I’m not generally big on attending conferences unless I know they deem themselves beneficial for my personal and professional growth. Now, before I started blogging so much for work, and now for myself, I prejudged the BlogHer conference to be a place for mommy bloggers to attend, have a break from the hubs and kids, get a little crazy with the Sauvignon blanc and make some other mommy blogger gal pals. Why did I think this? Last time Chicago hosted BlogHer, I was out downtown with some friends and experienced just that: women free from the burden of their seemingly mundane life for the weekend, getting jiggy with the alcohol and living it up. I couldn’t quite understand why so many women would get completely jazzed about what I assumed was a boring ol’ conference about writing. Flash forward to 2013 and I’m now a blogger with the opportunity to be sent to BlogHer ’13 on behalf of my company and to learn new things, both for my professional life and my personal blog.
I wasn’t exactly chuffed to bits to go, until my friend, Ifer expressed extreme excitement to discover that I was attending and she too was being sent on behalf of her company to learn and network. Upon this update, I threw my preconceptions out of my mind’s window, began to look further into what BlogHer was about, and started to get really excited to learn new things and meet some new, amazing people. Not only was I representing my company, but I was also looking to get in touch with bloggers we could work with for our clients. I was also there to make new friends in the blogging community and learn whatever I could to make my blog more of an influential, attractive place to read my rants of lunacy (there’s gotta be a market out there on the Internets for that, right?).
Right off the bat, I met a really cool lady, Erica, at the Friday breakfast. My over-caffeinated self probably talked her ear off, but I was also eager and interested in hearing about her and what she blogged about. Turned out we had similar interests, were avid runners in the Chicago community and forged a connection. We briefly discussed races, PRs and how we tie them into our blogs. Erica had some great pointers and was so great to connect me with the Chicago Running Bloggers (wait, that exists!?).
Sitting down with Ifer to hear the Welcome and Kick-off keynote from the adorable Ree Drummond, I felt so ready to learn more and make new connections. We snuck out to the expo during the speed dating session to check out all the vendors and swag – Oh the glorious swag! At this point, I had already consumed one venti caramel macchiato, one small coffee, and one #BrewOverIce Snapple Peach Iced Tea (My summer liquid addiction). Then, I saw him, Chuck E Cheese – when I say I lost my cool, that is a complete understatement. My high caffeinated being went from a mature 30-year-old woman to a raving 3-year-old in .05 seconds. I screamed “It’s Chuck E Cheese!” and ran to the unfortunate furry mouse costume clad individual who had the misfortune of taking half a dozen photos with me as I tried to come back down from my caffeine high and be an adult again. Sensory overload is probably the best way to describe my morning experience at BlogHer ’13.
After getting our photo taken with Chuck E. Cheese, we headed over to Moo Card to pick up our mini business cards to use while at the conference and headed over to our first breakout session of the day. I have to say that it was a bit tough to feel inspired and well-informed in the Friday sessions, as I felt like I kind of knew the stuff they were presenting, it was just repackaged. I guess that’s what I get for working at a digital company and knowing some of the right people to educate me. I met my friend for lunch and got to meet some new blogging buddies, one being Kendra, at our “multi-topic blogger” table. Everyone was super cool and fun! *score* We got to listen to Guy Kawasaki, the self publishing genius talk about “Ape” and give tips on self publishing, a secret goal of mine (whoops, there goes the secret).
On to the afternoon session, where I felt underwhelmed. I left the afternoon session, because I wasn’t feeling so hot – remember that sugar hyped 3-year-old? She left the building along with the caffeine high and made it to the bathroom just in time to bring her lunch back up, YAY. The rest of the day, I couldn’t look at another caffeinated beverage without remembering that trek to bow at the ceramic throne. Water and gum was all I was having until I found something bland to eat.
I met up with Ifer at the expo for our nail appointment at the Impress vendor booth and then pulled it together enough to “show off” some moves at the Samsung Galaxy S 4 set up. Upon closing out the expo, we hopped the shuttle to the Sheridan for the VOTY ceremony, with Queen Latifah! What a great time! She’s stunning and the nominees were so funny, heart warming, inspiring, and wonderful! I didn’t get to stay for the whole event, as I obtained prescreening passes to see “Austenland” with Kerry Russell and Bret McKenzie. What an adorable movie! I. Loved. It. I’m not just saying that because I got a free “I <3 Mr. Darcy” tote either! It was time to make my journey home, with my 4 large, heavy bags of swag in-tow. I got home, ate some crackers, got ready for bed, and closed my eyes in preparation for Day 2.
The toll of my over-caffeinated state on Friday was great with tummy disturbances and grogginess. I got on the wrong bus to McCormick Place and ended up walking around for 20 minutes to get to the building and then to find an open door. Not a great beginning to the day, but that quickly changed. The morning breakout sessions, “Perfect Pitch” and “Media Kits”, were filled with some much valuable information and inspiration, that my mind could have exploded! I’m so glad that I didn’t judge the breakout sessions on my experience the previous day! Then to the lunch, where I got to sit with Ifer’s friend, Britney, who I just think is wonderful! We continued to be inspired by the lunch keynote panel consisting of Majora Carter, Lisa Donovan, Brit Morin, and Randi Zuckerberg. They were all such wonderful speakers to share their experiences and answer questions!
I couldn’t attend the second breakout session, since I had to skedaddle off to a wedding, so I spent some time at the Expo before I had to buzz off and get ready. All-in-all, my take away from this conference was the great contacts and dare I say, new friends, I made along with the useful information on how to grow and pitch my blog! I would definitely like to attend another BlogHer conference. Perhaps, even the BlogHer PRO conference one day! Did you attend BlogHer ’13 here in Chicago? If so, how did you like it? Please comment below!