Imagine 2400 excited female bloggers, half of whom have never been to a conference before, not to mention New York. Many were away from their kids and husbands for the first time.
They were there to learn, to party, to get swag, and to talk. Sometimes it seemed like they were all talking at the same time. That was sold-out BlogHer ’10: Noisy and thrilling. Think high estrogen count.
According to the founders giving the keynote, there are now 67.5 million women who blog. It felt like ALL of them were at the conference.
Last Friday and Saturday, BlogHer featured two days of sessions on 7 tracks, including the writing lab, geek lab, and the job lab (since we’re still in a recession). My favorite was on humor writing, moderated by Awesomely Luvvie. It featured the co-creator of the Jon Stewart show, Lizz Winstead, and comedian Jessica Bern. These women write and speak on the foolishness of everyday life, and spent a lot of time encouraging the women in the room to have confidence.
“Curiosity is our greatest asset,” said Winstead, who researches her topics like a madwoman. (Click on her name above to see her rant on Phyllis Schlafly.) “Hone your voice and write about what you care about. Be articulate, creative and smart and people will find you.” She also said “Don’t write about stuff you don’t know about.” Good advice.
Winstead encouraged writers to take a position, comparing it to driving down the middle of the road. “A car in the middle of the road causes accidents. Pick the left or the right. If you don’t you’ll need my self-help book called ‘F**k You,'” she concluded. Keep in mind that someone will always be offended by your position, she said, because “even asserting a point of view will offend.”
So now that you’ve read that, I’m going to take a position. I have never spoken with so many people who are just writing about their own lives, whatever’s going on with them: infertility, weight loss, post-partem depression, and parenting. I am concerned about narcissism, which is on the rise .
To continue the theme, bloggers visited two show floors of sponsors, including Kmart, Proctor & Gamble, Chervolet, who invited them to share more about themselves. They could be filmed giving their opinions about products. They could have themselves photographed roasting S’mores over a fake fire inside a suite at the Hilton. They could get a makeover from Yahoo!, if they agreed to be filmed discussing how they had reinvented themselves.
Doing so required signing a 2-page release that stated such things as “I forever waive any rights of publicity, rights of privacy, intellectual property rights, or any other legal or moral rights that might preclude Yahoo!’s uses of the Recorded Material or require my permission for Yahoo! to use it for any purpose…without limitation..including but not limited to marketing collaterall such as brochures, direct mail pieces, and marketing emails; the Yahoo! website and Yahoo!’s worldwide network of properties.”
I wanted the make-up do-over because Carol of ParisBreakfast raved about it and said I needed “softening,” but the wording of the release freaked me out. I was destined to remain hard.
In short, the conference was all about the attendees. Because blogging is all about you. And here I am, talking about my own experience. In other words, I’m a hypocrite for being critical.
Now, on to the swag. For food bloggers, the giveaways were disappointing. There were toys for kids, a plastic food container shaped like a sandwich, a coupon for a free McDonald’s salad, a Got Milk mug, and a Jimmy Dean alarm clock. The bar will be higher at BlogHer Food, coming up in October and sold out.
I’m pleased to say that Will Write for Food sold out after my book signing, and that many food bloggers came by to say hello. Since I am not a mom who blogs, it was great to talk with people I could relate to. I also hobnobbed with the great food bloggers of the day at a swank rooftop cocktail party thrown by mega star Ree Drummond, Elise Bauer of Simply Recipes, and Jaden Hair.
I was mildly disappointed that I didn’t make it to BlogHer this year. But now I feel better about it. I’d be up for lots of hobnobbing, but the rest might have been a bit much for me. Thanks for the rundown.
Cindy, it’s a great conference if you’re new to blogging or need to get out of the house or want to meet other bloggers. And it’s a bargain, only around $200. Really. It sells out every year.
I continue to feel both frightened and enthralled by blogging — for the very reasons you mention (i.e., is it just a manner of perpetuating narcissism?). I’ve not yet gone to a conference, but want to. But even that desire I tend to question: what am I hoping to gain by going? Am I hoping to feel like I’ve arrived, somewhere? Like I’m finally going to the party with the cool kids?
But in the end, I usually grow weary of all that naval-gazing, and go cook something. And then decide to write about it…
Well, sometimes it’s helpful to get out. If you’re like me, you spend WAY too much time in front of the computer and in the kitchen, and about the only places you go are to procure food.
Jean Layton says
I am so glad you were honest about your BlogHer experience. i have been debating how to write about my experience all week.
I was disappointed by the preparation of some of the speakers I listened to at my first BlogHer. They seemed to be winging it instead of having anything prepared.
And the swag was very mommy (little kid) focused. Wish I had been able to get to your presentation, but I was being videotaped for The Balancing Act TV at that time. The release was a single page, thank goodness.
I look forward to Blog Her Food in October and IFBC in August. I’ll skip the main Blog Her from now on.
Most of the audience were moms, so the swag was targeted at them. You can’t really blame the BlogHer folks for that.
Re the speakers, I didn’t have any complaints, other than some of the content was too elementary for me. I went to a terrific one on social media, though, that was quite advanced.
Casey@Good. Food. Stories. says
Why yes, that IS a nice photo! Thanks for the mention and for saying what our little group was thinking. It was wonderful to have you in our ‘hood, but I’m hoping for a MUCH more useful time when I come out to SF in October.
I did enjoy certain parts very much, and maybe you did too. My favorite was the inspiring speakers who had come from around the world and had won scholarships, particularly
The Afghan Women’s Writing Project
And yes, see you soon at BlogHer Food.
