Last year I discovered the BlogHer11 convention by reading about it in the newspaper. It was being held in San Diego, not far from our avocado ranch, so I decided to go. I didn’t have a blog, didn’t really understand what a blog was or why anyone would want to put so much time and energy into blogging. I found my roommate on Twitter, packed up and drove off to have an adventure. Besides having a wonderful time, I discovered a whole new world of creative, intelligent women who were open to sharing their ideas and skills. I made lasting friendships and came away with a sense that I had more freedom and power to expand my life than ever before. Rather than being intimidated by the talent and experience of 3600 fabulous bloggers, I felt welcomed and encouraged to join the blogging world. When we were offered discounted rates to sign up for BlogHer12 in New York City, I jumped on board!
Fast forward to August 1st, 2012: After spending two relaxing weeks in my home state Vermont with my mother, I anticipated meeting college friends for dinner in New York City. Flights were delayed due to thunderstorms, so I didn’t arrive at the hotel until late evening. I discovered the famous Halal Guys meat cart on the corner near the hotel, but the line was really long. I spied another cart one block away that looked exactly the same. Sure enough, the guys at that cart told me they are all from Egypt, they all work for the same family and the meat is exactly the same as the cart with the long line. So I bought my lamb and chicken with rice combo and took it back to my room at the hotel. It was delicious!
I had signed up for Pathfinder Day again this year, opting for the track titled “My Blog As A Media Company”. I was pleased to find several familiar faces from last year and surprised to see a much larger percentage of bloggers “of a certain age” (over 45) in the room! The word is out that blogging is an important PR tool, so authors and marketing professionals turned out this year to learn what they need to know to start their own blogs. Later in the week I realized that brand representatives were also there to learn how to add blogs to their product sites or how to interact with bloggers to promote their brands. Did I mention that the percentage of males was also much higher this year?
The opening keynote presentation by Amy Jo Martin of Digital Royalty was impressive. She has written a book that will be released on October 2nd titled Renegades Write the Rules. I snagged a copy of the pre-release version and highly recommend that anyone interested in social media read what this successful and innovative renegade has to say. Amy is offering a blogger special too: you can order two copies of her book, one for yourself and one to give away…at no charge! Just promise to tweet and blog about it.
The day-long Pathfinder session was facilitated by Kathryn Finney of The Budget Fashionista and Jaden Hair of Steamy Kitchen. Each told about their background in building a successful business through their blog. They offered practical, insightful advice for growing (or deciding not to grow) a large money-making blog as well as professional tricks of the trade. One of the best moments of the day for me was at lunch, when I had a chance to visit with Jaden one-on-one. She told me not to be afraid to step up and ask for opportunities, even though my blog is relatively new. She emphasized offering high quality content and developing relationships with other bloggers.
At the end of the day, we all gathered into the largest ballroom for a live visit from President Obama. Wish you had been there? Watch it live here.
The next two days were a blur of networking, speakers’ sessions, meeting brands at the Expo, and attending parties. The sheer size of the crowd this year made logistics more difficult…some sessions were over-crowded or closed, lines at mealtime were long and parties started up to 30 minutes later than scheduled. People who had attended BlogHer11 in San Diego couldn’t help comparing the wonderful food and service we had in San Diego to the difficulties in New York. Even with the inconveniences (such as a lack of gluten-free and vegan food options), no one came away without learning something, meeting new blogging friends or reconnecting with friends from last year.
Martha Stewart gave a keynote talk on Friday. She caused quite a stir with her orange pants and matching orange wedge shoes! It was disappointing to hear comments in a later session referencing Martha’s age…as if a 72 year old wouldn’t wear cute, stylish clothes. Can we just get over this age thing, please? After all, she was celebrating her BIRTHDAY by speaking at BlogHer12! Martha told us that one of her mottos is to learn something new every day. She seems to have an endless list of ideas for new businesses…and she has embraced social media wholeheartedly.
On Saturday our keynote speaker was Katie Couric. She talked about her new afternoon talk show on television beginning September 10th. Social media will have a big role in her new show, and there will be seats for two bloggers at every show. When she invited everyone to tweet her with ideas for the show, I couldn’t resist….and she tweeted back to me too!
So I’m waiting for a call from the Katie Couric Show…would love to show them all about California avocados!
Several other highlights of BlogHer12:
Off-site party specifically for “B(L)OOMERS”, matching brands with women over 45. I won the door prize! Learn more about the sponsors of the party here.
Best BlogHer roommate ever, Anne DiNapoli and our fabulous shopping trip to FAO Schwartz and 5th Ave
BlogHer13 will be in Chicago! Want to go? Check out the information here.
BlogHer is the largest blogging conference in the world, and it’s getting bigger! I have to admit that the smaller blogging events I have attended, like Camp Blogaway and TechMunch, are more relaxed and relevant to food blogging in particular. There is so much going on at BlogHer all the time that it can be overwhelming, but it’s the ideal place to expand one’s horizons in a big way.
All the information that was presented at BlogHer12 is available to you at the Virtual Con. It’s great to know that the sessions I missed due to schedule conflicts or over-crowded rooms are available here!
Have you attended blogging conferences? Which ones are your favorites?