BlogHer 10 – A Newbie Perspective

Having never attended BlogHer before (’06 – due in August, ’07 – moving, ’08 – due in August, ’09 – husband had National Guard duty and other relatives unavailable to watch young kids), I was impressed by both the amazing logistical coordination a conference of this size requires and by the beautiful sense of community.

Major No Swag Improvements

From the safe perspective of my couch last year, it seemed as if the swag and the avarice it inspired had gotten out of hand. I’m sure it was slanted coverage over-emphasizing a few misguided individuals but the fact that there was a crush of people pushing each other aside and elbowing little babies was alarming.

This year, the BlogHer organizers and founders took several steps to ensure that this year was different. From what I witnessed and heard, their efforts succeeded. I think it was a combination of keeping the corporate sponsorships in one area, limiting the on-site corporate presence to official sponsors, and focusing a track of sessions on “Change Agents”. The official presence of a charitable effort, “Tutus for Tanner”, also helped lend a positive feeling to the entire conference. How can you not smile when you see grown women (and men) wearing fairy-princess-ballerina tutus to support a charming young man and his family.

I loved that some bloggers were making tutus at The People’s Party and joined right in. I think a charitable activity should be an on-site part of every year’s BlogHer — either in a suite during the day or at one of the public parties.

Bloganthropy Awards

Another of the highlights of the conference for me was not an official part of the conference — the Bloganthropy Awards, hosted by Child’s Play Communications at their Dinner’s On Us. When Debbie and I founded Bloganthropy.org, we were just hoping we could highlight and contribute to the better nature of the blogosphere. Little did we know that we would be able to honor five blogs and their publishers at a beautiful dinner, awarding one a prize for all of her hard work for her cause. Congratulations to finalists: Kristine Brite McCormick of Cora’s Story; Maggie Ginsberg-Schutz of Violence Unsilenced; Debbie Dubrow, Michelle Duffy, Pam Mandel and Beth Whitman, of Passports With Purpose; and Megan Jordan of Velveteen Mind. And congratulations to the Bloganthropy Awards 2010 winner: Katherine Stone of Postpartum Progress. Since I’m still a part of BlogHerAds for now, I don’t know if I can thank our fabulous sponsors…but we will be thanking them on Bloganthropy.org and on Mamanista.com.

Bloganthropy was an official sponsor and I loved meeting all of the amazing blogging women who came by the booth. We are focusing on female bloggers because that is our community but tell your male blogging friends not to be shy! They are welcome, too!

Off-Site Parties

Given that off-site parties are going to happen, and, in fact, give a lot of the bloggers something fun to do at night, I wonder if there is a way to integrate them more into the conference timeline and make them more productive. Perhaps companies that would like an opt-in list of attendees, possibly grouped by self-indicated interest areas, could pay a fee to BlogHer and agree not to host their events during key-note speeches or sessions.

More about these fun events on Mamanista.com (again, not sure if I can discuss here as part of the BlogHerAds network).

On-Site Socializing

I met some of my blogging heroes for the first time and formed new bloggy-girl-crushes on bloggers I did not know just a few days before. Unfortunately, I also had narrow misses or too-brief glances across a crowded room with people I was dying to meet.

I was thrilled to see so many amazing ladies there. I felt silly asking them to take pictures with me and I am afraid to list anyone lest I forget someone! I know I have yet to unpack some of my business cards but still need to give some major love to new friends and old. I think I will tweet them out as I think of them so that I don’t have a static list of BlogHer buddies with lots of embarrassing (to me) omissions!

Oh, to heck with it…if I left you out, I assure you it is just a sleep-deprived brain. Just leave me a comment and I’ll add you to my list:

Joanne Bamberger, Sarah Beldin, Christina (whose last name escapes me but who just rocks!), Kristen Chase, Jane Couto, Janice Croze and Susan Carraretto, Stephanie Elie, Shannon Entin, Amy Gates, Clarissa Nassar, Liz Gumbinner, Lori Holton Nash, Nancy Johson Horn, Rebecca Keenan, Marie LeBaron, Erika Lehmann, Maggie Ginsberg-Schutz, Anissa Mayhew, Amy Mascott, Audrey McClelland, Lynne Anne Miller, Courtney Hutson, Kristine Brite McCormick, Stefania Pomponi Butler, Katja Presnal, Julie Meyers Pron, Lindsay Reed Maines, Jessica Rosenberg, Dawn Sandomeno and Elizabeth Mascali, Annie at PhDinParenting (whose last name I’ll leave off), Heather, Kim Janocko, Danielle Friedland, Katherine Stone, Veronique Christensen, Jen Singer, Corine Ingrassia and many, many, many more!

Again…I promise I enjoyed talking with you even if I missed you here–I probably just did not grab your business card. PLEASE leave me a comment so I can follow you and stay in touch!

I do not write at this blog very often so if you want to keep in touch with me, you are probably better off checking out my education blog, Naturally Educational, or my mom lifestyle blog, Mamanista, or following me on Twitter or friending me on facebook.

For those I missed at the conference…should you be in New York again, please look me up! Or if anyone heads out to the East End of Long Island, I’ll take you on a wine and local cheese tour!

I hadn’t heard about the birds of a feather lunches at registration–I would have liked those more prominently featured so I could have signed up. I also liked the “speed-dating” idea. I would have been interested to see that happen more formally.

