BlogHer ’09: The Top 10 Things I Learned as a First Time Attendee

Written by Lee

This will be one of a few posts where I try to digest and share some of the BlogHer ’09 conference experience with you. And the keyword there is “digest.” A BlogHer conference is a completely over-stimulating experience and most of the time, I felt like a 4-year-old at a fast-paced circus freak show just wide-eyed looking around at the myriad of colorful activity, complete with bright pink cotton candy clouds and glittery unicorns, swirling around me.

I’m exhausted to the bone, dehydrated, slightly hungover, and my mind is racing with too many thoughts but I am managing to pull together this Top 10 list during my plane ride home while all is fresh in my mind and before I get home and my wondrous kids help to make this fantabulous BlogHer experience seem like a distant memory.

So without further ado, here is the Top 10 Things I Learned as a Newbie at BlogHer ’09:

10) Top 10 posts are good ideas for posts on your blog.
The smart, friendly and invincible Jessica from Jessica Knows bestowed this piece of advice during a Room of Your Own Session on Day One. Readers generally like Top 10 lists, Jessica told us, and so they yield better traffic than regular posts. Kinda makes me wonder if I should just start a new blog that consists of only Top 10 Lists.

9) Do not gush to your favorite bloggers on the first night.
No matter how mellow and generally cool you are, you will seem like a total dweeb if you accost your favorite bloggers on the first night and spew praise on them.
This is partially because most everyone has spent the day traveling to get to BlogHer, people are tired and disoriented and it takes at least 12 hours to settle into the vibe of the conference. Reserve the first night for meeting up with some of the bloggers you have actually corresponded with and actually know somewhat, having a drink at the evening’s parties and slowly integrating into the scene. Hyper over-inflated flattery towards your favorite big-time blogging rock stars will get you nowhere except waking up the next morning with a gushing hangover.

8) The kind of clothes and shoes you wear do not matter AT ALL.
I can not emphasize this one enough. All that matters is that you feel like YOU and that YOU are comfortable. There will be all kinds of women dressed in all kinds of ways from snazzy cocktail attire and stillettos to t-shirts and jeans and flip-flops. From all of the newbie wardrobe and shoe stressing I saw going on pre- BlogHer (read this to see my pre-conference thoughts), I can not believe how little this stuff matters. There are simply too many people there to care about what YOU are wearing. Just dress like YOU, feel like YOU, and YOU will be just fine.

7) Bring your own water. And chair.
It proved beyond difficult to find water when I needed it. Like a parched chick in the middle of a desert. PepsiCo was one of the major sponsors so there was always a guy dressed in a butler suit handing out soda on a tray (I am not kidding) but when it came to just a good ol’ bottled water, it was tough to find. You get quite dehydrated walking around, squishing into over-crowded sessions and talking all.day.and.night.LONG. so bring your own water stash. And speaking of those overcrowded sessions, there were NEVER enough chairs. So you might want to carry a folding beach/lawn chair around with you too.

6) Deep links are good for your Google Page Rank.
I can’t quite get over how much I love the term “deep links.” It just makes my shudder in all of the right places. So what are deep links?

Deep links (*shudder*) are links that get readers to old posts of yours. Google Page Rank values these links MORE than just people showing up on your current home page. If another blogger links to some kick-ass post that you wrote a few months ago, that is considered a deep link. Someone clicking on that link will help you crawl up the Google Page Rank chart.

And now what is Google Page Rank exactly? Google assigns each blog a page rank with 1 being the lowest/worst rank and 10 being the highest rank and the BEST rank you can get. Your blog is graded and ranked by where it shows up in Google under search terms. If you show up often on Page One of a Google Search, you are in damn good shape. If you don’t ever show up in a Google search, you may as well quit your blog. Just kidding. Don’t quit. Just do what you need to to improve. Like start getting people you know to deep link to you.

In summary, I learned that deep links affect your Google Page Rank and that page rank really matters to a lot of bloggers so maybe it should start mattering to me too. But I’m not so sure I can really wrap my head around all of this stat stuff. BUT if you care about page rank, then write some timeless posts that bloggers will want to remember and reference (and thus deep link to) all throughout blogging history.

