I arrived at BlogHer, the world’s largest conference for female bloggers, excited to write a parting post about how to find cheap, eco-friendly gifts to bring back to the kids as souvenirs of our time away in Chicago.
I was going to include this photo of the postcards and maps my husband brings back as gifts from his meetings in far flung places.
And I was planning to include this picture I took of the many great free maps and guides that could be picked up around Chicago.
And I even snapped photos of local “Chicago chocolate” in case some greenies just couldn’t resist the impulse to bring back more of a traditional gift for the kids – a little box of something consumable. Hey, at least it would be local and cheap (although not fair trade).
I never wrote that post – it didn’t seem appropriate at BlogHer. And I’m embarrassed to confess that I left the conference loaded down with “BlogHer swag.” (Swag= stuff we all get).
My children? They’re getting the Chicago maps and brochures I picked up at the train station. But they’re also getting a teddy bear, a DVD about puppies, and a book about Spiderman. My husband? He gets a new backpack (eco-friendly of course, made of recycled plastics). And me? Books, a T-shirt, and a new water bottle.
And that’s considered a “light load” from SwagHer. (I mean, BlogHer).
I didn’t really need any of this stuff except for the backpack. My husband’s backpack is hanging by a shoulder thread – he’s been putting off that purchase. The kids? Yes, they’ve wanted to visit Build-a-Bear, but I’ve never taken them. Now we have discount coupons and bears to “dress.” And me? All I really wanted was an autographed copy of my friend Jennifer Taggert’s new book, Smart Mama’s Green Guide. (Thank you, Jennifer!)
Call it the “herd mentality.” We follow others’ leads. And there were very few women at the conference who didn’t participate in the conspicuous consumption. At times the blow-out parties and swag made me wonder if it was ’99 instead of ’09. It sure didn’t seem like the Great Recession at BlogHer.
Hey, I knew my kids would love those teddy bears even though they already had bears at home. Everyone else was taking bears back to their kids! And they were blogger bears! And I was right, wasn’t I? Doesn’t Boo look cute cuddling that bear?
The notion of feting women bloggers, of celebrating their achievements, and of giving gifts to women who may not treat themselves to much in life (especially the Moms) – was heartwarming. But with so many extravagant parties and suites, the evening scene at BlogHer turned into a combination of Halloween trick-or-treating and Mardi Gras. And with so many sponsored bloggers interrupting others conversations to give a product pitch, heck, at times BlogHer seemed like a crazy reality TV show that was interrupted by sponsored programming! Don’t get me wrong…a lot of it was fun. Who doesn’t like parties? But somewhere, somehow, things seemed to become a bit…excessive.
Aside from the environmental implications of all “that stuff” we really don’t need, the other major impact of “SwagHer” was that for many women, all that time lining up to get into swag suites came at the expense of deeper conversations with the women we commune with online everyday. It’s sad that so many women left Blogher bemoaning the fact that they didn’t have time to really talk and connect with the women they met. What were we doing?
I think next year BlogHer will be different…many of us “greenies” — and even those who don’t consider themselves “green bloggers” have been emailing and tweeting about options for next year – everything from a new track within BlogHer to swag-free conference to a separate online or “in real life” conference. We’re in the brainstorming stages.
Still, BlogHer was a fabulous experience. Although I personally thought some of it was over the top, everyone is different. In fact, one of the great things about BlogHer was to see how diverse the blogging community is – something you could get a sense for at the “Birds of a Feather” luncheons. (No, it’s not all about Mom bloggers…And full disclosure, I’m co-authoring a marketing report about the conference with Maryanne Conlin, aka @mcmilker. )
Here are some pix of the fabulous women I enjoyed so much at Blogher .
Photo: Some of the Green Moms Carnival Members at BlogHer: Top Row, LtoR – Lynn of OrganicMania; Micaela of Mindful Momma. Bottom Row, L to R: Maryanne of Not Quite Crunchy Parent; Lisa of Condo Blues; Beth of Fake Plastic Fish and Diane of Big Green Purse. Missing: Sommer of Green and Clean Mom and Jennifer of The Smart Mama.
My trip to BlogHer was made possible by my sponsors. Last year I missed BlogHer. And as I blogged here, I wasn’t even planning to go to BlogHer until Stonyfield Farm approached me about a sponsorship. Getting to a major conference and back is expensive – especially for someone with a small business still in “upstart” mode. So a huge thank you to wonderful @StonyfieldSarah from Stonyfield Farm. It was great meeting you at BlogHer! And thanks to my other sponsors – my former client Mom Made Foods and Snikiddy, a local Mom-led company based right where I live and work in Bethesda, Maryland. Thanks to them, thanks to Blogher’s corporate sponsors, and thank you to the founders of BlogHer for pursuing an incredible vision of blogging community that has brought so much to so many.
See you in New York! I think we’ll all be treading a bit more lightly on Mother Earth at the next conference!
Copyright 2009 OrganicMania
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