How to decide between BlogHer and Blogger Bash (or ANY blogging conference, for that matter)

This year marked my third BlogHer conference, and it was my first time heading to Blogger Bash–partially because the conferences happened to overlap this year, both time-wise and geographically. Now that I’ve been to both, I can definitely say that I have a much better understanding of both offerings. Since I’ve been to more than my fair share of conferences for blogging and work, it seemed like a good idea to break down the best ways to pick the right conference out of a crowded field. (I’ll say that I’m only talking about these two conferences specifically because I haven’t yet attended Blissdom, Bloggy Boot Camp, etc. You can check out Slapdash Mom’s thoughts on which blog conference is the best, if you want to hear from someone who’s experienced a wider array.)

Before I get into a general list of things to consider before choosing ANY type of conference, let’s first talk about BlogHer and Blogger Bash.

At its core, BlogHer is very much like a traditional conference; there are keynotes, break-out sessions and other birds-of-a-feather or track-based events, and an Expo for meeting sponsors and other vendors who paid to get in front of the attendees. It also has added events with special sponsors who pay for more intimate or exclusive access–through breakfasts, lunches, suite-based events, or other special affairs.

BlogHer sessions are more about content (writing, video, photography, etc.), so it really focuses a lot of attention on the voices within the blogs and the messages they’re relaying. Since BlogHer offers both “Full Conference” and “Expo/Party” (Networking) pass options, it’s important to understand just how much you’ll go to those keynotes and sessions before deciding on a pass. (Also, conference breakfasts and lunches are only included with the Full Conference passes.) As much as I’d like to attend the keynotes, my non-newbie status means that I just don’t get as much out of the sessions as I did in prior years. If I were to branch out into something new, like vlogging, then I might consider something other than Expo/Party again.

Blogger Bash, on the other hand, is more like a series of well-choreographed events that are organized under the aegis of a conference. The engines that drive Blogger Bash are the sponsors and sponsor-related events (like Sweet Suite), and it’s all about the connections with the brands. For those who really prefer the special events that are “on the side” for BlogHer, Blogger Bash puts those center stage and promotes those experiences first and foremost.

The opportunities are both unique and exciting at Blogger Bash, especially for those who write a lot of product reviews and/or who do sponsored content; above all, it’s about meeting up with brands, learning about their products (often from first-hand experience or flashy events), and engaging with the brands in ways that a standard Expo setup simply can’t provide. (That’s not to say that Blogger Bash lacks an Expo; it has one. However, it was modest in scale and manner by comparison to what it sported just the night before at Sweet Suite.)

So, here’s the checklist, if you’re trying to decide between BlogHer and Blogger Bash:

Comparison of BlogHer and Blogger Bash

And what about the wealth of other blogger conferences? Here are some questions to ask before registering:

Do you know anyone else who has ever attended that conference? What was their experience?

What are the sessions or events about? How well do those align with your niche(s) or area(s) of interest?

Who is speaking at the keynotes, sessions, and panels? Are these people of interest to you?

Are other bloggers you know or admire attending? Will going to that conference help you expand your network and build relationships with other bloggers?

What brand or organizational connections can you establish, maintain, or renew by attending?

It seems simpler than it is, but ultimately these are the basic questions that have to be answered. Of course, this also assumes that money and time aren’t factors (or they’re issues that have already been addressed).

And, speaking from experience, if you decide to attend more than one blogger conference simultaneously, as I did this year, make sure that you balance your schedule appropriately. With Blogger Bash only offering full conference passes, I wanted my time investment to match my financial one. That meant I had to go with the BlogHer Expo/Party (Networking) pass to keep from paying for an experience I knew I couldn’t manage. If you don’t have good time management skills, I would also recommend sticking to a single conference and focusing on the basics of the conference you’re attending. Adding on events outside the one you’re attending can make logistics and scheduling a nightmare if you can’t accurately forecast transit time, networking time, etc.

So go forth and find that which interests you. I know I’ll be at BlogHer ’16 — what about you?


