Yes, my title was totally meant to get you to click. Linkbait for the win!
A couple weeks ago I attended BlogHer ’14 in San Jose. This was the 10th BlogHer conference, but my first. I’ve been thinking of going for some time, wondering if it would be beneficial for both of my two lives – my affiliate manager day job, and my blogger night job. Well, that question was answered. Since the conference was taking place in San Jose, a short distance from me, it seemed like a sign that I should finally attend and see what it was all about. Even though I took my Nikon D5000 with me, it ended up staying in my room the whole conference as most of the picture ops were selfies, and taking a selfie with a huge DSLR is incredibly cumbersome. So excuse the sub-par photo quality!
There were plenty of opportunities for schmoozing. I took part in a mini geek meetup before the opening party courtesy of Williesha Morris’ wrangling and wore my awesome Sodium Batman t-shirt (seen in the pic), which got me plenty of compliments throughout the expo hall that night. I appreciated that there was time in the agenda dedicated to checking out the expo hall. Some booths changed over the 3 days, but most didn’t, so it was nice to get that “swag run” in at once for the bulk and let my conference bag live in my room for the rest of the conference so I could instead carry my fashionable bag with iPad and such in it.
Most of the meals were great for networking as well. Instead of buffet style, meals were at the tables, so you never had to get up, or excuse yourself… once you found a place to sit, you could relax for the entirety of the keynotes and meals. I like that they were combined as well, but on some level that did sort of hinder the networking once they started. I met a few people at the tables, but note to self: next time I need to be more outgoing and introduce myself instead!
There were also suite parties, which apparently were supposed to be limited in the number of people invited, or who could register to attend, but through some snafu with Eventbrite, they had to open them up to everyone. One was just two doors down from our room, and it was one I was actually interested in the product for to talk about on Girl Scout Guide. But it was so crowded people spilled into the halls and by the time I waited for it to die down a touch, they were out of any items to give away but gave me some info. I feel like those could have been good networking opportunities had they been a bit tamer. I heard it got so bad that people were bribing others to get off the elevators in the Hilton so they could get on! No thanks!
I tried to balance my attendance of sessions between what would benefit me as a blogger and what might be interesting to learn from an affiliate manager perspective. I went to several sessions on writing and being a writer, which were a bit of a review for me, but I still ended up with some notes (that I’ll share in separate posts for you). Overall I was disappointed that there were not more actionable items that I could bring back to my business of blogging to apply. During one session, an attendee actually took time to criticize the way the panel was talking about things and how she wasn’t learning anything, which, aside from being rude, the moderator apologized and said that the BlogHer 14 organizers had encouraged the speakers to be more anecdotal with less slides. Which is a bit disappointing as I think a lot of more advanced bloggers were looking less for stories and more for take-homes to improve their blogs or businesses. I had assumed, going in, that I’d learn a TON about being a blogger, when in fact most of the sessions were review for me and I discovered I was able to answer a lot of the questions people asked.
I also didn’t like how monetization was somewhat demonized. In the freelance writing panel I attended, someone in the audience put it best “You can’t take exposure to the grocery store”. Preach, sister! So I wonder why making money was not brought up more. A lot of times in sessions and the 10×10 project talks, I would hear someone reference monetizing something in a way that sounded vaguely like affiliate marketing, but no one used those words. It wasn’t until the second day that I heard someone use the words “Affiliate Marketing”. I feel like a lot of this community just doesn’t know how easily they could monetize their content, even old content, effectively.
Which, as you might expect, means I’ll be looking out for how to submit a speaker proposal for BlogHer 15.
Talk about star power: three of the keynotes were major celebrities: Comedienne Tig Notaro, Huffington Post founder Arianna Huffington and actor/activist Kerry Washington. The 4th keynote was from The Bloggess herself, Jenny Lawson, who I’d never heard of before but she was hilarious so she’s on my radar now.
Tig Notaro was a relatively unknown, working comic until a couple of years ago when she went through her mother dying suddenly, a serious breakup, and a cancer diagnosis all in a few months span and decided “screw it” one night and went on stage to talk about it. It made waves and Louis C.K. pushed her to let him distribute it on his website, and it was amazing. She did a comedy set, which was hilarious, and then a Q&A with one of the BlogHer founders. It was very insightful and I loved her humor. I went out and bought her album Good One since a lot of people in the Q&A referenced jokes from that album. It is, indeed, a good one.
