How to evaluate your BlogHer 2012 experience

It’s impossible to please everyone at a conference with 5,200 attendees. Most will report some level of dissatisfaction, reasonable or not, with some aspect of the conference. That’s normal. Some will also scream Awesome with no hesitation, but with nothing to support it.

Taking the opportunity to ask yourself what you gained/didn’t gain from BlogHer in the day following the conference is a fantastic way of making sure you tie it all up well. And yes, it needs to be done NOW, not next week. I’ll show you why.

You meet the nicest people at BlogHer.

Did you go with a stated list of objectives? Did you make a plan? My experience has shown me that if I go to any conference, cocktail party, or meeting without a plan and objectives, then I’ll usually be very disappointed. You need to have something to measure success by – and that measure can’t be created after the event. (Want more on how to develop this? Check out my post on Creating a Strategy Plan.) I challenge you to grab a notebook and pen, and answer the following. Then think about it all, and get started on moving forward.

Getting There

Did you take on sponsor relationships to get you to the conference that made you feel pressured, insincere or just plain overwhelmed? Why did that happen? How could you fix it? Were you honestly choosy with a sponsor if you had one, or alternatively, did you put aside money from your blogging to pay your own way? What’s going to be your plan for next time?

Day Organization

Were you run off your feet? Too exhausted to enjoy yourself or connect well as you ran Road-Runner-style through every event? Or did you select individual events and sessions to attend, and commit to each? What did you do well, and how could you do even better the next time? What did you screw up, and what do you need to do to fix it?

Session Attendance

Make a list of the sessions you intended to go to. Did you attend (why/why not?). Did you learn enough? Which presenters really resonated with you? (Send them an email and tell them that you appreciated them! They need to hear it.) If you were disappointed, was there something you could do to fix it next time? Ramp up your strategy to have a Plan B for the disappointing ones. For example, I had two sessions I was really looking forward to going to. One (a Geek Bar) tried to cram about 8 hours of information into 10 minutes, which is just not possible. The presenter appeared to really know her stuff, but didn’t start on time, and essentially didn’t get past introductions. However, she’s sent out all her slides and invited ongoing conversations (*love* that). My learnings? 1. Send feedback to BlogHer, saying how valuable I believe that session would be, and suggesting perhaps next time around the Geek Bar presenters send attendees their slides BEFORE the sessions, and even preparatory homework, so we are all on the same page. After all, we had to register for those sessions, so they have our contact details beforehand. 2. Use the contact details supplied to reach out to the presenter and thank her for her time and knowledge, and letting her know I’ll be going through the resources during the week, and reach out to the presenter for help during that time if needed. Just because the actual conference is over, when a presenter offers follow-up, you can definitely take it, and be grateful for that!

Another problem was not getting into Vlogging Part 1 because the room was TINY. This happened with numerous sessions, I’m told. Vlogging part 2 was transferred to a larger space, but that was too little, too late. My learnings? 1. Watch twitter for the tips coming from attendees of the session – this included links to the final notes people had taken. What a great resource! In the few days following the conference it’s not too late to use Twitter to reach out to attendees of a session you missed, by the way. 2. Reach out to the presenters explaining I couldn’t get in because the session was overflowing and asking for three of their biggest tips to move forward with, thanking them for their input. 3. Finally, you could plan to use unexpected time for networking (you should have a list before you attend of people you want to connect with) – tweet them for a coffee invite if they are also at a loose end.

Presenters

Finally, if you were disappointed with a presenter, then instead of panning them, make a commitment to putting yourself forward for next time. If you ADORED a presenter, make sure you follow them, subscribe to them, tell them personally you loved their input, and use your media presence to promote them too. It’s not too late to continue making connections related to BlogHer 2012.

Reality Check

I did not meet all 5200 attendees at BlogHer; nor did I achieve every goal I’d set of even getting into sessions I wanted to. However, I gained so much from those I went to, people I met, respectful conversations had. I saw New York City with my friends. I strengthened relationships – people I had not seen face to face for more than 2 years and people I’d never met offline before but whom I feel a real personal friendship with. I took away so much from the keynotes – that alone made the entire thing worthwhile. I did not attend every party (I was in my room by midnight each day which made me well rested each day), and I met new people whom I know I will stay connected with. I have come home with real learnings on hard data of blogging as well as the fun parts. A bonus is sharing those learnings with my own blogging community of friends who were unable to attend physically. Sharing the information leads to more conversations, and more learning. Way after the plane finally (FINALLY) got me home.

I have a real ROI on my investment of time and money into BlogHer12. And my family welcomed home a very happy mum last night – even before the kids opened the swag bag. (Oh, and no kids, let mum open the bag – there’s stuff I don’t need you to see in there ;))

Conferences are not designed to hand you a business on a plate – it’s your responsibility to build your media presence. We’re all different (thank goodness), and if you want BlogHer to be a conference rather than a convention, it’s up to you to approach it from a business frame instead of a relaxed get together frame. Let me be clear – there is nothing wrong with either approach. Many people simply need to put down their tools and enjoy themselves. Others have different goals – they’re all good, as long as that’s what you’d planned to get from your time and investment.

What Returns on Investment did you get from BlogHer this year?

11 comments

  • Great advice! I’m also glad you made sure to call out that it doesn’t matter what your goals are (conference vs. convention) either approach is fine. It’s try that some folks come more for the learning, some more for the connecting, and some more for the partying. They all pay their admittance fee and deserve to go after those goals without judgement 🙂

  • Thanks, Elisa. As an active voice blogger, I got so much from my experience. As women who blog, we need to support each other. I recognize and respect women’s voices, and just because I blog one way, doesn’t mean another way is not just as important. Bloggers who review, write op-eds, use their blogs for social activism/good – BlogHer gives all bloggers respect and support for their voices. (I’m glad everyone isn’t in my space – it would be horrible!) My post recognizes that we must all take stock of our experience, and how it fits our needs. If we all make plans for success in our own way, we can make the most of the opportunities yourself and the BlogHer team have created. Perhaps then the politicians of the world will be clamoring to address our united force instead of waiting for an invitation, and the mommy wars will be over.

  • This is great Jo! And I hope to really sit and think about my objectives when I do plan to attend a conference. I’m hoping within the next year or so it will be a reality!

  • My ROI? I did not leave Colorado this past week but thankfully have decent connections with people I respect who attended. I look forward to hearing your candid perspective on what you experienced.

  • Thanks Stacy – the breakdown lets you get your mind into each distinct area of the conference, from start to end.

  • Thank you, Thank you, Thank you! Why is ROI such a dirty word for so many women? I felt kind of naked & out there alone till reading this post.Yes, I had a plan, overall I feel I did well in meeting my objectives but I am left wondering how to do things differently next year. Coming home exhausted & sporting bruises means I need a different game plan.. or hockey play gear 😉

    Thanks for such an intelligent post, count me as a new subscriber!

  • Enjoyed the solid, head on straight advice here: be aware of why you go, and don’t let one small thing like cold noodles or slow elevators color your entire experience.

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