Someone on Twitter said it perfectly… it feels like I have a BlogHer hangover. I took the last two days off, but am still all achy and have a throbbing headache that just won’t quit. Maybe I’m coming down with something… but anyway, I just wanted to take a moment and share a few of my thoughts about BlogHer ’09 before some of the memories begin to fade away.
What was my favorite aspect of the conference? I’ve heard this question asked several times, and always have the same answer: the people. I met old friends for the first time ‘in real life’ and made countless new ones. We laughed, we cried, we hugged. The best part of the weekend, by far.
But there was so much more!
- The reach that Twitter has is amazing. There were numerous times that people would glance at my badge on an elevator, or take a look at my business card, and exclaim, “Oh… MARIANA!! I follow you!!”, though they probably never read my blog. Since it’s very similar to instant messaging, Twitter was also a useful tool to find people that I wanted to meet at the conference (“I’m in the 5th row, wearing a black shirt. Where are you?”), keep up with sessions that I missed, and jot down thoughts that I didn’t want to forget.
- Deep dish pizza from Gino’s. YUM
- My bed at the Sheraton was a dream. I just wish I had taken more advantage of sleeping in it!
- I took my daughters with me, so I didn’t get to experience the “I miss my kids” syndrome.
- Lake Michigan from my hotel room looked like the ocean. I was unsuccessful at convincing my 4-year-old that it, in fact, was not. She swore she saw a big cruise ship.
- Rick Bayless is a sweetheart. He held a cooking demo on behalf of the National Pork Board, and I must say, after chatting with him… I’m an even bigger fan than I was before.
- The photography workshop I attended and my visit to the Shutter Suite have inspired me to dust off my Nikon D40 and start taking some amazing photos again.
- Despite what many people have said, I found Chicagoans to be very nice. That first day, when I was struggling with 3 bags, a backpack, a stroller, and two kids, there wasn’t a single person that didn’t offer to open a door for me, carry one of my suitcases, or just flash me a compassionate smile.
- I took full advantage of the pampering offered, with a massage at the MicroSpa and another at the Nikon party on Friday night. There were also makeovers available, but that’s just not my thing.
- The Nikon party was one of the highlights of my weekend. One of the most relaxing moments of my day was the 10-minute ride back to the hotel. I was able to stretch out in the limo, all alone, and just enjoy the quiet.
- BowlHer was a blast! It was the perfect ending to a spectacular weekend. I loved that it was inclusive and just plain fun.
As for PR, I’m not sure if I made new relationships as much as nurtured existing ones.
The Team Mom dinner on Thursday evening was lovely. I’ve only worked with Child’s Play Communications for a short time, but they made me feel like part of their family. It was a small gathering. Maybe 20 bloggers. The dinner was delicious. Probably the only full meal I had the entire weekend!
Toys are undoubtedly my favorite products to review, so it was wonderful to visit the Playskool booth and see some of the new things coming out. How often do your kids get to play with toys at the feet of Playskool’s General Manager? It was a pleasure to meet Sharon John, as well as the Litzky ladies that I’ve been working with for months now. I couldn’t pry my toddler away…
I also spent time at the Safety 1st booth visiting with 360 PR.
They were taking fun photos of bloggers in front of a Chicago cityscape, which they printed out and turned into a framed “Greetings from BlogHer” postcard which could be picked up later in the day.
Isn’t that genius? They were there to promote the Safety 1st Complete Air convertible car seat, but were able to engage bloggers who perhaps wouldn’t ordinarily have stopped by their booth otherwise. Other marketers could learn from them.
On that note, I honestly expected more from the companies on the expo floor. It was all about the products. Almost akin to a trade show. I heard spiel after spiel, but not a single person (other than those I had known previously) asked me about ME. I guess only time will tell if anything will stem from those brief chats.
But of course I didn’t expect everything to be all sunshine and rainbows.
- The hotel wi-fi was awful. This meant I wasn’t tied down to my laptop, but made me feel a bit disconnected.
- I didn’t take nearly enough photos.
- I didn’t really learn anything. The Geek Labs were mostly focused on newbies and the sessions were… boring. Yes, I said it. Boring. When I found myself tweeting with the person sitting next to me in the first session I attended, I knew it wasn’t a good sign.
- I can’t believe how much time I wasted worrying about what to wear. I didn’t change for the parties so only ended up wearing half of what I had packed.
- Taking an hour to read through the conference agenda and carefully plan out the weekend before I left for Chicago was another HUGE waste of time. I didn’t follow it whatsoever. Which wasn’t actually a bad thing.
- I missed the BlogHer 5K because I overslept.
- I couldn’t find water anywhere and wasn’t going to pay $5.95 a bottle for what the hotel provided. SoBe, Pepsi, coffee, and cocktails were almost always within reach, however.
- I didn’t meet Tim Gunn. Or Paula Deen. I just couldn’t bring myself to wait forever in line, when I could spend that time doing something else.
- Having family around, as much of a blessing as it was, was definitely a distraction. I chose to spend time with them and missed the Community Keynote and a few sessions.
- BlogHer has made the effort to go green, but apparently other people didn’t get the memo. The amount of paper in the swag bags was appalling. A slew of brochures that went right into the trash, and stacks upon stacks littering tables within the hotel was a sad sight to see.
- I didn’t take nearly enough photos.
- Sightseeing FAIL. I had all day Wednesday to walk around the beautiful city of Chicago, but it wasn’t enough. The Navy Pier was so close, I could practically taste the fried dough… but no time.
- My feet hurt. Even in what I thought were comfy shoes. The hotel is huge and many parties were off-site and I couldn’t afford to take a taxi everywhere.
- You’ve heard enough about the swag grabbing/stealing/etc. What a disgrace. I didn’t witness any of that personally, perhaps because I was late to almost every party! But I did get a ridiculous amount of swag regardless. I refused to pay to ship anything that I received for free, so I only brought home what I could fit in my suitcases and gave the rest to my mom or recycled it.
- Oh, and did I mention I didn’t take nearly enough photos?
Now I’m off to tackle my stack of business cards…
I’ll tell you more about the people I met and the fabulous swag later. 😉