How To Survive the BlogHer Conference (Even If You're Not Attending)
If you are attending the BlogHer annual conference this year there is plenty of information and lists that can help you prepare for the conference. There's the conference guide, this post and comments on BlogHer and this post from The Parent Bloggers Network.
Those posts are filled with all kinds of good, solid practical information like pack a sweater, wear comfortable shoes, bring lots of cards and don't call San Francisco "Frisco" or you might get cut.
What all that wonderful advice can't prepare you for is how you'll feel, how you'll react and what you will do with all that emotion. I'll share some of my experience with you and point you to other bloggers posts to help you to get as ready as possible.
The hardest thing about the conference for me is that I'm an introvert. Not an introvert in the sense of not social - if anything I'm too social (more about that in a bit) but an introvert in the sense that I don't draw energy from being around other people (the way extroverts do - think politicians working a crowd) so I need alone time to recharge. I will not have a roommate this year for exactly this reason. I will need that bit of time at night to top off my batteries so that I can be prepared for another day of hours of socializing. If you're more dazzling and on behind a keyboard than face-to-face then build some alone time into your schedule. There's nothing wrong with going to your room and taking a nap or ducking out of a session and stashing yourself in a quiet spot and blogging. You don't have to stay for every minute at every social function.
It's not you, it's me:
On my twitter bio I list "hugs inappropriately." This self description is borne of my BlogHer conference experience. I have read a lot of blogs at some point or another. There's a good chance that I've read your blog at some point or another. You might not have ever read any of my personal blogs. You don't know me but I might feel like you are my long lost BFF. And upon meeting you I might very well attempt to hug you like a cousin you haven't seen in years. You might think I'm a freak. But that's the key. My behavior has nothing to do with you - I'm just an inappropriately hugging weirdo. So don't get caught up in wondering or worrying what other people are thinking about you. Trust me, they are way more concerned with angsting over their own behavior. And when you meet me - if you don't want a hug make an "X" with your fingers or give me a gentle elbow. If you are nervous and think nobody wants to meet you or cares about you or will talk to you - find me and I'll give you a big ole awkward hug or not - your preference :)
But I'm not a mommy blogger:
Me neither. I'm not a mommy, either. I'm also not married. Single, childless, over 40 - freak, right? Um, no. I fit into BlogHer just fine. I've been to every conference. And, yes, there are lots of mommy bloggers and bloggers who are married. And yet I still manage to have a great time and find my tribe, some of whom are mommy bloggers. One of the stories I always tell is of the first conference. A mommy blogger stood up and said she felt marginalized because mommy blogging was not respected. And the mommy bloggers cheered and they bonded and they drank and they cursed and they flirted with the nice dudes and the hot chicas and hell, everyone because they got it going on. I fell in love with the mommy bloggers that day. And they welcomed me back. I will always treasure the comment that Jenny (I learned at that first conference that many mommy bloggers are named Jen, Jenn, Jenny, Jennifer or some variation thereof) of Three Kid Circus made on one of my blogs telling me that I could be a mommy blogger because of my dogs (yes, I'm one of those people - hate away). Though I'm still trying to figure out how to get knocked up just so I can blog for MOMocrats ;)
And, it's not just the mommies - I've met women who blog about business, technology, journalism, gossip, politics, dogs, art, music, making food, eating, dating, sex, sexuality, life, love, loss, pain, joy... I've made connections that have resulted in opportunities I wouldn't have had otherwise. But most of all, I've made friendships which I cherish.
Here now a sampling of some pre-BlogHer posts. Please feel free to share a link to yours in the comments.
Jenny at Three Kid Circus speaks for many of us:
So this year, I'm looking for a comfortable pair of heels to match the outfits I'm planning to wear, knowing full well that I should be in flats. I'm wondering if I'll have time to squeeze in a mani-pedi before I head to San Francisco. And I'm confident that in the end, it is the connections I make that matter more than my shoes.
Erika Jurney writing at the Silicon Valley Moms Blog asks kindly "If you see me at BlogHer... take pity on my brain"
So now you know. My greatest BlogHer fear. I read and interact with a frillion bloggers online, but in person it's going to be like meeting them again for the first time. If I do this to you, feel free to mock me, but please DON'T be offended! It's not you, it's me.
Erin Kotecki Vest, wearing her Queen of Spain tiara says "I Know These Women..."
In 10 days hundreds of blogger Moms, blogger aunts, sisters, nieces, grandmothers, wives, and daughters will gather in San Francisco to learn, teach, share and remind each other that they are not ‘just’ anything.
