Monday, August 6, 2012

No Longer a Newbie: BlogHer '12 Recap

The location//The official documents//The Bag Lady aka Mrs. Love Bird
Out of all the advice I scoured before heading to BlogHer '12 I failed to pick up just how much physical pain I'd be in post-conference, but it was well worth it!

Trekking all over the hotel, attending late night events, lugging bags everywhere and talking endlessly has left me with bumps, a barely audible voice, soreness and bruises (including one on my butt that Mr. Love Bird noticed - I have no idea how that happened!).

Because I love accountability, when writing this post I took a look back at what I was most looking forward to see how it measured up and am excited to share my results with you (including pictures):


I went into BlogHer on a mission - to make genuine connections with brands and bloggers. I really appreciated how BlogHer kicked off with a massive Speed Dating Friending session. It was a quick way to meet some extraordinary peers, and I was quite impressed with how effective it was: 

 Hundreds of women lined up all around the Grand Ballroom to participate in speed friending!
Not only did I meet everyone on my must-meet list, but I had a few bonuses as well. 
 With @glossymimi, @DanielleFaust (aka Ok Dani) and @RosesDaughter at Hasbro's party; {Thank you Mimi for the pic!}
Meeting Ree Drummond, aka The Pioneer Woman
With Brooklyn Active Mama for an early-morning workout at Radio City Music Hall with the Rockettes - SO worth getting up at 6a.m.!
With BlogHer co-founder and fellow Wellesley alum, Lisa Stone
With Weather Anchor Mama at Room Key's rooftop party
Meeting Vicki Iovine, author of the Girlfriends' Guide brand
A sampling of the brands I interacted with

There were both official and unofficial parties and ultimately, I attended both. My original schedule was very ambitious and between both sets of parties I was bummed to miss one unofficial but an impromptu invite to another more than made up for it. In the end I'm glad I was able to go to both sets of parties and for me, the unofficial parties didn't take away from me experiencing what BlogHer had to offer. Perhaps if I didn't have unofficial parties to attend, I would've spent more time at the Expo Hall picking up stuff (which I wasn't overly concerned about anyway), but honestly the private parties fed into my first goal of connecting. 
I invited my sister to the Babble party; it was awesome to see their chic Soho office and chat with the bloggers and staff
I definitely had a strategy for how I attended parties - I know how easy it is to just stick to one's little, comfy social circle so it was important to me to attend some parties alone while having a +1 or going in a group for others. Ultimately, I made some incredible connections for my personal and professional aspirations, and I'm so thankful that BlogHer was a conduit for that, unofficial or not.
At Mom Central's party; the BlogHer veterans I spoke to told me this was one of the most well-done parties they had attended; for me, the intimate environment was a great kick-off to BlogHer '12

The Hasbro Party was one of the more controversial parties because of the limited gift bags and ridiculous line to get in; people were up in arms about it via Twitter.
As a Wellesley alum many of the official parties definitely reminded me of my college days! I made a point to at least try to stop by each party. . .
I made every official party except for People's Party and Come as You Are; I really liked the option for the Family Day on Sunday - after being away from my Love Birds it was a fun way to reunite! (And Nia LOVED the parachute!)

BlogHer '12 had 5,000+ attendees and it was massive! I found that the sessions filled up quickly and if you couldn't get there beforehand to wait outside you most likely wouldn't get a seat. At first I was bummed about this, but knowing that the sessions were live-blogged and some were recorded I'm looking forward to catching up on what I missed. When I couldn't get into a session I would just hang out and chat with the others who were also shut out and I met some phenomenal women that way (including Jess who lives in my hometown of Columbus, Ohio - what a coincidence!). 

The session I was most excited for was with Luvvie, Chescaleigh, creator of Stuff White Girls Say to Black Girls, Issa Rae, creator of The Misadventures of Awkward Black Girl and Dr. Goddess. It was a very diverse crowd and it was interesting to hear how they created multiple profit centers across all their content. It was a welcome surprise when I went to sit down at the Katie Couric lunch and found Dr. Goddess and Chescaleigh at my table! (Click here to read Luvvie's post about a Stuff White Girls Say situation that happened IRL at BlogHer.)

