ON SCHMOOZING

posted by Momo Fali on March 6, 2011

This post needs to start with a few disclaimers:

1.  I like parties.  My husband often says that I “don’t know when the party should end.”  This is a true statement and is why I usually have black circles under my eyes.

2.  I work for BlogHer as Social Media Manager.  The opinions I am about to share are opinions I have held since last summer, when I attended BlogHer’10 in NYC, before I worked for them.  This is also a true statement.  You can ask my friends, because they listen to me when I want to vent about said opinions and I shared these a long time ago.

3.  No one asked me to write this.  I should have written it in August, but didn’t want to insult anyone.  I am hoping, by writing it now, others will learn from my naiveté.

4.  If you’re not a blogger, you can stop reading now.  Unless, in your industry, you’re a frequent conference attendee.

(To my computerless mother, for whom I will have to print this blog post:  BlogHer is the largest community of women who blog with more than 55 million unique visitors a month. That means, BlogHer is a pretty big deal and they know their stuff.  Get it?  I didn’t think so.)

In less than five months, I will be attending my third BlogHer conference in San Diego.  A couple of days ago, I got the first of what will be many invitations for events and product giveaways from companies who are, in no way, affiliated with BlogHer.

When I went to my first BlogHer conference in Chicago, in 2009, there were suites throughout the hotel where I was sent to get free stuff.  I won’t lie, it was pretty nice.  I got a cute, buttery-soft t-shirt, a free pair of jeans (I loved them so much, I went to the store and bought more) and an awfully nice backpack.  At the time, I didn’t realize that the companies involved were not sponsoring the conference.

Conference sponsors at BlogHer are valuable to the attendees who buy a ticket at at the Blogger Rate of $298 (for the record, there was early-bird pricing of $198 through the end of February).  This Blogger Rate ticket is subsidized by the companies who are there to share their brand and products.  If it wasn’t for them, there would also be no Expo Hall where you can meet companies on your own time and there would be no food (and I, for one, really like food).

If you do not want your ticket to be subsidized (for instance, if you take issue with the policies or products of a sponsor), you are free to pay the Self-Sponsored Blogger Rate of $598.  I know, exactly, one person who has bought a ticket at that price.

Everyone I know bought early-bird tickets at $198, or $99 a day.  That price gets them fed, lets them choose from more tracks than any other blog conference, admits them to all cocktail parties and to the Expo Hall.  All of those things are part of the conference because of official sponsors.

This is why BlogHer made the decision to have non-sponsored events barred from the conference in NYC.  You can not question this move.  If it weren’t for legitimate sponsors, most people could not afford to attend and it isn’t fair to the companies who subsidize our tickets to have our attention focused elsewhere.  Mom, are you with me?

Non-sponsors curtailed this in NYC by inviting bloggers to off-site parties.  Attendees were sent all over Manhattan for everything from soap to manicures.  I chose not to attend these events, not because I’m high-and-mighty, but because I wanted to spend the time with fellow bloggers.  I take that back; I attended one, and that was only because someone else wrangled an invitation for me.  I spent over an hour being schmoozed, watching a presentation AND NOT TALKING TO MY FRIENDS.  All for a bottle of lotion.

Don’t get me wrong, I would not begrudge someone the life-experience of being taken via limousine to a private party held by a company they really believe in.  If a brand is giving away free vacuum cleaners, or those aforementioned jeans, then I say, “Go for it!” Also, get me some!  Just consider the time you’re investing before you do it.

If you had asked me in Chicago if I wanted to pay for a cab and spend a couple of hours away from invaluable socializing and conversations with intelligent and insightful women so that I could get a free backpack, I would have said no.  And, for real, it’s a super nice backpack.

If you know anything about blogging, you have heard of ROI (Return on Investment).  Personally, I get the best ROI by engaging with people who inspire me. For me, BlogHer is about igniting creativity, about sharing ideas, about connecting with friends and making new ones.

And, you can’t do any of that if you’re across town getting schmoozed with free lotion.

