We traveled to San Jose for BlogHer14 this past weekend. It was actually our first conference, so we felt like we were going all out by going to BH. It was drive-able for us, which was important because we have a 3.5 month old baby. I’ll be blogging more about the trip from the parental end shortly on Baby Reyes.
The conference was interesting. We went with the idea that we would make many more connections for my wife’s blog Katie Did What and we definitely did just that.
Here are some things that I observed about the conference:
These are simply observations. I am not saying anything is right or wrong/good or bad.
- We stayed in the right hotel. The Marriott and Hilton are attached to the convention center. Had we stayed at the other two (Hyatt, Fairmont), I would have gotten tired of the walk after the 10th time.
- From what I heard, Pathfinder day was completely useless. I heard that from multiple sources but won’t get into it more than that since I wasn’t actually there. I’ll just say that if you ever go to BH, skip this, as it’s probably not worth the extra $100 or so.
- The suite parties were just that – parties. There was no networking to be found there.
- The official parties were dreadful. We listened to someone talk about how great pets are (which I completely agree, but didn’t need to spend an hour listening to that) and how everyone should adopt from a shelter instead of buying them. Great message, but I didn’t feel like it was a good use of my time at all and I certainly would not have called that a party. I have friends who went to 2 of the other 4 official parties and they also sounded useless.
- More people needed to read my Blog Conference Etiquette post before going.
- Some brands baffle me with the ways they spend money. A couple of brands wasted huge opportunities by sending reps with no personality and having boring booths.
- We fenced with giant spoons.
- The candy in a pill bottle was not the best idea. Neither was the expired candy from Sonic.
- When possible at these conferences, connect with the PR people behind the brand. Sometimes, the booth has 3-4 people working. Make sure you are exchanging contact info with the right one.
- If you’re looking to connect with brands, ask how they work with bloggers and take it from there. A lot of companies were happy we asked.
- Samsung spent thousands of dollars to be there only to tell us “we’re not really sure how or if we are going to work with bloggers”. They would have been better off at a fair or home show.
- A couple of the booths (Microsoft and Best Buy) were apparently invisible.
- BlogHer is no longer about the swag.
- The keynotes are more “feel good” speeches than actual helpful blogging info. That said, a lot of people seemed to really enjoy Kerry Washington and the other keynotes.
- The sessions are full of very basic info that you can easily find on sites like this one.
- BlogHer doesn’t really care about your health. With a final party sponsored by McDonald’s (and serving only McDonald’s food) and water nowhere to be found at the conference (champagne was free, water was not), it was clear that health is not a topic BlogHer cares much about.
- BlogHer may actually be ruining some bloggers’ reputations. Upon entering the McDonald’s closing party, there was a sign that said something to the effect of “by entering, you consent to your photos being taken and used however we want”. Hmm… might not be the best idea for a healthy living blogger or fitness blogger to have their picture at a McDonald’s party plastered all over the place. Just be aware when at conferences or events like this that this might happen.
- Attendance seemed down. The sessions had empty seats all around and just about every brand at the expo hall was basically dumping swag into people’s bags on the last day.
The best part was that on the way out, we decided to make the 20 minute drive to Mountain View and the mecca:
I wonder if just being there will rub some good SEO ranking onto me!
All in all, I wouldn’t go again unless it is within driving distance. The three best things to happen to us and our business at the conference were not actual conference activities. We met with the owner of a site that Katie writes for and met with the editor of another one she contributes to. The third was a private breakfast that led to some great partnership opportunities for Katie’s site. Side note – we did meet GiGi, who I featured here and she was awesome!
So if you do go, try and arrange meetings beforehand. Don’t rely on the conference alone to provide the value you are looking for. The best thing about the conference is that it brought all of these people together in one place and that makes it easier to touch base with more people.
It’s a worthy conference if you are a brand new blogger or are just looking to make personal connections. I do also think it is still going to give you the most “bang for your buck” when it comes to brands. I hear that Blogger Bash (which was held a week before BlogHer) is trying to “be the new BlogHer” but I also heard from a friend who went that it was a total waste of time. Conferences are really what you make of them and this one was no different. I’m glad we made things happen outside of the official conference so I can say it was a worthwhile trip.