Attending a blogger conference in 2015 was on my to-do list. I did some research and found BlogHer15 — a conference that supports women bloggers. It would be in July at the New York Hilton. My sister, Cheryl, and I go to New York every summer, so this was perfect for the geography and my hotel points. As always, we balanced our activities. We bookended the conference with hang-out time in the City and with family.
First things first: BlogHer15’s theme was “Experts Among Us.” I had no idea what to expect. Blogging has become quite an industry. I was excited to dive deeper into our blogging venture and share the experience with Cheryl.
SheKnowsMedia masterfully rolled out the BlogHer keynote speakers and workshops in the months leading up to the conference. I was uncertain how I would fit in with established bloggers because this blog is young, and yet-to-be-monetized. Cheryl was apprehensive about the social and networking aspects of the conference. I hoped the conference would kickstart relationships with other bloggers.
I don’t know how many bloggers attended BlogHer15, but it seemed like easily a thousand. BlogHer15 was a professional, unexpectedly balanced production. It doesn’t mean the conference was perfect because I saw some missed opportunities to help bloggers connect with others in their blogging genre. Nevertheless, there was plenty of substance there for everyone.
Why BlogHer15 impressed and inspired me:
- Attendees were diverse in sexual orientation, race, generation, and geography. (I thought attendees would skew heavily toward millennials, but GenX and Boomers were in the house, too.)
- Presenters and Keynote speakers were similarly diverse. To name a few, we had Ava DuVernay (award-winning director of “Selma”), Christy Turlington Burns (former super-model and founder of “Every Mother Counts”), Soledad O’Brien (journalist and philanthropist), and Gwyneth Paltrow (fellow blogger, actress, and author).
- Social issues had a platform at keynote sessions. The founders of BlackLivesMatter, Patrisse Cullors and Opal Tometi, kicked off the conference on the first night with a conversation moderated by Essence magazine’s editor-in-chief. Christy Turlington Burns hosted a keynote session on maternal mortality and introduced us to Ancient Song Doula Services. (We learned the shocking statistic that the United States is the only developed nation in which maternal mortality is actually on the rise!) There was also a screening of the documentary about Pakistani teenager activist, Malala Yousafzai, co-recipient of the 2014 Nobel Peace Prize. (The Taliban nearly murdered her for activism in women and education issues.)
- Sponsors were diverse: financial, food, personal care products, household products, baby products, technology, and health and wellness. One of my favorite sponsors was Jet, the shopping club that boxed up the swag we picked up at the Expo, and delivered it to our homes. Other favorites were WordPress (their “Happiness Engineers” provided technical help with blogs), and Depends, which hosted yoga classes early each morning. All sponsors gave away swag. Swag, swag, everywhere!
- Sessions and workshops had something for everyone. For the most part, we chose well and gained great information. Attending sessions was like a moveable feast. Some presenters reinforced what matters: quality content and writing, integrity, and passion. We learned that a blog’s value is not solely based on analytics and social media fans and followers; being able to connect influential people to brands is valued, too. Speaking of social media, I went to a session that made me sigh, and then exclaim….”What?! I need to add another one? Twitter??!” Ahhh…the time suck of social media. But, it was clear I could no longer avoid Twitter. Bloggers were expected to punctuate conference happenings with tweets. (I don’t have a single damn tweet, but you can now follow me, anyway @kalison0515.)
- “Experts Among Us” wasn’t only about the luminaries among presenters and keynote speakers; it was about blogger attendees, too. We were asked what was our expertise. I gave this some thought. I’m expert in personal transformation. I had a life-changing event and made lifestyle changes that, seven years later, are still evolving in a positive way. This kind of change is difficult to start, let alone maintain. People ask me for advice all the time. I’m claiming this expertise!
We were in great company with many accomplished women.
Last, but not least, a few words about The Big Apple and how Cheryl and I enjoyed the City.
Before we checked into the conference, we had a mission on the Upper East Side. That mission was to hit the two Roundabout designer consignment stores. After we scored some very cool items at the semi-annual sale, we enjoyed a long walk back to the hotel.
We dined in Harlem at Barawine (Lenox & 120th) — delicious! We walked a few blocks from there to the Richard Rodgers Amphitheater in Marcus Garvey Park where we saw a jazz singer and her trio, followed by Classical Theatre of Harlem‘s production of Shakespeare’s, “The Tempest.” I hadn’t seen the play before and agreed with reviews that the acting was superb. Classical Theatre of Harlem produces a play each summer at Marcus Garvey Park that attendees can see for free!
Our final highlight in NY was brunch at Cocotte in SoHo with my nephew / Cheryl’s son, David. I had the fluffiest, most divine (and expensive) scrambled eggs, potatoes, and peach bellinis ever! True French cuisine is worth it (as an occasional treat).
And, I’ll close with a final image from New York….