UPDATE: BlogHer '13 Venue, Transportation, and Schedules: Simplifying Y/Our Lives!
Hi everyone! Today I have an announcement about a change in where various programming tracks will take place between our two venues (the McCormick Place Convention Center and the Chicago Sheraton Hotel).
We hope most of you will be quite happy about this change, and that it will simplify your conference-going life and our conference-planning life! [Insert drum roll here.]
We are now planning to move ALL break-out programming on Friday and Saturday to a newly-acquired section of the McCormick Place Convention Center.
This means all programming between the Morning Keynote and the afternoon break-out sessions will be at the McCormick Place.
This also means you will only use our provided dedicated shuttle service over to McCormick Place in the morning, and shuttle back to the Sheraton in the late afternoon.
Let me dig into a little more detail on what has changed, and why:
Our original plan:
Our original plan was to have some tracks at the Sheraton on Friday and Saturday. We heard consistent feedback from a segment of our attendees that the conference had gotten so big and was overwhelming, especially those who weren't particularly interested in the Expo Hall...even if the Expo Hall is its own self-contained space. So, we thought, let's put the tracks like the Identity track, the Politics and Activism track, the Writing track and Lab at the Sheraton...and create a second, more intimate experience for attendees who prefer it.
To enable this original plan and to facilitate folks getting back and forth between the convention center and the Sheraton during the day we chartered a dozen shuttle buses, which would run back and forth all day at no charge to the attendees.
We knew this original plan would work because we knew there is a dedicated shuttle route between our two venues that avoids downtown city streets and is reserved for convention center shuttles. We knew the ride itself was about 9-10 minutes. Even so, we added a nice cushion of time to every break between session times to accommodate folks who might want to get back and forth. Plus, we are repeating some popular sessions...attendees often ask for this, and this venue split was a perfect reason to reinstate it for some sessions.
Even so, we certainly heard that many attendees were stressed out about the shuttle solution. If you haven't attended a big conference or trade show that has multiple venues (such as CES, SXSW, or some of the shows I used to attend in my previous life) and you're used to the under-one-roof approach we (and other blogging conferences) have generally taken, the idea of shuttle buses can seem totally daunting.
We were happy to continue allaying everyone's fears about the time and hassle. But then...
Our new plan:
Then we discovered there was another wing of rooms at the McCormick Place that we could have access to. This wing is right up the escalators from where the shuttles pick up and drop off. So, once attendees pick up their badge at registration, this wing of rooms can really be its own, more intimate setting far from the madding crowd for huge chunks of the day!
But close enough to get to the general session keynotes easily and close enough to do a tour of the Expo too.
More time for networking. More time to eat your meals. More time to connect. Less time on a bus. Quick, direct bus, though it may be!
How it will work:
Here is the schedule of events now, with this new plan in place:
Thursday, July 25th:
- Shuttles will run between the Chicago Sheraton and the McCormick Place starting at 5PM
- The Evening at the Expo and the Share and Be Shared Welcome Reception will take place at the McCormick Place until 10PM
- The People's Party will start at 10PM back at the Sheraton and run until midnight
Friday, July 26th and Saturday July 27th:
- Shuttles will run between the Chicago Sheraton and the McCormick Place all day, starting at 6:30am both days, but all programming and meals from breakfast all the way through to the afternoon break will take place at the McCormick Place.
- Shuttles will bring attendees back to the Sheraton by 5:30PM (last shuttle for attendees at 5:15PM; exhibitors will have a later bus) for the Closing Keynote each day
- The evening's parties are all at the Sheraton, so you'll be safely ensconced back at the Sheraton for the rest of the night
We're still repeating some sessions. We're still providing longer session times and longer transition times. We're still providing space that's a bit removed from the big crowds for much of the day (not to mention the Serenity Suite!)
We're just taking advantage of some new space. And hoping to calm everyone's worries about the logistics.
We look forward to your feedback, and we certainly hope this is welcome news for everyone!