A couple of days ago, the arrival of the first invitation for an event happening the week of BlogHer ’11 (San Diego!) in AUGUST, five months from now, started excited heart palpitations (and in some cases, anxiety) among many bloggers. My good friend and BlogHer ’11 roomie Momo Fali wrote an excellent post today about her thoughts regarding events at this–or any–conference, and it made me want to share my thoughts and experiences, too.
But first, go read Momo’s post, not only because it’s fabulous, but also because she explains how conference sponsorship for brands happens to work. I’ll still be here when you get back.
Done? Great. Here’s what I have to say.
My first BlogHer conference was in Chicago in 2009. I was really excited that it was taking place in my hometown for many reasons. I didn’t realize that brands actually had so much to do with conferences, because I was a total newbie. At the time I purchased my ticket, I didn’t know anything about connecting with brands, or if I even wanted to do that. I did not have a “Reviews and Stuff” blog at that time, because it wasn’t really anything that crossed my mind.
I didn’t pay much attention to pre-conference chatter about parties and such, because I was just thrilled that I was going to be meeting some of my blog friends in person. I had signed up for the on-site evening events, because that’s what everyone suggested I do. With the exception of a last-minute invitation to a high-profile, off-site party for my roomie Sue and I, I didn’t leave the hotel for any events that weekend, just attending the ones I signed up for in the first place. (By the way, I was such a newbie that I didn’t even know about the suites upstairs that Momo wrote about, so I definitely didn’t go home with any cool pairs of jeans. Just sayin’.)
All of the parties that year were really fun. Though I appreciated the efforts of the sponsors and others who worked hard to create great events, I enjoyed myself mainly because of the people I was with. I could’ve been with the same people in a dark, damp basement with no music playing, and I STILL would’ve had a great time. (That said, I do prefer temperature-controlled rooms that have a soundtrack.)
To be completely honest, I don’t remember the parties at BlogHer ’09, and not because of anything having to do with alcohol consumption. My favorite memories of BlogHer ’09 involved spending time with my friends.
(making nearly identical decisions–like what to wear–since 2009)
After BlogHer ’09, I decided to make a concerted effort to connect with some brands that were a good fit for me. I started my review blog, and have, in the past eighteen months or so, built some brand relationships that I cherish very much. I have also been sharing news and information about all kinds of Chicago-area activities, events, and causes, and I hope to expand that even more in the future.
When it was time for BlogHer ’10 (in New York City!), I received all kinds of invitations to “exclusive” events, and they were all off-site, due to BlogHer’s newly instated policy on only allowing conference sponsors to hold events at the hotel. I was thrilled to be included and decided to try and fit as much as possible into my schedule. On one evening, I actually had four events–
IN ONE EVENING!!!
–to attend, between 4:00 and 10:00 p.m.
Oh, and did I mention that one was east of the hotel, one was all the way west of the hotel (as in, near the piers), one was in Times Square, and one was at the hotel?
Momo and I walked to the first event together. It was a much longer walk than we had originally anticipated, and it was HOT outside. We were sweating, and my feet were killing me already due to a poor shoe choice.
By the time we got to that event, I had thirty minutes before I figured I had to leave in order to make it to event number two. Event number two was a HUGE party thrown by, let’s just say, a very high profile person and her company. I didn’t want to miss a minute.
As it turned out, I was going to miss lots of minutes because I was having a terrible time catching a cab (rush hour, you know), and the subway platform was so crowded that I had to watch two jam-packed trains leave without me before I could step into one. The nearest subway stop to event number two was still a cab ride away, and with no empty cabs to be found, I was hoofing it. In the shoes I chose badly. With blisters forming. By the time I arrived at event number two, not only was I forty-five minutes late, but they were only letting a certain number of guests upstairs at a time, and I was in the lobby for another thirty minutes. The party, which I thought would be the best one, stunk. (For me, anyway.) It was overcrowded and difficult to navigate. It was impossible to have a conversation with anybody from the company OR the one person I knew who was there, because of the volume and the amount of guests.
I stayed for about thirty minutes and hopped in a cab to go back to the hotel to drop off the fifty pound gift bags they generously gave party guests, and then grabbed another cab to head to Times Square for event number three, where most of my friends had been for a while, as evidenced by their texts: “Where ARE you?” “Are you coming??”