* This post was updated on June 12, 2013 to reflect my current position with BlogHer and the reach of the BlogHer Publishing Network

    Comments

  • Melisa


    Preach it, sister. I am going into my third BlogHer this year with the same attitude and goals: to spend it with friends and to learn, rather than hoofing it all over town (with one exception, because of an already-established relationship with an organization).

    Especially because my blisters from last year have just recently healed. 🙂

    • Momo Fali


      I’ve never seen anyone hoof it like you did. I don’t know how you did it in that heat! Also, you can’t do that this year because we have to run on the beach, hand in hand. A lot.

      • Melisa


        I KNOW! And OMG I can’t wait for that! I’m making us daisy headbands just for that occasion! 🙂

  • Kristen Howerton


    I could not agree more. Last summer was my first Blogher and I tried to go to everything. I ended up feeling tired and disconnected. I really dislike the way all the private parties pull everyone in different directions. I really value connecting with friends and it’s hard to do that when everyone is dealing with different invites.

    • Momo Fali


      Exactly!

  • Truthful Mommy


    THis year will be my first BlogHer and I am most excited about learning, growing, and meeting all these awesome women and men who I’ve met through my blog and twitter.I’d hate the thought of missing all that for “LOTION”, now, a “DYSON” maybe:)LOL Great article!

    • Momo Fali


      Oh, me too! I love my Dyson so much that I want to marry it.

      • caryn


        It would be handy to have a spouse you could just stick in the closet sometimes…

  • nic @mybottlesup


    this was really insightful. as one who does not and has never attended a blogging conference, i appreciate those who do attend and have the balls to lay it all out there.

  • melissa


    i didn’t do much at blogher 11 for blogher 11. i only went to 2 sessions and the expo hall. i hung out with my friends that’s really the only reason why i went, to see my friends that i don’t get to see the other 362 days of the year.
    same will happen this year.
    oh, and you’ll all come to my little shindig. i have no swag, just hugs.

  • Nicole@MTDLBlog


    This post is so helpful to a novice like me! I’m attending my first BlogHer conference this year and I will be relying on sound advice from seasoned attendees to help me plan my time well. Keep it coming! And um…..I love a good party and also have a difficult time ending the party…we are kindreds.

    • Momo Fali


      I’ll meet you on the dance floor.

  • Ann's Rants


    Wonderful post. Quality connections (whether personal or business) is my aim for big conferences. That way I come away with something that fills my soul and or dreams/goals instead of just my suitcase.

    • Momo Fali


      You know what filled my soul? That pizza we ate. YUM!

  • Robin


    So True!

    Last year was my 1st BlogHer and while I loved it, I was so emotionally spent afterward that it took me a while to recover, mostly because I tried to do way too much in too short of a time. This year, I am going again but being much more laissez-faire about the whole thing. I have 1 or 2 things I definitely want to do party-wise and Blog-Her wise, but to be honest, I am going to network with some amazing ladies.

    Besides – it’s San Diego. In the Summertime. HELLO!!

  • Piper of Love


    I STILL have a bag full of BlogHer09 swag in my closet. I feel guilty getting rid of it because I realize how hard my friends worked to get those hot giveaway-able goodies in my hands.

    I wish I could go to BlogHer again, I wish it so hard! But when I think about going, I’m only thinking of seeing my friends. I wouldn’t trade valuable friend time for any amount of valuable swag.

    Those backpacks were really nice though. And the Dove deoderant I got at Sparklecorn made me a Dove deoderant lifer, for real.

    • Momo Fali


      I have worn Dove Clinical Protection deodorant since that very day!

  • Tara R.


    Testify sista friend! I really wish I was going this year. Maybe the confab will head south some year.

  • Jenn @ MommyNeedsCoffee


    It’s been nteresting to see how BlogHerCon has grown and changed. I’ve been to all but BH ’10 (family emergency) and have seen things grow and change and watched how the BlogHer powers that be have handled it. In ’05 & ’06 the only parties were BlogHer cocktail parties around the hotel pool. All inclusive and fun. It started to change slightly in ’07 & ’08. It went insane in ’09. My roommate and I spent so much time coordinating party schedules and invites and such that it became exhausting to try to attend all of them. Picking and choosing which ones where good for networking, which were important not to snub etc. I love parties. I love being with my friends. I long for the days of simplicity where everyone felt a “part of” rather than “excluded” because they couldn’t get a ticket in 5 minutes or weren’t invited or didn’t know “the right people” to get into a party. It sucks.

