BlogHer’12. But where, oh where to begin? In a nutshell, it was not what I expected, but it was pretty freaking cool.
I’ve contemplated writing this post because I truthfully just needed a couple days (or a week?) afterwards to decompress and gather my thoughts. Because let me tell you— it’s a lotof information. Not only that, but it’s a lotof people. I haven’t been as interactive and open as I was required to be at BlogHer since college, and it’s funny what 5 years away from it can do to you.
I decided to go to BlogHer because I love blogging (cough-which you would probably never guess due to how infrequently I post-cough), and I thought it would be a fun weekend away to focus on something “just for me.”
For me, the weekend of BlogHer’12 started on Wednesday evening. I spent entirely too long over-packing (which I’m queen of, by the way), then another large gap of time debating whether or not I should bring my laptop or my iPad, or both, and weather or not I should bring my Canon Rebel XTi or Powershot Elph, or both. I ended up brining all four. Needless to say, my luggage weighed a thousand pounds, but I did use all 4 at some point or other during the trip.
This was my first year attending the BlogHer conference, and it was in New York City. Once upon a time during a summer internship, I lived in NYC. I had a roommate on the Upper West Side and I worked at a design agency at Union Square. A non-secret: I hated living in NYC. I hated the heat, I hated the smell, I hated the cost of living. I took a train home almost every weekend to Lake George to lounge on my family’s boat. But visiting NYC isn’t so bad.
NYC for a day trip = awesome
NYC for a weekend visit = tolerable
NYC to live = never in my life
After my late night of packing, my BlogHer date Shannon and I left for Union Station around 8:30am. Shannon’s husband Matt dropped us off, and our bus left the station at 11:15am. It was a not a bad four-hour trip, and even included a quick rest stop. But then the bus dropped us off at some random spot in NYC, and I had no clue where we were. When we attempted to hail a cab, the only driver who stopped quickly sped away when we told him our destination. So we figured, “Well, it must be close then!” and started walking.
Half an hour later, dripping in sweat and sore from overpacked luggage, we finally made it up to our room. A big shout-out to my daddy dearest for gifting me the most fabulous hotel room for my birthday— it was on the 33rd floor of the Marriott Marquis right in the heart of New York City: Times Square! What a perfect location for Shannon’s first time to New York.
After drying off and freshening up, we knew we would be cutting it close to make it up to the Hilton hotel (the conference site) in time to hear President Obama’s speech to the BlogHer attendees. And since it was via satellite and being recorded, we weren’t too worried about catching it later. For those of you who are also interested, check it out here! Instead, we caught a taxi up to the Hilton, checked in with the conference and got our badges, then got a quick bite to eat at Au Bon Pain.
Our first official BlogHer event was called Evening at the Expo. What a first impression. It consisted of several big rooms filled with brands, sponsors, and products. We’re talking everything from cookies to condoms. It was probably a sponsor-happy blog’s dream, but for me, it was a little overwhelming. Were I interested in advertising on my blog, it would have been a great opportunity to make connections and trade contact info. I mean, just look at this mob of eager women when I first walked in!
Instead… I focused on the swag. “Swag” is what the attendees affectionately refer to as free products that the sponsors pass out. I quickly learned that there were different “levels” of sponsors. The higher the level, the better the swag. It was fun bouncing around to pick up whatever I found fun or interesting, without the pressure of having to “sell” myself to the brands. Not to mention, the conference also had a Swag Exchange room to drop off or trade any of the items we got that we didn’t want. Great way to assure you don’t come home with a bunch of stuff you’ll never use!
After a long day of traveling and being bombarded with sponsors and people, that was it for Shannon and I. We took a cab back to our hotel room, went through all our goodies, and called it a night!
Friday morning, we woke up and went to breakfast in the concierge lounge at the Marriott. Thanks for that too, Dad! And for the complimentary Wifi. Then we headed out to the Hilton for our first full day of BlogHer sessions.
Our first stop was the Newbie Breakfast, but since we had already eaten, we didn’t stay very long. Welcome and Speed Dating immediately followed it with BlogHer co-founders Elisa Camahort and Lisa Stone. The speed dating part was a little cray cray. Basically, the entire room (not sure how many of the 5,000+ attendees were there, but you can imagine how big this BALLROOM had to be) lined up around the room in 2 circles facing each other. The inner circle moved every couple of minutes to the next person in the outer circle. This was where the whole “blog pitch” was necessary. You quickly say hi, describe your blog, listen to the other person’s blog (or in many cases, business), swap business cards, and then awkwardly stand there until it’s time for the next exchange. Unless of course you meet someone cool, like this awesome bloggerwho just moved to NYC from Australia. I’m a new fan of her blog, and she was pretty darn awesome. Although… she hasn’t posted since before the conference, so I’m hoping she hasn’t been scared away by all the crazy New Yorkers.
Finally, it was time for the first session! And this is where I break off into Part II so I can tell you all the things I learned, didn’t learn, wanted to know, and didn’t want to know. Hehe.
What do you think so far? I told you it was cool! Though pretty intense.
*Like the digital washi tape I used in this post? It’s a free download from Pugly Pixel. Too cute!