If you follow me on Instagram, then you know that I attended #BlogHer16: Experts Among Us last week. It was the first time I’ve attended a blogging conference, and I decided almost at the last minute to go ahead and buy my ticket. I was nervous, because my little crafty-mommy blog is still so new and I didn’t have anyone to go with me, but since it was held in Los Angeles this year, I felt like it was a golden opportunity to check it out without having to spend a bunch of money traveling. So with a little under two weeks to go before the big event, I finally bought my ticket.
I’m SO GLAD I did.
Best parts: Meeting so many awesome people, being social, all the positive energy
Worst part: So much to do, so little time!
Would I go again? Absolutely!
Now, if you’re here for the details, grab a snack and settle in, because here we go:
Initially, I went through the conference agenda and filled up my schedule with tons of sessions. There was a lot of really interesting-sounding programming available. “Keeping Friends During a Heated Political Season”? YES PLEASE! “Monetizing Your Small-to-Medium Blog, Including Hyper-Local Tactics”? Sign me up!
Then the special events started to open up, and those sounded awesome too! I wanted to stick with topics that applied to me and my blog’s niche, so I applied for the Staples Back to School panel discussion and the GoodNites special event, and I was accepted to both. I was super excited, even if it did mean I’d have to skip some of that programming that I wanted to check out.
And then, to my surprise, brands started to reach out to me via email. To ME. Me!? Talk about exciting – suddenly I had a meeting set up with Evite, and I had an appointment with Air Bud Entertainment to do some fun promotional stuff for their upcoming new film (more on that later, maybe!), and then I was invited to an off-site event from HP and MyPrintly, and before I knew it, I had committed to so many activities that I wasn’t sure I could make it to any of the original sessions at all. Hmph.
My parents offered to keep the kids at their house for two nights so I could enjoy the entire conference without having to worry about any logistics with them. And can I just say, this was an incredible gift, and I could not be more grateful to them for it. I felt so free!
Thursday night we had the Evening at the Expo, where we got to check out all of the booths in the Expo Hall, start meeting sponsors and brand reps, and of course collect tons of swag.
The lovely people at the Kraft Macaroni and Cheese booth had me take a picture with their giant mac and cheese noodle. Super flattering, yes? And wouldn’t you know it, this photo with me and my crazy-eyes ended up as one of the random social media posts that kept showing up on a loop on the monitors outside the expo!
Once I was inside the expo hall, I made a beeline for the Velcro brand booth, where I got to check out a few of their really exciting new products (hello, Velcro resealable bags!) and chat with Sabrina Soto (HGTV star and Velcro brand ambassador).
The Twistmas Lights booth was awesome – they helped everyone make a photo Christmas ornament that fits onto any mini Christmas light. My mind immediately started racing with all of the potential uses for this product. I’m going to have to order a box of them to play with! Isn’t this pretty?
I should have taken more pictures, but I got distracted checking out as many booths as I could, eating ice cream samples from Baskin Robbins (the Polar Pizza was delicious!) and cookies from the Embassy Suites, and chatting with the folks at GoDaddy, who do a lovely job of hosting this blog. And once the expo shut down for the evening, I had a chance to meet some awesome bloggers in person for the first time at a restaurant a few blocks away, which was a lot of fun!
The biggest day of BlogHer started way early on Friday – the Staples panel started at 7:30, and since I was commuting from home, I had to fight Friday morning traffic into downtown to get there on time. But it was totally worth it, because Staples hooked us up with a backpack full of some of the hottest new school supplies, AND I got to meet Lori Loughlin and Gabby Reece!
From there, I was on my way to hear Sarah Michelle Gellar deliver her keynote address, and I got pulled aside by someone in a BlogHer shirt asking if I would come and attend another panel that was in progress. Uh, sure, why not?
That was how I ended up in the Merck for Mothers panel discussion, where we heard some very sobering facts and personal stories and learned about what is being done to end maternal mortality, both in the US and abroad. I’ll admit, this wasn’t a topic that had initially caught my eye when I was checking out the conference programming, so it really surprised me that I found it one of the highlights of the conference. This is a movement that we all need to support, especially those of us who are mothers and have experienced the absence of concern from care providers post-partum. For most of us, it’s isolating and frustrating, but for a surprising number of women, it’s deadly.
From there, I ran off to my meeting with Evite, where I got to chat about some possible future opportunities for collaboration. Y’all know that parties are a big deal in the Rocket household, and since Evite is all about the parties, I’m excited to see where that might lead!
I wasn’t sure if I should interrupt any of the sessions in progress, so I took a little time to go visit the three “sponsor suites” that were set up in rooms on various floors of the hotel. Supermarket chain Aldi had a positively gorgeous baby shower-themed suite set up to showcase their new line of baby products, Little Journey.
Then I stopped in at the Young Living Essential Oils suite, where I got to create my own body scrub with a custom blend of scents. I chose lemon and lavender, and the finished product smells pretty fantastic.
And finally, I went to check out the Common Sense Media suite, which was a lot less frilly and fancy than the others but was packed with useful information! I’ve used their site numerous times before to try and pre-screen movies before I show them to my kids, so it was great to see what they’re doing to help kids and families navigate our technical world. Their newest campaign for “Device Free Dinner” is something we’ve made an effort to practice all along as a family, so I fully support their initiative!