I was at event number three only for about forty-five minutes (and, I must add, had missed all but three of my friends!), because when I arrived it was forty-five minutes from being over. I took the subway back to the hotel for the final event, and then went to bed, exhausted and emotionally spent.
That was ONE NIGHT, people.
I looked on my computer to see if I could find the Excel spreadsheet I made with my schedule so I could show you the madness, but I apparently deleted it. In all, I estimate that over the course of the conference in New York City (three and a half days), I attended twelve parties and events, but possibly more. (By the way, that’s in addition to attending the conference sessions daily as well as the Expo!)
BULLETIN: As luck would have it, I took a picture of my schedule. Here you go; the purple boxes indicate events.
To commit myself to so many things was beyond stressful, and prohibited full enjoyment of any of the experiences. In the time I allowed myself at each event, I couldn’t effectively connect with anyone. For the most part, the best connections I made, brand-wise, were at the Expo and in the suites (run by conference sponsors!) upstairs in the hotel, not at parties I attended for half an hour (give or take) each. (There were a couple of exceptions, and those were Hallmark and Scholastic, who put on beautifully calm events that enhanced the ability to converse and exchange information. And the Brunch at the Lowes Hotel on Sunday? Was a FANTASTIC event–thanks, Carol!–and a great way to end such a busy weekend!)
An added note about that party schedule? My blisters grew by the day. My feet were a hot mess.
Do I even remember much about many of those big events at BlogHer ’10? Those exceptions, YES. But otherwise? Nope, other than how annoyed, sweaty, and upset I was. What I remember MOST about BlogHer ’10 is, once again, the fun I had with my friends:
~Like the time when Momo was so sweaty, she could walk around lower Manhattan with a napkin stuck to her forehead.
~Like the time when Michelle, Sue and I found a place that sold mini cupcakes and each chose one (in theory so we could share), and Sue popped hers into her mouth without any kind of hesitation, much to my and Michelle’s dismay.
~Like the time when Momo, Michelle, Colleen, Kelly, Sue and I took the subway to Brooklyn so we could walk back to Manhattan on the Brooklyn Bridge.
~Like the time I spent walking around Madame Tussaud’s with Liz and Patty as they made goofy poses with the wax figurines (I may have done this as well.)
~Like the time I ran my first 5K, with Michelle (best training partner ever!), both of us wearing matching pink shirts that we asked people to autograph, along with tutus.
~Like the time my roomies and I stayed up late, organizing our swag and our luggage contents. So. Much. Fun.
~Like the time Sue and I spent walking around the green market at Union Square, taking pictures.
~Like the time I went with a group of girls to the Carnegie Deli and sat next to Melissa, which was the best spot in which to have conversations about how thrilled we were that we were eating the food of “our people”. (Seriously. Corned beef sandwiches and potato pancakes? WOW.)
~Last but not least, the party in Room L, late Saturday night. We set up on a couple of lobby benches and our crowd grew as time went on, all of us talking, laughing, and sometimes wearing clown noses.
THOSE are the kinds of experiences that make a conference fun. This year, I plan to plan my schedule very, very carefully. I hope to have some chunks of empty time in which I can just “let the magic happen”. I will be carefully considering the invitations I get and will ask myself lots of questions before accepting, especially this one:
Do I have (or do I want) an existing relationship with this company or organization?
If the answer is no, my decision regarding event attendance is easy. I think it’s a strategy that will work for me, because it will leave me more down time, more time with my friends, and more time on the beach. How can I go wrong?
©2011 Suburban Scrawl
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This made me want to cry! All of those memories!
Plus, you said everything I wanted to say way better than I ever could.
I can relate to the frenzy of BlogHer2009. I, too, attended because it was close to home and I knew I'd be able to meet up with blogger friends like YOU. I had a great time and am glad I went. (In fact, just today, I was thinking about writing a post about the products I received there that I am still in love with, e.l.f. and my GAP jeans among them 🙂
All of that said, although I'm planning a trip to California this summer, I'm taking it with Kyle (just a mom/son trip). No BlogHer 2011 for me 🙁 but I'll wave to you from down the beach! 🙂
Totally not the point of your post, but MAN I WISH I WERE GOING TO BH. I'm going to miss seein' all my friends. *pout*
oh, how i love you! i can't wait until blogher 11 to hang with you again. xoxoxo
fist bump to the food!!
