5 Reasons You Should Attend the BlogHer Conference Next Year

By Shawna Malvini Redden

The Bloggess, Jenny Lawson. Arianna Huffington. Guy Kawasaki. Tig Notaro. KERRY. WASHINGTON.

I saw them all, from 25-50 feet away.

And what’s more, I listened to their words and wisdom surrounded by hundreds of excited, mostly women bloggers.

Attending the BlogHer14 conference in San Jose was definitely the best decision I made this summer.  And not just for the swag bags or the opportunity to see my TV lady crush Olivia Pope* in person or the fabulously sweaty dance party to 80s/90s remixes by Rev Run of Run DMC fame chased by McD’s happy meals. (Yes, that happened.)

The best parts? Meeting and greeting hundreds of other writers, listening to successful women leaders from across a number of contexts, and experiencing a community. To adopt a phrase I heard a hundred times this weekend: I found my tribe.

Asking Jenny Lawson aka The Bloggess to sign my copy of her book “Let’s Pretend this Never Happened.
Asking Jenny Lawson aka The Bloggess to sign my copy of her book “Let’s Pretend this Never Happened.

Now I registered for the conference on a lark and showed up knowing not a single other soul. (I did run into the phenomenal Sacramento wedding photographer Sarah Maren and met up with a Twitter (now “real life”) friend, SN&R co-editor Rachel Leibrock though).

I admit feeling overwhelmed by the size/scope and, even as a five-year strong blogger, insecure about my writing and blog presence. But once I got over myself, I found so many opportunities to connect with writers at all levels of experience from those just getting ready to take the blogging plunge to outrageously popular and successful writers like Sactown’s own Janelle Hanchett of Renegade Mothering; Stacey Ferguson, co-founder of the Blogalicious conference; and Voices of the Year honoree Katherine Stone, founder of Postpartum Progress (who, by the way, were all humble and approachable).

Mixed in with socializing opportunities were breakout sessions catering to so many writing interests—parenting, lifestyle, personal, food, special needs, race/sex/gender, politics, technology—as well as workshops, tech support and writing labs. I especially enjoyed seeing representation from across the spectrum of experience—different cultural backgrounds, sexual orientations, political commitments, abilities, all sharing the same stage. Incredible.

And so, I offer 5 reasons why you should attend the BlogHer Conference in 2015:

1. Easy networking

As an introvert, I’m not one to break into conversations or attend gatherings by myself without a bit of trepidation. However BlogHer seemed bursting with opportunities to meet folks, exchange business cards, sit at tables with strangers and feel welcomed. In fact, I don’t think I sat with the same people twice and in every line or gathering, people would initiate conversation. “So what do you write about?” is an easy ice breaker. Consequently, my purse is overflowing with business cards of new blogs to check out and new friendships to develop.

2. Fangirling is encouraged

I took Amtrak to San Jose (*so* easy, by the way), and one stop away from the convention center realized I forgot my copy of “Let’s Pretend This Never Happened” which I planned to carry around and beg The Bloggess to sign in case we ended up in an elevator together. Like the fangirl that I am, I re-purchased the book and waited in line for an opportunity to meet her. Did I feel awkward? Nope. I was in line with a pack of other fans. At BlogHer, fangirling over internet famous writers is encouraged and supported.

3. Skill building

Want to improve your writing? Learn about turning blogging into a home based business? Partner with brands? Figure out SEO and traffic stats? Find new avenues for your writing? You can find all that and more at BlogHer.

4. Meaningful perks and swag

Okay, on the first full day of the conference, minicupcakes appeared in my hotel room unbidden. MAGICAL CUPCAKE DELIVERY, PEOPLE! (Now granted they seemed to be lentil flavored, but we shouldn’t dwell on that.)

In the Expo—picture the exhibit halls at the State Fair only with less aggressive employees and no one trying to shine your shoes—booth after booth of sponsors offered opportunities and giveaways. A lot of people used the Expo to make connections for business purposes—advertising, writing about products, endorsements, etc.—and to win prizes, of course. Yours truly took advantage of the occasional small gifts and snacks. Judge me all you want, but I won Candyland from the Chuck E. Cheese booth and sucked down a number of Sonic slushies and Baskin Robbins mini-cones. A blogger has to keep up her energy.

My favorite booths though? The Mrs. band’s “Magic Mirror” and The Timeline Project, both of which communicate positive messages to women in terms of self-esteem, (The Mrs’s tagline is #Imenough), and achieving goals. In the Expo’s apparent sea of commercialism and ice cream cones, I really liked the affirming presence of these groups. (Watch this video about the Magic Mirror, you’ll see what I mean: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kuoBEJ9DkJM)

The Mrs. is a band of ladies with a mission to sing songs about things other than teenage angst or wild nights clubbing. Their message of “I’m Enough” is pretty catchy.
The Mrs. is a band of ladies with a mission to sing songs about things other than teenage angst or wild nights clubbing. Their message of “I’m Enough” is pretty catchy.
5. Inspiration

Whether you blog for fun, are working on a writing career or just love good stories, BlogHer offers so much in the way of inspiring people, stories and ideas. I left with a brain full of new topics to write about, new outlets to share writing, and new people to read and reach out to. Although I knew a few of the speakers from their writing (including Sacramento food blogger Elise Bauer of Simply Recipes!), I got to listen to a whole set of accomplished and powerful women talking about what they loved. Terrific way to spend a long weekend!

 

(* Fellow Gladiators, while she did not give away any Scandal secrets, Kerry Washington said “I now know where the plane is going. I wish I could tell you.” No details but she promised we wouldn’t be disappointed! Also, there will be an Olivia Pope-inspired clothing collection at The Limited launching right before the season premier. September 25 cannot get here soon enough as far as I’m concerned.)

 

I left the keynote wanting Kerry Washington to be my best friend. I fell in love when she talked about the importance of having female bosses at work (hers is, ahem, Shonda Rhimes) and to “Cultivate the moments that bring you joy.” Washington is also an activist for the arts and politics. Talking about voting and participation, she told the audience, “Our country’s only going to be as good as we are. We need to show up.”
I left the keynote wanting Kerry Washington to be my best friend. I fell in love when she talked about the importance of having female bosses at work (hers is, ahem, Shonda Rhimes) and to “Cultivate the moments that bring you joy.” Washington is also an activist for the arts and politics. Talking about voting and participation, she told the audience, “Our country’s only going to be as good as we are. We need to show up.”

 

1. BlogHer closing
The Closing Keynote featured a panel discussion on the intersection of race, gender and feminism online. Key takeaways from the conversation: We need to listen to the experiences of others and stand up when we see injustice whether that’s bullying online or racism in everyday conversation. Seated, from left: Patrice Lee, Kristen Howerton, Grace Hwang Lynch, Cheryl Contee, Natalia Oberti Noguera, Kelly Wickham, and Feminista Jones. Standing, from left: BlogHer cofounders Jory Des Jardins, Lisa Stone and Elisa Camahort Page.

 

 

PicFrame-2
The Timeline Project (From Left to Right) –  is all about helping women set goals, track progress and achieve their dreams, check out yours truly, sharing my dream! BelowAn artist worked on her dream timeline, finishing it by the time Blogher ended Saturday evening.

 

 

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