Disclaimer: Over the years, we may have developed a bit of a reputation with some of the BlogHer crowd...and, well, with some of the rest of the world too. Sometimes we have a tendency to be big mouths and get ourselves into trouble by saying things that a lot of other people don't want to say and/or don't want to hear (e.g. 10 Things About BlogHer'11). But that's kind of our thing and we've learned that for every new enemy we make by opening our big evil slutty mouths, we make two new friends. So we decided we're always going to just say what we're thinking... but we'll try to say it as diplomatically and tactfully as we can.
We've been seeing a lot of pre-BlogHer posts and tweets and discussions (and have participated in much of it) and there seems to be a recurring theme that we keep seeing pop up that we just felt we had to address. Mixed in with all the awesomeness and excitement and bloggy love, there's been a lot of shaming, judging, and stressing going on and it's bumming us out. So let's talk about it.
We feel that BlogHer should not be all about the swag or freebies. It just shouldn't be. Not everyone goes to BlogHer with the same goals in mind - some go to network with brands, some go to meet their blog friends and idols in real life, some go to learn from blogging rockstars at the sessions - the free stuff should not be the top priority. We feel a little icky when the swag!swag!swag! frenzy takes over. But at the same time, sometimes the anti-swag crowd goes a bit overboard too.
A lot of BlogHer attendees have saved up for a while to be able to afford this trip. We don't all have sponsors and we don't all make money from our blogs. The trip shouldn't be about the swag, but sometimes the swag does matter. It can help someone off-set the cost of the conference or even justify the trip (to herself or her family that she's leaving behind). We feel that the cost of BlogHer is well worth it, but it isn't cheap. If going home with a ton of free coupons and free samples can make someone feel better about dropping nearly $300 (plus at least that much in hotel and transportation costs) on one weekend... who are we to make them feel bad about that?
So yes, it's okay remind everyone what BlogHer is really about - the people, the sessions - but try not to let those friendly reminders cross the line from helpful to hurtful. There's nothing wrong with wanting the swag. We all like free stuff and that's okay! Don't let it be the primary focus of the weekend, don't let it take over, don't let it make you act crazy, but don't feel bad about wanting and taking the free samples/coupons either. Don't forget that is why the sponsors brought them.
Private Party Frenzies
We have two main issues with the private party frenzy: We hate to see people desperately begging again and again for an invite to some off-site party and we hate to see people publicly shaming and guilt-tripping anyone who does want to go to an off-site party. Yeah, we know that those two points may seem to contradict each other, but just bear with us and try to follow our logic here...
No one should feel that bad about not getting a invite to a private party or not getting on the list in time for an unofficial party. No one. You can feel a little bummed about missing out, sure, but you're not really missing out. There are a ton of official parties open to everyone and they actually are really good parties, so you're not missing out on all the fun. And you shouldn't feel bad about not making the super exclusive list for some super secret private event because most likely there's a reason for that and it has nothing to do with how awesome you are. Many of the people/brands throwing private parties are aiming for a hyper-specific demographic (like babywearing vegan bloggers from Florida or brunette food bloggers over 40 or whatever) or had a pre-set guest list of bloggers with whom they already had established relationships. And then some of the parties with first come, first served policies really are just about who can click a mouse faster. So there's no reason you should be sad or feeling inadequate if you don't get in.
You shouldn't have to kiss anyone's ass or repeatedly beg for a party invite. This year we were overwhelmed by the amount of people tweeting, basically begging for invites to various events. We don't blame them of course, because this is what they were told to do to score invites to things. We don't really like it when a brand (or "brand") encourages everyone to tweet (again and again and again) at them in order to maybe get on the list for their party. It clogs up the #blogher12 stream and it just feels kind of shitty and self-serving to literally ask people to kiss your ass and prove that they're cool or clever or funny enough to get invited. This is especially true if there isn't any indication of how those begging tweets will actually translate into invites, which is sometimes the case, or if the hosts of the party play coy about exactly when the invites are going to go out. (We have less of a problem with it if it's something like a contest or a twitter party that's giving away invites during a specific time frame and with specific guidelines about how to win.)
