Looking Backward, Looking Forward: My BlogHer '09 Experience

Going to BlogHer '09 wasn't an easy decision for me; I came home after one of our second BigDealMoms meetups in February (we ended the night at Steak and Shake where Emily shared with us her now infamous Spanx v. Public Restrooms story) and talked to Knute about how everyone that had gone to Blissdom was now planning to go to BlogHer '09. The conversation went something like this:

Knute: You should go, too.

{Nearly snarfing coffee out my nose as I laughed out loud}

Me: Yeah, right.

Knute: No, really. Just buy the ticket and go. You'll have fun.

{Dawning realization that this trip would be just me and would not involve planning and packing for any and every possible disaster that can happen when traveling with three kids}

Me: I'll buy the ticket tomorrow.

Which was really a mistake; tomorrow just happened to be March 1 and ticket prices switched from Early Bird Registration of $199 to Full Registration of $299.

My cheap ass frugal self hemmed and hawed all day about spending that very large amount of cashoola on myself and myself alone for an event that I really wasn't certain I should attend. I mean, I am a small blogger; I had visions of being the tiny guppy swimming through a sea of much, much bigger fish.

I emailed some of the other #BigDealMoms - do you have room for me in the van and the hotel rooms? They did which meant the only other question I had to answer was this one:

Did I think of myself as a real blogger, one that would be doing this for a loooong time?

That, my friends, was a toughie I wasn't sure I could answer. This blog, my personal one, isn't terribly, well, personal compared to most mommy blogs. My other blog, while earning me a few bucks, is more to keep me on track with my own savings and deals. But my long-term blogging plan, my elevator pitch, so to speak? That I couldn't tell you.

So I kept my eyes on the ultimate prize (a four day getaway to a very cool city with my friends - woot!), gritted my teeth, and bought the conference pass anyways.

I'm so glad I did; I had a fabulous time at the conference itself as well as at some of the open invite parties I attended and the private invite parties where my friends were kind enough to add me as their +1.

I learned a little and laughed alot; I also find myself wishing I'd done a few things a little differently and thought I'd share those with you in case you're considering hoofing it to NYC for BlogHer '10.

1. Go to more techie (Geek Lab) Sessions.

I'm one of those people who likes learning details on how-to do stuff rather than just listening to debate about current trends and thoughts. I attended some of the Business of You sessions and did enjoy them but I have to tell you honestly that I would have killed for a PowerPoint presentation, even if it was just a brief one to use as a jumping off point into a bigger discussion. Yeah, I'm that kind of a geek - now you know, too.

From chatting with my friends who did attend a couple of Geek Lab sessions, there seemed to be more of a how-to focus in the Geek Labs than a let's chat focus. I like chatting as much as the next girl, but I got my fill of chatting outside the sessions. I'll pick and choose more carefully next year and be sure to attend only the let's chat sessions that really grab my attention.

2. RSVP to fewer parties.

Peeps, the parties were all over the place and all over the schedule. Most of them overlapped on the schedule so it would have taken super powers and/or a tricked out DeLorian Time Machine for me to get to all of them. There was just no possible way to hop to every party, and if you were there and you managed to do this, my hat is off to you (and to your clone).

Add to the simple facts of the space-time continuum and my inability to bend it to my will, I was fortunate enough to be invited to two private, invite-only parties. I enjoyed those, especially the Suave one, so much. Even at the two really big open-invite parties I attended, I gravitated toward hanging with a small group of people and just chatting.

My point: the parties are big and while loaded with swag which, while nice to receive (oh.my.goodness - the generosity of some of the sponsors has still blown me away), brought out some ugly swag-seeking behavior in a very small number of attendees. The best times I had were the smaller times, the smaller parties, the hanging out and chatting one-on-one, the grabbing dinner with a small group.

Big, my friends, is not always better.

3. Make plans before I go next year to meet people in person.

So, did I mention BlogHer was big?

Like holy-cow-1400-attendees big?

Yeah, that's a lot of people, and not all of them were bloggers. I met many, many PR, corporates, and journalists there as well.

The sheer number of people (add another bunch of supporting staff, sponsors, etc., on top of that attendee number as well) meant I was on people overload pretty quickly. I might be an extrovert but I can't be a totally-turned-on-and-ready-to-talk-all-day-and-night extrovert for three days straight.

I hit a point where I just needed some quiet every day and I took it by either just wandering outside to sit by the river, going out for a run in the mornings (oh, running by the lake is uber-awesome; thanks @PHATMommy for organizing the 5K), or just heading up to the room to grab some down time and check the wifi.

I saw lots of people I wanted to just walk up to and chat with, folks I twitter with and read and follow, but I honestly got burnt out on the socializing. Next year, I'll reach out to the people I want to meet before I go and try to make plans to find each other rather than just wait for a serendipitous meeting.

4. Bring my own wifi.

Loved the conference, thought the sponsors were awesome and the bloggers I met were wonderful but I have to be honest on this key element: the wifi was spotty at best and overloaded/non-functioning at worst. Since I don't have an iPhone (yet - *a-hem*) or my own plug in wireless card thingamajig, I didn't have much access at all up at the hotel. Not only is this a big bummer in the live-blogging category, it made it very hard for me to keep in touch, real-time, with my blogtourage. It also meant I was insulated a bit from some of the drama that was getting tweeted so it wasn't all bad.

On the flip side, my cheap ass frugal self is now sold on buying a iPhone. I was in deep iPhone lust this past weekend, y'all.

So there you go, everyone. My super-long-BlogHer '09 post; if you read this all the way to the end, you deserve a prize or at least a big chocolate bar or just my gratitude for listening to me ramble.

I'm going again to BlogHer '10 in NYC next August so if you're looking to go, too, let me know so we can meet up. I can't wait to do some more hanging out with some of my best friends in the world; no one gets bloggers like bloggers.

Love you girlies - thanks for not leaving me behind when I overslept and for making the trip so much fun.

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