I just want to get some things down before I forget them next year, mainly for myself, but also for those of you thinking about making Blogher 2011 your first blogging conference. (It will be in San Diego!)
1. Build in time to do sight seeing in addition to the days you’re spending at the conference. I’ve been to NYC several times and didn’t feel pressured to see anything beyond the hotel, which was good because I wouldn’t have had any time (or energy) for sightseeing the Thursday evening through Sunday morning I was there. However, I would very much like to see San Diego, so I’m thinking we’re going to have to build in at least one extra day into the trip next year (and I’m hoping to drag my husband along with me to play baby wrangler to our then 8ish month old baby girl who will most likely still be breastfeeding). I’m sort of with Maria Melee on this. “I kind of wish these conferences were in really boring places so I’d stay in the hotel.”
2. Remain comfortable while striving to not look like a slouch. I packed 6 pairs of shoes, about 3 too many. I wound up wearing a very comfy, practical, yet stylish pair of patent leather flats during the day because my feet just couldn’t take even the tiniest of kitten heels I planned to wear. I saved the tortuous heels for evening events. I was happy with my wardrobe choices, which included stylish, but comfy (maternity) jeans and dressy tops for day and forgiving, breathable and comfortable dresses for night (that I spiced up with lots of fun accessories). Originally, I hated that so much of my wardrobe was black, but it was super easy to dress up or dress down, and I felt great in all of it. And despite all the hype and fashion buzz leading up to the event, it actually wasn’t an intimidating fashion show. Everyone seemed very down to earth and looked lovely. Don’t feel like you have to stock up on couture to fit in.
3. Bring a great, big, lightweight bag. I originally planned to bring my Coach diaper bag turned laptop bag until Ju-Ju-Be offered to hook me up with a Mighty Be to use at the conference and bring home with me. I’m so GLAD I took them up on the super sweet offer. That bag was a lifesaver (and a shoulder saver). It had plenty of pockets for everything I had to carry with me (laptop, camera, sunglasses, cards, Tums, Tylenol, gloss, etc. etc. etc.), AND it was super light and expanded to hold all the extra stuff I seemed to accumulate throughout the day (like swag from the Expo). I have a feeling this bag just earned heavy rotation in my growing collection. Whatever bag you choose to bring, make sure it’s got plenty of room, is easy to get in and out of, and is comfortable to carry.
4. Business cards are a must, but you don’t have to have a million of them… or even 250 (in my case). For some reason I thought I’d be swapping cards with every person I made eye contact with, but that really wasn’t the case. I’d say I came home with and gave out about 50 cards to people I made connections with, and I put about 20 of them in various fish bowls for giveaways (cue mass amounts of spam in my inbox now). Of course, this probably varies greatly for everyone. There were many, many more giveaways that I didn’t drop my business card for, and I’m sure I could have worked harder to network with more people. That said, I really don’t know how one would go through more than 250. So when you have them printed up, try to keep them non-Blogher specific so that you can use them at other conferences and while networking other ways.
5. Make connections PRIOR to the conference. The thing is, there ARE cliques, there WILL be groups of women who appear to be having the time of their life with each other and it’s HUGELY intimidating to approach them. I’m not saying that’s a bad thing at all. It’s natural. People who “know” each other already are going to gravitate to each other, share inside jokes, travel in herds. That doesn’t mean they don’t want to make new friends. My suggestion is to reach out to people prior to the conference, be proactive, set “dates” to hang out, and most importantly- GET PHONE NUMBERS. The people I successfully managed to meet up with were the people I was able to text and/or call. There were several others I would have *loved* to get together with that I missed because I figured I could just tweet or email them. That never worked. Twitter and email aren’t nearly as effective as texting to get in touch immediately with someone. And with the very limited amount of free time (and the massive waits for the elevators), timing is everything. Waiting for 5 minutes for a reply to a tweet isn’t an option.
