This is an honest review of my experience at the BlogHer 2017 conference.
If you want to learn more about blogging, listen to quality sessions, and walk away feeling refreshed, energized, and inspired, DON’T waste your time or your money on BlogHer.
I’m sad to say this because I’m the type of person that tries to turn every situation into a positive. I walked away with my own positives, but I was disappointed in the overarching agendas BlogHer presented to us.
As I mentioned in my last post, I’ve been at this blogging conference the past few days. I took a half day off work on Thursday, and a full day off on Friday to attend.
I’m going to warn you…this is a LONG post. But I promise there are plenty of sub-headers and bullet points to break it up!
I was a late blog conference bloomer…as in, I didn’t find out about the BlogHer 2017 conference until a month ago! That’s pretty late. When I found out it was right here in Orlando, I thought it would be a great opportunity.
I searched for discounted tickets, any sort of coupon codes. BlogHer offered $50 off for signing up for their newsletter. But that wasn’t enough for me. A regular-priced ticket was currently sitting at $399, so I couldn’t justify spending the money.
After searching for awhile, I found a BlogHer webpage from OCTOBER 2016 that advertised the BlogHer 2017 conference. The webpage mentioned an early bird ticket from when it really was early…for $199.
So…I emailed SheKnows Media. In the email, I made a joke that even though I was a “late bird”, I would appreciate their consideration in honoring the early bird price. I mentioned I was excited the conference would be in my hometown and that it would be my first blog conference.
Miraculously, SheKnows Media responded pretty quickly, within two days or so, and said lucky enough they had a 50% off coupon that I could use. Just like that, I received the early bird discount. Bloggers, please remember to ask, and just do it nicely! Something great could come of it. The worst that could happen is someone says “no.”
Using my resources, I checked out speakers, downloaded the VERY helpful BlogHer app (kudos to the app developers), and I printed out my session/class schedule, ranking my interests in each session to have an idea of what classes to check out.
Planning out conference days is crucial. You don’t have to strictly stick to that schedule. There’s always wiggle room for conversations and time to change sessions. But it’s great to have an idea of what you might like, going into a conference.
I’m going to start out with the good.
- Bloggers. There were 2,500+ bloggers at the BlogHer 2017 conference. That’s a LOT of people! Sometimes when I’m working on my computer, sitting at my desk, I feel like I’m the only one doing what I do. When you see all these other people in one room, walking around, or talking to each other, it really puts it in perspective just how many creators are out there. It makes blogging more tangible to see all these great content creators in one place.
- Contacts. In meeting these creators, I walked away with so many business cards. I’d never had a business card until a few days before the show, and I am so thankful! The conference was a great place to talk to other people about why they blog, how they monetize their blog, and what their future plans are.
- Brands. There were at least 40 brands at the show in a separate room called the “Expo Hall,” designated for brand booths. WordPress, Bluehost, eBay, Bob Evans (for food bloggers) were a few of the brands at the show. I didn’t understand just how important brands were to blogging until I went to the conference. All these companies WANT bloggers to advertise their products in exchange for cash or free products.
- Freebies. Upon walking in to the BlogHer 2017 conference, we received a HUGE goodie bag in a cute beach bag that reads “i need vitamin sea.” I added it up, and there’s close to $100 of free stuff in the bag. Plenty of brand booths also gave out freebies. WordPress gave out cute travel-size items for hands, feet, hair, and the beach, while Domain.me handed out mobile chargers, and Starkist and Bob Evans offered food samples.
- Side Conversations. Many of the brand vendors offered support. They weren’t just trying to sell a product. Aside from affiliate offers (making money by encouraging readers to purchase or sign up), WordPress and Bluehost offered web support. I asked a ton of plugin questions here, and it felt awesome to ask the tech experts in person. They already offer great support online, but it was cool to meet them in person and get answers to these questions. Another vendor, Domain.me, offered elevator pitches: how to sell yourself in 30 seconds. I met with Stephanie Proft at the Domain.me booth. She helped me craft my elevator pitch, and that alone was worth my time!
- BlogHer 2017 Conference App. The app is AMAZING. It provides a full list of speakers and their bios, the conference schedule with keynotes and sessions, a list of attendees if you opt-in to share your information, you can take notes, and you can even create your own conference agenda! You can sort your schedule by day, and you’ll receive reminders 15-30 minutes before each event.
- Wardrobe. DUH! Picking out stylish outfits for THREE DAYS was pretty great. I wore colorful Old Navy Pixie Pants for two days (mint and coral), khaki pants another day, a cute top each day, and comfortable, thick heels. Make sure those shoes are comfy!
Let’s get down to business
So I’ve given my thoughts on all the good of the BlogHer 2017 conference…now it’s time to get real and bring up the not-so-good parts of the conference.
Speaking instead of listening
I give BlogHer/SheKnows Media credit for getting so. many. speakers. Big names, too. Ahem, blogger and body activist Gabi Gregg. Actress and activist Maria Bello. TENNIS BALLER AND ACTIVIST SERENA WILLIAMS.
You get the point.
There was a variety of speakers from different backgrounds, all with some sort of large media following and strong, female presence. But…there were way TOO MANY speakers. It seems like the conference focused on the speakers instead of focusing on the audience. They chose QUANTITY over quality.
Here’s my “WatchHer” list of things to be aware of, based on my experience:
- Everything runs late. Want a good seat at the keynote speaker session? Get there a half hour early. Want a good seat at your sessions? Leave the keynote speaker session at least a half hour early.
- The keynotes run LATE from beginning to end. I kid you not, from the very first keynote during breakfast, they kicked things off 10-15 minutes late. Everything was pushed back by at least 15-30 minutes for the rest of the day. That’s inexcusable for the “largest conference…for women content creators in the world.”
