Making connections and forging friendships at BlogHer 2016

Way back in the early days of 2015, I attended a live reading of several excerpts from the book, Listen To Your Mother. It was here that I met Melisa Wells, the woman responsible for all things social media at BlogHer, and its parent company, SheKnows Media, the sponsors of the event. I got to chatting with Melissa and a few other women from BlogHer, including Sponsor Experience Manager Liz Katkics Thompson and co-founder and COO, Elisa Camahort Page, and learned about their annual conference. I was completely bummed, because, although the event was in my home city, I already had plans for that week.

Not one to wallow over disappointment, I accepted my fate, and became determined to attend the following year. In the year that followed, I kept writing, achieved many of my publishing goals, and slowly grew my social presence. All the while keeping tabs on news regarding BlogHer 2016.

When the announcement finally came, I jumped on top of the early registration discount, booked my flight (yay miles!), reserved my hotel room, and began the count-down to August in Los Angeles.

I was ecstatic to be an attendee, however, a huge part of me felt like an imposter. BlogHer is a huge conference, and it isn’t cheap, which is why, at least to me it seemed, a large number of attendees had huge numbers in terms of pageviews, followers, likes, etc. In other words, these were “the big dogs.” I had nowhere near those numbers when I registered (still don’t), and I still considered my blog to be more creative outlet than serious business. I worried I wouldn’t fit in with these phenoms of Facebook, these titans of Twitter, these badasses of bloggery.

My concerns were somewhat assuaged by my familiarity with several women in attendance. I am a proud member of several blogging/writers’ groups on Facebook, and am happy to call many of them “friend,” even if it’s only in the virtual sense. Jacqui Zadak, AKA MrsMuffinTop, AKA “Today Show” contributor, AKA, all-around awesome person, and L.A. resident, is one such person, and, lucky for me, she was going to BlogHer.

I am so thankful, I reached out to Jacqui before the show. Although, I am a friendly person, events of this magnitude are intimidating for first-timers, and having someone to help you navigate the landscape is beneficial. I guess you can call them your conference sherpas.

Jacqui was kind enough to meet me the evening I arrived, and together we explored the EXPO floor. In between chatting with brands like “Melissa and Doug,” “Lansinoh,” and “Adam & Eve,” we encountered other attendees, many of whom Jacqui already knew and were kind enough to introduce themselves. I felt less intimidated as the show progressed, and realized most of the attendees were there for the same reasons: to learn, to network and to have fun.

I enjoyed meeting other attendees so much that I ended up spending more time chatting with my new connections than in the breakout sessions or meeting with brands at the EXPO. Was that my intention? No. I had my BlogHer schedule stuffed with various programs I hoped to attend and brands I wanted to meet. I was a woman with a plan, and I was going to stick with it. I underestimated how much value there was in conversation.

I found myself in stumbling upon so many in depth talks with my fellow attendees. Whether it was sharing the details of our own blogs/brands or discussing our thoughts on Kim Kardashian, it was easy to caught up in the conversation and forget how much time had passed.

I believe these impromptu meet-ups are what encouraged me to read one of my blog posts aloud at the Listen To Your Mother Open Mic event. I knew my nerves would be eased by the warmth and support in that hotel meeting room. I was greeted with positivity and love, something any blogger knows is often hard to find in the virtual world. I am so glad I shared my voice and listened to many more.

Reading: “Are you there, mom? It’s me, with an awkward question.”

I do somewhat regret not sitting in on some of the sessions, from what I hear, they sound extremely informative. (Thankfully, this was a blogging conference and recaps aren’t hard to find.) However, I would not trade in those in-person connections forged in hotel hallways and after lunch-time lectures. At best, I gained some some lifelong friendships, at worse I grew my network and discovered some fantastic blogs.

Including:

The Chatty Momma

At home with the Zierings

Thriftanista In The City

That Shameless Hussy

Gunmetal Geisha

The Amy Situation

Suebob’s Red Stapler

Tales From The Circus

The Relative Cartographer 

Those in sales are fond of quoting the famous “Glengarry Glen Ross” speech for success: “ABCs: Always Be Closing.” I prefer something a bit more meaningful. Always Be Connecting. You never know where it may lead.

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