I was fortunate enough to attend my first Blogher conference last week, Blogher: In Real Life. I say fortunate because Blogher '09 sold out, as did LobbyCon, leaving me high and dry, without a ticket to the highly anticipated Blogher '09 conference. A few days prior to the conference, I started to Tweet that I was looking for a ticket. @secndcitysoiree responded to my tweet and put me in touch with @simasays who was not able to use her LobbyCon ticket due to a scheduling conflict. After a few tweets with @simasays I scored my "miracle ticket" to LobbyCon.
LobbyCon gave attendees access to the trade-show floor in the Sheraton Chicago where swag bags were plentiful. Many of the vendors had contests and offers. I was able to attend the lunch sponsored by Ragu
I was also able to attend some parties for which I was grateful. Most of all, I was able to make some great connections with other bloggers and take note of some the brands and companies who "get" the social media space.
Just as I suspected, bloggers, as a whole, are not a pretty bunch. I likened "the blogger" to radio personalities. In radio, people say "I got a face for radio", the same goes for bloggers, many of them have a body best suited to hide behind the internet. I guess the pounds have a tendency to pile on when you're sitting at a computer for 16 hours a day. I know, I have to FORCE myself to step away and part take in physical activity (and life in general for that matter).
The Mommy Bloggers were quite easy to spot. A few of them proudly paraded around with their babies in strollers. Though this is a baby-friendly environment, I found this to be odd, who brings their kid to a conference? I tried to keep an open mind, this is their time, they are the ones that are being celebrated at this conference so I imagine this is their time to do whatever they want. Like Sarah Palin, they can bring their kids with them every where when it likely makes more sense for the kids to be at home. Maybe the conference should offer day-care service for the kids (perhaps they do and I am unaware). I know that if I was in a break out session, I certainly would not want a screaming child interrupting the session.
One Mommy Blogger drama that I missed was the Nikon incident that was apparently a trending topic on Twitter. Now, this is hearsay, I heard it at the closing cocktail reception on Saturday. Nikon decided to throw an "invitation only" party at nightclub in Chicago for certain bloggers. My guess is that they selected women whom they believed would be influential and write about their products and the party on their blogs. They provided limo service from the hotel to the party which took place at night. Certain Mommy Bloggers attempted to attend the event with their children and were turned away. This turned out to be a huge mess and the Mommy Bloggers got on Twitter and fired back with horrible comments about Nikon. Again, I did not read or see any of these comments.
My thoughts on the Nikon situation. First of all, by profession, I am an event marketer who spent years in sponsorship, event marketing and event planning for Ad Agencies and large Professional Services firms. I have developed, planned, executed events on a very large scale for Fortune 100 companies, and on the flip side, I have put together events as small as Sweet Sixteens. The number one rule when hosting a sponsored event (or any event aside from your wedding) is, know your audience. Nikon rented out a trendy nightclub for this private event in an effort to host something upscale and cool; which would have been great but for a different audience. Nikon tried to create allure and buzz by hosting an "invite only" event but what they did not realize is that the blogger community (particularly the Mommy Blogger community) is more about sharing and embracing versus creating exclusivity.
I also worked as an Event Planner (which is different from being a marketer, it is more tactical and less strategic). What sucks is when you, the host, try to do something nice for guests and people act like total assholes. People do not appreciate the efforts of the host, they do not take into consideration that someone is spending a lot of money, time and energy so THEY could have a good time. I admit that Nikon threw the wrong party (or invited the wrong people) for this conference but I defend Nikon at the same time. The Nikon event was at NIGHT, it was not during the conference, it was supposed to be a HOT party at a NIGHTCLUB! What part of limo service, nightclub, dancing, music, alcohol, sexy and cool says to someone, "I think I am going to bring my kid"?? Finally I want to stress, it was NOT up to Nikon whether or not kids could attend, it IS AGAINST THE LAW for children to attend. The Nikon event took place in a venue that has a liquor license where one must be 21 to enter. Simply put, Nikon invited the wrong people to this event. Blogher is NOT just about Mommy Bloggers, there are many of us out there that blog about hot, fun, cool stuff that has nothing to do with the Mommy experience and we also attend Blogher. The event producers messed up, next time, they should hire me to plan their events!
There were some great vendors at this event. Hats off to many of these sponsors who really get it! They understand the audience, they provide relevant samples of their products, they did a great job with promoting their booths, they engaged people and encouraged them to go back and tweet about the products. Here are some of my favorites.
As this blog post states, I am the Un-Mommy blogger, I don't have kids, I don't want kids and I totally don't get the Mommy experience. I see a child and I wince. But, I thought Ragu did such a good job with the lunch they sponsored. They hired Larry Abel Designs to create a wonderful space and the food was also very good. Attendees were very aware of who sponsored lunch, the space was totally Ragu yet it was beautiful, tasteful and made sense.
I really liked the Michelin booth, the Michelin man was a great hit. Michelin was there taking photos and then uploading to their Flickr page.
A big shout out goes to Weber Shandwick who totally gets it! They had a few clients out there: All booth with the Laundry Fairy as well as the Suave Booth where they were giving free blow outs. Suave also was giving out full sized bottles of product which was a great take away. And, these great booths were also produced by Larry Abel Designs. I had the pleasure of meeting the gentlemen behind these wonderful designs, very nice and a professional team.
Tide and Bounce - a fantastic booth, great giveaways and Tim Gunn!! The ladies love Tim Gunn.
I also had a great conversation with one of the brand managers from the Tide team. He gave me his thoughts on one of the panels. He thought the panel on monetizing your blog would have been presented differently if it were directed to men. He said "Men would not talk about feelings, they would be more interested in a step by step approach."
The Microsoft Bing room was nice. They had refreshments and a demo on Bing.
Quaker Oats had a huge presence. They had multiple items to sample. One item I liked in particular was their new rice cracker chip - light and tasty with fewer calories.
Motorola did a good job promoting their new phone Karma, lots of bells and whistles for social media.
Zappos, always a leader in this space, had a really fun booth, like a confessional. You stepped inside and described what it is like to "walk in your shoes".
And...my favorite was Picnik! Online photo editing software that is like Photoshop for dummies. Perfect a dummy like me!!
Finally, a few shout outs to people I met.
- The ladies from E.S.C. Forever Media
- Glamma Grandma
- The delightful Kerri Morrone Sparling who write Six Until Me
- And my new friend Grace Davis who writes State of Grace
I had a great time and cannot wait for Blogher '10