Friday, August 26, 2011

Highlights from BlogHer'11 & My 600th Post

My first blog post was published Feb 16, 2009 and this happens to be my 600th post. It is appropriate that today's topic is my trip to BlogHer'11.

When I entered the blogosphere, it didn't take me long to begin reading about this annual conference where women bloggers got together to "discuss, inspire and connect with each other."  Most of the well known women bloggers would write posts before each convention filled with tips and advice on what to expect and, more importantly, what to wear. Almost without exception, they said "If you see me, stop and say "hi". I promise I'm just as nervous/scared/insecure as you are."

Attendee recaps were full of how wonderful it was to meet like minded women, how nice everyone was and how friendships were forged at the various events. Of course, there were also descriptions of all the free "swag" from the sponsers and all the parties (oh, the parties). Posts describing less than gracious behaviour to obtain "swag" and attend private parties were also to be found. But, there were also posts about the actual content of the sessions and how it impacted the attendee's every day life.

I had planned to attend BlogHer'10, but due to family obligations I could not. I was determined to attend BlogHer'11, thinking I would make connections with bloggers like me, since local connections with female bloggers* have eluded me.

I purchased my conference pass, booked a hotel room and asked my niece if she would like to join me. She said yes and we arrived in San Diego with high hopes.

I would not say our high hopes were entirely dashed during the conference, but they took a bit of a beating. At first, we made every effort to introduce ourselves to new people and join into groups, which did not really work out. Most people looked at us askance and, if they asked what we blogged about, when they heard our answer seemed to immediately dismiss us. (A group of frugal bloggers was the most dismissive of all.) Now you may be thinking, "Oh, they just rudely barged into conversations." No, we did not. We both have southern roots and believe me when I tell you, we know how to behave and what good manners are and we were on our best "make new friends" behaviour.

All was not lost, because we did meet a few fun people. The first afternoon we met the adorable Amanda Joy, who needed a drink, and her friend Chris, who is also adorable. At the People's Party on the first evening we met Lynn, who has quite the sense of humor.

We also met Cat, who does not have a blog and was not a conference attendee. She lives close to the convention center and walked over for the party. (So much for security.) She told us she did the same thing the previous week, when ComicCon was in town. Cat, the party crasher! We enjoyed our chat with her and she even visited this blog and left a comment, but no way for me to contact her. Hmmm, perhaps she's in the federal Witness Protection Program?

On our way to People's Party, I introduced myself to Tanis, the Redneck Mommy. Tanis was very gracious while I babbled on about how much I enjoyed her blog. I also met Jenny, The Bloggess, in her special bathroom. Here we are discusing either 1) preparations for the zombie apocalypse 2) conversations with our husbands or 3) metal chickens. You have to read her blog to understand.

We tried to talk to a few other people at this party, to no avail. So, off we went to the room for night just knowing that the first day of the conference would be fantastic.

It was fantastic. Mostly.

We started at the Newbie Breakfast. The first table we approached had 8 empty seats, but we were told all were reserved. Hmmm, okay. We found an empty table and a few people did join us as the program began. We listened to the "Welcome" discussion and participated in "Speed Dating." Dating was interesting, but it was a lot of women wanting to meet for marketing purposes, which I understand is a big deal but we just wanted to meet people!

Were we wrong to attend BlogHer to simply meet other bloggers?

On Friday, I attended the session on Cyberbullying. Unfortunately, some bloggers receive threats from readers (anonymous of course) and this session was to educate bloggers on how to document the threats and how to work with internet service providers and local law enforcement to deal with the situation.

While this flash mob was entertaining the lunchtime crowd, my niece and I joined a table of women who were at the conference working for some of the sponsors. Also joining the table was Mona, the Feminism Section editor for BlogHer. We had a perfectly delightful conversation with her. Come to find out, she has family connections to Oklahoma. We discussed politics, religion, manners, sweet tea and our own Pioneer Woman. We laughed a lot during this chat. As I said, perfectly delightful!

The next session I attended was "Boomer Bloggers." My people, my people. We went around the room and introduced ourselves and described our blog. I think I was the only person in there that writes a general "here's my life" blog. Everyone else there had a real purpose or business to their blog. I did meet Rhoda from Southern Hospitality. I found her blog a couple of months ago, so was pleased to meet her in person. I also met Carey Sue of Carey Sue Vega who is also from Oklahoma.

The last session on Friday was Peer Networking. My niece and I happened to be in this session together and about 20 minutes into it, we looked at each, got up and walked out. The discussion was not sharing any new, revolutionary information on networking. In fact, it was very elementary. We opted to return to the room to rest for the evening festivities.

We had a nice dinner at the restaurant next to the hotel. I can't remember the name though. (Bad blogger.) We then attended Sparklecorn, one of the official BlogHer parties. It was okay, I guess. We redeemed free drink tickets, walked around and looked at the unicorn cake. We opted to leave the party, make a stop at the lobby bar and then turn in for the night.

My first session on Saturday was "Modern Marthas." The room was filled with creative, crafty bloggers who are using their blogs as a way to share their crafting or cooking or sewing with others. I had hoped to see some tablescape bloggers or vintage bloggers in this group, but to no avail. Do tablescape and vintage bloggers attend BlogHer? If yes, where were you and how did I miss you?

We attended the lunch Keynote session featuring Indra Nooyi, CEO of PepsiCo. I must say I found her to be very personable and inspiring, besides obviously being a brilliant business woman. Having spent years in the corporate world listening to male CEO's, it was refreshing to hear from this warm, funny woman. I'm very impressed that she made time in her schedule to participate in the conference.

I also enjoyed the closing Keynote featuring Carol Jenkins, Fatemeh Fakhraie and Ricki Lake. These three dynamic women are passionate about their lives and their work. They also seem to be women you would like to have as your friends.

After the closing keynote, there was a social hour at the poolside bar. Amy and I put on our game faces and attended this event hoping to meet people. At one point, Amy looked around at the crowd and said "This reminds me of a sorority event." Enough said.

That evening we attended two of the three official parties. Here we are at the Aiming Low party. By this time we had given up on introducing ourselves to people. We were waiting for them to introduce themselves to us. How'd that work out for us? Not so well!

So, off we go to the CheeseburgHer party. McDonalds provided cheeseburgers and fresh french fries for this event. Who can resist fresh french fries? Not many people, but I ran smack dab into one. As I walked away from the station, hot fries in hand, a woman walking toward me looked at the fries, looked at me and said, "French fries? Really?" Then shook her head and walked away. Amy and I looked at each other and laughed. "Well, yes, french fries. It's the dang CheeseburgHer party. What did you expect?" Not the exact "meeting new people" experience I was hoping for.

Was I glad I attended BlogHer11? Yes, I was.

Was I disappointed I didn't find my "tribe?" Yes, I was.

Was I disappointed that people weren't more welcoming to strangers? Yes, I was.

Will I attend another BlogHer conference? Yes, I will. I've already purchased my conference pass for BlogHer12 in New York City.

Will I have different expectations and a different approach in NYC? You betcha.

How about you? What have been your experiences when attending conferences?

*Except for a few, and you know who you are!

1 comment:

  1. Sounds to me like the organizers could make it more beneficial for everyone if they had blogging categories so you could meet bloggers who shared your same blogging purpose.