It's that time again, folks...the time when hundreds of blogging women (and a few good blogging men) start talking about the big annual conference they'll soon be attending, and hundreds of other bloggers either commiserate, turn green with envy, eagerly follow every detail, or get sick of the whole thing and tune it all out.
This will be my second year attending the BlogHer Conference, and it's nice to have some idea what to expect this time. I expect to be overwhelmed by crowds at times, and to want to duck out early from any parties I actually attempt to attend. I expect to have a hard time deciding which breakout sessions I most want to go to, and to keep my days full and busy with great content. I expect to meet up with bloggers I've met before and bloggers I've been wanting to meet, and not have enough time to talk with any of them. And I know where I'll be at 1:30 PM on Saturday, August 7:
We all know bloggers want to become authors. But with traditional publishers spending less and less on marketing, authors must now become marketers, and that means they must become bloggers too...sometimes they take to it eagerly, sometimes dragged kicking and screaming. Add to the mix how much easier than ever it is to self-publish and the book bloggers who are now being wooed by publishers and even authors directly, and you've got a new publishing eco-system.
The solitary pursuits of writing and criticism are now transparent and sometimes even crowd-sourced. And more authors and critics are now not only the content producers, but their own publishers and business development representatives. The lines are decidedly blurred. But the opportunities seem so much more accessible than ever. We will dig into it all in this session featuring Kamy Wicoff from She Writes (moderator), book blogger Florinda Pendley Vasquez, marketing expert Penny Sansevieri, and author Carleen Brice.
I "met" my fellow panelists via conference call two weeks ago, and am looking forward to meeting them in person at the speaker-training session the evening before the conference starts. They're all professionals in writing and developing writers, and I feel privileged - and a little out of my element - to be working on this with them. In our session, I will do my best to speak to and represent the role book bloggers play in this "ecosystem" - building relationships with authors and publishers, reviewing and publicizing - and try not to make anyone sorry to have me on the panel! If you have anything you particularly want me to talk about, let me know in comments, and if there's a way to work it into the discussion, I'll certainly try to bring it up!
The conference is being held at the same hotel, the Hilton New York, where my family stayed during our recent vacation trip to the city, so I don't want to spend all the time in the hotel! For one thing, the Hilton's lobby does not encourage relaxing and chatting - unlike the Sheraton Chicago, where the 2009 conference was held, there's no seating in the lobby. Considering how much time I spent camped out in the lobby last year, people-watching and chatting and reading, this was a very disappointing discovery. But there's a lot of sight-seeing within easy walking distance or a short subway ride, and with luck, I'll still remember a bit about how to get around. There's one place my roommate and I especially want to visit - the Strand Bookstore. Now, that's a bookworm's idea of a party...
Lots of bloggers have been posting prep tips for BlogHer recently, and have done a better job of it than I would. Whether it's your first or fifth time going to the conference, there's lots of info to help you get ready.
Miss Britt has a list of things the first-time BlogHer-goer can expect: lots of free stuff, lots of parties, and even more parties that you won't even know about until someone mentions them on Twitter and you realizes you weren't invited to them. Expect to be overwhelmed and confronted with existential questions about your place in the blogiverse. Expect to spend a lot of time on your feet - hence, the Great BlogHer Shoe Debates. I'd add one thing: expect to enjoy it all just as much as you set your mind to, but what you get out of the experience is up to you.
Cecily Kellogg of Uppercase Woman recommends a few things not to do: skip the fancy shoes, don't getting preoccupied with the parties and the swag, and don't get caught up in (or create) interpersonal drama.
"BLOGGERS ARE JUST PEOPLE. This is my most important point. The other bloggers? The ones you think are super famous? They are just people. They have their own life issues happening at any given moment, and they are trying to have their own awesome conference experience. Plus? Some of them are paralyzed by social anxiety. Some are freaked out about having to speak, and some feel like they just totally fucked up while they spoke. Sometimes they've got food poisoning. Sometimes they just had a tremendous emotional experience and need to have some quiet time to recover. Sometimes they've had too much to drink. Sometimes they get into an argument with a friend. Whatever it is, the moment you choose to approach a blogger you've admired from afar may very well be the worst moment of the weekend for her. So if the blogger you've loved forever is short with you, or doesn't gush back as much as you want her to, or simply walks by without responding to your hello -- whatever it is, IT IS NOT ABOUT YOU."Undomestic Diva's "Less Than Super Famous Blogger's Guide to Blogher 2010" has "before," "during," and "after" suggestions: order business cards and arrange a ride share from the airport; bring cash, a camera, those business cards, and a party dress (just in case you decide not to blow them off after all); speak up, say hello, and mingle; and don't diss your experience after the fact.
Christine Koh from Pop Discourse advises a "less is more" approach to the conference based on being realistic:
"Be realistic about the conference program…and take a step outside your comfort zone.Related to the social-calendar item, I'd second Christine's suggestion to make plans with friends you want to make certain you see there - either in advance, or via text/IM on-site. It's a huge event, and while you may find there are some faces you seem to see everywhere you go, you'll also find there are others you won't manage to see at all unless you make a point of it.
Wherever you are on the program stamina spectrum, I suggest mapping out what sessions you plan on attending in advance and keeping the number of sessions reasonable. Obviously, this number will vary from person to person, but I might recommend identifying 1-3 must attend sessions then a handful of additional sessions across the conference to add on depending on your stamina for sitting and listening. And if you’re mostly going to BlogHer for networking, I recommend scanning the program and attending 1-2 sessions beyond your reach or comfort zone.
Take a realistic look at your social calendar.
I’m taking a realistic look at my calendar (and a map of Manhattan) over the next couple of weeks, stripping out double bookings and un-RSVP’ing for events where I’m pretty sure it would be un-fun or impossible for me to get from point A to B to give the event’s organizers any meaningful amount of my time...I’m taking a firm line and politely declining if I already have a conflict, no matter how tempting the event is or how much I’m fretting for people about their event planning. These two action items will not only make social events more reasonable and fun for me, but will open space for other people."
Jean from Stimeyland had a couple of very practical recommendations I didn't see anywhere else:
- Don't forget the Advil, but bring the Pepto-Bismol too. (My addition: If you do forget either one, there's a Duane Reade just up the street. There's a Duane Reade every few blocks, actually. In New York City, they're like the Starbucks of drugstores.)
- Bring small bills - the drinks may be free, but the tips aren't.
And here are five of Kim Tracy Prince's "Top 10 Tips for Survival at BlogHer'10":
Are you going to be at BlogHer'10, or just in New York City between August 5th and 7th? It would be great to see you - please leave a comment, @ me on Twitter, or e-mail me at 3.rsblog AT Gmail DOT com if you'd like to make some plans! And if you make it to my ROYO session, please come by and say hello!
- "Pace yourself with the alcohol – for God’s sake! You are an adult person. Drink responsibly. Also, pack ibuprofen.
- Wherever you go, you will miss something, but you’ll have a great time there. There are so many simultaneous events that unless you have figured out how to clone yourself you will indeed miss several things.
- (echoing Cecily's point) Remember that some bloggers are much more comfortable at home in their pajamas and are socially awkward. If you run up to someone with squee in your brain because you are excited to meet her and she remains nonplussed – it’s not you, it’s her. Most likely.
- Try not to miss breakfast. There are plenty of tasty, healthy treats to stash in your bag for later, in case you forget to bring the granola bars.
- DON’T worry if you’re not invited to the party, or you don’t know where the secret swag room is, or if the mommy bloggers get all the cool stuff. Focus on what’s happening, on the people you’re meeting, on the information you’re learning. You’ll be much, much happier and more satisfied."