Finding Community at BlogHer

As you may know (because I haven’t stopped talking about it for weeks) last week I attended the BlogHer conference in San Diego. I dragged myself out of bed at 5:00am and made it to the airport a full two hours before I normally wake up. I danced. I washed plastic dishes in the sink. I attended amazing sessions and met amazing people.

I am not going to list the amazing people because, well, I’m sure to leave someone out. But if I met you for the first time at BlogHer, I can tell you that it was likely one of the highlights of my trip.

View from our hotel balcony
View from my hotel room balcony

I had heard mixed reports about BlogHer prior to attending, and I honestly had mixed feelings of my own. I received several emails in advance inviting me to stop by booths in the Expo Hall, and I’d heard lots of reports of attendees grabbing every piece of swag they could get their hands on. I also heard a lot of words like “overwhelming” and “crowded”. I was a little bit afraid that I would get swept up in the current of rampant consumerism in a way that wasn’t comfortable to me.

Green Moms at lunch
Lunching with the Green Moms

The truth of my experience was very different. I loved BlogHer. It was one of the most amazing experiences I have had in a very, very long time. It was absolutely worth the tears as I walked out the door of my house, the early morning flight and the work crunch I’ve been in since I got back. I would go through all that again in a heartbeat, with no reservations.

Hanging with Michelle, my pal from Toronto
Me and Michelle, my Toronto buddy

I’ve been struggling to sum up what was so amazing to me about BlogHer, and it comes down to community. At the conference, I was among my people. Whether I was listening to them speak during some amazing sessions, or crying at their words during the Community Keynote, or chatting with them at a party, I felt that these were people who had a shared experience. We are bloggers, which is a terrible word, really. It just sounds awful. But what it means is that we write our hearts and our loves and our experiences and share them with the whole world online.

Me and Marilyn
Hanging with my fabulous roommate Marilyn

Being in that community made me want to be better. It made me want to use my voice more effectively, advocate more strongly, write more skillfully and connect more deeply. It took an abstract concept – the internet – and brought it to life – these people here in this room. And the best part is that they were people I was proud to be associated with. They were genuine and friendly and awesome and real.

Loralee entertains Karen and Alexis
Loralee entertains Karen and Alexis at dinner

BlogHer is big. I heard some 3600 people attended in San Diego, and there is no way that we all came to the conference for the same reasons, or had the same experience. But I actually see that as an advantage, rather than a liability. Because the conference was large I was able to choose what was most appealing to me from a wide array of options. As well, the organizers were able to attract speakers who may not have attended a smaller conference – people like Indra Nooyi, Fatemeh Fakraie, Carol Jenkins and Ricki Lake. I was able to craft my own experience, and walk my own path.

At the Closing Keynote
Not the best picture, but I was sitting within spitting distance of Ricki Lake

Before I left for BlogHer I was keeping my expectations measured. I hoped that the experience would be mostly positive, but I tried to be reasonable and recognized that there would likely be low points, as well. Now, one week out, I am gushing, and I hope to attend BlogHer next year in New York. I feel that it has re-energized me, re-focused me, and reminded me that I may be sitting by myself at my kitchen table right now, but I am not alone. I am part of a much larger community, and we are awesome. That’s pretty much the best gift I could have received.

Have you attended BlogHer, or any other blog conferences? What did you think? And are you planning to attend BlogHer ’12 in New York next year? I’d love to hear!