From there, I rushed off to the HP/MyPrintly event. This was an outside event not connected with BlogHer16, so in fairness to the official sponsors, I won’t go into detail about it in this post, except to say that it was very cool and I got to see my friend Melissa Dell there!
I got back from that event just in time for my meeting with Air Bud Entertainment, where I got to take my picture with Tiny, the star of the upcoming film Pup Star. And then, because they were such nice people and I was having such a fun time, I even agreed to SING ON CAMERA for them so they could make a video of it for me. This is a big deal, people. I NEVER sing. I’m a horrible singer. I once refused to sing in an important audition in college! And there I was, belting out a blues song into a camera, with people everywhere, and I was completely sober and everything. Crazy! If they ever send me that video, I might post it here. Or I might delete it and change my name and run away forever. We’ll see.
After that, it was time for the GoodNites panel discussion, where I got to hear celebrity Ian Ziering talk about his experience with bedwetting and got some individualized advice from Dr. Howard Bennett, an actual bedwetting expert. We’ve still got many years of GoodNites ahead of us in this house, so I thought this was a very informative and relevant discussion.
And immediately after that, I got to watch the Voices of the Year, which was an incredible experience. So many inspirational pieces were presented, and Aisha Tyler was a great emcee. I stayed for the reception afterwards, and called it a night after that – my feet were killing me, and I was so tired!
After all the non-stop action on Friday, Saturday seemed pretty quiet. I got to attend The Pitch, the morning keynote presentation, where we heard Sallie Krawcheck of Ellevest and then got to see five entrepreneurs pitch their business ideas to the panel of judges. This was awesome – it was basically like Shark Tank in real life – and I had a hard time choosing which competitor was my favorite.
I went back to the expo hall after that, in the hopes of meeting some of the last few brands I hadn’t connected with yet, and on my way there, I found the Ad Council’s booth and had an opportunity to talk with Amanda at Understood.org. Understood.org is an amazing resource for parents and kids who struggle with learning and attention issues, and the wealth of information on their site is just incredible – I’ve spent a few nights since the conference reading many, many articles on there. I’m excited about their mission, and I think the work they’re doing is so important for kids and families who need support.
The expo was much quieter than before, but there were still plenty of people to see and things to do (and more polar pizza to sample!)
Then – lunchtime! We ate and listened to a very deep and moving conversation with Lucy McBath, and then got to hear Mayim Bialik talk about everything from acting to neuroscience to Grok Nation to her parenting fail at a Baja Fresh, haha.
After lunch, I finally – FINALLY – made it to an actual informational session that was on my original schedule! I stopped in to the Open Labs to learn a bit about SEO optimization, and wow, I was in waaaaay over my head. But my friend Sabrina, the amazing chef behind Dinner, Then Dessert, was in there, so I got a chance to catch up with her for a bit!
I left BlogHer16 feeling energized in a way that I haven’t felt in years. I remarked to my husband on that last night that I couldn’t remember the last time that I’d been happy for three days straight like this. Getting the chance to meet so many new people, to hear such inspirational words from so many speakers, to laugh and cry and dance with total strangers – it just filled my soul in a way that I didn’t even know I needed.
I hesitate to list individual bloggers I met during the conference, because I know I’ll forget some of them and feel awful about it, but a few ladies really stood out to me and helped me through the inevitable moments where I felt like a loner. So major shout-outs to:
Bree at An LA Mama, who was super sweet and fun to hang out with. And she’s local to me, so hopefully we’ll get to run into each other more often!
Marie at Underground Crafter, one of the only craft bloggers I met, and the person who opened my eyes to a potential new conference to attend later this year. This lady is a genius with yarn!
CJ from GoDaddy, who blogs at Funny Little Conversations, and who was a delightful person to meet on my first night at BlogHer.
Heather at Motherhood in Hollywood, who was kind enough to share an Uber back to the hotel with me on that first night and chatted with me about kids, theater, and life for a while before we both headed home. This lady is hilarious and charming, and I am planning to catch up on some of her podcasts once the Olympics stop dominating all of my quiet time!
Ashley at See Ash Blog, who I met at the way-too-advanced-for-me SEO workshop, and who was definitely the most fun person out on the dance floor at the closing party. This gal’s sparkling personality is just off the charts! Wish she was local, because I would stalk her until she became my BFF.
Liz at Urban Beach Baby, who was also at the table with me at that SEO workshop, and who’s not only local, she’s kind of hyper-local! Looking forward to catching up with her and possibly running into her around town.
Ariel at One Little Library, whose company I very much enjoyed during breakfast on Saturday, and whose literary reviews are very thoughtful and well-crafted.
Jennifer at The Jenny Evolution, who was very gracious when a newbie blogger (ahem, me) accosted her while she was walking somewhere else. She stopped and gave me a ton of very helpful advice, and I’m working on getting some of those suggestions implemented now!
Rachel Pitzel and Veena Crownholm, who I got to meet in person after following them for a while on social media and participating in a Facebook group with them. They were both very sweet to me on that first day when I was grappling for any familiar face to connect with.
Those are just a few of the folks who stood out to me over the course of the conference, but there are so many more who I met briefly and who collectively made BlogHer16 the amazing experience that it was. Thank you to everyone who returned my smiles, said hello and good morning, made small talk in line, let me sit at their table, and generally made me feel like I belonged there.
Thank you, BlogHer16! Until we meet again!