My Experience as a BlogHer Newbie

I'm not new to the blogging scene. As a matter of fact, I've been blogging since 2006, and that was way before it was "cool." But for me, blogging has always been a way of journaling the story of my life and expressing my thoughts and emotions through writing; especially since we all know my verbal skills are lacking!

It's only been recently that I thought I'd try and make something more of blogging. . . Enter Dallas Moms Blog. It's become more than a hobby for me; I can definitely see myself writing for this site for a long time to come, which is why I'd decided to attend this year's BlogHer conference in New York. 

I first discovered BlogHer when they began to recognize several of my blog posts on my personal site by featuring them on BlogHer Moms. (First in January, then again in April.) I'd been slightly participating in BlogHer up until that point, but really began to feel validated as a writer by being featured. This encouraged me to starting looking at my blog not just as a journal, but as a platform. 

The more I got involved in BlogHer, the more I realized I wanted to learn as much as possible about the world of blogging to attract more readers to my The T-Shirt Mama site and be able to write more interesting posts for Dallas Moms Blog. 

So, this past weekend, I found myself at my first BlogHer conference! 

For those of you who might not know what a BlogHer conference is or haven't attended one before, this post is for you! I honestly searched the internet looking for all the helpful advice I could find before attending, and I still felt under prepared. Hopefully, this inside look will give you a better idea of what it's like to attend a BlogHer conference, and give you some idea of whether or not you'd like to attend next year in Chicago!

Thursday

Thursday night I attended the Evening at the Expo. Imagine any Expo you've ever attended, and that's Evening at the Expo. Sponsors and exhibitors are lined up in a large conference room (At BlogHer, it's 4 large conference rooms), and they're there to pitch to you. They want you to hear about their new products and offers hoping that you'll help them promote. In exchange, you're building relationships with them in hopes to build your "brand." 

 I spent almost an hour walking around and only made it through one floor of the Expo. And that was rushing! 

It was also at this Expo that I was able to grab my first BlogHer swag bag, and boy did it get filled! 

For Newbies: Thursday night is your opportunity to scope everything out. Bring lots of business cards and expect your swag bag to be extremely heavy by the time you leave. Don't feel the need to grab freebies that you won't end up using, and pay careful attention to all the fliers. Many have offers on them which require you to just send a simple email, and you'll have easy connections with the company. 

Friday & Saturday

Anyone is welcome, but BlogHer hosted a Newbie breakfast that I attended. The food was good, but the room was packed with people! I arrived about 10 minutes early to stand in line, and I wasn't even near the beginning. 

I was thankful to have someone to sit by, but I quickly found that most people come on their own. I wasn't alone in feeling alone! 

For Newbies: Don't worry if you arrive slightly late to any of the meals. They don't cut off the food until the end! But don't be surprised if seats are hard to come by. For several meals, I walked out and found many conference-goers sitting on the floor and in the lobby. And don't be afraid to sit by new people! That's what you're there for!  

The rest of the day was spent in sessions. I attended several that would help me with both my personal blog and Dallas Moms Blog; including a brief review of HTML and how to effectively use Facebook & Twitter. 

Many of the more technical sessions were crammed with people, and if I didn't arrive early, I found myself sitting on the floor. Even still, I found the speakers to be loud enough that it didn't cause me to lose out on the session. 


In between sessions, and when I could find the time, I continued to rush through the Expo to try and build brand connections. I also made my way upstairs to the suites where several companies had set up shop. 

These were my favorite way of meeting people because it was typically a lot less crowded, and there was more time to visit and discuss any questions you had about products. 

 

 Each suite did an amazing job decorating to fit their theme and brand! Hershey/Walmart turned their entire room into a camping ground complete with campfire and s'mores. Which (by the way) I've been craving ever since! 


Lunch time on Friday and Saturday was a unique experience! The Hilton did an amazing job ushering almost 5,000 bloggers through almost 8 buffet lines.


 It all seemed very unorganized and chaotic, but surprisingly we made it through really quickly, and even found a seat in time to hear. . .  Martha Stewart!


Martha was the keynote speaker on Friday, and did an amazing job of making the audience feel empowered by their use of the internet. She discussed her personal experience with using blogs, e-magazines, Facebook, and Twitter. She even revealed that Twitter is probably her favorite platform. 

Saturday was more of the same. Sessions and a keynote speech from Katie Couric. 

Unfortunately I wasn't able to attend the Voices of the Year ceremony after the session had ended. My pregnant body had given up on me by this point, and I had to force myself to head back to the hotel. 

For Newbies: Each day of the conference, I highly recommend not overwhelming yourself with feeling like you have to do everything! The most valuable part of the conference is the sessions. Plan those out first, then fill your time with the sponsors, Expo, and other off-campus activities. The more involved you get, the more overwhelmed you get! 

At one point on Saturday, I just accepted the fact that I wasn't going to get every free object to be had. I wasn't going to be able to attended every session. I also didn't need to feel bad if I had to stop and rest instead of heading to a party. 

The Parties

 

Being that it was my first year, I felt honored to be invited by Hasbro to attend their sneak-peak party on Friday night. (Apparently it's one of the parties to go to, and now I know why!) Since it was the only one I was invited to, I wanted to make sure I attended. 

 

The first 300 people to arrive were given a swag bag, and I'm happy I arrived 30 minutes early because the line was already about 70 people deep.  


Although standing in 90 degree NYC heat for thirty minutes wasn't ideal, it was in line, that I met some great bloggers like Rachel Marie Martin of Finding Joy and Jenn Perry of Daze of Adventure who offered to let me hang with them since I was clearly alone. :) 

Being pregnant, I knew I couldn't keep with them, so I ended up grabbing my glass of water, and finding a table where I had a great view of the party. 

 I walked away with over $100 worth of Hasbro products (to put in the top of the closet until my son is old enough!) and some great memories! 

For Newbies: When attending parties, they expect you to participate and be a part of the fun. If you're expecting to go and just show up for the free goodies, you've got another thing coming...they make you work for them! Pictures like these may even surface the next day. :) 

 


Overall, I had a great experience at BlogHer, and I don't even feel like I fully participated. As you may already know, I cheated slightly by bringing my husband along just in case it wasn't what I expected. But it was way more! I learned so much, and I can't WAIT to attend BlogHer '13! 

For Newbies: 
My last few pieces of advice:

  • Apparently the internet never works correctly at BlogHer. If you bring your laptop to the sessions, and can't log in within the first hour, don't bother bringing your computer to a session again. It's not worth the weight on your shoulder, and most of the sessions were posted online afterwards anyway. I just took notes! 
  • No joke. Pack a suitcase inside a suitecase. You'll need it for all the extra items you bring home or you have the option of shipping. 
  • Speak up! When you sit down at a session, turn to the person to your left and then your right and introduce yourself. It's the best way to meet new people, and discover weird coincidences! 
    • For example, at the Newbie breakfast a random stranger sat down next to me. She just happened to be rooming with Jenny (a fellow DMB writer!). 
    • Also, standing in line at the Hasbro party, I never would have known I was standing in front of the original author of "Dear Mom Letter"s who we just quoted on DMB. 
    • Or walking up to the Soda Stream station, I'd meet fellow Dallas blogger, A Frugal Friend.

Will I see you at BlogHer '13?

http://www.thetshirtmama.com

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