At the end of July, BlogHer had their tenth annual blogging conference. I hadn’t planned on attending initially because the last time I went, in 2012, it was so crowded that it was nearly impossible to attend a conference session and then, there was the Martha Stewart affair, where there was a near stampede of 5000 or so bloggers trying to get into the room that hotel staff would not open. That gave me such a panic attack. Don’t get me wrong, I had fun in 2012. It was in New York City and that, on its face, guarantees a level of enjoyment, simply because of the location. Nevertheless, 2012 was disorganized, a lot of chaos and not at all what I anticipated. There was bad behavior of bloggers trying to nab swag from the tables in the Expo hall and rude behavior from the hotel staff. It was insanity. In spite of all of that, there was networking, exciting parties, great food, tremendously positive experiences that did compensate for some of the pandemonium that ensued.
This year, I decided to give it another chance. I had the good fortune to receive a gratis conference pass, in exchange for volunteering at the registration desk. This was much to the credit of my dear friend, who was, sadly, not able to attend the conference and volunteer. Thank you, Melissa! *smooches* Mr. Bear and I had previously discussed possibly driving up to San Jose (where the 2014 conference was held) for BlogHer, then extending our trip to various other parts of Central and Northern California. This fortuitous set of circumstances lined up for us and away we went!
We set out from San Diego to San Jose at 4:00 a.m. Even with our potty breaks, coffee breaks, driver switching breaks and a stop at a road side fresh produce stand, we made it to San Jose by 11:30 a.m. Somehow, we missed the L.A. traffic on the 5 freeway. Win! I think I went to bed at 2:00 a.m. *Yawn* I was tired, but we pressed on and made it in record time, in spite of following the speed limit.
Once we got through Los Angeles, it was a lot of farm country. We stopped off to get some fresh fruit. It’s a long road!
The Good of BlogHer 2014
The conference was held at the San Jose Convention Center. This made for a positively wonderful venue because there was plenty of room to spread out. The ballroom was large enough to accommodate all conference attendees. Further, there was a fixed number of tickets to the conference sold. This meant that no area would get crazy congested, therefore, no panic attacks for yours truly.
The food was good. There was a reception the first night, where the appetizers were plentiful and delicious! This was my fourth time at BlogHer, so I knew that I needed to eat dinner. The food at the reception was probably enough to serve as dinner and very well did, for me.
Working the registration desk was a lot of fun. It did tie up 3 hours of my day both days, but it was worth it! I met a lot of interesting people checking in and people working the desk. I’d definitely do it again!
This year, they did not have any out-boarded parties. Every party was a sponsored BlogHer party. Some parties were invite-only. Some parties were open to all. There was definitely a noticeable shift in focus from the parties and the swag, to the conference itself. This was a pleasant change in many ways, because people were more centered on blogging and networking than they were about the out-boarded aspects of years past. For the first time, I was not concerned about what party I was missing or who had a plus one invite that could get me into a party.
There was a great line up of speakers! Friday, was none other than The Bloggess—the witty and entertaining Jenny Lawson was the Keynote Speaker. Who better to open the conference? (Conference videos, session notes and photos should be coming available ) From there, was Arianna Huffington and Kerry Washington. I caught a glimpse of Khloe Kardashian and got my picture taken with her at the Expo. The closing party entertainer, was no other than Rev. Run of Run DMC. Squee!
I had a lot of fun seeing familiar faces and getting acquainted with new blogging friends. I had breakfast with my amazing and talented boss, Barbara Feldman of Surfnetkids.com. I spent some time with my dear, dear friend Jen of Losing the Shadow Behind Me. I met a Stanford professor and talked to him about his class in entrepreneurship. I got to chat with Cecily Kellogg at the closing party (the party formerly known as CheeseburgHer). I saw my friend and fellow San Diego blogger, Kari, who got me situated with a hotel, when most of the hotels near the conference were sold out. I got a stack of business cards from many new friends I met (I still haven’t gone through them!). Of course, I saw/met many other people. Please forgive me for not giving everyone a shout out!