5) Some bloggers will sincerely want to meet you. Some will not.
To be honest, I don’t really think I learned this while at BlogHer. I think I knew it going in but I was reminded of it in various instances and thought it was worth putting on the list. Well-known bloggers, new bloggers and all kinds of bloggers in between, every kind of personality and motive is represented. I will say overall that BlogHer was an extremely friendly environment with lots of hugs, hand-shaking and business card exchanging. But there are obviously plenty of bloggers who will only want to meet and hobnob with the “famous” bloggers so if you are not one of them, they will not want to chat for long.

On the flip-side there were quite a few well-known bloggers that I met who were so cool and real and who sincerely wanted to chat even though I am basically no one in the blogging world. Some bloggers only have their eye on the virtual prize of increasing their exposure and numbers while others are in it simply for their love of writing and this community of writers. I was lucky enough to meet more of the latter. The bloggers who complain about cliques etc. are only saying that because they only want to hang with the “famous” bloggers. There are plenty of cool bloggers to hang with if you are willing to give some of the lesser known bloggers a chance.

4) Bring your favorite kind of tissue to the Community Keynote.
The community keynote was one of the most inspiring parts of the conference for me. I spent most of the almost two hours of sitting there with tears streaming down my face as I listened to the gift of words and story from these talented writers. The hotel has crappy cheap tissues in the room but at least I grabbed a few before the keynote just in case. Next year if I go, I will bring a box of Kleenex Ultra-Soft tissues and place it in the middle of the table for all to use if needed. If I’m with Heather of the EO again, we will likely go through the entire box.

3) Stressing out over the swag is totally and utterly NOT worth it.
The talk of the potential swag and the race to get it at the beginning of each party was a total joke. I’m not sure what’s up with all of these women needing to push and shove and swarm over one another to get a paper bag filled with a sponge, some lip gloss and a vibrator but that was the general scene with the start of each and every party. Next year, I think the swag should only be handed out to bloggers displaying good behavior during the party. Like once the party has started, someone could walk around and hand swag bags to people who are mellow. And if you start crowding the swag dispenser, you will get kicked out.

Overall there was NOTHING given in any swag bag I got or any that I heard of anyone else getting that should make someone act like an idiot. So if you go next year as first- timer, relax about the swag. Nothing in those bags will change your life.

2) Meeting some bloggers in real life WILL change your life.
I knew I would dig some of the bloggers I read in real life. Some I had exchanged emails with, one I had spoken to, and others I just had just read and left comments from time to time. Other bloggers I had only read a few times before I met them. Still others I had not read at. all. But through a variety of circumstances, I met a few bloggers during BlogHer who I now can call friends. And if they lived in LA, we would be great friends who would hang out A LOT. At this conference, I experienced the phenomenon that I have only heard others talk about before – forming a relationship online and bringing it into real life. I can honestly say my heart was sad saying goodbye to my new friends and realizing that who knows when we will be able to hang out again. I can feel with a few of my blogging friends that our relationship will only grow and deepen despite the miles. And that? Is awesome.

And the number one, most important thing I learned at BlogHer ’09 is….

1) Trust that you have a story to tell.
I attended an amazing Room of Your Own session about blogging as storytelling. The room was filled with all kinds of bloggers including some of the best-known blogging storytellers around. The session took on the form of a writing support group if you will and along with the community keynote, this session inspired me to my core. I have quite a few hang-ups and a healthy dose of fear about the kind of writer and storyteller that I am and am not, but this session helped me to focus on the most important thing I, or any writer, needs to know –

“Trust that you have a story to tell.”

I have been blessed with an incredible “normal” life thus far with very little drama and no tragedy as of yet and I often get hung up thinking I am not “edgy” enough or interesting enough or smart enough or anything enough to be a really good writer. But I was reminded by a cool dude and an awesome writer in the course of this session that we all have a story to tell. But in order to tell it, you have to trust in it. So that is what I plan to start doing.

To wrap this up, I’ll say look for some changes around here. No creative endeavor can stay stagnant. It needs to evolve and grow so I have some thoughts in the works after all of this inspiration. Thanks to all for supporting this place of ours… there’s more good stuff to come.

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