We probably saw this the most with the Social Soiree event this year, and we're willing to bet that a lot of you who tweeted for an invite didn't even get one. We're sorry to call out the Social Soiree specifically but they really are the best example of what we're talking about. Actually you know what, we're not sorry to call them out specifically because they're the worst offender that we've seen this year - people were tweeting at them constantly for weeks, sucking up to them and giving lots of free promo to their hashtag and sponsors based on basically a vague rumor floating out there that the hosts were looking at the tweets to help them determine who to invite. For the record, we weren't invited to Social Soiree last year and weren't expecting an invite this year so we didn't bother trying to get one, so this isn't sour grapes. (And obviously we're aware that we'll never be invited in the future once we post this.) We also understand that there's a limited amount of space at these events so not everyone is going to get invited, and nobody was specifically promised an invite for tweeting a lot. But we happened to be on twitter on the day that the invites finally did go out, and we felt bad for a lot of people who said they were disappointed that they didn't get in because they had spent so much time tweeting about the event. We just feel like there's a better way to do things. If they're just going to pick and choose who they want, then don't ask everyone to tweet constantly and then be left let down. It seems like just a way of using people to build up your "brand".
At the same time, don't let anyone make you feel bad about yourself if you did tweet to get an invite. There's nothing wrong with wanting to go to a party, to be part of something that feels exclusive, to mingle with your favorite companies or blog idols. There's nothing wrong with entering a contest to win a ticket to an event and there's nothing wrong with tweeting to a brand you love hoping to find a way to connect with them in person. You're not necessarily "making yourself look bad", "doing it wrong", "undervaluing yourself", or "being unprofessional" (and not everyone even considers blogging to be their profession anyway). This is especially true if the company or brand or party organizers specifically asked you to do this in order to score tickets or an invitation. That is the way twitter contests work and as annoying as the brands are for running them, you're not an asshole for going along with it. We were pissed the other day as some women were repeatedly shaming others for tweeting for invites. We do agree that you shouldn't have to beg for invites, but being condescending and preachy about it after the fact is neither cool nor helpful, and the criticisms should probably be directly at the people running the party and not the people participating who may be newbies who don't know that certain things are against the rules or just considered annoying by certain BlogHer veterans.
Let's not shame or guilt trip people for wanting to go to unofficial parties in the first place! We are kind of getting sick of all the "private parties are the devil" conversations. Yes, we understand that they're "outboarding" parties and it may or may not be ethical for them to latch onto the BlogHer buzz without sponsoring the conference. We get it. But you're not a horrible, evil person who is ruining BlogHer forever if you do attend an unofficial event.
We understand that the brands that throw or sponsor these events are basically trying to get the benefits of being at BlogHer without actually paying to be a sponsor of the conference... but we still find it hard to believe that these tiny little off-site events are actually really hurting BlogHer financially. BlogHer doesn't seem to be hurting for sponsors... they still have a lot of huge brands shelling out big bucks to be there. (And we've even heard rumors of some companies wanting to sponsor the conference officially but being turned away.)
We love the official parties at BlogHer (especially the Queerosphere Party) but there is something to be said for a more low key, intimate affair like some of the off-site events. And for some of the attendees this will be their first time in New York City - not everyone wants to spend the entire weekend in one place. We love the Hilton, but there's no shame in getting a little excited about an event that takes place at a nearby rooftop bar, trendy restaurant or swanky hotel. We also know that some of the off-site parties have charity tie-ins (like the SocialLuxe Lounge who is donating to Operation Smile) in addition to those coveted swag bags. So before you start throwing around guilt trips to everyone who did accept an invitation to an unofficial "outboarding" event, let's not forget that some of the biggest official parties at BlogHer started out as unofficial "outboarding" events too.
