Since this was my fourth BlogHer conference, I came with some built-in expectations. Based on my experiences at BlogHer in 2012, 2014, and 2015, I figured it would excel in some areas (parties) and come up short in others (sessions). At this point, attending BlogHer is more a glorified (and somewhat expensive) girls weekend with my blogger girlfriends. The plus/delta below is MY opinion of this year’s event (plus is what worked well; delta–a symbol for change–represents opportunities for improvement).
Girl time can be SO therapeutic. In 2014, I was lucky enough to meet some amazing women who became the tribe I wanted to see at least annually; it’s brilliant to have time with them. We live all over the country–some on each coast and a few in-between…but when we get together, we laugh and giggle and play and have serious conversations as though no time has passed at all between meet-ups. Bless everyone who keeps Facebook alive, as that’s a lot of how we keep in touch during the in-between times.
I was reminded that I’m not alone in having invisible illnesses. At Teva Pharmaceuticals’ #MoreToMigraine breakfast, there came a point where the moderator (a TV news reporter who suffers from migraines) asked how many of us also get them. Between two-thirds and three-fourths of the hands shot up instantly. At that moment, we all realized that we’re not alone. I get weather-related pressure migraines and, between migraines, perimenopause, and IBS, I often feel like I’m uniquely broken. It turns out many suffer from various unseen ailments–and this breakfast reminded me we can share with, learn from, support, and comfort each other.
I’m getting more comfortable saying no. I’m always willing to consider some form of work with brands or sponsors, but this blog isn’t my sole source of income. That gives me vast freedom to say no to things I’m not interested in or that I don’t feel would be a good fit. I assume the brands appreciate that as well–since I’m not wasting their time, either.
My friends got to show other people just how awesome they are. Whether it was Merlot Mommy giving an off-the-cuff social media tutorial or Slap Dash Mom explaining the virtues of a Virtual Assistant, my awesome besties were making their prowess evident. Special mention goes to Passion by Kait, who enraptured our table at the Lamps Plus lunch with her extensive knowledge of sex toy safety. (She was the playful one who brought a vulva puppet to the conference.)
Several of the conference sponsors and brands that orbited the event were generous in remarkably sweet ways. Of course, when a brand gets involved with an event like BlogHer, one expects some swag to get your attention. Winner for Actual Sweetest Gift goes to Russell Stover, who filled our rooms with chocolate on the first night, but the Figurative Sweetest Gift came from Staples–who gave each of their breakfast attendees school supplies, $50 in Staples gift cards, and a gift card to DonorsChoose.org, to help us fund teachers’ classroom projects across the country.
Yet again, the *sessions* were disappointing. I bought the “Networking” pass last year (good for the Expo and Sponsored Events/Parties), but I nabbed the Super Early-Bird priced full conference pass this year because it was only $50 more than the Networking one. At that point, I figured, I could attend some sessions, keynotes, or meals and still save money. When the full agenda came out, I couldn’t find one session I was desperate to attend; they were typically on topics that didn’t interest me or that were too rudimentary. The keynotes held more promise, but competing sponsor events were more interesting; celebrities aren’t more of a draw for me than a well-seasoned blogger.
Kim Kardashian. Really?! Come ON, BlogHer. Looking to stir up some controversy, they booked Kim Kardashian to do a keynote. Would the Princess of Self-Promotion discuss proper lighting for the perfect nude selfie? If her relevance is rooted in her ability to garner attention, I would rather hear from her TEAM. She has people who make sure every image she projects is targeted for maximum impact. That team should’ve been on stage instead, although that might’ve been too much fourth-wall breaking–even for a Kardashian.
The Expo was weaker than usual–and smaller, too. While some of the sponsors were clearly excited to engage with bloggers and talk with them about products and opportunities to work together, some were there just to collect cards without actually talking to anyone. In at least two cases, my friends were met with silent treatment at booths by brand reps that simply stood there and hoped the Expo would close already.
The JW Marriott LA Live does NOT know how to manage a large conference. Guest rooms themselves were wonderful–posh, well-appointed, well-maintained, and managed by a housekeeping team that was incredibly thoughtful. The events managers…not so much. Poor buffet line management caused massive backups at lunchtime, poor signage incorrectly blocked open hallways, and the business center was woefully unprepared for the onslaught of people needing boxes to ship items home on BlogHer’s last day. The conference/event management just didn’t live up to the JW Marriott name.
The capstone Closing Party was weaksauce. While the last couple of parties (financed by perennial BlogHer sponsor, McDonald’s) had star DJ’s like Reverend Run and Nick Cannon, this year we got…a 13-year-old. I don’t care that he DJ’ed for President Clinton. With few exceptions, what we heard from him made it clear he’s got potential to be a great Corporate End-of-Quarter Party DJ someday. My friends, who enjoyed prior years’ open bars, were dismayed to get only one drink ticket each, redeemable for an unsatisfying, mediocre, somewhat alcoholic beverage. Thankfully, we had a full dinner before we arrived at the party; those who relied on the event’s passed appetizers found the amuse bouche portions sans amusement.
Verdict: I had a great time seeing my girlfriends, meeting with some new brands, seeing some parts of LA I hadn’t known about, and learning some tidbits here and there. Will I go to BlogHer17? Hmm. I don’t know. Many of my friends–who rely heavily on their blogging income–loved the girl time but can’t necessarily afford to do these long weekends just for that. If the tribe prefers a different event next year, I’ll likely float on the tide with my friends. I know that BlogHer is going through merging pains from the SheKnows takeover, and it’s visible–or so says the 12-time BlogHer veteran with whom I shared a cab to LAX. Even that longtime attendee–who had been to EVERY BlogHer–wasn’t sure she’d return next year. That, my friends, is what you call a bellwether. So we’ll see if BlogHer 2017 makes it onto my trip list. In the meantime, I’ll just bask in the glow of time well spent with my friends and get started on that pile of laundry. I’ve got some unpacking to do…