Tuesday, August 7, 2012

10 reasons BlogHer12 rocked (and wishful thinking for the future)

I'm still recovering from BlogHer, aka the mother of all blogging conferences—processing the food-for-thought I got, recovering from sleep deprivation, and generally missing the awesomeness.

BlogHer 2012 was super-sized (think 5000 attendees), and some people were disgruntled by over-crowded sessions. Several women I know who've gone to the con since it started felt it had lost its heart. This is my fourth BlogHer; by the time I started going, it was already 1500 strong. Next year's venue in Chicago is more spacious, so that'll solve the crowd situations. The bigger challenge: figuring out how to retain that spirit of community, although I personally found it on HealthMinder Day—and in connecting with old friends and new throughout the conference. As is generally true in life, things are what you make of them, and I had me a great time at BlogHer12. Here's why:

Because there's always stuff to learn. I've picked up a lot of info in my four years of blogging, but there's still a whole lot I have yet to know and understand. I sat in on a coding session (HTML Doesn't Have To Be A 4-Letter Word) and suddenly, it was less of a foreign language (find a good basic guide here). I listened to an Image Post-Production session with photographer Diane Cu of White on Rice in which she gave a visual step-by-step of improving photographs ("contrast" is your friend; so is black and white). And in the Forming And Using Online Orgs to Make Change session, I listened to women's incredible (and sobering) stories about how they started their grassroots efforts. Motivated women change the world: Oh, yes.

Because you get to talk about what you love. Blogging's my passion. It's my addiction. It's my third child. And so, I'm psyched to talk about it, whether I'm on a panel, in the q&a part of sessions or just standing around the hallways blab-gossiping with friends.

Because good writing deserves props. At the Voices of the Year keynote, we listened to bloggers reading their work, including a powerful post by Arnebya Herndon on the Treyvon Martin shooting, a hauntingly beautiful post byVarda Steinhardt about her aging mother that made me cry, and a post by Shari Simpson about getting her period at Aaron Spelling's mansion that had me crying from laughter.

It was really nice to see the video I'd made acknowledged in a slideshow.

Because you get inspired. President Obama opened the conference with a live video address (props, ladies: He's glad to have women bloggers serving as role models for Malia and Sasha). Martha Stewart's keynote on Friday was entertaining (complete with her personal account of how her dog famously busted her lip) and encouraging ("Be personal, be passionate, be real"). But I was a sucker for Katie Couric's Saturday keynote. She has a new daytime talk show coming out September 10, and if her speech was any example, she's going to kill it. Couric talked about everything from her great guns (the woman used to be a gymnast) to taking action to prevent colon cancer after her husband's death from it (the non-profit she started has raised millions of dollars for research).

Because you never know where you'll find yet more inspiration. Friday morning, I attended a McDonald's Listening Tour breakfast, where we heard about the company's healthier-food initiatives  (for one, they'll be including more fresh fruit on their menu). A well-dressed woman came over to our table and struck up a conversation. She was Jan Fields, president of McDonald's. As it turns out, she's chair of the board for Chicago's United Cerebral Palsy. Listening to her motivated me to get more involved with our local UCP.

Because you can find insta-help. Last year at BlogHer, I met Sarah Kimmel of Technology for Moms at a Geek Bar, where she installed the lovely social media bookmarks you see below my posts. I've been having a couple of tech issues on the blog and when I approached Sarah after her html session, she fixed them on the spot. (She's now running Blogger's Help Desk, so she can help you, too.) At the #Blog2012: A Conversation session, Laurie White asked bloggers to stand up and ask for the help that they needed—and then she asked for people who could help them to raise their hands. It was pretty awesome.

Because you have serious fun. I roomed at the W Hotel with Ellen G. of Confessions of an IT Girl, a woman so amusing it's risky to take a drink around her because you might just snort it through your nose. We even got to belly-dance together at the HealthMinder session on avoiding burnout (though somehow I "neglected" to get a photo of me doing that).

