It’s going to take me days — if not weeks — to process all that happened at the conference known as BlogHer12. Basically, it’s a conference for women bloggers. Men come too, but they’re rather few and far between. So there’s a lot of women. This time nearly 5,000 of them.
I’m an introvert by nature but having spent nearly a decade as a university-level writing teacher I’ve learned to be more outgoing. And I’m glad. Sometimes I had to push myself to meet people but I was never rebuffed. Some meetings had more spark and chemistry than others, but I never felt snubbed.
Here is a mix of advice that I gleaned from pre-conference posts (advice that worked!) and actual conference experience:
- Do bring cards. Nearly every meal felt like a poker game as we all dealt our cards around the table. Nearly every meeting ended in one of us asking, “Do you have a card?” Give cards to people even if you’re not sure they want one. Take cards from people even if you’re not sure you want them! I came home with a stack about two inches high. Your cards should have your name, your e-mail address, your blog address and your Twitter handle. A picture of yourself is also helpful so that people can remember you when they’re home and going through their own two-inch stack.
- Don’t worry (too much) about what to wear. Be comfortable in your clothes — both physically and psychologically. You will see everything from sweats and Crocs to suits and Manolos. People tend to get more dressed up for the evening parties, but there was still quite a range. Private parties might require a fancier get-up, but if you’re being invited to them you probably know a lot more about the high end of conference dress code than I do!
- Do bring a couple of pairs of comfortable shoes. There is a surprising amount of walking that goes on within a large hotel. And I saw a lot of fancy-sandaled feet with Band-aids flapping from heel and toe. Consider tucking a pair of flip-flops into your suitcase; they don’t take up much room and can serve you well in a (literal) pinch.
- Sessions: Go to them! I went to a session during every time slot. Some of my favorites (like “Blogging into MidLife”) were ones that I wasn’t sure about when I walked in. Be bold and introduce yourself to the panelists afterwards. Talk with other bloggers who are waiting in line to talk with the panelists. Give out cards liberally.
- Meeting people: Even though I’m an introvert I found that just starting with “Tell me about your blog!” was a sure way to connect (and gather myself a bit while they talked!). Be a good listener. Be sincere. And have a few sentences about your own blog ready to share.
- The Expo: Stunning. I’ve only been to academic conferences with book fairs so to me walking through the Expo was like walking through an Ikea full of products and pitches. Many of the booths are interactive. I found myself singing karaoke to win two stuffed uteri. Longest four minutes of my life — but worth it.
- Swag: Yes, there is swag. But do not go after it like a Vandal sacking Rome. Other people will raise a pained eyebrow if you do, and you never know who these other people are — future branding partners, future panelists, future friends. My own philosophy was to take only the swag I thought I would really use. You might want to pack a second bag (for said swag) if you are traveling by train, bus or plane (I brought a small packable duffel); otherwise there are many free bags to be had on site, including the handsome BlogHer bag which, this year at least, zipped closed.
- Food: Since I was on a limited budget, my eating strategy was to “live off the land.” This worked very well for breakfast and lunch, less well for dinner (which was usually steam-table munchies at the evening BlogHer parties). My recommendation is to take a break from the conference and have dinner out. (See Parties and Sanity below.)
- Parties: As I’ve said, I’m an introvert. I came to the conference with a friend who is also an introvert. We went to half the BlogHer parties … for about 10 minutes each. They were all dark. They all played loud music. The few chairs and couches were always occupied. There was no way to meet people (too dark) or have a conversion (too loud) or even relax (too crowded). I’m not above making a fool of myself on the dance floor if “Groove is in the Heart” happens to be playing, but alas, it was not to be. The one party I skipped (due to exhaustion) might have been the one I would have really enjoyed: Queerosphere seemed to be a softly-lit cocktail party with live jazz. Oh well. Next time I’ll make more of an effort to go to each party … for at least ten minutes.
(A quick side note: I had heard that the cake at the Sparklecorn party was legendary. I went. I looked around. All I saw was a curious robot unicorn statue to greet us and then the usual steam table offerings of mini hotdogs and veggie sliders. My astute friend had to inform me: the robot unicorn was the cake.)
- Sanity: I realized when I left BlogHer that I had been in the hotel for 50 consecutive hours. I had wanted to soak up every drop of BlogHer, but all that absorption came at a price. I recommend getting out for a bit — even if it’s only to go across the street and get a cup of non-hotel coffee. Better yet, have dinner out before you hit the party circuit. That way you can take a break from the BlogHer scene as well as have a meal with multiple food groups before hitting the dance floor or the bar.
- Rest, recuperate, regroup. Then:
- Start sifting through your stack of cards and reading blogs. Send follow-up e-mails, thank-you texts, compliments via Twitter, etc. When I was collecting cards I sorted them slyly on the spot — contacts I thought would be useful and enjoyable went on the top of the stack; on the bottom went cards from promoters of products I could never endorse, bloggers who write about things far out of my realm of interest, or people who rubbed me the wrong way. But I’ll look at all of them now that I’m home. Who knows what I might have discounted in the moment?
- Finally, blog about your experience! Which I’m doing now. And which I’ll follow with a post about the content of the sessions I attended.
If you were at BlogHer12, please consider leaving a comment about your own experience — what you did, what you wish you had done, what you enjoyed the most, what you would have rather skipped, what you wish you had known in advance.
Hope to see you at BlogHer13!