Perhaps it's a measure of how far blogging has evolved that a sitting President would take the time to speak via satellite to a room full of female bloggers. There were times that we couldn't hear what he was saying over the cheers, but it did get me thinking that there is a legitimacy to blogging, and online media of any kind, that is finally starting to be acknowledged.
This was only my second BlogHer. I went out to San Diego last year, but I was out there as a volunteer, and a newbie, and I felt more like a tourist. This time, I was more focused, and had certain things I wanted to get out of the experience.
I'm in a strange place as a blogger. I've been writing here for a long time, but I mostly fly under the radar in BlogHer circles. Some of this is intentional as I have been very cautious about letting people in my real life know about this blog, and some of it is about me not getting known around when it was still a small group looking for writers. If you read some of the other BlogHer recaps, many, many people are talking about how big it was, and how much it has changed. Last year's conference was pretty big too, so I'm not necessarily feeling the difference.
I'm also not a blogger who is necessarily looking to connect with brands (although this year, I wound up doing videos for a couple - more on that in another post), so most of those private parties that everyone gets excited about don't involve me. That's okay, really since this year I didn't even go to the conference sponsored parties because I had my family with me.
One invitation I did get however, is from a group I'm very much interested in. Although I have been politically active and aware for so many years, I have never made any kind of donation to a campaign until last year - to EMILY's List. So I was thrilled when Joanne included me in a list of bloggers to meet with Stephanie Schriock and a few EMILY's List candidates while we were in NYC.
This is Stephanie (left) with Senator Kirsten Gillibrand. We also met Grace Meng, who is running for a seat in Congress representing NY's 6th Congressional District.
It was also a nice opportunity for me to meet other political bloggers including Jill Miller Zimon who holds a seat on her city council in Ohio.
The conference getting bigger and more influential meant that we had people like Martha Stewart and Katie Couric come talk to us via interviews with Lisa Stone.
My fascination with Martha Stewart is long past, but she is the ultimate business woman and role model of sorts. She's like Madonna in a lot of ways; you're not sure you'd want to be her, but there's a lot of respect for what she's accomplished.
Katie Couric surprised me. I don't watch a lot of network news, so what little I knew of her centered around a long ago discussion of whether she could handle hard news as an anchor (don't that that sweet personality fool you), and her interview with Sarah Palin. Katie impressed me, and if I was going to be home during the day, I might give her new show a try. Many of us in the political/isssues presentation were talking about how to get more women engaged in the issues, and we agreed that it would take a big name, like Oprah, coming into their living rooms in an approachable way, every day. Katie could certainly do that.
The Romney campaign missed a huge opportunity here. They have a large gender gap to overcome, and yet they declined to speak to the women at this conference. This was a moment to make Ann Romney the human face of the campaign. I realize that she was in London at the time, but hello new media and telecommunications....
That the conference has grown so much had its drawbacks. The EXPO floor was in several different places and really overwhelming. Since their sponsorship makes the parts of the conference that I am interested in possible, that's all I'll say about it. Several of the sessions were filled to capacity (the geek bar needs to be expanded). Some of the presenter/panels felt unfocused and disjointed. Some were great. If there was a recurring theme in my head through each session, it was this: I wish that more of the sessions were in a workshop format, because the Q&A and breakout group parts were really the most valuable. Also - presenters need to use the laptops in each of the rooms to display visuals and takeaways. I say this as someone who has designed learning programs for most of her career.
Finally, for someone who grew up in the tri-state area, this is the most time I have ever spent in New York City. We were not in the conference hotel (and for that I am grateful) but way uptown; we walked around a lot and loved it. This die-hard Bostonian was surprised and impressed by New York. I'm jealous that they still have so many bookstores. Piper surprised me by saying that he wouldn't mind living there if it wasn't so expensive. It is though, and that makes it prohibitive.
And when the city gets overwhelming, there's always Central Park.