Blogher 12 has just ended & I feel the need to offer up my observations about the evolution of a conference that is to many, the crown jewel of women’s networking events. Professional bloggers like Cecily Kellogg over at Babble & Amy who heads up Mom Spark have taken the plunge & posted their feelings about Blogher 12 & fearlessly questioned what they’ve gotten from the event & what that take away is worth to them. They’ve started a worthwhile discussion & I think a closer look at the subject of return on investment (ROI) & women’s reluctance to openly discuss this is important.
BlogHer Grows Up
In 2005 the first BlogHer conference event in San Jose, California opened & had 300 attendees, flash forward to 2012, this year’s event had over 4,000 bloggers in attendance. Phenomenal growth, particularly when you consider that that the vast majority of conference goers are not sponsored & are dipping into the family budget to attend. BlogHer has become like a yearly pilgrimage that many view as a “must do” if they are to achieve recognition in social media. Criticisms of the event & discussions about ROI are met with unease. Women, raised to “be nice” inadvertently silencing other women by encouraging them to “focus on the positive’ or gushing about the emotional “connections” we will all be making, the implication being that a complaining woman only values money or things.
ROI Is Not a Dirty Word
Do you think successful men sit there saying “I spent a butt load of money, traveled thousands of miles & didn’t get what I came for but that’s okay because I had a few positive moments ” ? Do you think sponsoring brands do this? For that matter do you think the talented founders of Blogher do this?
Be you a hobby, creative or product review blogger, you must be willing to look at your professional goals & be willing to measure your ROI from events that you expend your resources attending. You must be willing to offer up your constructive criticism, paired with positive suggestions, without apology to help the organization help you to get maximum return from your investment.
My Criticisms of BlogHer 12
Space – Nice as the Hilton has been, I feel BlogHer has outgrown the Hilton’s resources. Many issues were the direct result of our event being so big that we seriously strained the hotel & it’s staff. OTOH, many conference goers need to understand that big events can frequently involve small inconveniences.
The Swag thing – Hey, I love receiving a thoughtful gift, who doesn’t? but I’m sporting a few not so nice bruises .. all in the name of somebody’s desire to snag a free product coupon or to get their business card in the hands of some company rep before I did. Responsibility for this must be shared though this is NOT all on bloggers, I had a couple of downright rude experiences but much of the shoving & pushing was inadvertent, the result of a ton of brands passing out lots of stuff indiscriminately in a fairly crowded space.
My Positive Suggestions For 2013
1. More Room – BlogHer officials are already on this! I appreciate that the expo will be in a separate venue next year, more room for sessions & panels, keeping the hotel experience calmer & more amenable to groups of folks getting together, talking & connecting.
2. Info First, Swag later – Sponsors please consider mailing out coupons & giveaways AFTER the event, you’ll have quality conversations with bloggers who are truly interested in your brand
3. Education & Teaching about conference etiquette – Many conference attendees are new to social media & have no experience attending work related conference events. Perhaps an official Blogher program where experienced bloggers volunteer to take a newcomer under their wing or be available as a resource to answer questions would be helpful.
4. Pre/Post Open Forum Discussion with Sponsoring Brands – Having a discussion board where Brands & Bloggers can get to know each other, where we can share our conference agendas & expectations, where we can process after BlogHer would be wonderful! Yes, such a forum would need to be moderated but it would go a long way to increasing understanding & helping all of us to increase our ROI.
My Return on Investment
What do I expect to get from a conference? New connections, with brands & with other bloggers, many of whom have formed their own networks. I expect to deepen my existing relationships, spend time with people I already know & work with. Did I get those things this year? Yes, but sadly I also got enough unpleasantness that I am going to be tracking how much actual paid work results from this conference. I’ll also be looking to see what changes Blogher & the sponsoring brands decided to put into play before I decide on my game plan for next year.
Let me finish this up by saying that I have great respect for BlogHer, Elisa Camahort, Lisa Stone & Jory Des Jardins are astute, sharp business women who got where they are by using their true voices & not being afraid to measure the ROI from all of their professional activities. We must honor ourselves, our families & the blogging community as a whole by doing the same.