Change Agents? How About an Ethical Sponsorship Policy?

The change agents sessions were a big highlight of the session which brings me to one of the biggest downsides of BlogHer ’10 for me. A number of bloggers I really respect and wished to meet chose not to attend due to the sponsorship of two Nestle brand affiliates. One of the panels that specifically addressed radical blogging was (at least to my eyes and the eyes of at least one other audience member) all white. An African-American conservative blogger backed out after hearing of Nestle’s sponsorship.

Ideally, I would like to see BlogHer form a committee, similar to the one that sets speaker policies, to develop ethical sponsor guidelines. I may not agree with the guidelines created but the idea that BlogHer would take all sponsors is concerning to me. Ultimately, it is an issue of the tone BlogHer wishes to set for its community. You can still be inclusive while saying that a basic concept of ethics is at the heart of our community.

The committee could also assist in filling the conference sponsor roster with companies that meet the guidelines, with the understanding that BlogHer reserves the right to add additional sponsors if the goal cannot be met by a certain deadline. I would be willing to volunteer as part of this committee.

Or a Session-Only Ticket?

Annie of PhDinParenting proposed that those of us concerned but still attending donate the Nestle-subsidized portion of our tickets (or the entirety, if possible) to a relevant charity. I do think that those who were speaking, or even just supporting those speaking, or working for positive companies and charities, did do more good than the harm of them accepting a small portion of Nestle’s largess. BlogHer already has an “unsubsidized” ticket price listed but I do not support that option for a few reasons. One, it makes ethics the province of the wealthy. Two, it will not change sponsorship policies and any person’s increased payment won’t influence BlogHer not to accept money from unethical companies. Three, subsidized or not we are still benefiting from all the sponsors.

If an ethical sponsorship policy is too great a change in one year, how about instead of offering an “unsubsidized” ticket, offer a session and keynote speeches only ticket? Asking people to pay more is not the only way to allow them to vote with their wallets. They can also accept less “value” for the same price. No meals, no parties, no expo hall. This way, bloggers who still want to go to hear the inspiring talks can do so with minimal contact with sponsors.

Session Hashtags and Speaker Twitter IDs?

Another session-related suggestion I have is to have one of the slides in the slide show list: the name of the speakers, their blogs, their Twitter IDs, and the hashtag for the session. I had trouble catching the names of the bloggers and even when I did (or remembered my program to look them up) I did not always know their Twitter names or blogs. And when tweeting I just made up a hashtag but I think having an official one would be helpful for the speakers, attendees, those not attending, and the conference in general.

Explore Your Host City!

I would also love to see BlogHer reach out to natives of the host city to plan some semi-official outings. City tours, museum visits, adventures out to hot spots.

I spent a lot of time convincing people that midtown West is not really Manhattan and lucked into finding Amy and Heather who were eager to explore. We took the subway down to the Village and seeing the delight of my blogging friends was a real highlight for me.

Wrapping Up

I don’t mean any of these suggestions to imply that I don’t have the greatest admiration for all of the hard work that goes into the many moving pieces of this conference — or that I did not have a fabulous time!

I was so impressed by how I could just walk into the banquet hall and sit down with any group and be instantly welcomed.

There were so many fascinating conversations and such great camaraderie–it was a great way to recharge my blogging engine. I left BlogHer wanting to use my online voice even more to build community and to help others.

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8 comments

  1. Interesting post! I saw a lot of the same things you did. It was a great time but there were of course things that could be different. Fun stuff.

  2. Elita says:

    I would definitely love to see BlogHer create some sort of ethical sponsorship policy. The fact that formula was given away in a swag bag at one of the parties hosted by Robeez just proves that BlogHer doesn’t get it and is not policing the sponsors enough. Do sponsors have to agree to any policy at all, or can they basically do whatever they want to since they handed over a check?

    I love your story about Midtown West not really being Manhattan and going exploring in the village. I was thrilled that I managed to convince Arwyn to eat street food for dinner at a truck I used to get lunch from all the time when I worked in the building across the street from the Hilton.

  3. @Natalie – Read your post, too, and you mentioned something I had planned to and forgot…the mountains of paper! Even more than swag, that makes me sad because the vast majority of it will be tossed. I wonder if there could be a flash drive for the sponsors and their brochures and offers instead of all the paper. There was one at Toy Fair when I went two years ago.

    @Elita – The Robeez party with the bag was off-site at an invite-only party not directly affiliated with BlogHer so I think that is an issue that needs to be broached with Robeez, rather than BlogHer…unless those bags were also given out at BlogHer itself? I think I saw that truck, BTW. Given that I am a vegetarian, I skip most of the food trucks (even the veggie options just reek of meat to me) but I applaud your efforts to get people to explore!

  4. Elly Lou says:

    I definitely had some issues with the organization and content of the conference. Loved meeting you though!

  5. Thanks so much for including me on your list. It was wonderful to meet you!

  6. Great meeting you too!!

    Blogher is definitely a whirlwind experience. There’s always the good and the bad– but the networking and meeting other fab bloggers (like you 😉 ) make it all worth it!

  7. Jennifer says:

    I was thrilled that I managed to convince Arwyn to eat street food for dinner at a truck I used to get lunch from all the time when I worked in the building across the street from the Hilton.

  8. Its a fantastic stuff.! i learn alot of unique thoughts from here,
    i like ths informative data, keep it up.

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