BlogHer? I hardly know her!

The Rookie Moms at BlogHer09

Having just returned from a 4-day trip to Chicago where I attended the BlogHer ’09 conference, an annual coming-together of women who blog, I want to sort my experiences into three categories: Things That Exceeded My Expectations, Things That Met my Expectations, and Things That Underwhelmed Me. Here goes:

Things That Exceeded My Expectations
My Attitude. I expected more awkwardness from myself, and more moments of self-doubt when I introduced myself to people. Less ability to smile at strangers. Instead, I was friendly and generous with the hugs. Go me.
The People. I was a virgin to consummating online friendships and I made an effort to attach faces (and bodies) to some of the names I know from blogging and tweeting. I have known Alma and Lisa via email and blogs for three years; meeting them in person was my most spectacular highlight. I am still smiling when I think about the time spent with each of them. And, I loved connecting with the chicks from Today’s Mama, Mayberry Mom, Amelia Sprout, BostonMamas’ Christine, Marie from Make and Takes, BabyCheapskate Angie, and mucho more. I certainly will gush more about these if you ask me in person.
Awareness of our blog and book. I anticipated meeting fewer people who are familiar with Les Rookie Moms. Debbie from Mamanista was especially generous with sharing how our book inspired her, and Amy said that when people ask her “What do I DO on maternity leave?” she always says, “Read this book.” SO NICE!
The method Party. I have been working part-time in the method office in San Francisco with their Brand Communication team. We imagined a small cocktail party at BlogHer that would allow some People Against Dirty to meet Rachel and Anna from method in a low-pressure drop-by suite setting. I was thrilled with the response and the party. Bloggers heart method. Did you know this?
The Swag. There’s no question that seeding product with bloggers is likely to spread word of mouth for that product. We have big mouths and like to use them to influence others. The number of companies who jumped on the opportunity to get their products in our fast-typing little hands was astounding. And, specifically, the team behind the Social Luxe Party assembled a mind-blowing collection of goodies for us to take home. If you’re not jealous, you should be.
The Sheraton. Very fast elevators, very comfortable bed linens, and a very generous water flow in the shower.
Real conversations with real people. I tend to judge whether or not I can be friends with someone based on how much make-up and hair product they are wearing (Very little is the acceptable amount), so I was attracted to some cool chicks from Portland, Gina and Katherine. Danielle was the cutest pregnant person serving cheeseburgers. Tracey Clarke is like an old BlogHer friend at this point. I hung with Mike, sharing water and not dancing together at a party. Wild times. Susan Wagner shared her current work/life situation with us at a cocktail party and then later, at the airport debriefed on the whole conference. An unexpected pleasure at 7.30 am on a Sunday morning.

Things That Met My Expectations
My packing job. I had enough clothes, shoes, and accessories to wear each day, and not too many that I felt silly for over packing. I will award myself a travel merit badge because I haven’t accomplished this delicate balance too many times.
The conference keynotes. Great job with the jumbotrons, BlogHer, because we could really see the readers in the community keynote, which was a treat. The content was pretty good throughout. The community keynote featured inspiring writing, but frankly it went on too long. I think fifteen contributors would have been nice.
Most of the panel sessions. I would like to see the bar raised higher for the both the panelists and moderators. Several were not as prepared or professional as I expect them to be. I’ll echo Susan’s request that the moderator works harder to control the content and not let the talkative audience derail the subject at hand. I also want to voice Lynn’s suggestion that greater emphasis on writing would be a good direction for BlogHer. Ironic, isn’t it, that there is a session on Search Engine Optimization, but not on What Makes a Good Blog Post? There is a session on Brands and Bloggers, but not on Good Blogger Etiquette: Appreciating Your Readers.
The shapewear. I wore a Yummie Tummie tank top, as an experiment. It was given to me by the Clever Girls Collective in order to allow me to be a brand ambassador for Yummie Tummie. (See, aren’t they clever?) This non-binding undergarment gave me a gentle squeeze around my torso that would have made my profile appear a tad slimmer than it really is had I been wearing a more fitted top. The nice thing is that the squeezy part goes down pretty low, holding in the loose skin my 82 weeks of (total) pregnancy has gifted me, and the very bottom of this tank top is t-shirt material, so if I wanted it to look layer-y, I had that choice. (If you are intrigued, allow me to share a promo code.)

Things that Underwhelmed Me
Tim Gunn’s advice. I had the chance to meet Tim Gunn, which I very much appreciate. He was sweet, just as he appears on TV. When I asked him for a tip for my blog about fashion for moms, specifically, “What should be part of every mom’s uniform?”, He he acknowledged that moms need comfort and the ability to be agile. “Ok, he gets it,” I thought, hoping he would turn this to a fashion-forward insight, like leggings under a tunic or dress or a sweat suit alternative that won’t embarass anyone. “Washable,” he said. “EVERYthing should be washable.” Um, frankly? That is uninspiring. Guess who sponsored his appearance? I’ll just stick with his Top Ten list as my point of reference.
The Swag. The obsession with the swag was a little too much. By the end of day 2, I was done with hearing about it. I stood in the elevator with a group of young bloggers, arms full of swag, talking about swag. As I listened to their conversation, I was wishing it would stop. There was a vacationing family in the elevator with us. I was embarrassed by the swag-related conversation taking place in front of this lovely family. I asked the mother if she thought her daughter, about five years old, would like the pink boa I was wearing around my neck. She told me that her daughter would love it. I gave away the boa and exited the elevator, trying to remove that dirty, guilty feeling from my body and distance myself from the event.
My ability to sleep in. Although the two-hour time difference and lack of childcare duties should have encouraged me to sleep until 10 AM Central Time Zone, I was awake at 6 AM two out of three days and 7.30 am one day. Do the math and ask yourself why I was unable to sleep past 5.30 AM on my body’s clock. I do not know, but clearly this was a missed opportunity to get some sleep that is not possible in my house.
Ragu-sponsored lunch. What can I say? I am both a food snob and a packaged-goods brand snob, and Ragu is not in line with either of these unfair biases. May the hearts and bellies of those BlogHers with more democratic palates have been won over by the extra large servings of chicken parmesan prepared with Ragu. Next year, let it be Newman’s Own, please.

Fair or unfair, this is my review of BlogHer 09. And now for the pictures >

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RookieMoms.com co-founder Whitney lives with her husband, son, and daughter in the San Francisco Bay Area where she writes about parenting, crafts, and activities that moms can do with babies in tow. She and Heather also publish 510Families.com, a site for East Bay parents and are the authors of The Rookie Mom's Handbook and Stuff Every Mom Should Know.