I recently had the privilege of speaking at BlogHer10. If you’re not aware, BlogHer is a community that supports women bloggers. I want to give a huge shout out to Laurie Ruettimann and Elisa Camahort Page for including me in this year’s job track. I had a great time talking about resumes and self-marketing with Miriam Salpeter from Keppie Careers.
What’s fascinating to me about the BlogHer conference is the phenomenal growth they’ve experienced in a relatively short time. The conference has been around for 6 years and has approx. 2500 attendees. I know conferences that have been around over 30 years and are struggling to break 1000.
So what is it about BlogHer?
In thinking about my conference experience, I came to realize there were some business takeaways that set it apart from other events I’ve been to. While I understand not everyone wants to be a blogger…conferences and professional development are a part of everyday work life. And, I see some of the things BlogHer offers as being food for thought when it comes to the future of conferences:
The Swag Effect – I know, I know…people have a love/hate relationship with swag. But I must say that BlogHer exhibitors and sponsors seemed to have plenty of traffic and conversations going on. Why? Swag. They weren’t trying to hand out 17 pieces of marketing collateral. They handed you the product and said, “try it, we hope you like it.” I call that marketing. Exhibitors and sponsors have to find ways to get attendees excited about their products and services. Reading about it in a brochure (or not) just doesn’t cut it.
Networking Time – Because sponsors and exhibitors had plenty of traffic, there was none of this “box lunch in the expo hall” crap. BlogHer attendees were served nice buffet meals (with vegetables!) and given the opportunity to sit, eat and talk with each other. I learned a lot from the other bloggers at the conference via these networking opportunities. Attendees need to realize that exhibitors and sponsors are the profit line for any conference. If they avoid the expo hall, meeting planners have no choice but to force it.
Being Green – BlogHer took being eco-friendly to a new level for me. Our bags were eco-friendly. And no disposable water bottles – we were given a water bottle and then water stations were available. A detailed conference agenda was emailed in advance and only a few pages were provided on-site. Something really cool was the “swag exchange” – a place to drop off the swag you had no intention of using and take something you would use. I was very impressed that BlogHer walks the talk where recycling is concerned.
Social Media – Speaking of walking the talk, BlogHer is obviously a blogging conference so there’s an expectation attendees will use social media during the event. And, they supported it with free WiFi in guest rooms and meeting rooms, a Geek Lab (for the technically challenged, like me) and a Charging Lounge (for iPhone users, also like me). If conferences are going to fill programs with social media sessions and invite bloggers to cover the event, they need to support it with free WiFi, etc.
Panel Discussions – Every session was a panel discussion. During our speaker training, BlogHer explained how they look for different POVs to make sessions interesting. I attended a session on Mindful Monetization and each person on the panel had a different perspective and experience. The purpose of the panel wasn’t to hear about one theory or one model. It was to present many different views, so I can figure out what’s best for me.
While some people might say there was too much swag and maybe a few too many Mommy Bloggers, I really had a great time at BlogHer and hope to attend next year in San Diego. I’ve told many HR pros to give SHRM chapters or conferences more than one time to make a fair assessment. I definitely plan to follow my own advice.