BlogHer Newbie BreakfastBecause I’m easy come, easy go
A little high, little low
Anyway the wind blows, doesn’t really matter to me, to me

Like thousands of other woman and men who write or work online I went to the BlogHer conference this last weekend. It was my first time in Chicago and I truly enjoyed the mild weather and fancy popcorn. This was my fourth BlogHer conference and each year they have been very different entities and experiences.

BlogHer 2010
My Mother had purchased my conference ticket months in advance. I had mixed feelings about going to such a large event as we had no home and were in dire straights. Once I was offered a car to drive to NYC and a friend offered W and I a place to stay it seemed like a fun idea. Then the header for my blog was honored for a Voice of the Year in the (now abandoned) category of design. It was an overwhelming experience. After the conference LJ and I decided we should create a web design business.

BlogHer 2011
Oh west coast. I really, really did love the conference on the west coast. This was the 1st year I really felt like I was a part of the conference as a proposal I had submitted, the Geek Bar, was accepted and I dedicated a good portion of my conference experience teaching workshops on the backend of WordPress. I felt like I was part of something, I felt valued, I felt inspired. While at the conference I decided to drop my alias and use my real name and I never looked back.

BlogHer 2012
The most overwhelming conference experience you should never do: work a geek lab, work an expo hall, read in the Voices of the Year community keynote. The 2012 conference is such a blur of exhaustion and crying and stress and EMOTION. It was the best conference for a hundred reasons, but it was the hardest because I over did it. But standing up on stage and telling my story, a story that up to that point was just words, was a turning point in my life. When I returned from the conference I vowed to forever be an advocate for hunger issues.

BlogHer 2013
This was the first year I have ever been asked to participate on a panel. As there are so many panels and sessions on SEO and branding and marketing I felt honored to be included in a conversation about NOT branding. I know many bloggers write because they must not because they are filling the spots within an editorial calendar. While I do attempt to earn a living from writing, I also know all of those sessions on “finding your brand” do nothing for me because at the end of the day I will always write what I want to write. {You can read the transcript of the panel online. I am annoyed at myself at how poorly I seemed to have been able to speak into a microphone so some of my REALLY BRILLIANT remarks are missing.}

This year I also wanted to actively be involved in helping newcomers (Newbies) to the conference. I put a lot of work into some ideas for this, but at the end of the day there wasn’t much time to implement them. It was amazing to have SO MANY outstanding conference veterans step up and offer to be conference mentors but I was disappointed to not have been able to really DO much beyond have the mentors stand up and wave in a breakfast. We are already talking about next year and how we can make things better. The good news is that there were infinite pocket moments where I observed veterans helping out newbies during the conference. In general this is the heart of the conference experience – no one is alone (unless they want to be!) and no one is without a support system.

I felt like I truly talked and connected this year. Casual and silly dinners, late night swims in the hotel pool, typing side by side in the hotel lobby. It was nice.

One of the harder parts of the conference this year was how spread out it was. It reminded me of my freshman year of college. I went to NYU, a school that celebrates the fact that the city is the campus. Sure there are hubs and designated gathering spots, but for the most part, go forth! BlogHer felt a bit go forth! to me this year and while I am sure that appealed to many it made me feel like I was missing people, moments, opportunities. I craved a long hallway where I would run into people in between sessions. Instead I was running from one part of a conference center to another to get to sessions. You know the space is too large if you rarely see anyone else in a line for the bathroom.

I heard amazing things about the writing sessions and I am sorry to have missed them. My panel was scheduled on both days of the conference so I missed out on a lot of programming. I did go to every keynote and the wonderful VOTY and fashion show. I still don’t understand the pull of the fashion show, but this is probably because self-esteem is a requirement to really get into it and I am just not there yet.

My return flight to Philly was a weather delayed disaster so I am still sleep deprived and feeling scattered. I know once I catch up on sleep I will recognize how much I learned and how valuable these trips are for me. I can tell they worked some early magic because I am VERY annoyed at how little time I have to write this week and all I want to do is write my guts out.

It could get messy over here.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s