    I’ve been on both sides. For BlogHer ’11 I just really want to be with the people I adore (YOU!) and network (run hand in hand on a beach, too!) and meet new people. If that is at a party, great. If that is hanging out in a lobby, great. If that is hanging out with 18 people in a hotel room, awesome. I want to enjoy this conference and the people I adore.

    Did I have a point? I dunno. Maybe just that less is more.

    • Momo Fali


      See? SEE? Did I even talk to you in New York? Did I even see you?

      That’s the thing about legitimate conference sponsors…they are there for everyone. It’s not just 100 exclusive guests. It doesn’t matter if you have five readers or 500,000. Everyone reaps the benefits.

  • Jamie


    I second Tara’s emotion. BlogHer needs to head South for something. If only for fun and sun.

  • Mrs4444


    You’re so right. I was a Newbie in 2009 and got really caught up in the must-go-to idea. Next time, I plan to plan nothing and just enjoy the best parts–friends (and the Keynotes!) Have fun in SanDiego! 🙂

  • shannanb


    This year will be my 4th BlogHer. And while I have attended the aforementioned parties in the past, I could not agree more with your post. You do a great job of putting it into perspective. At the end of the day the things I remember most about my time in San Francisco, Chicago & NYC is the time I spent with bloggers — not scooping up swag, but sitting in the lobby or at the bar, even in the hallway, just talking. At the end of the day it’s BlogHer that makes that possible. It’s BlogHer that allows me to spend time with lots of my friends who are normally spread out across the county.

  • Julie {Angry Julie Monday}


    Please say that I don’t have to wait 5 whole months to see you????

    And the re-design, FABULOUS!

  • Headless Mom


    I have a suggestion for the BlogHer women. Get out of the cocktail party business. Run the conference and let sponsors do the party if they want. Or not. I can’t visit with my friends in a ballroom with 1,000 people anyway.

  • Headless Mom


    OH, and I should also add that I don’t leave the hotel for other parties because then I’d miss my friends. Honestly, why else go to BlogHer than to see your friends and meet people?

  • Rachel (Hounds in the Kitchen)


    Thanks for this post. I’m weighing whether and which conferences to attend. It is helpful to hear how seasoned bloggers approach conferences.

  • Patty


    I saw the mentioned party invite and registered well because I like them and I think they are awesome but I thought to myself “Here we go again!” Referring to the party/sponsor run around. I was exhausted last year at in my home town where I knew exactly where I was going. I’m not sure I can do that again.

    I know I’ll want to be at the beach! So I’m glad you & Melisa will be there too 🙂

    Thank you for pointing out there is another way to do this! 🙂

  • Loukia


    I totally understand what you are saying, and I agree with BlogHer having non-sponsored events barred from the conference hotel. I get it, totally. BlogHer’10 in NYC was my first time at Blogher, and I had a great time. It was all I thought it was going to be, and more.

    The thing is, I did attend quite a few non-BlogHer sponsored parties, from Nikon to Hallmark to Ralph Lauren to SocialLuxe, etc., etc. Yes, my feet hurt, but I had a darn good time! I didn’t care about the free stuff or the swag, and I ended up leaving SO much at the hotel. For me, it was all about hanging out with the awesome bloggers I knew, and the awesome bloggers I had just met, bloggers who became awesome friends, and bloggers who I’m dying to see again in San Diego! I just have nothing but good vibes from Blogher, from the actual conference itself, to the parties. The best time I had last year was when a bunch of us just went out for drinks on the rooftop of the Gansevoort Hotel.
    This year is San Diego, I’m pretty sure I will be at the pool the entire time. How awful does that sound, OMG? But seriously – quality time with friends is what it is all about!

  • Colleen - Mommy Always Wins


    Have I told…you lately…that I love you?

