Originally, I wasn’t planning on going to one blogger conference this year, much less two of them, until it happened that I saw both BlogHer and Blogger Bash were scheduled for roughly the same timeframe in the same city. That created irresistible temptation: I could go to New York and check out Blogger Bash while also indulging in a scaled-down pass for BlogHer. And thus, that’s exactly what I did. (I’ll get to a comparison of the two in a later post.)
The first Blogger Bash was held in July 2014, and though I was curious about it I couldn’t manage to make the finances work to attend both that and BlogHer (in San Jose) within such a short span of time. Too much was already invested in flying West. This year, though, it was easy enough to score a room in the BlogHer home hotel, the Hilton Midtown, and just hoof it over to Pier 60–where Blogger Bash was held.
Since the plus/delta format seems to lend itself well to more concise explanations, I’m following that here to give my take on the event.
It had a boutique feel without the boutique price tag. Blogger Bash generally felt like something boutique-y: exclusive, chic, and hip; however, it wasn’t priced out of the range of mere mortals. In fact, I managed to score a discount by purchasing my ticket on Superbowl Sunday. (Slight delta: the way in which the discount was framed up was essentially “buy while your husband is distracted”, which I found a bit misogynistic. Truly, some of us gals like sports.)
The events were done with flair AND substance. Sit-down affairs, like the Care Bears “Share Your Care” brunch and the Peanuts lunch, were flashy and meaty at the same time. Sure, you learned about the product that sponsored the event (the Care Bears’ upcoming products and media, as well as the Peanuts movie, respectively), but they didn’t lose their heart. In the former, American Greetings announced they were partnering with #ZachKapCares, a philanthropic project run by 10-year-old Zach Kaplan, to donate hundreds of Care Bears to homeless New York City children on the upcoming #ShareYourCare Day (September 9th). In the case of the latter, the Blogger Bash team managed to score a coup and get four of the principal actors to come on stage for a Q&A, along with the lead animator. It was a fascinating look inside the process and a great reminder of the timeless, universal appeal of Charles Schultz’s characters.
Brand representatives were well-informed and genuinely interested in connecting. When I attended Thursday’s highlight (“Sweet Suite”–a massive toy expo), I met with several reps who were clearly far more interested in explaining their products than in just blindly handing out PR one-pagers. And, while I saw several things with which I was familiar, such as Disney Movies Anywhere (one of my favorite apps while traveling), I also was introduced to cool and creative items, like Modarri Cars’ modular plastic cars and Haywire Group’s Worry Eaters. The former allows children (of all ages and any gender) to put together the car of their own dreams–even to the point of painting and decorating it themselves, if they’d like. The Worry Eaters allow kids to tuck a written “worry” into a zippered pouch so they can begin to let go of whatever’s eating THEM. Two very different items but each with a special purpose. I spent quite a while talking with the ALEX rep, in particular, since their line expanded due to acquisition, and their rep was eager to explain the wide variety of toys, kits, and interesting products they now sell.
Location, location, location. Sure enough, Pier 60 was made lovely by some GORGEOUS weather. Even so, it was a bit of a haul. There were no adjoining hotels, so if you had any swag, you had to drag it back to wherever it was you were staying. Many of my fellow Hilton-ites racked up credit card debt taking cabs or Uber/Lyft to get to and from the pier, and those of us who preferred to be on foot got our steps in…at the price of our backs, in some cases. As much as it was a pretty expanse, its lack of general convenience is an area for improvement next year.
Confusing messaging meant expectations weren’t always met. In general, the Blogger Bash team was communicative about how the events would go. One area that seemed to generate some controversy and confusion is the swag box that was supposedly due to all attendees. Mention was made of it several times on the event’s closed Facebook group, including a thread where organizers reminded attendees to confirm their address from initial registration (so the box could be sent to the appropriate place after the event). Not long before the event (mere days, if I recall correctly), additional details were added to Sweet Suite–noting that attendees needed to stay until 6:30pm and check out at a table near the exit to confirm their address, or else they would get no swag box. First off, this was counter to the messages that had been provided previously. Second, if we had already confirmed our addresses (as requested), this should have been unnecessary. Third, since Sweet Suite opened at 4:00pm for regular attendees (and 3:00pm for those who purchased VIP access), that meant any event juggling would be severely curtailed. It’s totally understandable that sponsors and Suite exhibitors would want to get as much time as possible with attendees, but quality is far better than quantity. Also, the check-out table wasn’t evident to me as I left, and I missed it. (But they were nice enough to confirm my address post-event, after I asked politely and explained the situation.)
If you’re not into toys, this probably isn’t the gig for you. While there was a small smattering of other types of companies at the petite Expo held on the second (and final) day of the conference, most of the companies that exhibited at or sponsored events for Blogger Bash were about kid-related items–most typically some form of toys or games. These companies also aren’t necessarily looking for reviews: several just want coverage/PR. For me, this meant that I could talk to everyone but truly connect with only a handful of the companies. There were a couple of speaker events that weren’t strictly kid-focused, such as a session on search engine optimization, but I didn’t really learn anything new from that presentation. Either expanding the offering or tightening up the marketing to clarify that this is really more about toy/game bloggers and/or providing a more advanced content track would help for the third edition of the conference.
I’m glad I went and yet I’m not sure if I’ll go back next year. I can really only go to one conference a year–or one CITY a year–for blogging events, and I’ll have to see what the calendar looks like for next year’s event. If I don’t attend next year, it’s not a snub of them. I think the Blogger Bash team puts on a good show. It’s more about what fits my needs best, and that’s why you try things out. It was an enjoyable time, and I would certainly consider it again in the future as my schedule permits.