We're not saying that there should be no conversations about outboarding and swag and how it affects BlogHer, or that people shouldn't give advice and reminders about prioritizing sessions over swag and people over parties. But sometimes it gets to the point where we see the same people repeating the same things over and over and we start to feel like it's just two opposing camps talking over each other and nobody's really listening. Sometimes you just have to speak your mind and then accept that not everyone is going to see things your way and move on.
Every year a ton of people obsess over what to wear and whether they should buy new clothes. And every year everyone else tells them "anything goes!" It's true, anything goes at BlogHer. You will see a huge spectrum of fashion choices over the weekend. Some people will look like they're going to a business meeting, some people will look like they're going to a nightclub, some people will look like they just rolled out of bed, and everyone else will be dressed somewhere in the middle. You may also see people wearing tiaras, feather boas, and a lot of glitter. Really - anything goes.
So we get frustrated hearing people make bitchy judgments about other people's fashion choices. We've seen both sides of it - snide comments about people "wasting money" on new clothes for BlogHer and "warnings" about how everyone is going to totally judge you based on what you wear. Ugh, fuck that. Wear whatever you want!
Yes, it's true that you should put some thought into why you're going to BlogHer. If your main purpose is business and you're primarily there to make connections with brands, then, okay, sure, maybe it isn't a great idea to wear your pajama pants all day. But do remember that these companies know we're bloggers, not business executives. So no one is expecting you to show up in a three-piece suit. (Although it's totally okay if that's what you feel most comfortable in - did we mention that anything goes?)
On the other hand, while you definitely don't need to spend money on new clothes for the weekend, there's nothing wrong with wanting to look your best or getting excited over an excuse to shop for new shoes. But just trust us - make those comfortable shoes. Your feet will thank you later. (You don't want to end up walking down the street barefoot in an unfamiliar city in the middle of the night...not that we would know anything about that.)
General Newbie Stress
We know BlogHer can be totally stressful your first time around... and the truth is, it's still kind of stressful every year afterwards. (But it's good stress. The exciting kind.) This will be our fourth year attending this totally unique, crazy, fun, sparkly, inspiring event for women bloggers. The weekend is always basically a whirlwind of attending workshops, partying, networking, drinking, getting swag, drunk networking, blogging, tweeting, drunk tweeting, attending workshops while hungover, and then doing it all again. We know it can be a little overwhelming for the first-timers. The best advice we can give you is to just relax! It's going to be an awesome experience and all those nervous jitters are just going to melt away when you get there.
Yes, BlogHer is so big and over the top that it can be really overwhelming and it can be easy to fall into the trap of thinking that everyone's already got their cliques and you won't fit in or make friends. But you will. (And if all else fails you can always join the Evil Slut Clique.) Almost everyone at BlogHer is really friendly and approachable, even the most "Internet famous" bloggers. Don't get caught up thinking that you're not good enough/famous enough/important enough. You're good enough! Everyone started somewhere and even the smallest little blog matters. As Queerie Bradshaw put it, we should all be able to say "I'm a big deal".
There are a lot (like a lot a lot) of BlogHer Advice posts floating around. Even we made one: The ESC's Tips for BlogHer. Sometimes having too much advice is worse than not having any; because you start to obsess over it (especially when some of the blogs offer conflicting suggestions and you don't know who to listen to). So we think it's important to remember that you don't have to follow all of it. And yes, we realize the hypocrisy of giving you advice on not taking all the advice you're given, but oh well. Just because a BlogHer veteran or "important" blogger feels one way, doesn't mean it's the only way and it doesn't mean you have to listen to them. If something just rubs you the wrong way or goes against what you feel, forget it. No one's going to hate you if you don't take their advice. And if someone does give you a hard time for ignoring their amazing advice...well, fuck them. (Just yesterday someone advised us to stop cursing so much. We ignored him.)
Figure out the best plan of attack for yourself and just go with it. And next year? You can write all the BlogHer Advice posts you want.
Speaking of Advice, here are some of our BlogHer posts. (Although you can feel free to ignore anything in them!)