Nate @ House of Annie says
Were there any men there among the attendees?
Yes, both gay and straight. There were daddy bloggers and social media experts in the crowd too.
Sarah Caron says
This was my first time attending the annual BlogHer Conference (although I have attended other conferences in the past), so I wasn’t sure what to expect. I found the whole thing interesting …
Some people seemed driven to get as much swag as they could. I was disgusted at the Nikon Party to see people appear with bags of swag from other parties not long after the parties all started — and leave very soon after. Seriously? You went to three parties for like 15 minutes each? It was tacky. And at the expo, I saw some of the same. Sadly, a few of the booths seemed like they were so braced for swag-wanters that they didn’t know how to answer honest questions about products I was interested in.
Some of the panels were really interesting though. My favorite was the one you moderated. I’ve been a writer — first working in newspaper journalism and now in online writing and blogging — for nearly 10 years, but I picked up some wonderful clues and insights during your panel. Thank you.
Now, I just wish I planned to go to BlogHer Food. That sounds like it’s more up my alley.
Kristi Willis says
I’m grateful to know that others felt the same way I did about the conference. Going into the expo hall was downright terrifying, particularly for someone who rights about local, sustainable food. Thank goodness for The National Honey Board, the one booth where I could have meaningful conversation.
I enjoyed several of the panels (I agree that some of them were too elementary or not prepared) and met some terrific people. Dianne, I particularly enjoyed your session and am enjoying your book immensely. I think it’s ironic that my favorite thing I brought home amidst all that free swag is something I bought.
Overall, I’m glad I went, but next year, I’ll probably attend BlogHer Food instead.
67.5 million????!!!! Wow, that is awesome!
Congrats on the fab book sales! Love the dress too 🙂
Thanks Alisa. Yep, we women bloggers are a FORCE!
I agree with several of the other comments – next time I’ll attend BlogHer Food instead. (But not this year). However…I really enjoyed your session with Mary and meeting you on Saturday night in the Chill Room.
You can read my recap of the conference (including commentary on Padma) at http://mignardise.blogspot.com
Karen, so great to meet you Saturday night. I’m so grateful that you showed up at the Birds of a Feather session. Great recap of the conference.
BlogHer Food definitely sounds like a better fit for foodies. Laughing at the Yahoo release – what some people will give up for free makeovers! Kudos to Yahoo! though, they just saved a ton of money in thier advertising budget not having to pay for actresses . . .
Thanks for your very honest write-up of BlogHer. While I regret not going on a certain level, I am also fairly certain most of the conference would not have been my cup of tea…sounds like it was a bit overwhelming, and I’ll be planning to get to BlogHer food someday instead.
BlogHer Food had a similar vibe last year — lots of super-excited young women. It was only 1 day long, though. I’m looking forward to two days this time.
laura @ hollywood housewife says
I’m afraid I fall into the narcissistic Blog-About-My-Life category. I justify it by seeking out the parts of my life that are unlike a “normal” housewife and playing them up on the blog. It’s an exercise, a creative outlet, and I love doing it.
The conference though…It was hard. Overwhelming. I’m still processing it.
I loved meeting you, though. Connections made the trip worth it, I think.
Oh gosh, Laura, you are the first person in the comments to discuss the whole narcissism thing. Thank you.
I enjoyed reading your last few blog posts when I scrolled through. Your voice seems authentic to the friendly person I met in the registration line. It was a positive start to the conference to talk with you.
Yes, I am still working on all that came out of the conference also. Certainly there was much more to it than reported here.
I’m so late commenting..pls forgive Dianne and thanks for using my photos.
It was my 1st BlogHer, 1st time on a panel too, so I wished I’d used my time better and not missed as much as I did preping for the panel.
It was a terrific experience all-around for me, if sometimes overwhelming. I tried to keep an open mind in general. I go to so many food shows, the sponsors didn’t phase me except for the dominant mommie focus, but hey as long as they support BlogHer, it makes us more powerful.
I am so sequesterd here in my studio and there I met new people at the drop of a hat..
I need to get out to more things like BlogHer..
If only I could get a ticket to the Blog food thing I would run.
You just never know who you might meet and you certainly don’t meet them sitting in the studio.
Well you do through your blog in fact.
But face to face is very different and well worth it.
Absolutely, Carol. We all need to get out more! That must be at least part of why it feels overwhelming to go to a conference like BlogHer, because we’re alone so much. And speaking of that, it was delightful to meet you in person.
Maybe someone who can’t go to BlogHer Food will see this message and sell you a ticket. You never know.
My view of the blogher experience was more positive and I wonder if it’s because I had no expectation of going to learn anything specific. The greatest pleasure for me was meeting some of the bloggers (like yourself) who I’ve come to appreciate through working for blogher. I enjoyed 3 out of 4 sessions I attended and figure I couldn’t have expected better odds. I am amazed at the swag seeking- there wasn’t a single bit of swag to get excited about. For me blogher provided an opportunity to meet people who’s online presence has added something good to my everyday life. I’m satisfied with that.
Now I’m thinking about my expectations. I really didn’t know what to expect, other than that BlogHer is a super-professionally run conference with great content, and I felt honored to be chosen as a moderator. Sadly, that does not make interesting copy.
Re the swag, I guess it’s shallow to look forward to it, but also typical.
I also enjoyed the sessions and meeting new bloggers, Angelina. I had a great time, actually!