    Seriously, this was perfect. (Note to Momo’s Mom: Tell her you’re proud, kay?) I feel exactly the same way about the parties, etc. I love to run myself ragged while in a new place and/or at these conferences. I’ll sleep when I’m home. But its far more valuable to me to sit in the lobby of a hotel and giggle like school girls with friends than it is for me to trek across town for a free whatever-the-heck. 🙂 See you in August! I’ll bring my clown nose…

  • Elizabeth Flora Ross


    Amen! As someone who has planned and managed events like BlogHer in the corporate sector, you are totally preaching to the choir with me. But I think there are a lot of people who don’t know about this. And, it is easy to get swept away. I don’t fault anyone for it. Kudos to you for bringing this to forefront!

    Also? I will be attending my first BlogHer conference this year and am very excited!

  • meleah rebeccah


    Sadly, I’ve still NEVER been to a BlogHer conference.

  • Marinka


    I appreciate BlogHer’s position that the hotel space is reserved for sponsors only. That is the deal they made with the sponsors, and it makes sense and it’s totally fair.

    What I’m unclear about is why going to an off-site party, sponsored by someone else, is semi-frowned upon? If my ticket is partially subsidized by a BlogHer sponsors, am I committed to those sponsors until end-of-conference-do-us- part, on or off the premises?

    Full Disclosure: I am one of The Mouthy Housewives and we hosted an off-site party for BlogHer attendees in NYC. We did have wonderful sponsors (all our attendees received a free vacuum cleaner) but I’d bet that most people who attended came to hang out with other great women, to have a chance to sit and talk, out of the hotel.

    Personally, there’s just so much time that I can spend at the Hilton before I get cabin fever, I assume that there are others that feel the same.

    Our party was in the evening, I believe after the expo had closed.

    And one of the things that made me the proudest about our party is that several people approached us and told us that it was the best party they’d attended, not because of the swag, but because they had a chance to sit down, relax and talk with their friends.

    I’m hoping that the two–on-site sponsors and off-site sponsors can co-exist. I think it would be a real loss to the BlogHer experience if we did away with off-site parties.

    • Bitchin' Amy


      Great post! Loved reading the comments… I can see both sides and everybody had valid points.

      I love the off-site parties, but thought that last year was out of control. There was just too much going on and I ended up feeling disconnected, as well. But only because the Social Luxe party was an running an hour late and totally threw my schedule for the night off! lol I think that Sparklecorn steals the show every year, so as long as the BEST party is BlogHer sponsored, then everything should be OK, right?

      p.s. The Mouthy Housewives’ party really was the best, too, because it was small, the music wasn’t too loud and there were only two sponsors there so you didn’t end up talking to PR people for half the time you were there, you spent all your time talking with the other amazing attendees. A beautiful thing!

  • Tracey - JustAnotherMommyBlog


    I am all about saving money and cab rides don’t come cheap. That is me saying that I intend on being inside that lovely, air-conditioned hotel as much as possible this year. 🙂 Also, bloggers are at the conference. I don’t want to meet Californians unless they BLOG!!

    No offense to non-blogging Californians. I’m sure you’re lovely.

  • Damaris @Kitchen Corners


    I agree with you 100% and I’d also like to point out that BlogHer also gives student rates. The first year I paid $75 for EVERYTHING. I think this year was the same price. I love BlogHer.

  • Kate Coveny Hood


    NYC was my first BlogHer and while I had a truly wonderful time, I also had the very newbie experience of walking away knowing exactly what I would have done differently. And I wrote about that after the fact.

    Thursday night, I tried to do too much – all of which included off site sponsored parties. Then Friday night I felt like I did everything right – which included going to ONE off site sponsored party. It was the Mouthy Housewives party and I loved it for the exact reasons that Marinka mentioned above. It was intimate and easy to find people who were there and it was the first time that I actually felt relaxed in two days.

    I also see Loukia’s comment as very relevant because it’s from the perspective of someone who loves to socialize and meet new people in pretty much any event setting. In getting to know her through blogging, I know that she has an insane amount of energy and enthusiasm and that hitting three parties in one night for her, would probably just mean three times as much fun. So sometimes it all comes down to personality (which was my point – not a dissertation on Loukia’s personality!)

