Sunday, August 07, 2011

The Definitive Guide to Crashing BlogHer

Okay. Maybe not "crashing" BlogHer. Maybe more like "guide for showing up at the last minute, and not having a clue." Yes.

I did not "crash" BlogHer. I snuck up on her. It was like an infiltration from a blogger who somehow manages to be both experienced and also confoundingly amateurish and little known. In one seminar, I learned that I have been blogging for longer than almost any other blogger in the room, and if you count that I have been blogging at the same blog continuously for nine years, then I am seriously the old timer.

This is a guide for any blogger who decides to make a first time visit to a BlogHer conference. In fact this could be quite the handy tool for anyone considering a trip to Minneapolis, in September, who would consider going to BlogHer :: Handmade... a handmade, social media, entrepreneur, and food extravaganza. I would go to that. Except for the air trip, and the timing, and the expense, but otherwise I would totally go to that.

#1: Register from home, and as early as possible.
Early registration = savings.
I could have registered last Spring, back when I first learned BlogHer was coming to San Diego, and Heather OMSH shared her humor and wisdom with me. Likely I was too super immersed in my FIRST passion: robots and chickens to conceive of "August" and "Me" and "Opportunity." Besides saving money, I could have saved myself some minor hassle.

Register at home = time saving convenience, and less stress.
I spent wasted precious time debating whether or not overcoming social anxiety, then was taken dragged kicking and whining to the front door of the Convention Center. Registering at a foreign laptop in the lobby of the convention center was slow, slow, stressful, confusing, and slightly like a recurring nightmare I have had where I cannot enter data into the fields, and my pits sting and drip, and I start to stink like fear. It's a bad dream. I lived the bad dream when I tried to register at the conference.

Don't do like I did. Register at home.

#2: Pack light, or alternately: pack it all.
Sorry. This is obtuse, and contradictory.

I should have packed light. I brought my big basket purse, and my big black camera. I knew I was in trouble as soon as they handed me the first bag of swag.

Have you ever been to a conference? They give you stuff. Lots of it. It is merchandise from sponsors, and guides, and ads, and goodies, freebies, sweet things, and fun stuff, and honestly: some junk you will eventually find in a drawer, and wonder why you kept it for four years, that you will then toss. This comes with a wave of guilt and fretting about landfills and our little planet.

Not having a hotel room to visit, and drop off the good stuff I was accumulating, I had more and more and more crap good stuff to haul around. By nightfall I resembled a bag lady, in really cute shoes.

Now, if you are staying in a hotel, have come from out of town, then go for it! Bring your gear, and your outfit changes, collect even more good stuff than I did. You can unload your haul in your room, you can sneak away for a rest, to change your dress (that might possibly stink of fear.) Hotel rooms open a whole new world of possibilities... of course if you are like me, you may have to contend with a wave of guilt and fretting about landfills and our little planet, so plan accordingly.

#3. I am glad I wore comfortable shoes.

I am thrilled that they were also adorable and attractive, and delightfully like ambassadors, introducing me to nice and admiring conference goers who exclaimed things like: ShutUP! with your shoes! and Get out of town! Your shoes! Which as it turns out are really flattering and friendly exclamations in the world of shoe appreciation.

There were a lot of gorgeous shoes, and well-heeled shoes, and there were a lot of women kind of teetering and wincing and eventually changing their shoes, or begging for some space on the bench because their shoes were committing murder on their feet. Shoes were a hot topic, and because I have been known to be rather lax in my personal attire, you may not want to take my suggestions as your only source of fashion counseling.

But. The Kitties have never failed me.

#4. Business cards. Make some. Bring some.

Or calling cards, if you are not preoccupied with selling something. Business cards might sound... well, like "business" and I know not all bloggers are into blogging to make a nickle. But I do wish I had calling cards, a pretty, sturdy, small introduction to pass along. I did not meet a single soul who did not have a card to give me. I met a blogger who has been blogging four months, and she gave me her card, and it is adorable, classy, effective, friendly, memorable... hmmmm... just like her blog, What Will We Do Today?!

I did bring my ayPad, or Tablet, if you will. Yes. I was writing notes on actual paper, with a pen. And eventually I used it to make "business cards" for people asking for one. They sweetly, patiently waited for me put down all the pertinent information, and when I tore it out of the tablet and handed it to them, I said "Hang on to that. It's one of a kind." 'Cause I am funny that way.

#5. Go hungry!

