BlogHer '12With BlogHer 2012* having ended just the other day there has been much discussion about what was good and what was not so good about the conference and surrounding events. I have mulled things over in my mind as well as participating in discussions in various private groups, Twitter, and even put up a survey. Today I’m going to bring it all together.

BlogHer conferences have grown at a phenomenal rate over the past several years. This can be seen in a really positive way – there is an audience for the conference and the media is also understanding that women bloggers have a powerful voice. This was my third year attending BlogHer and honestly it was too big for me. I do not plan on going in 2013, but that does not mean I suggest no one go. For any conference you need to decide on if it is right for you – at this point I just do not feel that it will be suited to my needs. BlogHer, as a brand, is still immensely important to the blogging community and I will continue to support them in that capacity. Based on my survey and what I have read it seems as though bloggers who have attended in the past really felt the conference was too large this year, those who are new to the conference did not seem to complain about the size as much.

So important, before I go into the rest of the details, is to note that I absolutely love seeing my friends and meeting new ones. The ability to do this on a personal and professional level is crucial to me and it is really something I love about any blogging event I attend. While I did see many, especially at the bar (yes, my peeps know that is where I hang out often), I was sad that I was not able to make nearly as many business connections this year as I have in the past. This dramatically affected my decision not to attend in 2013 already.

The sessions at BlogHer were an issue for many. Before the conference you do not hear a lot of talk about them, it is more about parties it seems, but the truth is people want to learn. Unfortunately, many of the sessions were totally over capacity and people, including me, were not able to attend them. BlogHer needs to address this issue before next year’s conference. Many others confirmed this and were displeased at the amount of money they spent to attend the conference and were not able to attend the actual sessions to learn. I would also like to see them provide some table areas in all session rooms for those who are using laptops to take notes or live blog/tweet. To be honest, I would love to see more sessions offered among more tracks and to see levels within those tracks. If BlogHer will continue to grow and attract so many they need to have sessions that more can use and take away from.

BlogHer decided not to mail out badges ahead of time this year. That was not a problem really. The biggest negative was that the conference swag bags (the official ones) were not given when you picked up your bag. Lots of folks never made it to wherever these were handed out. I happened to get lucky right at the end of the conference and ran into a worker who was moving them and he offered me one. I would like to see the official swag bag and registration check-in put all back into one time and place.

BlogHer provided meals seemed to be a huge problem this year. Apparently having several thousand people lining up to eat at once caused a problem. I did not even try to eat at any of the provided meals, but I heard lots of complaining during and after the conference on this matter. This needs to be addressed before next year.

For those that attended the Keynote sessions, they seemed to be well received by the majority. Once again, some rumblings about space and volume, but President Obama, Martha Stewart, and Katie Couric apparently were palatable to most attendees.

The BlogHer Expo Hall, sigh. I love that so many brands feel there will be value in spending their money to sponsor the convention and have a presence in the expo hall. However, I wish we could divide up the brands who are there to treat it as simply a consumer event as opposed to those who wanted to meet and develop relationships with bloggers to work with. There is a majority I think who like the consumer angle and love all the free samples, freebies, and such. Sadly some of them love it all a bit too much – we call them “swag whores”. Then there is the other group of us who may appreciate a free sample of a product, but we are not their for the swag – we are there to learn how brands will work with us and to develop relationships with them. It is so frustrating to ask “how are you working with bloggers” and get a blank stare or “we aren’t” in return. This seemed to be the sentiment of the majority of people working the booths this year – a big reason I will not be attending in 2013. The other big issue is that booths were closing up BEFORE 5pm – this is just wrong. Yes, we know you have had a long day, but you need to not start closing up shop until 5pm, it’s just rude.

  • Lysol did a great job with their booth where we could charge our devices and relax. We got a tiny pitch about their new product. Sadly they included a full size product in official swag bags which many of us left behind – they are heavy – a coupon for a free product would have been a better choice. I totally loved the singers they had at the booth who did improv songs about bloggers – very fun!
  • Verizon, this is tough for me. Most of you know I write for the Verizon Insider blog and do the #VZWBuzz Twitter parties each Friday. I was devestated that so many people came up to me personally (at other events) to tell me they had a negative experience at the Verizon booth. Most said they were not engaged with bloggers at booth or felt they were treated a bit rudely even. The booth was primarily just a store display. I promise that I have passed along the feedback from everyone I talked with to the Verizon people. I am hoping they will take this as an opportunity to learn and go back next year with a clearer understanding of what the BlogHer attendees want.
  • Kikkoman did something fun by offering soy sauce ice cream, sadly the booth attendants were quite rude when asked where we could discard our cups/spoons and they were there to seemingly only buy their products, not to work with bloggers.
  • Canon had a rough time it seems – so many bloggers rudely asked for “samples” of nice cameras to keep and the poor rep was just exhausted. I applaud them for coming to the conference, but I think maybe sponsoring a session on photography might be more effective for them.
  • Pfizer helped us all share our voice about getting old with an interactive wall full of Post-It notes. Very clever.
  • Jimmy Dean and Hillshire Farms once again provided plenty of food to grab on the go in the Expo Hall. They seem to be there strictly as a consumer effort which is fine, we know where they stand at least.
  • Samsung did an “experience” booth where you could see many of the categories of products they offered. The Smart TV was the most interactive section and very cool, so many of us just drooled over the amazing refrigerator and the washer/dryer. We saw their phones and tablets and even a great app to share between devices live. Lots of giveaways throughout the conference as well as a big giveaway for those that had their cards stamped as they made their way thru the booth (by the way I won this and will share more later).
  • Wells Fargo was clever in putting door tags on hotel room doors about a contest they have going on for bloggers.
  • Energizer did the only room drop this year – a flameless candle and batteries. Loved this! I wish there would have been more room drops – I love the surprise when I come back to my room!
  • Eden Fantasies and Trojan both supplied “adult swag” which is always a hot item
  • Zeo was one of those brands who told us about the product but then said “we aren’t really working with bloggers”. They seem a natural fit to work with us – but seem totally put off by the thought even.
  • Windows was there with a fun style event and announced their makeover winners. I must admit I am a little partial to them because I am such a fan and part of the Windows Champions team.