    We’re all looking for different things when we attend conferences and having different networking opportunities is are a good thing. Regardless of what we want though – your point about wasting time to “earn stuff” is excellent. I picked up a bag everywhere I went and gave about 95% of it all away. To attend an event because you are excited about the sponsor/product is fine – but going to everything you can to capitalize on free products will just end up being disappointing and inconvenient.

    I worked in conference planning for 10 years – and I found the structure of BlogHer and the off site sponsored events to be pretty standard. It seems that they saw sponsor-related conflicts begin to occur in 2009 and handled it the way most established conferences have for years: they made companies that didn’t sponsor the conference hold their events off site. And in the end it seemed like everyone’s needs were met. First time attendees like me may have made some mistakes in over-scheduling ourselves – but that’s just like anything else in life. You learn from the first experience and do things better the next time around.

    By the way – it was so nice meeting you on our cab ride to the Penn Station. Not sure if I’ll be able to make it to CA – but if so, I’ll look forward to seeing you there!

  • Jen


    I went to Blogher last year and wasn’t really invited to any of the private parties except for one, which was given by a blog I read. I sort of felt left out but this year when I go to Blogher, I am not going to care much. I want to have a better Blogher experience this year.

  • ColleenwithMurals&More


    I’ve never been to any blogging conference. I may have to beg, borrow or steal, but I’m planning on San Diego in August.

    I have no idea what to expect and I have a feeling I’ll be scared sh*tless and excited too.

    Anyhoo, thanks so much for this info. I want to meet other bloggers IRL. In fact, it’s probably the main reason I’m going. What you said makes so much sense, but it’s always nice to have it spelled out!

  • jennyonthespot


    Well. Said.

    Long story, short… I AGREE. Have hd these thought floating in my mind, but have not really known how to circle the wagon.

    I don’t even know if that makes sense. But there ya have it. Bra.Vo.

  • Christy @morethanmommy


    I am in full support of the off-site rule for non-BlogHer-sponsor parties, but I think that you have a faulty assumption in your post. Going to an offsite party doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re not connecting with other bloggers and it doesn’t mean you’re listening to a sales pitch. This will be my third year at BlogHer and I find the official BlogHer parties to be loud, crowded and generally overwhelming. I tend to go to them, cling to one or two people I know and escape as quickly as possible. I feel a bit bad saying this, since most of them started as small, grass-roots-style gatherings, but they have just grown beyond what is comfortable to me. The offsite parties I attended were typically limited to less than 200 people, there were no sales pitches other than a short welcome from the sponsor, and I had the chance to meet other great bloggers in environments more conducive to conversation. It bothers me that attending an offsite party has become tantamount to “cheating” on BlogHer or considered selling out. I pay for my BlogHer ticket, I contribute to the community, I acknowledge the official sponsors, and then I attend what I want to when I want to. Being invited to a nice dinner or cocktail party with other brilliant ladies is a treat, and if it’s attached to a brand I’d like to learn more about, all the better. Bottom line, to each his or her own.

  • Xenia


    San DIego will be my first BlogHer conference and I’m so excited, I’m so grateful for the posts giving advice and explaining things so I don’t feel left out. I don’t have many blog friends but I hope to make some in SD!

  • ModernMom


    BlogHer 11 will be my very first BlogHer experience! I can’t begin to thank you for this insightful post and all of the comments. As a newbie I hope to socialize with bloggers, and pr reps, attend the official parites and if I’m lucky a couple of unofficial parites! Will take the solid adice not to spread myself to thin and make the most of every moment:)

  • Dana (DragynAlly)


    Bet you didn’t know this would speak to people a year later! Love this post Momo. And you’re right. My goals are 1. Have fun and 2. Make friends. And that’s what BlogHer12 will be all about.

  • Lori Lavender Luz


    I am grateful to the companies whose sponsorship makes BlogHer12 possible for me to afford to go to it, learn a bunch, meet with my far-flung friends and make new ones.

    I think you should bring your mom back some lotion. Will she notice if it’s branded “Hilton”?

  • lorrie


    how can you tell the difference between non sponsors and the sponsors its all so confusing to a blog her newbie

    • Momo Fali


      There is a list on the BlogHer site of all of the official sponsors and a lot of private party invitations will have disclaimers to say that they are not affiliated.

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