Lessons from BlogHer12

 

Waring: This post will surely break all blogging etiquette. The structure of the post depicts the whirlwind trip of BlogHer: long, exhausting, and tangential. The wonderful thing about blogging; if you get bored you can move on, but I hope you will stick around for the end.

BlogHer12

You may remember my post on How to Survive the Biggest Conference of the Year, BlogHer12. It was filled with links to posts written  by many of my favorite bloggers.  They educated on tips for packing, scheduling, creating business cards and dressing yourself for the conference.  The post helped me organize my thoughts and prepare me for the event, sort of. You see, no matter how much you try to anticipate what to expect at BlogHer nothing can mentally ready you for the adventure.  The unexpected is bound to happen when you spend four days in a big city with 4,000 + mostly female bloggers in a hotel.

So now that I lived to tell about BlogHer12, my best advice is to go with no expectations, embrace the experience and live in the moment. When are you going to get the chance to meet people that many people that "get you"?  The people that experience the same excitement you get when someone leaves you a blog comment or retweets your post.  The women who make up your blogging tribe.

After taking time to think about my BlogHer12 experience, I am finally ready to put the words and pictures together to share with you the unexpected moments that happened to me.

Lessons Learned from BlogHer12
 

1. Travel arrangements can make a fantastic trip even better or suck the life out of you.

My trip started on Thursday with an amazing bus trip from Alexandria, VA to NYC sponsored by Hershey's and Wal-Mart. Travel home from the conference with the bus tour was just as nice.  I am so thankful a seat on the bus opened up for me very last minute.  I know many bloggers who were experienced long flight delays and cancellations on the way home due to bad weather.  I was very lucky that my travel was uneventful.

 2.   Share the conference with fantastic roommates at the conference hotel.

I was on the fence about attending BlogHer12 for quite awhile, but when certain events fell into place I couldn't pass up the oppurtunity to meet many of my blogging friends.  My original plan was to room with three other girls. Right before we booked our hotel at a room about a mile away from the conference, one of the girls had to cancel her trip. The three of us managed to find two other girls who already booked a room at the Hilton.  The five of us had so many laughs throughout the weekend. Honestly my roommates made the trip that much better.  Not to mention, I can't even imagine having to go back and forth from the Hilton to an offsite hotel.  There was plenty of walking, standing and lugging of swag to tire me out.

Roommates from BlogHer12 Say to hi to my roomates: Top- me, Jennifer, Bottom- Jenny, Sarah, and Natalie Picture courtesy of Natalie After spending 4 days with these amazing women I felt like I have known them a lot longer. Together we experienced some great unexpected  moments.... Dancing at Sparklecorn wearing more sparkles than Lady Gaga at a red carpet eventBlogHer12 SparklecornSparklecorn bling

Exploring the Expo hallnatalie

Giggling over those ridiculous swag items that led to phrases like "I can't find my ______ (This is a family friendly blog. All those BlogHer attendees know exactly what I'm talking about).  Such phrases were uttered in elevators with unsuspecting non-bloggers looking at us as if we were drunk, when no in fact we were completely sober.

Jennifer packing up her swag

It was great to spend time with other blogging mom's, who are as social media addicted as I am. They didn't roll their eyes at me when I took a picture of my food or made a comment like "that would be blog post worthy".

3. You will have awkward moments.

You will feel a bit ridiculous when you recognize and say hi to a blogger because you feel like you already know so much about them.  Then you just may feel like a stalker.  You will feel even more ridiculous when they look at you with a crazy face, because they don't follow your blog or have the slightest idea who you are. Yes, this happened to me. I was at Sparklecorn on Friday night when I ran into Chelsey and Jess. I said hello to both of them as if we were long lost friends and I'm sure they thought "Who is this crazy girl?!". The even more ironic thing is that the next night I met Jess and Stephanie T. through Steph at the CheeseburgHer photo booth. Seriously only at a blogging conference could I even write that sentence.

The moment passed by quickly though and there wasn't a lot of time to actually talk.   The music was loud and it was pretty much impossible to carry a conversation with someone you don't really know.  After all, it was a party with CheeseburgHers and random beds.  I'm kicking myself now for not being more outspoken and introducing myself to all three of them.  I swear shyness gets the best of me at times.

4.  Attend a session that is completely outside of your element.Martha Stewart at BlogHer12

One of the speakers at the Newbie breakfast told us to do this, yet I immediately dismissed the advice.   There were a TON of sessions that seemed interesting to me and I was having a hard enough time picking which ones to go to. I had no idea why I would want to waste time attending a session I had no interest in.   Keep in mind that was before the sessions began. I arrived at the first session of the day right as it was about to start. I lingered at breakfast longer than I should have and by the time I got to the session it was packed. There wasn't even space to squeeze through the door to sit on the floor. Instead of focusing on the fact that I wouldn't be able to hear the session, I quickly glanced at the conference schedule and headed for plan B, which was in the room right next door. It seems a lot of other bloggers did this as well, as that session was full too.

Now I was starting to feel a bit annoyed. Since it was just the first session of the day, I felt as if I should attend a session. So I headed to the room closest to where I was standing.  To my relief the session was not overflowing with people, so I settled in. It turns out that this one session I happened to stumble upon by accident was the session that inspired me the most during BlogHer12.

The session, Sponsored by Johnson and Johnson, was about organizations that are making a difference with life saving yet simple medical care for children and mothers not only in other countries but also in the US. One of the slide shows in the presentation was so touching and heart breaking, that I started crying. See, unexpected moments. Not only was it an unexpected and inspiring session, but I hope to reach out to one if not all of these organizations in the near future. I love what they are doing for mothers and babies around the globe. So stay tuned for more information on that.

