#BlogHer14: It Was About The People

On Sunday night I returned home from San Jose, California and the tenth annual BlogHer conference. This was the sixth BlogHer conference for me—the second as a team member—and while it was exhausting, it was also just SO GOOD. I’m still recovering, in fact. Reentry, the adjustment back into my everyday life, is the very worst part about attending this conference for lots of us; for me it begins when I say goodbye to my friends and continues as the exhaustion—which has been building for months and approached breaking point last week—sets into every pore and then doesn’t leave for days. FOR DAYS. I expect to regain the ability to have coherent thoughts and speak in complete sentences again by Saturday. Or maybe Monday. Or Sunday. Sunday comes before Monday, right? I’ll hope for Sunday. Wait, maybe I should hope for Saturday. See what I mean? Welcome to my world.

The amount of work that goes into this conference is ridiculous and immeasurable and unless you’ve ever produced a major event that serves thousands of people, there’s just no way you can understand it. It’s not a matter of simple math where I could say that co-producing Chicago’s LISTEN TO YOUR MOTHER show is “at X level of difficulty” and if I multiplied that by about ten times I’d come up with an accurate measurement of the level of difficulty of helping to put on a BlogHer conference. The fact is, with every extra person involved (whether on the team, on the venue staff, sponsors, or attendees), the chance for potential issues with the thousands of moving parts that have to come together at the right time increases exponentially. Lots of blood, sweat, and tears are involved in the process. Well, maybe not AS MUCH blood as the other two in my case.

Being behind the scenes for two years now has been difficult and fun and challenging and exhilarating and frustrating and rewarding and joyful and everything in between, but (thank goodness) at the very root of all of that is an intense sense of teamwork and pride. I work with some wonderfully smart women and #BlogHer14—the end result of months and months of working hard together—was truly a triumph for all of us. Naturally we didn’t please everybody in every area because that would be impossible. Overall though? The conference has received pretty high marks and I’m proud of my work and the work of everyone else involved. (Major hat tip to my friend Lori Luna, VP of Event Operations, who juggled more details this year than anyone I’ve ever seen. She’s amazing.)

As far as recapping the conference as a whole like I used to, well, I can’t anymore because I’m on the other side of things now. I worked in our office and took pictures in the expo for Instagram instead of attending sessions. What I did my best to catch were the keynotes (Kerry Washington, check. Tig Notaro, check. The Bloggess, check. Arianna Huffington, SAD TROMBONE I MISSED HER) and the other special events like this year’s 10 X 10s, the live performance by The Mrs. Band who was there to launch their single “Enough” (which is dang catchy and I just love it), the community parties (Queerosphere!), and the Voices of the Year, which we say is the heart of the conference. Not to mention the closing party sponsored by McDonald’s and hosted by Rev Run of RUN-DMC. OMG. Epic.

Whatever I was able to catch, I loved. That happens every year.

Also an annual thing? The fact that my BlogHer experience is what it is because of the people.

Because of work I was with Momo during all waking hours and Liz pretty much twenty-four hours a day because we were roomies, which made me a very, very happy girl. They are my people.

Momo, Melisa, Liz

I don’t need to recap any of that for you except to say FUN FUN FUN FUN FUN and lots of snort-laughing. At one point I even called us the Three Stooges, but I meant it in the best way. Those girls, my closest friends, made the conference for me, as always.


I also got to spend a little bit of time (not enough, as usual, but work called!) with lots of other old friends, and it was pure joy. It’s always a nice thing to be surrounded by people you love, and I know I shouldn’t start listing because I’ll leave someone out but…never mind, I’m not listing. If you and I spent time together, know that I loved every moment of it. EVERY MOMENT.

This year I got to meet lots of LTYMers, too. Some of the ladies I mentored through their first season of show production were at the conference and to be able to hug them (and in some cases, provide belated hair-stroking) was just lovely. I didn’t have enough time with them.

The LTYM National Team (Ann Imig, Deb Rox, Stephanie Precourt and me) had a brunch meeting that was just lovely. We’re usually doing emails and conference calls so to have two hours of facetime was fantastic. I love them so much: rockstars, all three.

There was yet another dimension to this year’s conference for me because of my work, and Facebook.

My main job in the months leading up to the conference was to moderate an official group for BlogHer attendees. This was our first year trying this method of communication and community-building, and I think it was extremely successful. Even though the intensity of my involvement naturally increased over time as the conference loomed and excitement built and for the last two weeks I had eyes on that group (via laptop at home or phone when out of the house) non-stop and I thought by the end of some days my eyes might start bleeding, I have loved moderating. (I’m still doing it, in fact, as we all work our way through reentry together!)

