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.
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
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
#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