I finally arrived home from BlogHer on Monday afternoon. Sadly, my luggage has still not arrived. Apparently it had a little too much fun in New York and got lost on the way back to Chicago. I am holding out hope that it will appear somewhere, but in the meantime, I’m making a list of everything I remember being in there – from the several outfits I’d worn first the first time in New York to my bloggy business cards.
|“We are different.” Nope, not better, not awesome, just… different. We ate elsewhere.|
And oh did we have fun with Flat Sue. Flat Sue was created by a friend who couldn’t make it to BlogHer this year. We were so sad not to have Sue with us, but this made it fun. Sue went everywhere. She danced with the Elvis Blue M&M in M&M World. She ate too many cheeseburgers at CheeseBurgHer. She visited Times Square, the 9/11 Memorial, and Rockefeller Center. It was beyond hilarious when Flat Sue got left behind at Social Fiesta, and a tweet-a-thon was begun to find her. We did find her, and she even made it to the traditional party in Room L where she blew the bubbles we bring every year.
The brands I was able to connect with were amazing. I had the most awesome talk with the Wholly Guacamole folks (you’ve seen my addiction to guacamole before, right?) about what they’re aiming to do and ideas of how to do it. The connection I made with the school lists folks was worth the trip alone for the benefits I’ll be able to share with the rest of my exec board at the wee ones’ school’s PTO. I learned about new products that I simply must have from the Sifteo – which is a really cool set of six cubes you can use to play all sorts of games – to TRIA – an at home laser hair removal and blue light systems – to how an adjustable bed really works and what you need to do to purchase one from the Leggett & Platt folks to Neato Robotics – a laser sighting robotic vacuum that I must have. I had some wonderful conversations with brands that I will be following up on over the next several weeks, and I hope that some of them turn into relationships that benefit us both going forward.
I’ll be honest. I don’t think all the brands who attended BlogHer were there for the right reason, nor did they all have the right people there. There were so many brands I approached to learn more about the products because of what I was interested in learning – for myself selfishly and for potential work with my blog – who were checked out. Either they weren’t able to answer my questions (“How much does this product sell for at retail?”) or they blatantly had no interest in talking to anyone. At all. And those experiences leave a bad taste in my mouth about the brand. I get the pressure to be there. And I understand the expense of setting up the booth. I get how exhausting it must be to stand there chatting day after day. But Thursday afternoon before everything really starts? It’s hard. I’ll name no names, but there are some products I don’t like as much anymore.
I have no suitcase. I could care less about the swag that didn’t make it home – a bottle of alcohol and some books, among other things. It’s my special electric toothbrush that I miss. And my makeup. And the clothes that I had bought just before BlogHer that I’m afraid I’ll never see again. It’s “still being traced” – which isn’t a good sign more than 48 hours after my flight landed.
I raved about the food I ate in New York. I ate not a bite of the official breakfasts or lunches at BlogHer. I either skipped the meals or ate elsewhere. Why? Oh my holy cats. There were 5,000 people trying to eat at once. And that’s just a nightmare. The nightmare was compounded by other factors, but suffice it to say that it wasn’t pretty. I’m glad I had other options.
And speaking of 5,000 people, that was also part of the bad for me. My first BlogHer was in 2009 when it was held in my hometown of Chicago. There were about 2,400 people there, if I recall correctly. It was big, but it was manageable. It’s gotten bigger every year. I thought 3,000 in New York in 2010 was too big. 3,500 in San Diego last year? Yeah, that was starting to get unmanageable. I couldn’t get through the entire expo and missed connecting with some brands I really wanted to see and meet. This year, there were 5,000 people. And 5,000 people trying to do something isn’t pretty, especially when they aren’t always polite. I heard quite a bit of cattiness and saw a lot of line cutting and other disrespectful behavior.
The line cutting and cattiness isn’t pretty. The grabbing things from brand reps’ hands? The saying “Oh, there’s nothing good in here, let’s go” or “they aren’t handing out anything; it isn’t worth it” is just ugly. I know there are a lot of bloggers who do their best to be professional and learn and grow when they attend conferences. And it’s just a minority of people who are in it to get as much stuff as they possibly can. That saying about a few rotten apples? It’s true. Seeing a hotel luggage cart literally filled from top to bottom with swag that one person – one person – is taking home makes me feel a little ill. Yes, I brought some things home, but I visited only those sponsors who I felt would be a good fit. And I took only a) that which was offered to me and b) that which I knew I would use once I arrived home. I feel like it’s one step forward, two steps backwards in getting bloggers taken seriously.
And I do take what I do seriously. I went to BlogHer not just to have fun with friends and connect with brands that will help pay bills for the next 12 months, but I also wanted to learn. I marked sessions on my calendar that I felt would be interesting to me. I had five sessions I wanted to attend, aside from the keynotes and such. Five. I would have loved to attend one or two of the Geek Bar sessions, specifically on coding and on moving to WordPress. Those were completely filled up almost instantaneously (back to the “5,000 is too big” mantra), only for me to see people saying “Oh, I didn’t know what these were. Does anyone want this session or that session? I signed up for all of them not knowing what I was signing up for.”
Want to know how many sessions I attended? Zero. I didn’t attend a single session that allowed me to learn. I tried. The first session I wanted to attend I failed to get there because I couldn’t figure out where the sessions were being held. Signage could have been improved, although I know I should have taken it upon myself to figure out the session locations more specifically myself. The others? I was turned away at the door – even when I arrived early – because the sessions were full and they couldn’t allow anyone else in. I paid how much more for my conference pass to attend these sessions?
So yes, I had a blast. Most of the time. My flight getting canceled on Sunday and rebooked to Monday due to a) mechanical failure, b) a security breach at Newark “shutting down all airports from White Plains to New Jersey and New York” so I couldn’t be rebooked on another airline, and c) horrible storms in New York canceling many other flights later in the day – well, that wasn’t all bad. It allowed me to catch up with a friend who lived three doors down from me growing up. I spent the night at her apartment, and we had a hoot catching up.
But next year? Next year BlogHer is in my hometown of Chicago. I live here. I don’t have to pay for an airline ticket. Potentially I could not even pay for a hotel. But I don’t know that I’m going to attend. The conference I’m sure won’t be any smaller than it was this year. And it’s being held at McCormick Place during the day (Expo and sessions), while the evening events and official hotel is the Sheraton on Michigan, miles away. You can’t walk from one to the other. There’s no easy public transportation from one to the other. Instead, there will be shuttles running. Yep, shuttles to get 5,000 people from one place to the other. Picture that during Chicago rush hour.
Right now, the picture of the bad and the ugly is looming large. Perhaps this is why BlogHer tickets aren’t going on sale until September 1 this year. Maybe by then it will be like childbirth, and I will have forgotten that part just to remember the good – the fun with friends, the sights I saw, and the people and brands I connected with. Your thoughts?