Blogger Conference Survival Tips: The MUST LIST

Sparklecorn Cake

I’ve been to a bunch of conferences for work, and I started diving into the world of blogger conferences two years ago, with BlogHer’12. As I’m rolling into this year’s rather packed itinerary of BlogHer’15 and Blogger Bash running simultaneously in New York City, I figured I’d pass along some basic tips that I have for surviving any conference–but especially those with bloggers. (Yes, bloggers are a different breed from your standard conference-goer.)


Apps at the eppa Sangria Soiree

Tasty treats prepared by Whole Foods for the eppa Sangria Soiree on opening night of BlogHer’14

Tip #1: Eat and hydrate.

This may seem like it’s pretty obvious, but it’s easy to get distracted. And when the free booze starts flowing, another glass of wine may sound like an awesome idea. Even so, when you find the coveted bottle of water, hang onto that puppy like it’s the stuff of life. You can always refill it from a water cooler or the tap in your hotel room. I can’t count the number of conferences where booze and sodas are readily available but water is not. Dehydration, especially during the summer, is a BAD THING.

Also, make sure that you eat when the opportunities present themselves. It’s easy to eat bad food while traveling, but more and more conferences are attempting to offer healthier options at the buffet. Take advantage of that while you can, because your options when you roam may be more like the dude selling gyros from the cart across the street from the hotel. (Which, by the way, are supposed to be fabulous. Just saying.)


Tip #2: Get a backup battery for your phone.

I’m partial to the Mophie Juice Pack Air that I was turned on to by my friend Lori of My Kinda Rain; she suggested I buy a Mophie before BlogHer’12, and that was a genius purchase. When I get down to 20% on my iPhone, I just flip on my Mophie and it recharges me right back up to 100% in short order. Better still, I can charge the Mophie and phone overnight (simultaneously) using the Mophie’s cable. The downsides are that the battery heats up a bit while it’s charging your phone and the Mophie case is somewhat bulkier than a usual case (although par for the course if you’re used to a large case, like an OtterBox).

When these conferences consist of everyone being on their phone ALL DAY LONG, tweeting, texting, and otherwise connecting with the social media world, your Mophie makes you far less likely to be the sad panda blogger roaming around looking for a wall outlet.


Tip #3: Pack in a bigger bag than you need.

Blogger conferences are notorious for their swag, and some of it just isn’t that easy to carry home without extra luggage space. Sure enough, you can avoid this by heading to the shipping center at the hotel and paying to send the stuff home, but if you just pack in a larger bag than you need for what you’re bringing with you to the conference, there’s built-in space for bringing some (or all) of that swag back. If you anticipate bringing home a lot of stuff, even packing a duffle bag in your primary bag will work; if you don’t need it, you just bring it home. And if you do need it, then hey: you have a duffle bag to carry your stuff.


Tip #4: Use the swag exchange!

For those heading to BlogHer, in particular, there’s often (or always?) a Swag Exchange room set up as a room-sized swag equivalent of the “give a penny, take a penny” cup. Simply report to the Swag Exchange with the items you picked up/were given that you don’t want or need, and drop them off wherever it’s appropriate. (Bins are sometimes organized in categories.)

Looking for something specific? Check the Swag Exchange periodically to see if someone dropped off that item. And don’t be afraid to offer to swap with friends and fellow bloggers. These events can often be one big swag bazaar, and while it may be that you really wanted two of a particular toy to bring home to your kids, you may have something another blogger really wants to bring home to their clan that you can exchange for your own “must-have” item.


And this brings me to the biggest tip of all:





We did an experiment last year, at BlogHer’14, hanging out in front of the Convention Center and saying “Hi!” to fellow bloggers as they walked out onto the street. Some said “Hi” back and others looked at us as though we had the plague. Consider this: even if you’re the most introverted person ever, you’re at a conference. You’re among people who, on some level, are like-minded, and you may just find someone that you truly connect with (like Sadie of SlapDashMom, above left, whom I clicked with instantly). But you’ll never know that if you don’t say HI to people. So get out there and make some friends. Or at least one. You won’t regret it. I know I didn’t.