Once a year, 5,000 female bloggers get together to talk, Tweet, and chat with Martha Stewart.
No seriously. I just returned Monday night from three whirlwind days in New York at the annual BlogHer Conference. Since most of you that read this blog are passionate about diabetes, and not necessarily blogging, let me explain. BlogHer is a network of female bloggers that uses their big numbers to pull in serious advertising accounts. There’s thousands of bloggers that belong to the BlogHer network, blogging about everything from diabetes to eco-parenting to erotica – its genres span to pretty much everything under the sun. Because of that volume and reach, the network attracts advertisers from Best Buy to Lysol to politicians to pretty much you name it. The big ad that runs on my sidebar on this page is provided by BlogHer. The advantage isn’t just about having some modest revenue come in from a blog, but also the exposure to the entire BlogHer network – their resources, advice, and fascinating content. So when I finally had the opportunity (read: vacation time and money) to go to their annual conference, I jumped at the chance.
I had absolutely no idea what to expect from this conference – lots of opinionated women I guess? But it was so much more than that. For starters, President Obama opened the conference. You read that right. Ok, so he was Skyped in, but STILL. He provided a welcoming speech to all 5,000 of us live via Skype, and regardless of your political leanings, having the President address you directly is a pretty rad experience. I think it was smart on his part too – there were 5,000 women in that room who all have a website and like to write – and it happens to be close to election time. It’s a pretty good way to maximize your exposure in my opinion.
The next two days were a blur of large general sessions and smaller group panels and discussions. We saw Martha Stewart interviewed from the main stage over lunch on Friday, and Katie Couric the next. I got totally lost in an advanced SEO class on Friday morning, and feverishly took notes through a video-blogging panel the next day. And let’s not forget the THREE exhibit halls, stuffed full of every company under the sun giving away everything from USB drives in the shape of a banana (thanks Dole!) to made-to-order sausage stir-frys (thank you Hillshire Farms! Yum!).
The most interesting thing about the conference though, was how easy it was to talk to people. I guess I should have expected that since I was in a room full of bloggers all day every day, but I’ve never gone to a conference like this all alone. And actually, being there solo was an advantage. I just walked right up to a table full of gals and introduced myself. And at every table, the conversation went like this:
“Hi, I’m Alexis.”
“Hi, I’m so and so. What do you blog about Alexis?”
And from there an entire conversation would open up about our individual websites. I met all kinds of bloggers: New York City lifestyle bloggers, food bloggers, LGBT bloggers, women who blog only about purses or shoes, bloggers who love cats and bloggers who love gadgets. If there’s a special interest out there, there’s a blog for it.
One thing that surprised me though: I didn’t meet a single person who blogged about a chronic disease. That shocked the heck out of me. I must have personally talked to over 100 women and not one was blogging about their personal disease. I met many moms who blog about medical issues their kids have (no diabetes though), but no one who told their own story. Given the fact that there are literally hundreds of blogs about Type 1 diabetes now, this was surprising to me. However, I kept remembering I wasn’t at this conference to learn about diabetes – I was there to learn about blogging. And in that respect, I was able to learn from among the best and brightest on the web.
I am an expert in having diabetes, by default. But I am not an expert in blogging. I am a person who loves to participate in the diabetes online community, and use my blog as vehicle to connect with other like- minded individuals. So it was great to get out of my comfort zone and away from my diabetes-expertise safety net to explore and learn about whole other side of what I do. I learned so much from these women, even just in short conversations over an appetizer. And one thing I will always remember from this conference that applies to living with diabetes is that whatever help you need, whatever special interest you have, whatever difficult task is in front of you, there are people out there who have likely wondered the same thing, struggled with the same issue, or been just as curious as you. And the internet’s greatest gift is that they might only be a click away. You aren’t alone in this. You just have to find the others.