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?


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