Wednesday, August 10, 2011
Thoughts on My First BlogHer Experience: Day One
This past weekend was so amazing for me, I hardly know where to begin. For one thing, it was such a last minute decision for me to go that the few days leading up to BlogHer were a complete blur. I went from being totally relaxed about my week to suddenly rushing around like a madwoman trying to coordinate babysitters, get last-minute business cards printed (thanks, Laura at Vertical Printing & Graphics!) choose which workshops I wanted to attend, and oh yes, trying to get on the guest list for the must-attend parties. I had no idea what I was getting into, so thankfully I have good friends that were able to steer me in the right direction!
Friday morning was completely overwhelming for me. I got downtown and right off the bat I couldn't figure out where I was supposed to park. I kept seeing women in skirts everywhere and was suddenly afraid I was under-dressed. I was totally stressed out that I was going to be in line for hours trying to register, and I would miss breakfast. It turns out my fears were totally unfounded. I parked under the convention center just fine, and while I was frantically on the phone with my friend Dani trying to figure out which door I was supposed to go in, I saw the registration counter right in front of my face. I was registered in all of 5 minutes with my hands already full with my first swag bag. On my way in, I ran into some fellow San Diego bloggers (where I snapped a couple photos for the #SDBlogHunt - more on that later!) and was happy to find that San Diego girls like to dress casual. I was right at home in my jeans and tank top! I headed up the escalator to breakfast, where yet again I was overwhelmed. There were women EVERYWHERE. I had a 2-second panic attack when I couldn't reach my friends by phone, but I quickly found them, got myself a plate of free food, and got comfortable. Within a few moments I had been introduced to several local women, and things were going okay.
As soon as I finished eating, I followed the crowd into the morning keynote session. We heard about how influential woman bloggers are now, and that the majority of people take their advice from us. The keynote was followed by speed dating, which I found extremely awkward. We formed into several circles and briefly met the blogger in front of us, exchanged business cards, and moved on. It was interesting, but I really didn't feel like I connected with anyone. It was such a broad audience that no one in my circle happened to have much in common with me. It was an interesting experience, but I cut out early. I think I'll skip speed dating next year. I'd rather make my connections in smaller circles in the sessions I attend with like-minded bloggers.
The first session I attended was one I had really been looking forward to, but unfortunately I was disappointed. The workshop was called "Leveraging Your Blog to Build E-Products For Sale." Mike and I have been talking about opening a web store for months now, so I was really excited to learn more about getting that going, and to find out what kind of products my readers would be interested in. I quickly found that this workshop was all about how to create and sell an e-book online. Not what I was looking for at all. So, I headed out and gave the "Bad Blogger Pitches" workshop a try. It was okay, but I think that since I came in late, I was a little lost and therefore not fully understanding the discussion. There may have also been something else on my mind....(#mobher #operationglory) So, I decided to check out the expo for a while. HOLY MOLY. More on the expo later.
After the expo, once my arms and shoulders were aching from the weight of all my swag, I headed to lunch. I walked into the lunch room, and by this point, my entire body was shaky, my stomach was swirling, and I was nervous as all hell. Why? I was about to participate in my very first FLASH MOB. About 100 or so of us were about to get crazy on the lunchroom floor and break out into dance to Lady Gaga's "Edge of Glory." I had been practicing for several days, but honestly I do NOT do well with choreography. I was sooo nervous. Halfway through my meal the music started, and the girls began to dance. By the time it was my turn to join in I was ready, but I was surprised to find that I was still shaking for a good 30 minutes afterwards! But it was so worth it - the girls of #operationglory ROCKED it. Everyone did awesome, and we had a huge audience and everyone loved it. I am so honored to have been a part of it! I can't wait until Sam is old enough to understand that her mom participated in a Flash Mob.
After lunch I felt like I had my head on straight again - no more flash mob taking over my thoughts. I headed into the "Connecting With Brands From the Inside Out" session. It was okay, but again I just didn't really feel like it was really what I was looking for. For my last session of the day I attended "Peer Networking." It was good, but a bit remedial. I was hoping for something a bit more advanced, as most of the Twitter, Facebook, and SEO info was stuff that I have already researched on my own.
I think the highlight of my day so far was the Expo. I cannot believe how much stuff was in there! Thank goodness I had a friend to walk around with for my first trip or I would have been totally lost. Every type of business you can imagine, from PepsiCo to Lowes, to Skinny Cow to Chuck E Cheese, to Hillshire Farms to Snapfish was there. And every single one of them was giving out free swag. I entered to win giveaways, gave vendors my contact info, and filled my bags with goodies. I barely scratched the surface on day one and already my bags were full. I got fake eyelashes installed at the Skinny Cow booth, snagged some cash at the RetailMeNot money grab, and posed with the Charmin bear in front of a gigantic toilet. I also filmed a Febreze commercial and discovered that I would NOT make a good spokesperson for them. Obviously my super-powered sniffing abilities have lingered after my pregnancy.
During the afternoon I was able to meet one of my online friends, fellow blogger Emily from Baby Dickey. It was so nice to actually put a face to a name! She is just as sweet in person as I imagined she would be. I scored some great swag from her and the girls and also ended up winning a drawing for some Vedette Shapewear!
After the last session of the day, I headed over to the Cheap Sally party at Stingaree - one of the awesome parties I was fortunate enough to get on the list for! The crew at Cheap Sally really went all out for us - we had free drinks, free food (and it was delicious! tacos, pasta, BBQ, mmm...), music, and more swag. I also made some really great connections with sponsors at the party, some of which I can't wait to get in touch with!
After Cheap Sally I headed back to check out the #SparkleCorn party. It was, let's just say, weird. I totally felt like I was at some awkward wedding reception in a hotel ballroom. With glowing necklaces everywhere. Maybe I was just there too early, but it was just not comfortable. They were only serving pretzels and hot dogs, and plus, it was only 8:45 and I was so tired I felt like it was already midnight. (That right there may be the bulk of the problem!) I left before I had a chance to participate in the #operationglory encore, but I heard that it was really the only interesting part of the party anyway. So, I don't feel too bad.
So, here's my breakdown of Day 1:
Speed Dating: not worth my time
Flash Mob: AWESOME
Workshops: not quite what I was expecting
Networking: great - I met some really great people along the way
Expo: so much fun - there is really something for everyone, and the sponsors are SO generous!
Sponsored Parties: a fun and relaxing way to end a long day, while still doing some great networking
BlogHer Parties: only worth going to if you're not super exhausted