Last year, I did a plus/delta on the conference, so it seemed like an easy enough format to follow this year, too. For those unfamiliar with the concept, a “Plus” worked well, and a “Delta” is an opportunity for improvement.
Yet again, the closing party sponsored by McDonalds was AH-MAY-ZING. At last year’s BlogHer, the closing party featured Reverend Run (of Run-DMC) spinning amazing tunes and getting the entire dance floor going for hours. It was incredible. It seemed impossible to top…and yet they managed to go one step beyond. This year’s party involved Boys II Men performing a mini-set of their greatest hits, followed by Nick Cannon DJ’ing a tight, eclectic, and thoroughly engaging set. His picks ran from “Apache” to “Sweet Child O’ Mine”, and we were all dancing like:
As with last year, I met some of the most incredible people. In addition to some of my favorite people from prior BlogHer conferences, like Merlot Mommy and Food’nService, I made friends with additional wonderful people, like Passion by Kait, Frugality for LESS, and silverspiral.net. It seems impossible that I would find my tribe year after year, but it keeps happening: the tribe keeps expanding, and that’s a wonderful thing.
The “Networking Pass” (aka “Expo/Party Pass”) worked out well for managing my schedule. Since I was balancing both BlogHer and Blogger Bash (as well as a couple of other events that were outside both of those conferences), flexibility was a must. Not spending more for sessions that I couldn’t attend gave me critical breathing room to focus on meeting other bloggers and connecting with brands or groups that were of interest to me. It also kept me from being completely overloaded by automatically limiting the number of potential conflicts.
The Hilton Midtown really welcomed us. There was a separate check-in line for BlogHer attendees, and the BlogHer wraps/ads/screens were all over the lobby. (The hotel was also hosting the kick-off events for the sold-out New York Life Time Tri [triathlon], and these folks didn’t get that level of treatment.) We even had our own little “lounge” set up in the hotel bar as a space where we could chill out and nibble on snacks in a less hectic environment. This is the same hotel that, in 2012, “converted” the mens restrooms on one conference level to be women rooms by hanging heavy curtains in front of the urinals. Yep, they get it.
Most events I attended were relevant and informative. The Staples event talked specifically about innovations in supplies in advance of the busy “Back to School” season, including their use of student design in the evolution of the products we’ll see on the shelves. They’re also extending their commitment to donating supplies and resources to classrooms in need through DonorsChoose.org. At the Merck for Mothers event (which I’ll cover more in-depth in a later post), we learned many troubling details about issues surrounding maternal mortality in the US as well as globally. As one of the most advanced countries, there’s no excuse for us to abandon anyone–much less those bringing new life into the world. Merck for Mothers is working to raise awareness of these issues and their panelists gave us A LOT of material to consider.
Events need to be as advertised. I attended a lunch sponsored by Prudential that was billed as listening to “a panel of financial advisors” and their Ambassador bloggers discussing “financial problems, planning and solutions”. As it turned out, there were no Prudential financial advisors on the panel–it was just the Ambassador bloggers. That’s not to say that the bloggers’ personal stories weren’t interesting, but that wasn’t what drew me in and I felt like Prudential failed to deliver on what they promised. I have a Masters degree in Finance; I came to learn something I didn’t know.
Expo Hall hours should be expanded. The schedule for the expo was set so it wouldn’t conflict with keynotes, but it also meant that those of us with “Networking” passes were effectively blocked from “networking” on the show floor during that same time period. The only way to get around that prohibition was to find a booth contact during open time and set up an appointment during a closed time, but that’s potentially tricky. Having the expo open–even during keynotes–could’ve helped manage foot traffic a bit better and allowed brands and bloggers alike to have conversations at lower-than-SHOUTING volumes.
There should be an intermediate pass. There were several keynotes that I wanted to attend that I couldn’t get into, because I hadn’t bought the “full” pass. I knew I wasn’t interested in trying to juggle the sessions on top of everything else, and I didn’t want to pay for more than I was going to use, but there was no middle ground between the “Expo/Party” (Networking) pass and the “Full” pass.
The Swag Exchange Room needs to be open for two days. Having a space to donate unneeded swag (or hunt for items you want) is really helpful, and this year the room was open for one day only. That was too tight a fit on an already packed day, giving insufficient time for people to sift through what they had and decide what they did/didn’t want. Having it open for two days would allow more people to drop what they don’t need before they set up their box to ship home (or start performing the Tetris/Jenga suitcase gyrations).
I need to keep my schedule outside of the BlogHer app. The app was fine for planning, but its slow speed and bugs that dropped it to a default state made it tough for me to access my calendar on-the-fly. Putting events into my phone’s calendar on a daily basis worked much better and allowed me faster access to my personal schedule.
Verdict: I’m definitely in for 2016. I can’t speak highly enough of how amazing this weekend was. I reconnected with people who I adore, and I found still more people who are similarly fantastic. The Merck for Mothers and Staples events were very well done–informative and inspirational–and the closing party was just phenomenal. We don’t yet know where 2016’s event will be, but I came home so energized that I didn’t even worry about telling dh “I’m going next year for sure!” He saw the look on my face and just went with it. (Good man.)