I made a lot of awesome connections with different brands at the conference. I loved chatting with the PR reps from the different brands and trying their products. I LOVED the Nescafe Dolce Gusto coffee maker and I’m pretty sure I have to have one. I am pretty sure I NEED a carmel latte macchiato every day. Yummy! I loved the Skype people, who gave out phone battery back-up packs. I used it every day! The Samsung refrigerator is OMG! Since a new fridge has already on my wish list, they had my undivided attention.
The Bridgestone people were AMAZING! I got a fabulous massage, which was then followed up with a manicure. I got silver nails and Allie got red. How awesome are they?
I won a PlayStation 4 at the Chuck E. Cheese booth at the Expo! I couldn’t believe it! Allie and I had been through the Expo once before. She won Monopoly and I won Scrabble. I decided to spin the wheel one more time and BOOM! PlayStation 4! Ohhhhh, yeah! We’re anxiously awaiting its arrival. Thank you, Chuck E. Cheese! We also received an abundance of tokens and coupons for free food and free play at Chuck E. Cheese’s. Allie is over the moon!
I won, again! On Saturday, I was notified that I had won a Lightscoop for my Nikon camera. Lightscoop is a little tool you attach to your camera to avoid direct light, red eye and harsh light. It evenly distributes the light from the flash, so pictures come out more professional. I can’t wait to attach my Lightscoop!
Were Previous Years Better, or Was BlogHer ’14 Just Different?
Going to BlogHer, to me, has been all about the social networking opportunities, as well as making brand connections. The parties were there, they just weren’t the same. There is something exciting about hopping in a cab with a few blogger friends and making it to a party off-site (BlogHer sponsored Ford picnic, for example) in the past. I missed most of the parties because I was exhausted and went to bed at an embarrassingly early hour on Friday night. That’s not BlogHer’s fault. That is the nature of hopping in a car at 3:30 -4:00 a.m. from San Diego to San Jose, then attending a conference as soon as you arrive. They just didn’t have the same vibe.
Saturday night was the Mc Donald’s BlogHer Closing Party, formerly CheeseburgHer. I have to say that as much as I enjoyed a 6 piece chicken Mc Nugget and a strawberry smoothie, there were some things I missed. There were no Mc Donald’s bag hats. The photo booth of 2011 and 2012 was missing. It didn’t have some of the traditional elements that made the party one of my all-time favorites. I know I am being nostalgic, chasing the dragon of my first BlogHer, but it didn’t have the same feel. I did have fun and seeing Rev Run was pretty awesome! I spoke to several people that were first time attendees and they seemed pleased with what the conference offered. Perhaps, it’s really a matter of my own nostalgia.
Uhhh, Sparklecorn—where were you? I missed Sparklecorn! No Sparklecorn. No Sparklecorn cake. No dancing with glow bracelets. Boooo.
The Expo—it wasn’t as big as it has been in the past. I think this was a total shame. There were many brands that weren’t there that have been there in the past. Usually, it takes a few hours to get through the Expo, if I’m moving fast. This year, I was able to get through in about 30 minutes. I heard rumors of why it was smaller, but I don’t know for sure why.
The sessions—I think I’ve been blogging for so long now that I find that the sessions don’t pertain to me the way they did in the past. I didn’t see anything that really grabbed me and skipped going to sessions altogether. Also? The number of sessions seemed to have diminished. I remember there being a lot more sessions to choose from in the past. There wasn’t as much variety.
The good and bad of being at the convention center was space. It was nice to be spread out and have space, at the same time, everything was spread out and it made networking more spread out. If that makes any sense (No).
I think for any conference, or event, it is what you make of it. I had fun. I enjoyed myself. I saw what I wanted to see. I Like with anything else, you get what you put into it! connected with those I wanted to. I prioritized what I felt was important and that’s what I did. I found a lot of value in in attending BlogHer. I love an opportunity to see my blogging friends and to make more friends. I love visiting a city I don’t live in and exploring. I love connecting with brands and finding out about their products. I love all of those things. In the end, the conference was what I made of it, like anything else. Will I go again next year? I don’t know. There was a lot of speculation from BlogHer veterans that this might be the last year of BlogHer. I might be inclined to go again if there is another one.