Chescaleigh, Issa Rae, Luvvie and Dr. Goddess
The session I found most valuable was Google Analytics. I use it for both Harlem Love Birds and for my business and I honestly haven't grasped all it can do. I learned so much in this session (being the nerd that I am, I love analysis) and will definitely be implementing what I learned.

Beyond the sessions, I learned simply from talking to other women. I made a point to smile (when I wasn't grimacing from pain or on a focused mission to book it to the next session!), and I sought out attendees of all backgrounds, age groups ethnicities to talk to. One woman, JC Little, I happened to sit next to at Sparklecorn was sketching cartoons on her iPad. I learned that the program she was using was Adobe Ideas and she has her own animated TV cartoon that runs across Asia (please check out her amazing cartoons here). This one in particular captured the essence of Sparklecorn:

{Image Credit}
There were many power-players in attendance both virtually and onsite at BlogHer '12 as well:
President Obama's address was a big deal {image credit}//Katie Couric interviewed by Lisa Stone//Martha Stewart//Malaak Compton-Rock and Christy Turlington being interviewed by Soldedad O'Brien

During the conference I had the priviledge of staying at my best friend's apartment in the Financial District. While I think it would bave been logistically convenient to stay at the hotel, I think the Hilton was unprepared to handle the massiveness of BlogHer. It was a welcome respite to head downtown at the end of each day for some peace and quiet  - and amazing views too from my bed:

I was also relieved to sneak away for an impromptu dinner off-site with Stacy-Ann from Weather Anchor Mama (and thankfully she doesn't think I'm high maintenance after all the questions I asked the concierge when selecting where to eat)! Although it was just a few blocks away from the Hilton, it made a world of difference to step away from the craziness and have some quiet time.  

Ahhhh gotta love New York City! Stacy-Ann and I bumped into him on our way to dinner.


In addition to my wardrobe suitcase, at the last minute I decided to bring my largest suitcase to my friend's apartment and in the end I'm glad I did - I filled it to overflowing with products. The Expo Hall was very overwhelming and I could only handle it in doses. The first couple times I went in I walked out after about 10 minutes each time the first time with Zicam and the next with vitamins - it was intense! Slowly I warmed up to it and took some things away including my favorite find imPress Press-On Manicure by Broadway Nails:
This is revolutionary for me as I don't do acrylics/gel due to the damage, and I can hardly ever sneak away for a manicure!
Most of the items I took home came from private party gift bags (Hasbro's was awesome and Nia is in heaven with her new toys!) vs. things I collected in the Expo Hall. (As I go through my huge suitcase I'll be putting together a fun giveaway pack of some of the products I picked up for one of my readers so stay tuned!) 

Regarding the technology I brought with me, I didn't use my DSLR very much or the tablet - the BlogHer app had a lot of issues and the wireless coverage was very spotty in the Hilton so I ended up typing on my trusty BlackBerry Bold and honestly my fingers were flying compared to those I saw pecking away at their touch screens! I was hoping to make it up to the suites that were on the 42nd floor especially to check out TMobile's product line, but sadly the elevator system was so back-logged I just couldn't make it up there (being the Squeaky Wheel that I am, I tweeted the Hilton about this and they responded directly to me so "go customer service," but it didn't make up for the fact that they just couldn't handle BlogHer's crowd).

My last BlogHer 2012 Event: Oogieloves Family Day
Overall, I was happy with my BlogHer '12 experience, and I'm very glad I have Blogalicious, a much smaller conference to attend next month. I think I'm more of a small conference girl so we'll see how it compares. I do plan on attending BlogHer 2013 in Chicago - I checked out the venue, and it looks like it will be better at accommodating the large size that BlogHer has ballooned to.

For those of you who attended, are you feeling as sore as I am? If you didn't go do you think you'll be at BlogHer 2013? Any questions you wish I had answered about the conference?

P.S. There's still a few days left to win $25 to DSW; enter my thank you giveaway here!