Official BlogHer Parties – I did not attend any, my choice. I heard from more than a few that they were too loud. We appreciate the music, but just turn the volume down a bit please. I think the majority of people who attend the parties though really enjoy and appreciate the official parties just as they are. It is a time for women to let their hair down and just have a good time.

Private events – official and non-official. So many totally got it wrong this year. I can appreciate that they want to include as many people as possible, but when you invite hundreds and hundreds to a private event the original premise of inviting a smaller group of bloggers who you had already done some background on to talk more in depth is totally lost. What I am looking for at private events is not a huge crowd in a packed room and waiting in line for ages for free stuff generally. I would really like to have small groups under 25 or even one-on-one meetings. I want to know more about the brand, more about upcoming campaigns, more about how you want to work with me. Please keep the music low so we can talk to each other. If you are off-site, include transportation to and from the event. If you want to give items to us, consider shipping them to us. Have a purpose to the event and give as much detail as possible. If you are having a specific presentation or activity let people know or if it is just a casual get together and people can pop in or out as need be, tell us that also.

  • Land’s End – This event was talked about a lot. The number one reason being that while they get a plus for providing transportation to the private event, it was on non-air conditioned school buses and in a rather iffy location, again without air conditioning.
  • #CleverTech Brunch – I attended this myself. Again props to them for providing transportation to and from the event. The brunch was at a nice place, although we were packed in a tad tightly in the room – but it was a sitting thing so it was ok. We had a nice brunch and fabulous talk by My Go To Mom, a bit about the sponsors, time for attendees to share any upcoming events or business they were excited about, and a nice take away bag with surprises that are going to be shipped to us.
  • Hasbro Event – I was invited to this by a PR firm that I love. However, it was not until the day of the event that I heard rumblings about “only the first 300 people to attend will get a swag bag”. Sure enough, I checked my email and that is what it said. I was not going for swag, but just the mention of that was getting folks worked up. I contacted my PR person and asked if a friend could take my place, yes. Sadly, upon arrival bloggers found a line wrapped around the building all waiting to get in. Once people got in there was no opportunity to talk to reps about the products. I did hear some say that the games they had for bloggers to play were fun, but also heard that people were told to go to the back of the line and try again for prizes – just give everyone a t-shirt for trying and move on. Oddly enough, I have yet to hear anyone praise or insult the contents of the swag bags.
  • Getting Gorgeous – I attended this event (see my story You Took a Cab Where?) and liked it. I think most did, although I did hear a few rumblings about it being a bit crowded. Yes, it was in some areas, but overall I think it was nice and we did all know it was a big group event. The people staffing the booths were also very knowledgeable about the products and very friendly.

And finally, poorly behaved people. We are all unique and different. We all have different values. We all have different ideas of what is right and what is wrong. I get that and I’m all for that. But honestly there was some behavior that just made my jaw drop. That takes a lot. Even worse was that the most offensive behavior came from those definitely in the “professional” category as it relates to blogger, promotion, and social media. I will not be naming names or sharing these stories as it does nothing to improve the conference in the future.

Whew. There is still much more I could say. Yes, I named names (brands) here and I’m ok with that choice. My blog is always about being honest with my readers and any brands that I have worked with have always known me to be equally as honest with my feedback to them. I’ve left out some things I am sure, but it is a lot to cover. If you have questions I am happy to answer them. If you have your own wrap up on the event on your blog please feel free to leave a comment and include the direct link as well.

DISCLOSURES:  *BlogHer is the registered trademark of BlogHer, Inc. and is used for reference purposes only. The thoughts in this post are my own and those of other bloggers who have agreed that I can share their ideas in this post also. This post in no way affiliated with or otherwise associated with BlogHer.

Other brands mentioned here are also not affiliated with this post. Again, the information shared is based on feedback from myself and others who attended events at the conference and surrounding private events during the same time period as the conference.