My BlogHer’15 Plus/Delta: My 5 x 2 round-up


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 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.


Dunkie of Dunkin Donuts taking a selfie with me at the Expo

Forget diamonds–coffee is a girl’s best friend


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 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.


Ryan Hansen of the Tara Hansen Foundation and Dr. Priya Agrawal of Merck for Mothers

Ryan Hansen of the Tara Hansen Foundation and Dr. Priya Agrawal of Merck for Mothers



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.)

Kait, a Minion, and me at the BlogHer15 party hosted by McDonalds

Kait and me, hamming it up at the McDBlogHer party

My BlogHer’14 Plus/Delta: My 5 x 2 round-up

BlogHer14 Badge


This was my second BlogHer conference; BlogHer’12 (New York City) was my first, and BlogHer’14 (San Jose) was my chance to be the veteran, swagger in full effect. Well, what passes for swagger. It mostly translated to “I’m not putting on tons of makeup for this.” With the location for BlogHer’15 still unannounced, here’s my take on what to consider before making travel reservations for 2015. For those who haven’t seen a “plus/delta” before, plus represents things that worked well and delta is for things that need improving (delta being a symbol for change).



I met my soulmate. I was introduced to Slap Dash Mom by a mutual friend, and we were on the same wavelength from the first minute. Sadie knocked me over with her awesomeness. We were some kind of stupid chick flick on the afternoon we left San Jose, when she was due to board her flight at the same time JetBlue would finally open their counter to let me check my bag, effectively circumventing our last shot at ONE FINAL HUG. Luckily, her flight got delayed – and the line at security was short – so we managed to get one last little visit in. It was some serious Hollywood material. Truly: call us. We’ll help write the script, guys. Have your people call my people.



Sadie and me, before her flight took her home to Arizona


My path is MUCH clearer. My aforementioned soulmate is a highly accomplished blogger and, during our first evening together, she gave me a “Come to Sadie” talking-to that I really needed. It clicked: I understood that, in the choice between running an online journal and running a blog, I preferred to have a blog. I realized that what she was talking about – running self-hosted on my own domain, finding ways to engage with brands where money or goods may be offered but my morals aren’t for sale, etc. – was the direction I really wanted to go. THIS is why I came to BlogHer: to find my path.

I made new brand connections! This trip, I talked with brands I hadn’t met before and satisfied my curiosity about products I didn’t know very well. In some cases, this meant I got information and set up relationships that will lead to “work” together; in other cases, it helped me quickly cross things off my list. Bloggers, especially newbies, may assume that any brand that shows interest is one that you should do work with; depending upon your specific goals, that may – or may not – be the case.

I learned some best practices. I heard about optimizing WordPress, using visuals to improve your blog, and key elements for creative non-fiction. I’m planning to channel these lessons into improvements I’m rolling out over the next couple of months, and having face-to-face connections with these subject matter experts was really helpful.



A reminder that it’s all about communication


I made a bunch of new friends! I met bloggers at a variety of experience levels, and so many people were nice, funny, kind, and cool people. It’s lovely to fly 3,000 miles and meet people who you’d love to see every day. Jana of Merlot Mommy, Christy of Giveaway Train, Carol of All Mommy Wants, and Melanie of She’s Write are just some of the fabulous people I met.



When I joked that San Jose wasn’t the desert, I didn’t expect them to hide the water. For some reason, water was exceptionally hard to find at BlogHer’14. In fact, as we wandered the Expo Hall on opening night, bartenders explained champagne was free but water was $2/bottle. Wat. If we’re going to support health, let’s start with hydration, please. Since cups seemed to be the most popular swag choice for BlogHer’14 sponsors, it would’ve been nice if one was included in the conference tote bags, along with a map for hydration stations.