I’ve been a fan of Arianna Huffington for a long time, back from her appearances on Politically Incorrect back in the day. So I was very interested to see her. She had some terrific advice on day 2 of BlogHer 14: sleep your way to the top. Literally. See, she has recently written a book called Thrive: The Third Metric to Redefining Success and Creating a Life of Well-Being, Wisdom, and Wonder, and she had a lot to say about the power of getting enough sleep in order to be successful in life. She suggesting reading a real book (not on a Kindle or iPad) and not checking email an hour before bed, two things I’m going to try to do more. Here are some of the nuggets of wisdom I tweeted out during her keynote:
- “best advice is to sleep your way to the top” “stop worrying and get more sleep” @ariannahuff #blogher14
- “Being tired has become the new normal” @ariannahuff #blogher14
- “ubiquity is the new exclusivity” @ariannahuff. @guykawasaki called her a quote machine & accused her of thinking in 140 char.! #blogher14
- 1 thing @ariannahuff does to help get more sleep is not checking email for the hr before bed. Also a bath & reading a real book #blogher14
- Disconnect from the everyday world to reconnect with ourselves – @ariannahuff #blogher14
- “stop glamorizing being busy” @ariannahuff #blogher14 “no is a complete sentence”
- “Never have an impersonal relationship with anyone” @ariannahuff #blogher14
- “Men are always ‘either or’. Women are ‘this and that’” @ariannahuff #blogher14
- Torn. Glad I didn’t skip the @ariannahuff keynote but apparently she would have wanted me to get more sleep than I did #blogher14
Kerry Washington was a peach. I don’t watch Scandal, so a lot of the questions the interviewer asked her at first were over my head, but she had some universally cool truths to share too. Being someone overly interested in the mechanics and behind-the-scenes aspects of acting and the entertainment business, I enjoyed a lot of what she had to say. She did talk more about her acting than her activism, but I appreciated how real she was with her answers and genuine. Here’s some of the wisdom I tweeted from her keynote!
- I started realizing that the red carpet is a marketing platform. – @kerrywashington #blogher14 #fashion
- It’s a bit unfair to the audience to know too much about an actor so you can more easily enjoy the stories @kerrywashington #blogher14
- My job as an actor is to embody humanity – @kerrywashington #blogher14
- Everybody has a story worth telling @kerrywashington #blogher14
- The reason I don’t weigh myself is because there’s never a good answer on the scale. – @kerrywashington #blogher14
- It’s none of my business what people think of me @kerrywashington #blogher14
- As much as I am a part of the community I don’t look to that community to affirm my worth @kerrywashington #blogher14
- No @kerrywashington does not keep clothes frm @scandalabc they don’t stunt-dress. They want u to feel that she has a real closet #blogher14
- It is so tremendous to work with and for a woman @kerrywashington #blogher14
- Our democracy is only as good as we are (paraphrased from @kerrywashington). You have to show up. #blogher14
- Are we willing to have our heroes and anti heroes look different from us? @kerrywashington #blogher14
As a blogger, I’d definitely go again. It was empowering as a woman, and encouraging as a blogger. There were lots of positive messages and it was very uplifting. I’m definitely more energized to blog! Now, as an affiliate manager… I don’t think it’s a conference for that, unless our agency or one of the merchants I represent exhibited or sponsored a suite party. I tried to shoehorn in my position as an affiliate manager into most conversations, but most people seemed to open up with “what do you blog about”, so really it would be rude not to answer that question first. If we exhibited, it would be a more natural conversation and the networking-as-recruitment aspect wouldn’t be so ham-fisted.
There was affiliate industry representation in the form of both ShareASale and CJ Affiliate exhibiting, and tools Skimlinks and FMTC. I may have had shots with some friends thanks to the Twisted Shotz booth So I think the affiliate industry is creeping slowly into the blogging community and making itself know, so I can only hope that, maybe in a few years, BlogHer would be a better investment as an affiliate manager. But I think for now, it’ll just be a good shot in the arm of “you can do it” and “I’m enough!” messages to get me through the rest of the year of blogging!
And yo, it was all super worth it to be at the closing party, sponsored by McDonalds, and have Run DMC’s own Rev Run DJ for awhile and rap along with It’s Tricky and Walk this Way. And my selfie won me a copy of Mario Kart 8. Boom!