I just got back from a whole week in New York City! I went for BlogHer 2012, one of the biggest blogging conferences that gathers bloggers and marketers from around the entire world. Since my best friend Jen lives in New York, I was able to stay at her place and bring her along to a lot of the conference happenings.
BlogHer 2012: The Good
Jen and I had an absolute blast and I was so happy to see her (it's been over a year since our last visit!).
I had the fantastic opportunity to meet brand representatives I've worked with closely on blogging campaigns as well as prospective sponsors, both through official BlogHer 2012 conference events and private meetings off-site.
At the BlogHer 2012 conference itself, I loved the suite setups. I dropped by to chat with OutMyWindow, who I first met in LA at the Warner Bros VIP Tour, and Hershey's. Hershey's always sets up a fun campfire-themed suite with s'mores stations for attendees to chat with each other or brand representatives.
The blogger face of Avon, Romy Schorr, invited me to visit the Avon headquarters and check out their fall line of products including some really cute jewelry and even clothing! I've long been a fan of their cosmetics and lotions, but I had no idea Avon made clothes and accessories.
Amongst all the party food and hors d'oeuvres I managed to squeeze in a real, sit-down meal at Ruth's Chris with Glamorous Moms and got to taste some culinary creations from chef Sam Talbot at a Lands' End event at EZ Studios.
Nate's super excited because I won motorcycle riding lessons at a party I went to for Harley Davidson. That'll be my Christmastime treat to myself after I pop this baby out!
I also had the most incredible experience with GMC. They loaded a bunch of us up in new GMC Denalis and took us out to a locally-owned nursery to buy thousands of dollars worth of flowers, plants and garden supplies. We then drove our haul out to Covent Gardens in Harlem and donated them to the caretaker, Juliette “Miami” Davis, who was thrilled beyond measure. She adopted this garden years ago and it has slowly become a vibrant hub of community activity and a safe place for families and kids to play. I've done all the touristy New York stuff in the past, so it was amazing to get a glimpse of the real city and make a difference while we were at it.
BlogHer 2012: The Bad
As far as the conference event itself, I think that BlogHer packed the venue too full (5,000 attendees this time compared with 3,500 last year) and I was disappointed to see that a lot of companies sent promotion teams to just give out free stuff instead of actually developing relationships. Honestly, it's a little hard to blame them after some of the behavior I saw from attendees (more on that below). It seems to me that from the PR/company perspective, the conference has become less about recruiting brand ambassadors to spread awareness to readers on a long-term scale, and more of a one-off media blitz to immediately boost social media numbers and “buzz.” I'm not sure how the conference might rectify that situation other than to put an end to all on-site giveaways. I did enjoy the booths that had fun activities and encouraged true engagement with the brand, and I'd love to see more of that in the future.
On a personal note, this is the longest I've ever been away from Nate and 15-month-old Some Boy. On top of that, I'm almost six months pregnant and in that dreaded hormonal phase. I bawled my damn eyes out several times because I missed them so much. So for me to leave my family behind, I have to be REALLY looking forward to an event. I've always heard good things about BlogHer in the past and had such an amazing experience last year, I was surprised to encounter a somewhat hectic and crowded atmosphere this year throughout the conference space. Almost every blogger I spoke with there had similar feelings.
BlogHer 2012: The Ugly
Some of the behavior I encountered from other BlogHer 2012 attendees was frankly appalling. This is meant to be a supportive community, and I felt unsafe and threatened several times throughout the event. A woman from Brooklyn said she would “throw down” (her words, not mine) when I accidentally brushed against her 12 swag bags as I tried to sit down at a party. Another person hoarding freebies berated me for resting against a wall and getting in her way as she tried to rush through to the next booth (seating seemed to be a serious issue for me, being pregnant/tired and herded into hours-long lines throughout the day).
That all being said, I probably won't be attending BlogHer next year in Chicago. Blogging is my business and trips like these are a business expense to me. For it to be worth it, I have to be able to unequivocally say that any money spent on career development and time away from my family has a significant return in terms of blog growth. I had a blast seeing my friends and reconnecting with people I've worked with in the past, but I don't think it should be THIS difficult to make new connections. Last year, the 2011 BlogHer conference was one of the highlights of my online career. I learned how to take my blog to the next level and the people I met helped me succeed in a way I didn't even know was possible. It was one of the major factors that led to me quitting my day job and pursuing this dream full-time! I truly hope to see BlogHer help others succeed the way it helped me in the past, and I would love to see the event planners refocus on blogger-brand relationships in the future. I also hope that attendees will come to understand the real value of their investment, beyond a suitcase full of samples and freebies.
Did you go to the BlogHer 2012 conference? How was your experience?