Several months ago, I explored the differences between SXSW and BlogWorld. I did this because many conference attendees only have room in their budgets for one conference and want to know which conference best suits their needs. Also, I wanted to show that we’re different than the other conferences and that we may even be a better fit for most bloggers. That post was well received, allowing attendees to make an informed decision. I thought I might do the same today after spending the last few days in New York City to attend my first ever BlogHer conference.
The BlogWorld team was there in force too; Rick Calvert, Patti “New Media Patti” Hoskings, Chris McCaffrey and I took to the floor and mixed and mingled. We made connections, observations, and yes, met lots of new friends. We helped to premiere new wines, sat in on sessions, enjoyed the most amazing Italian food and drank a lot of caffeine. Also? I learned more about the conference business and the politics, business and fun of it all by hanging out with this amazing team. So thanks, guys. Because of all of you all, I can do my job much better today. I hope to join you at more of these events in the future.
Here are some of my observations.
The “Her” Part
On my first day it was clear BlogHer is more about being a woman and a brand ambassador than it is about blogging and social media. In fact, if not for the sessions, I wouldn’t think this conference had anything to do with blogging at all. Despite claims that BlogHer welcomes both men and women, there were very few men (who weren’t from brands or P.R. agencies) to be found. In fact, I only spoke to two men who were attending the event to learn and grow as bloggers. One of them told me he felt very out numbered and out of his element.The lobby had a sorority party feel and there were plenty of crying & cooing babies in sessions. Rick Calvert had a near miss with a vomiting child and instead of tech demonstrations some attendees were treated to pedicures and makeovers. BlogHer is not a celebration of social media, it’s a celebration of sisterhood. That isn’t a complaint, mind you, it’s only an observation.
If you’re looking to learn how to use social media to build your personal or business brand, or how to blog for a living, this isn’t really your conference. You may learn how to court a brand for sponsorship, but most attendees admit to not being there to attend the sessions. They’re there for the camaraderie, the parties, and yes, the swag.
Here are some of the things you’ll see at BlogHer:
- The trade show floor at BlogHer has nothing to do with blogging or social media whatsoever. It doesn’t even pretend to be about the blogging. Brands such as McDonalds, Hillshire Farms, and Laughing Cow are there with plenty of free samples and gifts. (For more information read “BlogHer From the Eyes of a Reluctant Newbie: Part 1 – The Exhibits.” )
- BlogHer has a shipping center so attendees can send home their huge and heavy swag bags. I read a tweet from one attendee who just made it on a plane with her “48 pound duffle bag of swag.”
- Instead of tech demonstrations, BlogHer attendees are invited to suites to receive strappy sandals and massages. In fairness, Microsoft had a suite to show off the new Windows Phone, but they were lunching when we visited and didn’t get to learn much about their product. Firefox also had a suite to premiere their BlogHer toolbar. Aside from those two suites, I saw no tech, blogging or social media items.
- Round tables for the keynotes meant attendees were more interested in having a conversation and because of this, many attendees even had their backs turned to the speakers. As is becoming the trend with most conferences, attendees appeared to be more interested in their gadgets than the talks.
- At BlogWorld you can have your picture taken with Chad Vader, Kevin Pollak and Guy Kawasaki. At BlogHer expect to see Dora the Explorer, Mrs. Potato Head, Padma Laksmhi and Ronald McDonald.
- Very few, if any, big name superstar bloggers or social media experts. If any of the major players were at BlogHer, I didn’t see them, nor were they speaking.
Light on the Blogging, Heavy on the Brands – Except for the Sessions
It’s not until you attend the educational sessions that you realize that BlogHer has something to do with blogging and, admittedly, most attendees don’t attend the sessions at all. However, much of the content is educational in nature and beneficial to those looking to learn about blogging. I attended some very helpful sessions and some truly awful sessions, but I find that this is the case with most conferences (though hopefully this year there won’t be much sucky content at BlogWorld.)
While at BlogWorld we’re making a conscious effort to recruit female speakers, BlogHer only had one male speaker – the first ever. It will be interesting to see if more male speakers will be included in the future.
Sessions and panels include:
- “This Year You’re In! Fashion Blogging is Serious Business”
- “Pitch Me!” ( A very informative session about how to create an elevator pitch to receive products and brand sponsorships)
- “Latinas in Social Media” ( A case study.)
- “Radical Blogging Moms: Don’t Even Think About Not Taking These Moms Seriously”
- “Transforming Online Places Into Art Spaces”
- “Bringing Sex Out of the Closet”
- “Blogging Autism: Shattering Myths, Opening Your Eyes and Finding Your Tribe.”
- “Usability and Beginning Bloggers”
- “Offline Networking for Bloggers”
- “How to Use Your Blogging to Make You a Better Writer”
This Isn’t a Bad Thing
Overall, BlogHer is a unique experience. I hesitate to call it a blogging conference because, aside from the sessions, there really wasn’t much to indicate it had anything to do with blogging at all. For me, the most obvious reasons to attend BlogHer is to enjoy the company of other women and build up a relationships with brands. Make no mistake, there were many connections being made – both personal and professional. I’m not sure many of these connections involved ways to make money, however. Most transactions included the exchange of products for brand ambassadorship. I’m not saying this is a bad thing, but I will say BlogHer isn’t necessarily the conference to attend to learn how to earn a decent living as a blogger, at least I didn’t see it that way.
I enjoyed my first BlogHer experience. If I only had to choose one conference this year, I don’t know that BlogHer would be my choice only because I’m not looking to court brands for sponsorship or products. My reasons for attending conferences are generally to receive an education and to network with social media professionals and potential clients. I also want to learn more about blogging and monetizaton. I would attend BlogHer for the sisterhood and BlogWorld for the education and important connections.
BlogHer also allowed BlogWorld to fulfill another mission of ours – to bring women, especially as speakers, to BlogWorld. I’m happy to say we’re accomplishing that mission.
Update: August 10, 2010
I took a bit of heat for this post, and while that was to be expected, I really didn’t think I was being disrespectful. However, if you were offended by my BlogHer post, I apologize. The truth is, it wasn’t meat to slam BlogHer, it was meant to display the differences between our conference and another. Differences that aren’t a bad thing, depending on your purpose. Value is a subjective thing. Sometimes value is in the education experience and sometimes value indicates bang for the buck. For me, BlogHer’s value came in the personal and I don’t want you to think I walked away with a negative impression. I had an amazing time at BlogHer. Sure, there are some things I found surprising, and some things I didn’t quite agree with – but that happens everywhere I go.
Let me share how BlogHer was a valuable experience for me:
- I had a bit of lunch and attended a session with a book editor, leading to her people contacting me to write a book or two for them.
- I met some wonderful women who will be speaking at BlogWorld in the fall.
- I (and the BlogWorld team) were the guests of the Kendall Jackson wineries and attended a wine tasting and dinner, thanks to their gracious hospitality.
- I met people I have always wanted to meet.
- I enjoyed enlightening and pleasant conversation.
- I learned about new products and services.
To add some balance to this post, I thought you might want to read another. BlogHer 10 Recap: 2400 Descend on Manhattan, which covers some of the things I missed.
I’d like to also thank all of you for your kind and thoughtful comments, tweets and emails.
Do you attend BlogHer? If so, tell us about your experience. If you don’t attend, tell us why not.
Deb Ng is Conference Director for BlogWorld and blogs about blogging and social media at Kommein. Feel free to follow her on Twitter @debng.