My BlogHer’16 Plus/Delta: My 5 x 2 round-up

YesNoFilms, Slap Dash Mom, and lil' old me

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.

Me with LaughTeachLove

Me with LaughTeachLove, trying out some flavors from Baskin Robbins. You know, *for science*.

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, to help us fund teachers’ classroom projects across the country.

Poster of Katy Perry, announcing Staples' commitment to donate $1 million to classroom projects

At their breakfast, Staples told us that they’re donating $1 million to DonorsChoose to support projects at classrooms across the United States.



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.

McDonald's Social Media Manager, Head Chef, and VP of North American Supply Chain

McDonald’s Social Media Manager, Head Chef, and VP of North American Supply Chain–talking about how they’re improving their menu items.

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.

LaughTeachLove, me, and Merlot Mommy

The one part of the closing party that DID work for me: being with LaughTeachLove and Merlot Mommy.


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…

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 Bash ’15: A newbie’s take in a 3×2 round-up

Blogger Bash

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.


View of Pier 60

Pier 60 – our home for the two days (and some spectacular weather)


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.)


Sweet Suite greeters - models on stools with floor-length skin-tight dresses, wielding giant lollipops

Our greeting for “Sweet Suite” (and the sequined lipstick was UH-MAY-ZING)


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.


Brunch table for the Care Bears Share Your Care Brunch

Breakfast with the Care Bears – tasty, informative, and pretty darn awesome overall


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.


Modarri cars - mix and match as much as you'd like!

Modarri Cars – mix and match as much as you’d like!

Worry Eaters

Worry Eaters – use the zipper to let them “eat” the worry for your child (to help them let go and/or to help you read it later to spark conversation)



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.


Snoopy and me

My new bff – and you better believe I got a hug



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.