Lisa Williams, co-founder of People's Software met her business partners at the first conference and that's why BlogHer is the best conference ever [a personal aside - three of the most amazing, kick ass women I have the privilege of knowing whom I met at BlogHer]
When I went to that conference I was a regular old blogger with a personal blog. I read so many great blogs by women, but I had no women friends in real life. I went because I thought, I can see these people? In person? And when I was there I was so star-struck by many of them that I was too shy to talk to them. It was just a pleasure to breathe the same air, really.
I know you’re going to think that’s really silly, and that’s okay. I have a deep reservoir of silliness. I know it.
When I left Blogher, my limited idea of myself and what I could do hadn’t changed. Yet. That was the work of the women I met there. For the first time in my adult life, I had friends who were women. Little by little, email by email, blog post by blog post, we changed what each of us thought was possible, for ourselves, for each other.
Suebob of Red Stapler writes: [poor Suebob has been a victim of my awkward babbling and stalking for two years but I did finally get my picture taken with the red stapler last year]
I just can't wait for BlogHer even though I have a giant never-healing zit under my nose and nothing to wear. Fluid Pudding is my roommate. I think that is the coolest thing EVER (well, Average Jane was my roommate last year, and that was pretty cool, too).
Jenny Blackburn writing at Seattle Mom Blogs shares survival tips for meeting bloggers IRL (In Real Life):
Secondly, try to keep from taking it too seriously. Pick out something comfortable to wear that makes you feel good, but don’t obsess about what you look like. I’ll let you in on a little secret… we all are worried about what we look like. We all wish we could’ve lost a few pounds before the event. We all are afraid of people thinking we’re way cuter in our pictures than we actually are IRL.
What matters is the connection. The being real. The laughing and being silly and talking and goofing around.
Take a deep breath, plaster a smile on your face, and introduce yourself.
Before you know it, you’ll be having a great time.
I really get sad and frustrated when I read posts by bloggers who decide not to attend because they are sure they aren't cool enough, won't be included by any of the cliques or they will be unwelcome, ostracized, humiliated or that BlogHer is just like Jr. High and they will die when
the prom queen Dooce doesn't squeee in joy when she passes them in the halls. None of that is true unless you believe it so you gotta own that stuff and not hate on BlogHer or those who attend and blog about it. BlogHer is not for everyone. But only you can figure out if that's true for you. You might attend and then think it's not for you or decide just not to attend. Or you might attend with an open mind and be pleasantly surprised. No matter the choice, it's yours.
I totally respect Miss Zoot for making the choice not to attend and I give her mad props for knowing herself well enough to make the choice:
I read a blog recently where the woman writing it said, “I’m not going because I don’t do well at large gatherings of that type.” And you know what? Neither do I. I fake it decently sometimes, but in reality? The anxiety it produces in me far exceeds any amount of joy I can achieve in the situation. I’m just a social invalid. Especially when it comes to bloggers that I kinda know but kinda don’t. I am often over-assuming my friendliness. I’ll go up to someone I’ve had casual contact with online and give them a HUGE hug because - since I read their blog I feel like we’re lifelong friends! But, of course, they don’t read mine so all they’re thinking is, “Who’s the freak with the frizz who is hugging me so tight she’s cutting off the circulation to my head?”
Or worse - I’ll go the opposite extreme and withdraw into my insecurity and won’t even say, “Hi.” Do you know how many bloggers I read that I’ve been within speaking range to and never even smiled at? Because I was scared? TOO MANY.
bejewell at The Bean decided not to go because she didn't feel like she was "in the club." She was blown away by the comments in response and came to a realization: [I encourage you to go read the post and the 73 comments - it's a great, honest post with an amazing comment conversation in response]
But, alas, I am NOT going to BlogHer (yeah, I said alas - fuck you). I wasn’t invited... I’m not going, and I won’t be missed. And I’m not In the Club, either.
That’s what I was doing yesterday, taking all of this VAGINA MONO-BLOGGING business waaaay too seriously. Wishing waaaaay too hard that I could be one of the cool kids. Trying waaaay too hard to get Into the Club.
Turns out, the best way to get In is just to be honest, call it like you see it, don’t bullshit yourself or anyone else and say it exactly how you mean it. Yeah, it’s a little Afterschool Special, but fuck it, it’s true. And really, what I’m getting from a lot of these comments is that there really IS no Club and we’re all a bunch of fucking losers at heart.
Meet BlogHer CE Maria Niles at the conference where she promises to squee, hug you or leave you the hell alone - your choice. If you're interested she'll be on this panel about race and gender which she blogs about at PopConsumer.