Having now attended both BlogHer and BlogHer Food, I can tell you that these are very different conferences, meeting very different needs, and appropriate for very different audiences. BlogHer in general is often perceived as a mommyblogger organization, but having spent some time with these women at these events, the demographics are far broader than just that. I attended BlogHer first and liked the excitement of attending a blogging conference, but in many ways it was not the right conference for me. I’m still coasting on the excitement from my love of BlogHer Food.
So what are these conferences all about:
“Best Fit” demographic: This is an excellent conference to attend if you are interested in working with brands and learning the ropes for monetizing your blog. The focus is very general, so there are bloggers on all kinds of topics. There are lots and lots of brands there eager to connect with bloggers, and lots and lots of mommybloggers. If you fit into this demographic, I’m sure you’ll be thrilled to meet others who are like-minded and have similar priorities. This was actually something very frustrating to me, because I am very career focused, and to be blunt I felt like a total fish out of water in this regard.
Networking: There are thousands of people there, and not shortage of networking opportunities. They range from big-name bloggers to people who are interested in blogging but haven’t started the process yet. People are generally friendly, and although it may seem like everyone knows everyone else, there are tons of newbies. I did find it hard to strike up conversations at times because I didn’t know where to start. The subject matter of the conference is so general, that it’s hard to tell if you have anything in common with the person you’re chatting with. I did find that “So, what do you blog about?” was an easy go-to line for chatting. I love that there was a “speed dating” session during the first breakfast, because that was an easy way for someone with shy tendencies (see: me) to connect quickly with a lot of people, whom I could follow up with later in the conference.
Sessions: Sessions are large and fill up quickly. Since this is a bigger conference, there are often bigger name speakers. You’ll do well if you have a flexible attitude– have an idea of what sessions you’d like to attend, but be ready to go to another session or skip out and wander around the expo if it runs out of seats. BlogHer also offers smaller workshops on the nuts & bolts of blogging (how to use wordpress, grammar reviews, etc.) and if you are interested, you should sign up when they begin accepting enrollment online. These only seat like 14 attendees each.
Parties: There are lots of parties, both conference hosted and sponsor hosted. If you work with brands, and particularly if you have established the commercial side of your blog, you’ll be wined and dined and have a great time. For people like me who specifically do not work with brands (due to the nature of my day job), this will probably make you feel left out to see lots of cool stuff coming up on your twitter feed that you weren’t invited to.
“Best Fit” Demographic: Attendees seemed to be a little more experienced, and although the conference has a food theme, there are many, many variations on this theme. Many of the attendees have day jobs outside of their blogs. Maybe it was just the sessions I attended, but the attendees I met seemed to be more focused on improving their content than on monetization/brand relationships. Sure, monetization/brand relationships were big themes at the conference, but it didn’t seem to be the over-arching primary focus.
Networking: I liked that we had a common thread as a jump-off point for conversation– food. The conference is smaller so the crowd is not as overwhelming, but it is still a fairly big crowd. I really wish they would do the speed dating during breakfast like they did at BlogHer.
Sessions: There was plenty of space at the sessions, no one got shut out (even from the limited seating skills workshops). The quality of the content was amazing. I heard some grumblings about some of the brand relations sessions being too basic for their expectations, but on the whole I thought the content was accessible for all levels.
Parties: There were Friday evening excursions to Austin food destinations, which was ideal because how could you have a food conference in an amazing food city, without going out and HAVING the food? There was also one big closing party, but I didn’t spend much time there. Yes, there were sponsor-hosted events, but not nearly as many of them, so I didn’t feel as left out. It is definitely worth mentioning that the conference organizers were very cognizant of food allergies & limitations, and there were gluten free, vegan and other options available at all meals. Also the conference food on the whole was unusually high quality.
I may or may not attend BlogHer in future years, it’s a toss-up for me. I really loved BlogHer Food and definitely plan to attend again in the future. I admit- my attitude had a lot to do with the difference in my perspective. I entered BlogHer much more high strung and stressed than I entered BlogHer Food, which resulted in me having a more fun and laid-back time at BlogHer Food. This is a valuable lesson for me for any conference: take things as they come, roll with the punches, and enjoy the present.
Have you attended either or both of these conferences? What were your thoughts? Which did you prefer? Would you return?