After reading somewhere in the neighborhood of 600 BlogHer ’13 recaps (so far) for my job as Social Media Researcher for BlogHer, I caught up yesterday afternoon (for now) and decided to go ahead and write my own post before hundreds more show up in my queue and my brain gets fried completely. (I hear it sizzling, so I thought I’d better hurry.)
This was my fifth BlogHer; I’ve attended it each year since the last time it was in Chicago (2009). It was the first BlogHer that was experienced as a member of the BlogHer team as opposed to just attending. I’ve said for two years now that San Diego (2011) was my favorite overall, but that’s all changed. I have one word for Chicago’s most recent BlogHer:
(Admittedly, “Wow.” comes straight from the mouth of Momo. She has a way of saying it that drips with sarcasm and I have not only perfected my imitation of her but have also inadvertently caused Liz and Jenn to say it ad nauseum, too.)
What put BlogHer ’13 in first place for me? A magical combination of so many things. Working for BlogHer means I get to spend time in the on-site offices with the team of about fifteen people (Yes, only about FIFTEEN PEOPLE put on this conference), many of whom work from home just like me for the rest of the year. I get a behind-the-scenes look at–and a part in–how things are run, and I adore the perspective. My job, whether from home or on-site, doesn’t even feel like a job: it feels like fun. (I wish that for everybody!) Even the workdays at the conference, which start earlier than any attendee would want to get out of bed, are awesome because I get to work with such wonderful people, most notably one of my bestest friends in the world (and, uh, boss) Momo. I even bedazzled us some t-shirts to wear at the expo.
Speaking of the expo, I loved it. In the recaps I’ve been reading, I’ve noticed that there are some people who think the expo was much smaller this year than last year, and that’s actually not true. The number of booths was actually pretty close to the number in New York 2012; I think people are falling victim to the optical illusion of available space and what was done with it. In New York, the expo had to be in multiple, smaller areas and it was very, very crowded. In Chicago this year, we were at the expansive McCormick Place where there was PLENTY of room to breathe (and run into friends!) I found the brands to be approachable, knowledgable, and more than willing to interact. I loved the opportunities many of the brands gave for attendees to spend a few minutes doing something at their booths, as opposed to just handing out coupons and sending us on our way.
The Cans Get You Cooking folks invited us to take a picture in their photo booth, and then sent us on our merry way with one of the most creative pieces of swag ever, a custom-labeled can whose top actually unscrews so you can store small items in it. Here’s one of the labels we did:
You can bet that will go on my desk for the foreseeable future.
James at WeMontage, one of the smaller companies at the expo, was truly thrilled to be there. He seemed to be having a great time and when I stopped by with Momo (who, after conversing at length on Twitter, he really wanted to meet!) and some of my BlogHer co-workers, he insisted on taking this picture. (By the way, his booth was designed by a winner of “The Next Design Star” and it was fabulous!)
Of course, the expo wasn’t the only fabulous element of the conference. There were the keynotes, too. My favorites were Ree Drummond, The Pioneer Woman and Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook’s COO.
Due to the conference being spread out (sessions and expo at McCormick Place, parties and other events at the Sheraton), it was so much easier to find people. Last year in New York I really only saw the friends I made plans to hang out with. This year, I not only ran into friends around every turn, but I actually met some awesome NEW friends. I think the Chicago BlogHer had a nice Midwestern, friendly feel.
Speaking of friends, of course they are the ones who took the conference to a higher level for me. I played with Momo, with my sistuh-from-anuthuh-muthah Liz, and with Jenn for the majority of the time, but those three were just the main players: I wouldn’t even try to name every single person whose friendly smile, big hugs, snarky remarks, or contagious laughter brought me pure joy over the weekend, because I would surely leave someone out. All I can say is, I am beyond blessed. If you spent any time at all chatting, laughing, or otherwise engaging with me, just know that you are part of the reason why I tell all of my non-blogging friends that BlogHer weekends are some of the best weekends of my entire life.
It wouldn’t be a BlogHer recap post if I didn’t mention a few of the moments that took the weekend into the stratosphere for me.
There was the time when Tracey and Momo had an Elaine dance-off. This may have made not only my weekend but also my life as a whole. I laughed until I cried. Also, I think it was a tie and we may need a rematch next year.
I finally unlocked my BFF photo achievement by getting a nice picture with both Momo and Liz. This picture will be framed and set on the table next to my couch before the end of the weekend.
The fashion show, like last year, was a definite highlight. Here’s a lovely picture of Liz, Jenn, Christina and me as we wait for the show (hosted by Wendi McLendon-Covey of “Bridesmaids” and “Reno 911”) to begin:
Several of my friends were models, and the room was charged with energy and emotion as the diverse group of ladies strutted their stuff. This was when I started to lose my voice, because I was out of my seat screaming at the top of my lungs. Pictured below: Meseidy, Natasha, and Lizz. Hawt.
There was the time in the expo when Momo spilled half a bottle of beer on my foot at the Honest Tea booth and we laughed like crazy and shook our heads at each other as if we were in the opening credits for a classic sitcom, and then we posed for this picture:
There was the LISTEN TO YOUR MOTHER director/producer brunch, where about a third of us got to sit in the same room and get to know each other. These ladies, all bound by a common thread, mean so much to me.
There was the sightseeing cruise on the Chicago River with Liz and Jenn, always a good time but this particular cruise was…special.
Of course, I don’t have pictures of every little thing that made me happy over the weekend. Other personal highlights included:
~ Talking about shapewear with Mr. Lady and getting a visual I still cannot shake
~ Spending a couple of hours DOWN BY THE RIVER (not in a van), enjoying the beautiful weather with friends
~ Dancing for three hours straight
~ Snort-giggling with Liz, mainly late at night but also all the times
~ Upholding our clown nose tradition on Saturday night (Thanks, Michelle!)
~ Listening to the Voices of the Year Community Keynote and the LISTEN TO YOUR MOTHER Open Mic essays
~ Watching a whole new group of newbies (Jennifer, Shannon, Marianne, Kari, Jeanette…) absorb the conference like sponges
~ Babysitting Melissa’s baby boy while she and Brook got some breakfast, even though I was totally ambushed. He was sleeping so I didn’t mind.
~ Getting a hug from a friend of a friend who couldn’t come to Chicago. It touched my heart when I found out that she sent someone to meet up with me.
~ Garrett’s Popcorn in the on-site BlogHer office. (Yum.)
Gosh. I could go on for hours with more little moments, but I won’t because I think you get the idea.
All in all, the weekend left me feeling thankful to work for such a great company–I admire BlogHer co-founders Elisa, Jory, and Lisa so much!–and blessed to know so many wonderful, friendly, funny, caring, beautiful, smart, witty, lovely people. I’ll be on a high from this for a long time to come as I pine for my friends who don’t live in the Chicago area, and it’s only a matter of time before I start counting down to #BlogHer14, which will be in…
…a United States city. (Details are still being finalized!)
Anyway, who wants to have a #BlogHer13 do-over?