Either I don't get out enough, or the memory of cold, hard Comic-Con pretzels colored my impression of convention food deeply, like a wound on my palate, but I actually loved the food they served at BlogHer. I missed breakfast (see suggestion #1, so you do not miss out!) But lunch at a conference directed at women... well, it was noteworthy, generous, and tasty. There were vegan options, and whole grains, and multiple salad choices. There was also protein of the chicken, and hoofed, variety. And there were desserts. Seriously. And fruit. Beverages. And courteous servers who whisked away messes. That was probably the best part. I bet almost any meal is improved by having it prepared, served, then cleared away by courteous servers.

Sponsors passed out samples, treats both sweet and savory. Seminars had tables laden with sandwiches. The hallways were filled with yogurt bars, snack trays, sustenance, snacks, liquid refreshment. There was a dessert festival of chocolates, ice cream and baked goods. In the evening, on the terrace we were met with trays of pretty foods. Like tiny tomatoes capped with cheese, perched on cut toast. Mojitos. There were cupcakes everywhere. For the record I did not eat cupcakes, but they delighted the little girl in me, as I marveled at the confectionery plethora. I did have two mojitos, for the mint. Mint is healthy.

Account for this feast in your budget. You will be fed! I should have brought my teenage boys, just for the three meals. Between the food and the swag, they easily could recoup the price of registration.

#6. There is opportunity at BlogHer.

I attended a seminar about parenting, blogging and Special Needs. This topic must be covered in a separate post. It is personal, something I rarely mention, or barely allude to, or keep completely to myself. It is a delicate, painful, beautiful, tragic, private place. And thanks to the seminar, and Julia Roberts, I got to cry. I don't know how else to explain it... but what I go through can be very isolating and heartbreaking, and it's just so confounding and untypical, that I have learned to deny myself something. Connection? Affirmation? Sympathy and empathy, and community? Advocating for my children, defending our choices, living with the daily challenges... that is consuming. I had not made the time to look outside our situation, to listen to the stories I knew were out there, to feel sad in public, and laugh with parents who get it. What a blessing.

I could have gone home after that two hours. It was enough to make the entire event worthwhile. If you go to BlogHer you may find a resource or a friend, or information that is personal, helpful, enlightening. It could be technical advise, which I sure could use! It may be a speaker that you can totally relate to and inspires some new direction in your day, or your life. There are as many opportunities at BlogHer as there are people attending. You may be the friend or resource that someone needs, and though we can achieve a lot through our time on the Internet, in our blogs, there is nothing so amazing as real life eye contact, hugs, energy. BlogHer creates a space for bringing the real world together, face to face.

#7. Step out from behind the planter, and meet people.

I shook hands with a lot of new people. And every one of them was nice, and interesting, and interested. I met Gabriel Vicuña, of Warner Bros., in Burbank, California. He was scouting the conference for Warner Bros. Checking it out, to see whether his company should represent. Of course they should! Women and shopping? Consumers... who do they think Santa is, anyway?! I told him he could quote me, then I made him one of my classy, one of a kind business cards.

I told him about our homemade big screen, and our our movie nights. I could seriously see hosting some Warner Bros. premieres at the Bird House Theater! Call us, Gabriel.

I'll be going through the business cards, sorting the swag, and being busy visiting new-to-me blogs all month, because I met so many people! Musicians, Hi Ali Handal! I hope she remembers to visit Guitars in the Classroom. She and Jessica Baron have to meet. Our schools will win, win, win.

#8. Expect to be surprised.

I met OMSH, aka Heather Sanders! I've read her blog for some time. And there she was, the one who first encouraged me to give BlogHer a try. I blushed, gushed, and stammered... but she was as friendly and lovely and outgoing as all of Texas! Meaning friendly in a BIG way!

Sometimes I post my deep thoughts and ~ahem~ wisdom, my gratitude and attitude. Sometimes I post truly pointless things. But when I say "expect to be surprised," or "don't pass up opportunity," I am actually kicking reminding myself. Nudging the shy me. Coaxing the insecure side that is not always so eager to ad-venture forth into the real world.

#9. No regrets, mostly.

I am glad I went. It cost some cash. It took some time. I could not have done it without Geoff lifting me out of his car, and driving away, fast. I could not have done it without Ruth, Maria's Tutu, agreeing to spend an entire day playing with her... something Tutu happily insists should happen more often. I came home recharged, and stimulated, and probably a bit intimidated by how many bloggers proclaimed their success, book deals, and blogging wealth, then appeared in evening wear and cocktail dresses while I was lugging great loot and a dress that was still faintly smelling of fear... but never mind.