5.  When given an opportunity to eat, eat like it's your last meal on earth.  

Since BlogHer12 is really only 2 full days, you will fill your schedule from the time you wake up until the time your little head hits your pillow in the wee hours of the morning. You probably won't eat a decent meal all day. The Newbie breakfast on the first day was great and the lunch was pretty good, if you wanted to stand in massive lines. I did and don't regret it. It was a bit overwhelming, because the line appeared miles long but it moved quickly. Breakfast is the most important meal of the day! mcdonalds breakfastdannon breakfast at BlogHer12 My problem was managing to eat dinner. On both days I had private parties and then wanted to go to the sponsored parties, so there was little time in between to sit down to a good meal. I was thankful I brought granola bars for those moments when I needed something in my belly. I did manage to have New York Pizza at 10:30 pm on Thursday night and man it was REALLY good!!

6. Even though it's hard not to get caught up in all the hype over the private party invites, they may just be a bit overrated.

Before BlogHer12 I tried my hardest not to get caught up in the private party hoopla. I'll admit a few times I got excited when I was able to score a ticket, because I was online at the right time. (Read: Stalking the Facebook I'm Going to BlogHer12 page when I should have been doing something more productive.). The larger private parties I went too seemed way over hyped.  Maybe I just didn't invites to the "best" parties, but the ones I went too were lacking in food and space.  Am I disappointment that I didn't get invites to the bigger private parties? Absolutely not. The smaller parties were a blast!

Thanks to my roommate Natalie, I attended the party in Manhattans only wine cellar. Not only did we get a private tour and tasting of the cellar, we also met with representatives from MindStream Teens Academy. Mindstream Teens Academy is a boarding school that is focused on health and wellness in teenagers. I loved hearing about their amazing academic program. The overall event was great and I enjoyed taking the subway and experiencing a bit more of the city than just Times Square. Even though I no longer feel like a girl from small town Maine, since I've lived in Washington DC for over 6 years, it still felt exciting to ride the subway in NYC. Yes, I am lame.

6. Internet friends are way better in real life

It was so amazing meeting and hugging girls I have been chatting with online for so long. I loved meeting these friends and making that real life connection. You never really know what someone is going to be like in real life and I had so much fun finding out. Honestly, everyone I met was just like I imagined them to be. I also made some new friendships and am happy to come home with a few new online friends.

Smores Suite with Mama G Melissa and I at the S'mores SuiteSuzanne and I at CheeseburgHer with our homemade McDonald's bag hats

7. It's okay to skip out on sessions and explore the city. You will feel refreshed and ready for the next BlogHer event after a mini mental vacation.

After lunch on Saturday, I was feeling a bit tired and started missing the boys. I decided to skip out on afternoon sessions to do some sightseeing. I hauled my DSLR to BlogHer in hopes to shoot some pictures of Times Square and would be super annoyed at myself if I didn't get there at all. I'm so glad I chose to break away from the insanity for a bit. Times Square was a bit glamorous and gritty. People watching was interesting. The crowd was dense. I loved every moment of it.

Times Square in the summer

8.  Spend time in the expo hall but walk away before it sucks you in.

The expo halls were a lot of fun, with photo ops, food samples, and interactive games. I enjoyed meeting the various sponsors of the conference and speaking to PR reps. Most of the reps were extremely friendly and ready to answer questions about their products.  Instead of doing all of the booths during one chunk of time, I went a few different times throughout the two days.  This seemed to work well and didn't overwhelm me with the feeling that I had to do all at once.  It also gave my shoulder a rest from hauling around a ton  of swag.  You could probably spend an entire day alone visiting all of the booths, but I wouldn't recommend doing it that way.  Photo ops in the Expo  

9. Don't let the swag take you over.  

Perhaps one of the biggest topics discussed when BlogHer is mentioned is the swag. I know everyone loves free stuff, but 8 bags of swag is a bit much, don't you think? There is in fact plenty of swag. For everyone. I promise.  When I heard my inner jewish girl creep out (FREE STUFF, Mindi. Can you believe it?!), I had to shoo the voices away. Stuff is just stuff.  Most of the items were everyday products you can find at any store in your hometown.  Do you really want to pay extra baggage or shipping fees for items you can get at home? I will say I did end up winning a few amazing prizes, including a visa giftcard from RetailMeNot and a free pair of fabulous Naughty Monkey Shoes. I never win anything, but luck was on my side for once!

packing up the swag    10. Your children will grow inches and begin reading novels while your gone.

Was I really only gone for four days? When I finally wrapped my arms around my little boys I took in their boy smells and treasured the moment. I swore they grew a few inches and met a few more milestones. Thankfully Noah saved learning to walk for the following weekend, so I didn't feel too guilty for being gone. The fact is I missed my crazy boys, A LOT! It was so great coming home to their smiling faces.

In the end, BlogHer is a lot like birthing a child. You spend countless months planning, prepping, and counting down the weeks. Then when the big event arrives the anxiety is replaced with excitement. Time flies by.  You try to take it all in. 

Before you know it, it's over. You come home with new stuff that takes over every inch of your house. Your exhausted emotionally and physically. Then out of no where the unexpected happens. Before you have even had time to fully recover from the experience some wise ass asks you "So are you going to do it all over again next year?".  Really?  Live in the moment.  Wait for the unexpected. To tell you the truth.  I don't know if I'll be at BlogHer13.  Life happens.  Things change.  A year from now I hope to busy loving on a newborn baby (fingers crossed).

Would I like to go to BlogHer13 to spend time with friends from all over the United States?  Absolutely.

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