While at the conference, I met lots of the people from the group. Some of them recognized me immediately and others approached me to ask if I had any idea why I looked familiar to them. When I asked if they were in the Facebook group the light bulb went off and it was all hugs and smiles from there. It felt bizarre to be recognized by so many people, but so nice at the same time. Every single one of them had kind words to say about having the Facebook group, and that validation made me feel good. All in all, I think I ended up meeting more new-to-me people this year than I did at the five previous conferences put together. It was nice to see friendly faces and get a hug or a wave around every corner.

So another BlogHer is in the books. Although I don’t want to think about next year yet because I’m still working on this year and I am SO TIRED, I am indeed looking forward to 2015 and I hope you are, too.

And no, we don’t have an ETA on the date/location announcement, in case you’re wondering.

While we wait, check out the oh-so-clever #BlogHer14-themed Spotify playlist I created yesterday. I hope it takes you back. Sigh. I miss you guys.


  • Kari

    Those three people in that picture up there?
    They are the real friggin deal.
    And a big part of why I regretted not saving up to go.
    And I love a gal who makes a good playlist.

    • Melisa Wells

      You’re so sweet, Kari. We missed you.
      Start saving for next year, please. DON’T MAKE ME MISS YOU AGAIN.

  • Liz

    I will always cherish all the snort-laughing we do/did together, but getting yelled at by Momo during Kerry Washington’s keynote…EPIC!

  • Cheryl at Busy Since Birth

    I’m so, so lucky to have been the recipient of some belated hair-stroking. And that you posted a status about it too made me feel incredibly loved. And then you introduced me to Momo and Liz and I found out I have a special nickname too? C’mon. You ladies really know how to treat a gal.

    Cheers to an amazing conference. All of your hard work shows and definitely paid off for me.

    • Melisa Wells

      I can’t wait to see you again, Cheryl. Maybe you should start planning that retreat afterall. 🙂

  • Momo

    I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, I couldn’t do it without you (as a co-worker and as a friend). Thank you for the massive support, the hair-stroking, friendship and hard work. Melisa is amazing.

  • Arnebya

    The FB group was incredibly successful. This was only my third BlogHer but I have to say it was my favorite, and it was because of the people: the people I purposely sought out, the people who found me, the people who were there for the same reason I was and vastly different reasons. We all connected and it was wonderful. Also, the music.

  • Erica C

    Anabelle and I miss you too!!! Can’t wait for next year 🙂 Miami…..Miami….Miami!!!! If you bring it to Miami I will bring both of my girls lol….hmmm, tempting isn’t it?

    • Melisa Wells

      ha! Yes tempting but I don’t make the decisions. LOL
      But maybe I’ll just come visit you! 🙂

  • Amy Heinz

    You did a spectacular job! Thank you for answering endless questions (at warp speed), fostering community, and creating a conference space long before the conference even happened. I planned and ran an event for 65 bloggers and almost lost my mind. I can’t even imagine all that went into this production. Congratulations and thank you!!

  • Phyllis

    One of the highlights of being there was meeting you, hugging you, and being in awe of you. You are such a hard working rockstar! I love you!

    • Melisa Wells

      SOOOOO loved meeting/hugging you, Phyllis! (and high five on the VOTY!)
      I need to get to Boston… 🙂

    • Melisa Wells

      Thank you so much, Julie! That means a lot, especially because you know exactly what’s required to moderate! Hope you don’t mind if I frame your comment and leave it on my desk. 😉

  • Elaine A.

    Meeting you and hugging you was of course a MAJOR highlight for me this year. I even mention it in my post, which goes up a little later today. 🙂 Thank you for ALL you (and your cohorts) do for the conference, it really was pretty great!

  • Shannon

    I’m sad to have missed it – the conference, you, Momo, Liz – but I’m glad it was a success! Hoping to be there beside you on the dance floor in 2015.

  • Danielle Barnsley-Cervo

    I am so glad I finally got to meet you, if only briefly. And then you added me on Facebook which meant my life may have been complete!

    You guys did a great job. Conferences are hard work. I only helped with one, years ago, and I am stunned by the amount of detail that goes into BlogHer. You guys rocked it out of the park.

    Also, I demand a nickname. 😉

    • Melisa Wells

      Oh my goodness, you flatterer.

      Thanks for your kind words! And nicknames have to kind of invent themselves, so I’m just gonna call you “Sweet Talker” unless something else falls into place. 🙂

  • Aussa Lorens

    You were one of the first people I immediately recognized. It was lovely to meet you 🙂 And you did an AMAZING job at moderating the facebook. Kind of ridiculous, actually!