- The SheKnows Media emcees will tell you “You don’t have to worry about leaving early or missing your session!” but that’s far from the truth. You won’t miss the session, but you DO need to leave early. People sat on the floor and stood up against walls because there weren’t enough seats in the rooms in most, if not all the sessions I attended.
- They do a great job with providing a TON of information before the BlogHer 2017 conference…a ton of information about the speakers. It was great to learn about these bloggers and influencers. I felt like the team put more time into the bios than they did in regulating the speaker content and the conversations. Most sessions were interview-style, leaving little interaction with the audience. Q&A sessions were good, but limited. Shout out to Yasmeen Hassan for speaking to and with the audience, getting us involved.
BlogHer 2017 Conference – SheKnows nothing about her audience
The political agenda was atrocious. 90% of the keynote and session speakers I heard talked allll about how terrible the president is, how they remember being in “the fetal position” the night of the election (8 months ago), and I felt the speakers left no choice to bloggers who may not partake in politics or who may support Donald Trump.
I was upset with the agenda. This had nothing to do with blogging. Yes, there are news bloggers. I’m a journalist, and I understand this. Yes, politics is a hot topic on t.v. and in online news. But keynote speakers like Cecile Richards, Chelsea Clinton and Ana Navarro (and many of the speakers from certain sessions) gave us attendees no choice. It was their way, their opinion. There was no room for open-mindedness or for any other opinions than those who hate this presidency.
What confuses me the most, and what really frustrates me is the hatred and the words coming out of these people’s mouths. I won’t go into too much detail because I don’t want to lose the focus here, but it’s upsetting how cruel people’s comments were toward families and political parties as a whole.
These speakers want equality, they ask for love and support, and they talk about how important it is to band together. But they throw their hatred in people’s faces with these terrible agendas.
I walked out on a few of the speakers because I signed up with the expectation of learning about blogging, not to hear someone’s view about how they think our society is right now. Keep in mind, I am open to listening to other points of view and understanding, but this was too much. I was relieved to hear other bloggers felt the same way. I kept quiet until halfway through day 2 since I was trying to stay positive. It was almost every speaker, every session, every keynote.
On the positive side, I really appreciated Maria Bello and Yasmeen Hassan’s keynote. It was a refreshingly powerful and constructive conversation about gender equality. These ladies spoke about the state of women and girls in today’s society, without touching any presidential politics. Yasmeen Hassan also spoke to the audience instead of at the audience. I thought that was great because she included us in the conversation.
Blog session confessions
Attend some sessions…but not all sessions. There are 4-5 speakers in each session on average (some were smaller with two speakers), so each person will tell their story, share a little bit of helpful blogging information, and then they will end the session with information on their next steps in their business.
I thought there were too many stories about the speakers, and not enough information about how us bloggers can apply that information. Us bloggers who paid hundreds of dollars to learn.
Kudos to Winter and Sharon of the Hungry Squared Podcast. They demonstrated how to record and edit a podcast, as well as the purpose in creating a podcast. I left that session feeling excited and inspired.
Pay to ParkHer
Something else to note…parking was 27 BUCKS PER DAY. BlogHer mentioned none of this on their website or in the ticket information. They mentioned parking TWO DAYS before the conference, buried in an FAQ PDF! This was on PAGE 12 OF 14, in small print, in a separate document attendees had to download. That’s downright sneaky in my opinion.
People could find this by checking the BlogHer website on June 20, clicking on the FAQs link, and reading through page 12. BlogHer Events also sent direct emails on June 20, which required attendees to click on the “Download the FAQs” link, redirect to the webpage, click on the “#BlogHer17 FAQs” link, and then scroll to page 12. While this isn’t a terribly difficult task, it’s a shame BlogHer made it such a task to get simple information on additional expenses we might not have budgeted for.
Yes, we probably could’ve called the Hilton location to check. But most conferences offer validated parking. If they don’t, then they usually post the parking cost to give attendees a heads up.
That was an extra $81 on top of the conference, a little less than half the price of an early bird ticket. When I asked the BlogHer registration table if there was somewhere I could get my parking pass validated, a lady walked up with a sarcastic smile and quickly answered, “We don’t validate parking here.”
In talking with some attendees, I found out we could eat or grab a drink and the hotel restaurants would validate it. At least you’re getting something for the money instead of just paying for your vehicle to sit all day.
Some bloggers went to the BlogHer 2017 conference in a large group with gal pals. Others, like myself, went alone. I hadn’t seen this many people I didn’t know since college orientation! It was a little overwhelming at first, but the best thing to do is….do what makes YOU feel comfortable!
If you rock it alone and would rather keep to yourself, that’s okay. If you try to sit alone, just know that other bloggers will sit with you and strike up a conversation.
I think it’s best to make the first move. I’m an introverted extrovert because I would rather be on my own, but once I talk to someone, I’m excited to ask questions and listen to their experiences. I wound up picking an empty table for most of the BlogHer 2017 conference, and then other people would join me one by one and I would talk to them. By making the first move, I was able to put the focus on the other bloggers and talk less about myself.
Most of them were nice. They asked about my experiences and my own blog later on. It’s important to listen and learn from other people. They will be excited to tell you their stories, and then they might naturally ask you about your own stories afterward.
Keeping it real…unfortunately, I did not have a great experience at the BlogHer 2017 conference. I’m thankful I met some great local (and national) bloggers. Content-wise, I would not recommend it. Networking-wise, I would recommend it. I learned a thing or two about the blogosphere. In the end, I’m still thankful for the experience and all the inspiring bloggers I met, including some ladies from Orlando. I learned a lot about what to do and what not to do. If anything, the conference was definitely a learning experience all around! I’ll keep doing what I love, listening and growing along the way.