(not my photo - thanks to BlogHer PicApp)
- Conferences are tough on introverts - or for this particular introvert, at any rate. Conferences with a high degree of extra-curricular socializing surrounding them are particularly tough, especially when you're attending them for the first time, on your own, and haven't really pre-arranged to meet up with anyone. Extra-curricular socializing in venues that don't encourage genuine conversation - like noisy, poorly-lit cocktail parties - is especially challenging. I opted out of a lot of it, and bailed early on some of it. I have learned to respect my limits, and sometimes I just needed to back off and head somewhere to read.
- But if one of the attractions of a conference for you is collecting freebies (I just don't like the word "swag"), the really impressive, big-ticket stuff is more likely to be at the parties. The BlogHer conference itself has many sponsors, of course, and they had plenty of stuff to give away in goodie bags and in the Expo Hall (which was rather like a small-scale trade show), but some of what was at the parties - especially a few of the RSVP-required sponsored events - was truly worth coveting. Or so I heard. I wasn't at most of them. I have no complaints about what I decided to bring back home, however, and my favorite souvenir wasn't a swag item at all - after hearing her speak on a panel, I got Veronica of Viva la Feminista to autograph an issue of Ms. Magazine in which she's featured.
- Despite not being a big partier, I did meet some pretty cool people - I (mostly) wasn't a hermit, and I actually did go up and introduce myself to a few bloggers, in addition to Veronica, whom I've been reading for a long time. I wasn't going to pass up the chance to say hello to these impressive women, and was quite gratified to learn that they knew who I was, too! (Commenting and linking, y'all - people do notice it, and it has benefits!)
- Even more gratifying, if slightly weird - bloggers who made the effort to seek out and meet me! (Yeah, a few people actually did that. After nearly two and a half years in the blogiverse, it is very nice to learn you've made an impression.)
- Being active online has actually helped me become a bit more outgoing in person, I've noticed, but I'm still not great at party small talk, chit-chat, and quickie "networking" activities. I like to be able to have actual conversations with people, and that did happen, but not as much as I might have liked. It was good to have the opportunity to get to know my roommate, Magpie, better, and spend some time with some of my fellow Moms Blog contributors, who came from all over. More name- and link-dropping to come later this week...
- There were some pretty good conversations outside the conference, too. After well over a year of reading and frequently commenting on each other's blogs, it was a lot of fun to go off-campus on Saturday and meet Mike for lunch on his home turf (I thanked his wife @JennChi on Twitter for loaning him out, and I'm sorry I didn't get to meet her too! Mike has already blogged about our meeting). And if you ever have to kill a couple of hours waiting around in an airport, you cannot have better company than Anna Lefler (Beth Kephart, you have permission to be envious :-D). She can't stay away from bookstores either.
- Speaking of bookstores and reading, this trip gave me a fine opportunity to get to know my Kindle. I am officially in love with it, and almost halfway through reading Admission by Jean Hanff Korelitz on it.
- I was lucky enough to meet up with fellow book-centric bloggers Sassymonkey, TexasRed, and Beatrice, who all were subjected to my Kindle praises. If you're a book-focused blogger who was there and I didn't get to meet you, please leave me a comment here to say hello - and I'm very sorry I missed you!
- OK, though, enough about all the people for a minute...this was a conference, right? What about the programming content? I'll discuss that in a post of its own in another day or two, but in short, I felt that I attended a pretty good sampling of sessions and panels from across the board, and got something worthwhile from every one of them (even if I didn't exactly like what I heard - there seems to be pretty strong sentiment that good writing isn't really enough to draw readers to a blog anymore, and that makes me just a bit sad).
- As far as content goes, though...book bloggers and BlogHer planners, we need to talk, because book blogging doesn't even to show up on the BlogHer conference radar, and I think this is a big mistake. I pitched a "Room of Your Own" session for book bloggers - it didn't get the votes. We couldn't even get a dedicated table at one of the "Birds of a Feather" lunches. BlogHer is a conference focused on women bloggers, and an awful lot of women are blogging about books - and influencing readers and book buyers. We're worth more notice than being lumped in with "entertainment" or "review" bloggers, although we do review (and, hopefully, we entertain). I think there's a vicious circle going on here, unfortunately - book bloggers won't come to general conferences like BlogHer if they don't feel that there's something meaningful there for them, but if they don't come to the conferences, the organizers won't consider them in program planning.
- BlogHer'10 has already been announced and opened for registration. I'm not sure I'll be going.
More to come in the next couple of days...and if you have any specific questions about BlogHer'09 that you're wondering about, please leave them in the comments, and I'll do my best to address them!