about. Like two years ago, I found out to my surprise that mommybloggers were getting free products sent to them for review. Common knowledge now, but I was surprised then!
    Mostly, in past years, I felt the mommyblogger sessions were overly emotional for my taste, with lots of people taking the mike to make long statements and then people in the crowd falling over themselves to be "supportive."
    But yeah, I enjoyed the sessions I went to this year and the keynote with Tina Brown. I missed the community keynote too. I also enjoyed meeting people IRL who I'd read, as well as connecting with people I've worked with but never met. And yes, I made some new contacts if not exactly full-fledged friendships.
    If you do go again, I would recommend using the on-site childcare. I carried my little guy of course since he is only 2 weeks old, but when I came w/ a 5-month-old I used the childcare and was able to concentrate on learning and having fun.

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