6. Expounding on that last point a bit more, MAKE CONNECTIONS PRIOR TO THE CONFERENCE. Sure, Blogher is for anybody. You don’t have to be a “big bloggger.” Nobody is going to ask your stats or your feed count. However, I really encourage you to reach out and make real friendships before going, even if that’s just over Twitter (if you are not on Twitter yet, GO THERE NOW). You know that saying about being lonely in a big crowd, or something like that? That’s exactly what I imagine it’s like for someone who just shows up at Blogher without really “knowing” anyone. Like I said before, it’s not that people don’t want to make friends, but most will already have a group, or one or two people there that they will naturally gravitate to at lunch, between sessions, at parties. Try to have your own little circle in place before you go so when you get overwhelmed or need a wing man to approach that one blogger who you just adore but can’t get the nerve up to say hi, they’re there for you.
7. Have more than one circle. You know how certain bloggers tend to run in the same circles? Maybe you feel like you belong to more than one. Make it a point to hang out with bloggers from different circles. If everyone you meet up with already knows each other, you won’t be presented with the chance to get to know that many new people organically (casual introductions vs. the networking equivalent of cold calling).
8. Go to sessions. Duh, right? But seriously, there are a lot of distractions (the Expo, parties, your bed). I mean, if it’s your 7th Blogher and you’ve heard all there is to hear about blogging, I can understand wanting to go just to see friends and nom on cheeseburgers, but if it’s your 1st? Go to sessions. This is why you’re here. And while the Expo can be fun (and the sponsors in it help make Blogher possible, so it’s nice to show your support), it’s easy to get sucked in for hours. My opinion? You’re not there to collect freebies, you’re there to make connections and to learn about, well, blogging. Granted, some great connections can be made on the Expo floor, and I’m not meaning to diss it. I spent 45 minutes in it and wish I could have spent more, but my options were skip a session, skip lunch or skimp on the Expo. I would actually really love if Expo hours were extended next year so we’re not faced with this choice. And you’re going to have to sacrifice sleep. Know that going into this.
9. Start saving. You’ve got 12 months to save up for Blogher 2011. I will be completely honest with you all. My total trip cost right at $1,000, including plane ticket (RT from DFW to LGA), conference pass (early bird), hotel (with 3 roommates for 3 nights), transportation, food (which I didn’t spend much on because I didn’t have time to eat), and coffee. Now, this total doesn’t include the mini-shopping spree I went on for new outfits, but I’m classifying that under “maternity expenses.” Divided out, that’s roughly $84 a month, and can be done much cheaper if you are in driving distance to the conference location. If you really want to go, start saving now. Put birthday money aside, ask for Blogher money in lieu of a Christmas present from your significant other. Sure you can try to get a sponsor (something I was lucky enough to swing, thanks to the awesome sponsorship BornFree gave me), but save as if you won’t have one.
10. Just GO. I’m talking to you… yeah, YOU. The blogger who’s sitting there saying to herself/himself, “I’m not big enough. I don’t know anyone. I can’t afford it.” When I first signed up for Twitter at the beginning of 2009 was the first time I started to hear about Blogher. I figured I wasn’t big enough, didn’t know anyone, couldn’t afford it. I didn’t go last year, and I sat home reading all the #blogher09 tweets with regret. I should have been there. I should have made it happen. I vowed I would do everything I could to make it this year. When some of my friends started to express the same concerns at the beginning of this year I told them to knock it off. I told them what I wish someone would have told me last year. And I hung out (and even roomed) with them this year. So if you think you want to go, just GO.
I *think* (hope?) that wraps up all I have to say about Blogher this year. For those of you who don’t give a damn, I’m sorry and I promise to get back to regular blogging now. I just felt like it was like childbirth in the sense that I had to get that all out as quickly as possible before my brain started purging memory files to make room for things like the new dates for Kendall’s Mother’s Day Out program and the words to the new Fresh Beat Band song.