BlogHer '11 Programming: Getting on Track

BlogHer Original Post

Working on conference programming at BlogHer has a great many benefits. Tops among them is the opportunity to participate in the conversations speakers have as they map out their panels. The good news is that after every single one, I think, "What a fascinating conversation! I wish I could be a fly on the wall for that panel."

Which of course is the bad news, too. Because with seven concurrent tracks and two Birds of a Feather "affinity group" meet-ups happening during any given time-slot, three times a day, for two solid days–not to mention a chock-full Expo Hall and new friends to meet or old ones to catch up with–none of us, not even the most Olympic of multitaskers, is going to be able to take it all in. Nor should we.

In fact, it's worth taking a moment to review, before you leave for the conference in a few weeks: What are your goals for BlogHer this year? Meet five new people? Sharpen two key skills? Deepen your understanding of something you currently value? Explore new terrain outside your comfort zone? Take the next step in moving your blog from avocation to vocation? What do you want to leave San Diego with, other than tired feet, a fistful of business cards, an overstuffed suitcase, and a big smile?

No matter what your goals, you are wise to take some time in the midst of it all, counterintuitive though it may seem in the middle of all the opportunity, to simply decompress, digest, and be still–if for no other reason but to check back in with what it is you are wanting to get from the event, and to balance your public self with some time with your private self. This year, BlogHer is having all the live blogging done by a transcription service, so you can be sure that every last word of every single session will be waiting for you when you have time to read them, if you're not there to hear them live, or contribute to the conversation. We hope knowing this will help you feel okay about whichever panel you do choose to attend–and which whole sessions you decide to sit out.

Maybe that time will come for you right after a particularly rich panel that you want to really let sink in, or write about. Maybe you'll be with someone, either a new friend or an old one, and you realize you totally need to just stop everything and grab a coffee or a bite with her. Or maybe–as has regularly happened to me–you just get struck with a fit of social media conference overload and need to retreat to someplace utterly un-social. I know I'm not the only one!

If you hit overload, though, don't think your only option is to hide in the quiet of your hotel room (I'm talking to myself, circa BlogHer '10 here). You needn’t leave the conference to find peace: the Serenity Suite (in Room 8) is your friend! Also, you could take a moment to get out onto one of the terraces on the upper level, where you'll be greeted by a view over Coronado Island to the Pacific Ocean. Not bad.

Meanwhile: for those of you still looking for help deciding where to go when you are feet first into the conference, I'll be highlighting speakers and panels you have to choose among over the course of the remaining weeks 'til BlogHer '11 opens on Friday morning, August 5. I'll start with a refresher on the various tracks and what they're designed to offer you. Our two crowd-sourced tracks are described elsewhere: Jes explained the Room of Your Own offerings and what they're all about back in March, and she’ll be describing what the Experience track holds for you next week.

The descriptions of the tracks below come directly from Elisa’s initial post about them back in mid-February:

Change the World

The Change the World track is about the power social media gives us to change our communities, society, the culture, the political landscape and more. Its amazing potential doesn't mean that there aren't also pitfalls. This year we're going to talk about a few of the problems... and of course, real solutions we've seen work in the wild. For example, we're excited to talk about media literacy, how to get it... and how to make sure the next generation has it too. We're excited to talk about the Own Your Beauty project... and whether if we change our internal perspectives, we can actually change the culture at large, and even the socio-economic landscape! And of course we'll talk about how blogswarms and Twitter revolutions really do happen and really do make a difference. The Changing the World track is nothing if not ambitious!

Change Yourself

The Change Yourself track is about blogging's direct impact on our lives. We're covering some new and interesting topics this year... like blogging a failing or failed relationship, or blogging your imperfections... but also talking about how you keep the fires burning inside, whether you're an individual blogger or managing an active online community. In other words: This is BlogHer #7; let's explore the seven-year itch!

Social Media Geek

The Social Media Geek track is all about the tools we love and how to get more out of them. Another request we've heard for years is for "office hours." Rather than panels or sessions, Day One will be our BlogHer version of the Genius Bar. The BlogHer Geek Bar is open all day... because it's always 5PM somewhere :) On Day Two, we will dig into a few important innovations that many bloggers are adding to their offerings... video, multimedia and community outside the comments.

The Write Brain

The Write Brain track is focused on the craft of writing, and what you can do with it. This year we heeded the calls for a back-to-basics writing workshop, and we have some English teachers on hand to remind us all why the passive voice is so so bad! We also have introduced our first-ever "double-wide" panel–a full afternoon workshop focused on developing juicy blog content. Three instructors will walk you through the steps from ideation to creation to manifestation of the excellent blog post. Day Two in this track is focused on how to write about your writing... pitching articles, proposing a book, turning text into scripts.

Minding Your Own Business

The Minding Your Own Business track is meant for the bloggers who want to monetize or already are. These are perennial favorite subjects at any blog conference, but we're throwing in a couple of twists. For example, you've probably heard a lot about bad P.R. pitches. Have you ever heard about bad blogger pitches? Some P.R. professionals are ready to share how bloggers can quickly boot themselves right out of consideration for opportunities. We also have multiple sessions focused on talking specifics... making the secret sauce not-so-secret is our goal this year.

BlogHer Community Manager Denise Tanton said of BlogHer conferences, in "You Are Powerful," her recap of BlogHer 2010: "We come. We connect. We laugh. We cry. We learn. We get angry. We wear great shoes. We're overwhelmed." It's a great read: not only does she capture some wonderful energy about both the conference and the community, she also has links to over 75 BlogHer 2010 recaps. Check them out, consider what's in store this year, and then start to decide: what do you want BlogHer '11 to be for you?