I came home to a really full sink, and laundry, and some loose ends that were urgent and stressful... but, then again, how different is that from most days? No one lost blood, or felt neglected, no one had to be bailed out, or lost their way. I may have an under the radar blog, I may lack business cards, an iPad, and corporate sponsorship... but I got in touch with some good stuff, like the fact that I love to write, I love amassing free stuff, I think soap carving is photo-worthy. I learned that the Brawny paper towel guy actually used THREE paper towels for his demo, even though he insisted he was "still using the same amazing-absorbent-bad-@ass towel," which is a reminder that not all that shines is shiny. I learned that my blog is rated G, maybe PG, but nothing like some of the F-Bomb blogs that were cracking me up.

So. No regrets. Life is a mix of good, and THREE towel messes, and finding this out for myself is a good idea.

And this concludes My Definitive Guide to Crashing Enjoying BlogHer.


Emily Cole said...

Awesome sum-up of Blogher! I wish I had the opportunity to go sometime! I love that you had your own one-of-a-kind calling card. I would have done the same thing since I don't have things like that whipped up at the moment, or would have thought to make some. The kitty shoes are awesome! I'm glad you had a great time!

Jill at said...

I absolutely LOVE your summation of BlogHer. I am in my hotel room (still - I didn't read the dates so am here an extra day) and falling off my chair. I just knew there was more about you than the shoes!!!! I will be checking in often, and even will follow you as soon as I figure that out. And blog roll. oh yes you are on my blog roll (just like poppy seeds), and twitter (as soon as I can figure out how to fit my 17 character name into 15 characters).

Perfect!!!! I am so glad I met you and that we were able to spend just a little bit of time together. Always bring that darling purse, those darling shoes and of course the hat...don't forget the hat!!!

Thank you. Hope we meet again (in analog), but if not at least in hyper world....

Anonymous said...

Lucky... BlogHim doesn't have the yummy hors-d'oeuvres. And no soap.

CarrieMarie said...

What a great story of the conference! I'm not that far from MN, and may be encouraged to check it out ... : )

Also, those shoes are DEFINITELY cute!

Anonymous said...

Yay for venturing out of your comfort zone!

PamKittyMorning said...

Wow interesting. I have been curious, I admit. Not what i think my main venue is but fun. Love the shos and the bravery. Xo

nikkipolani said...

Seems silly now, but I've never quite come to terms with being a blogger, so BlogHer has never been on my radar. It was great to see it from your perspective! I've been to other events like this and I'm totally with you on the swag front -- just so much stuff! But fun stuff, too. Definitely a TON of food. And comfortable shoes are a must. You hit it out of the park with those adorable shoes ;-)

p.s. those Concord grapes are growing in Orange, CA -- and have been for years. The fragrance is AMAZING.

Tracy said...

WOW... it sounds amazing and somewhat daunting too... LOL! But mostly fun. Glad you were able to go and share about it with us. I wish I lived close. :o) LOVE your comfy, pretty, sassy shoes! ((HUGS))

judy in ky said...

Natalie, you are one of a kind, and a great writer too. I have been curious about Blogher for years, but would be much too intimidated to walk in there with my very ordinary shoes and no business cards, either. You made it seem accessible for once. It always sounded too much like a sorority for me, and in college I was much too intimidated to try out for one. If they were all like you, I would have felt more comfortable. I would have loved to have been there to meet you. You are much braver than I am. Thanks for this look from your perspective. I hope you will post more.

Kim said...

I'm so jealous that you got to go! (in a good way) I loved your guide to sneaking up on Blogher. Hilarious. I'm so glad you went. I really want to go now too!

Corrie said...

great post! love it and very timely for me! so many tips and am guessing I' ll have to go easy on the swag with a plane to catch home to sydney!


mtnchild said...

I've never heard of BlogHer, but it sounds like a lot of fun. I would bring someone if I ever got a chance to go.

Check out Moo Cards for calling cards - you make your own, but they print and send them to you.

Natalie, the Chickenblogger said...

If I could have gone with a friend, any of you, it would have been more fun. It is hard for me, but stepping out of my comfort zone always winds up being a good choice.
New York 2012... hmmmmm. Corrie's going! I have time to think about it, right?