Brands are running away from BlogHer conferences. According to current exhibitors, it’s obvious that the costs of BlogHer participation are becoming – or have become – too high. Whether it’s the five-figure sponsor fees  or the tight restrictions on events/giveaways and badges, BlogHer is getting a reputation as being brand-unfriendly. This clearly contributed to the founding of Blogger Bash, a brand-oriented event held in New York City the weekend prior to BlogHer’14. Apparently, outboarding events – timed to coincide with the conference but without the sponsorship $$$ heading to BlogHer – got out of control at BlogHer’13, but the pendulum swung too far in the other direction for 2014. Note: Outboarding events still occurred, but they were greatly diminished in number.

Which brings us to swag…or the lack thereof. I’m no swagwhore, but the distinct lack of quality swag was fairly depressing. Fab swag kudos go to the teams at official sponsors Chuck E. Cheese (board games and tokens), Baskin Robbins (ice cream!), Bridgestone/Firestone (tote bags and those amazing tire cake pops), and Skype (power stations, rain jackets, and the ever-present cups). That’s not to say that other folks didn’t have great swag, but the majority of the offerings were minimal. Even “room drops” – items delivered to your room when you stay in an official conference block room – were minimal to non-existent. My roommate and I only got stickers from The Mrs. (tune to to hear their tune); others got stickers and cupcakes. The consistent theme was, “No, you’re actually in a desert and just didn’t know it”. Perhaps if BlogHer lowered their sponsor fees, sponsors might be more inclined to dangle better swag and increase booth traffic.


Tire cakepops

These tire cake pops were as tasty as they were adorable


Trust in the BlogHer team is diminishing. There were several “official” events (breakfasts, talks, etc.) with a limited sign-up window and, “in the interest of fairness”, random selection of bloggers rather than first-come, first-served. One look at who got the first batches of confirmations suggests that “random” was a creative term. Bloggers with well-established brand relationships coincidentally landed spots at these exclusive events, shutting out new folks. Any attempt to swap or otherwise open space up was greeted with iron fists and disinvites. If the brands or BlogHer want to fill events with bloggers that have pre-established relationships, they should be honest about it. Disclosing “pre-existing relationships will increase your likelihood of getting chosen” will at least give people a sense of whether they should get their hopes up. That said, I would prefer first-come, first-served: let those with the fastest fingers win. Or let people apply and the brand picks who they want. Transparency is better than opacity that’s pretty damn easy to see through.

Session diversity and organization needs to improve. The most common complaint was that sessions were too high-level or aimed at newbies. Experienced, well-established bloggers are looking for more connections (with each other and/or brands) and to take their blogs to the next level. General sessions, where material lacks depth, don’t really serve that need. To that end, I’d recommend that BlogHer do two very important things.

  1. Set up specific tracks, i.e. “Beginner, Experienced, Advanced”, and then build content in each track to support the needs of those different bloggers. Of course, you let people roam in case they’re newer to one thing than another, but having categories and developing content for each unique need is vital to re-establishing BlogHer’s place as THE conference for bloggers.
  2. Put screens at each Geek Bar table. A distinct lack of A/V support hampered some of the sessions, and that’s not supportive of the speakers that are taking the time to develop and conduct presentations/sessions.


Reverend Run DJ's the closing party, sponsored by McDonalds

Reverend Run of Run-DMC brings down the house with an epic 1hr set at the closing party, sponsored by McDonalds


Verdict: Ultimately, ANY conference is what you make of it. There will always be sessions that don’t quite grab you, food that’s not 100% fantastic, and people that turn their nose up rather than say “Hi” to a stranger. On the flip side, there is always at least one nugget of wisdom, there’s always a restaurant or SOMEWHERE nearby for better food, and there’s always at least one nice person who’d love to be your friend. I had a blast at BlogHer’14, neither in spite of it nor because of it. I hung out with friends both new and old, I learned a lot, and I soaked up plenty of sun. I can make a party anywhere. So, before you go to BlogHer’15 – or any other conference – the question for you is: Can you say the same?