Ellen was also my dancing partner at CheeseburgHer, a party devoted to the consumption of—you guessed it—cheeseburgers. I miss going out dancing with friends, something I never do anymore. That night, I sat in the lobby lounge of the Hilton and talked with a great group of women, the kind of gabfest you used to have in college. (Shout out to Jodifur, whose son is on a swim team that swims fast.)

The centerpiece of the Sparklecorn party, perhaps the most photographed unicorn in the world

Because you learn about Cool New Stuff. Yeah, there's swag. Hopping from booth to booth in the Expo halls is, as one woman I know called it, "like trick or treating for grown-ups." But I found out about some good new products at the conference, like Lifeproof, a waterproof case for iPads and iPhones. And Dannon's Light & Fit Greek yogurt, 80 calories and tasty (it would have come in handy for my Unofficial BlogHer Pre-Conference Diet). And the Mickey Mouse Clubhouse Road Rally "appisode" (Max remains obsessed with the show). And Active Sport Ready Chapstick, with SPF 30 and a little clip on top, which I hereby confess to hoarding because Dave evidently eats them or something, so often does lip balm disappear in our home. And Safe Kids USA, a network of organizations geared toward preventing childhood injury funded by Johnson & Johnson (I'll be doing a Q&A with them on car safety). There were three non-profit booths in the Expo: Shot At Life (leave a comment on one of this month's Blogust posts to raise $20 toward vaccines); the American Cancer Society (which is still doing a More Birthdays campaign); and Points of Light (the world's leading volunteer organization). Next year, I'd love to see more non-profits.

Because, hel-lo, you have a hotel room and housecleaning and nobody busting in on you when you shower or asking "Mommy, can you wipe me?" 'Nuf said.

Because you can spread the word about what's important to you. Blogging conferences can be overwhelming, unless you a) plan; b) go with a purpose; and c) go with the flow. Me, I wanted to hang with friends, meet new ones, pick up info and spread the word about the awesome-ness of our kids. Before I went to the conference, the BuildASign people, who specialize in banners and signs, made a batch of this fridge magnet for me. If I didn't see you at BlogHer, I'd be glad to send you one—just leave your email below and I'll be in touch. But I hope to see you at BlogHer next year.


  1. Oh I totally want one of those magnets! marfmom at gmail dot com.

    Do you know the dates for next year's conference? Chicago is close to me!

  2. Ever year there is someone at blogher I fall completely in love with. This year it was you. #swimfaster

  3. I would love one of those magnets! I'm in Canada - does that matter?

  4. Loved, loved seeing you all over the place and doing the hanging out we were able to squeeze in. Let's have a real hangout soon!

  5. Ellen, this post makes me want to start a blog JUST so I can go to next year's conference!

  6. I'm so glad I got to chat with you for a while this year. I also had a really good time at BlogHer this year and ended up learning a lot.

  7. I doubt I'll ever be attend a BlogHer conference - and being deaf isn't a bonus for conferences, I have to say! - but I've enjoyed your posts on BlogHer for the past few years. I really appreciate how you link and re-post things of interest.


    I cry over HTML - I'd love for it not be a 4-letter word. I have to check that lady out...

  8. My first ever BlogHer and I really did NOT expect to be belly-dancing! It was great to meet you in person, and connect with others. I missed the "main" part of the conference but now sort of regret it. I think, however, it all felt a bit overwhelming, and preferred hanging out with the Special Needs peeps on HealthMinder Day. Maybe we need our own conference?

  9. Wow! Wish I could have gone! looks like a great and informative conference!

  10. I, too, was truly inspired by BlogHer this year! HealthMinder Day really opened my eyes to the issues and challenges out there, and how so many people are working so hard to make things better - from moms to companies to brands and more.

  11. Now I am so sad I wasn't there. But next year Chicago!!! There I WILL be!!


Thanks for sharing!

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