I just wanna see you again… NOW.
Yes, "moments to let the magic happen"
THAT is IT.
And, I hope we make some memories this year! (Wow does that sound cheesy and wrong.)
I just laughed out loud thinking of those cupcakes! That was so innocent and FUNNY!!! And it was really really delicious!
I am already wondering how to fit site seeing, maybe an actual talk at Blogher and the parties into my spread sheet. Hmmm, maybe we should go for a week? Or ok, I could be like you and try to minimize my schedule….
I will see you in San Diego in five lil' months – with my clown nose ready! (Oh, and I have a pic of Diane with the napkin stuck to her head should you want it… 🙂
Well said, my friend, well said. This post should become a part of the BlogHer attendance handbook, IMHO.
Amen! The best memories are the moments that just happened.
That looks so fun! I want to go to there 🙂
I can't wait to see you in a few short months! I also loved our dinner at Serendipity 🙂
I'm so glad you wrote this because even though I accepted said invitation b/c I really do love all they bring to the blogging world, I can't do that again with all those parties. I don't know San Diego, I don't have the hometown advantage and I really don't want to be stressing running around and missing time with my friends.
Loved Momo's post & yours for pointing out a better way to do Blogher 🙂
Well, no matter what you do, I hope you'll make time for the party I'm throwing. It's the "Introverted Dad Bloggers at BlogHer Party" and it will be sponsored by Xanex 🙂
That sounds AWFUL! (the 2010 stuff!) I've kinda thought about the 2011 experience. I'm still considering meeting up. Not sure yet!
Now don't start stressing me out. I attended 09 and had fun but didn't have extra cash to leave premises much so I only did on site parties. That really made things easier. Also, having a travel buddy is important. Yes. That is me saying I'll be your tag along if'n you're needing one. 😉
Ha! I'm glad I read this. This year will be my first year to attend. I'm the sacrificial BlogHer virgin. I'm watching you and carefully taking notes but totally not in a creepy stalkerish kind of way.
This is my first blog conference and I’m really excited. I’m also happy that people are being honest about how it can get crazy. I’m only a year into blogging so I haven’t made a ton of connections so I haven’t had any invites. So far, I’m going to only events at the hotel and 1 so far at the Hard Rock.
The parties that I most want to attend are official BlogHer parties so I don’t feel left out about not getting any private invites. 🙂
BUT, still feel free to tell about any Bob-like opportunities. That was mentally life changing. 😉
I over planned last year (which was my first year). My schedule looked a LOT like yours except add 3 people, because I tracked all my roommate’s schedules as well. (I’m sure I’ll be stuck doing the same this year, too) I had a great time and look forward to it being in NYC. Besides the Sandra Lee event, which I got to see nothing of the city, I’ve never been. I have planned extra time to site see with my friends. (Hopefully you, too!) Don’t forget… Party Plane! 🙂
You’re only stuck keeping track of everyone’s schedules if you allow it. 🙂
PARTY PLANE! 🙂
Oh man … that is one crazy schedule!
I am a BlogHer newbie this year and definitely looking forward to it. I don’t have any private party invites yet, but I’ve applied to a few … if I don’t get any of them, I’m cool with that as well, since the BlogHer official parties look fun too, and because – hello! – it’s NYC so I’m sure there will be things to do :).
did you like Serendipity btw? My friend and I went a few years ago for their frozen hot chocolate, but we thought it was just okay. Didn’t really like the $10 minimum that you had to spend too, since that was $8 and we were broke college kids at the time.
You have a great attitude. I guarantee you’re going to have fun no matter if you go to private parties or not!
BlogHer ’10 wasn’t my first time in NYC and I had been to Serendipity a few times before. I think it’s one of those tourist experiences that people should have but it is a little overpriced (we ate dinner there and the food was just okay, too.)
I reiterate: Great post! I’ll stay focused on my goals of having fun and making friends. 🙂
Yay! And you definitely will. 🙂
Yes yes yes! I’m more excited to see everyone in NYC with each and every post I read!
i like your blogging voice it had me laughing and thanks for sharing your experience i liked all the details