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  1. Blogher pretty much met exactly my expectations, both the good and the bad. It was crazy, it was overwhelming, there were a few bad apples… but it was also WONDERFUL, lovely, and welcoming. I was thrilled to meet you and so many others that I love so dearly from afar. I’d like to go again next year and actually, bring my husband ! because he loves the twitter, but we’ll see if that is financially in the cards.
    the grumbles’s last post … cutty cut trimmy trim revealMy Profile

  2. That picture of us made me laugh. I love it. I had such fun with you. You are a fabulous roomie.
    Marilyn @ A Lot of Loves’s last post … Summer Days, Drifting AwayMy Profile

  3. I’m reallllllly thinking about it for next year. It’s in NYC which makes for an easy day trip for me. The price is a little steep for a non-sponsored ticket, and I’m still trying to clarify the “whys” behind my going. If it’s just to meet people I “know” online… well, that IS awesome, no doubt, but not sure if it’s hundreds of dollars and a day away from work &/or kids awesome. If it will help me improve my blogging… that is intruiging & adds to the value for sure. Still thinking. I’d really really love to meet people I “follow” on their blogs.
    But if it’s anything like the Toy Fair that I attend each year, there’s always FAR MORE to see than there is TIME to see it in; and being able to actually meet & have time to get to know someone a little better; well, it may not be the right venue.
    Then again, IS there a better opportunity?

    As you can see, I’m undecided. 🙂
    kelly @kellynaturally’s last post … Ten YearsMy Profile

    • BlogHer isn’t like a trade show, in that (for me, anyway) it’s far more about attending sessions and learning and connecting than it is about chatting up industry reps. I wasn’t sure what it would be like, but it was definitely a growing experience for me in terms of blogging and writing and working in media in general.

      I attended sessions on being your authentic self and owning your imperfections, becoming media literate, effecting social change online, blogging crafting and DIY, sustaining online communities and avoiding blogger burnout. Not everyone knocked my socks off, but enough of them did that it was worth it for me. Also, I was able to connect with enough people and have enough great conversations for me.

      But maybe I’m biased, because *I* would really like you to come to New York. It would be great to meet you!

      • The aspect of attending sessions & listening to other bloggers’ wisdom & experience is very appealing. Being able to get more clairty about blogging, and what it’s like to wear the blogger hat & all the other hats blogging mothers wear – and how to balance that (how others balance all that, anyway) – is an exciting prospect. I’m leaning more towards yes. If I just went for a day, is Friday or Saturday better? Or are both necessary to get the most out of it?

        ps: the chatting up industry reps is my least favorite, or, I should say, most personally challenging part of toy fair for me. I’m there for the fun stuff & swag for my kids (& me), man. 😉 So if I can skip stuff like schmoozing (ha! me, schmoozing!) at Blogher, it’s sure looking better & better.

        pps: Amber, I’d love to meet you too!!! 😀
        kelly @kellynaturally’s last post … Ten YearsMy Profile

  4. I said to Marilyn that I couldn’t go because then I would feel pressure to start making money off my blog and stuff, but then Marilyn said no no, you just go and hang with your girlfriends. And I”m shy, but you’re shy, and you had fun. And have I mentioned that my husband travels a lot? And I’ve never been to New York? Guess I have to do some research.
    allison’s last post … Cottage Surfing – it’s Awesome.My Profile

    • You clearly do have some thinking to do. I, for one, would be super-excited if you came. It would be awesome, and we could hang out and stuff.

      It was so great for me to have Marilyn there who was my experienced buddy. I could totally be your experienced buddy.

  5. I already bought my ticket for NY next year.

    I didn’t get as much out of the sessions this year as I did last year. But I was much better at meeting people the second time. So I think I’d call it even.
    Capital Mom’s last post … Counting downMy Profile

  6. Thrilled that you finally got to go! Seems like you picked the right year to go 😉 I have no plans to attend although NYC! Woo Hoo!
    harriet Fancott’s last post … The highs and lows of camping with a toddlerMy Profile

  7. Amber, I’m so glad you had such a GREAT time and I’m bummed I missed you. BlogHer is a lot of fun. it is an amazing experience, and if I hadn’t treated myself to another amazing experience in London just a few months earlier, I would have been there.

    And I’m SO IMPRESSED you re-used your plate the whole time (which you didn’t even mention here, but a little email birdie told me!)

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