Towards A Better BlogHer

August 15th, 2010

As someone who blogged last year about SwagHer, decrying Blogher ‘09’s excessive  swag and pushy promotions, I feel compelled to report on the atmosphere at BlogHer ’10.

What a difference a year makes.

It’s to BlogHer’s credit that they actually practice what they preach – they listened to the community’s feedback and implemented changes that vastly improved the feel of the conference and resulted in some noticeably greener changes.

Was it perfect? No. But as I told those who complained to me, BlogHer is not a green conference.

Here are just some of the improvements at BlogHer ’10:

Pur Waterphoto

1. The water stations were clearly visible (much more so than last year), as were the water bottles. (Thanks, P&G).

I especially liked the bathroom rugs that the organizers placed under the water jugs to absorb the water overflow. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had discussions with event organizers about how to handle the “drip” problem. Bathroom rugs? That’s a cheap, simple, green solution that anyone can implement.  Now we just need P&G to figure out how to recycle those water filters, like Brita does — (thanks to the Take Back the Filter action campaign led by blogger Fake Plastic Fish!)

2. Sponsors were barred from accosting approaching conference attendees to ask, “Would you like my swag wonderful sample of ….?” “Can I interview you about how much you love my wonderful brand and how we will change the world?”


Of course, in the expo center, that kind of thing still went on at BlogHer ’10. But if you choose to step foot in the exhibit hall, you need to expect that the exhibitors will approach you and try to entice you with swag, giveaways, contests, etc. That’s the deal. If you don’t like it, don’t go to the exhibit hall.

3. A Swag recycling station (sponsored by P&G) was a big hit.


Even more swag could have been exchanged if it had stayed open a bit later (or if attendees had been warned that it would close up late Saturday afternoon).

4. I’m not sure if it was the conference lay-out or the way rooms were assigned, but there seemed to be far less of the “swag trick or treating” atmosphere that prevailed last year.

And as I’ve previously posted, I had a great time at BlogHer ’10. I’m looking forward to returning to next summer’s BlogHer ’11 in San Diego. But I hope to see some further “greening” of the conference.

What improvements would I like to see at BlogHer ‘11?

1. I had a hard time swallowing the “BlogHer Goes Green” slogan when there was no effort made to offset the carbon footprint of the conference. Many (most) conferences I attend offer carbon offsets,  and it’s something BlogHer could easily explore and probably even find a sponsor to cover for the attendees. In fact, last year  Michelin offset the travel for the attendees at the green session.

2. I’d like to see a diverse committee of BlogHer attendees offer a “swag vetting” service for BlogHer sponsors. (And yes, these women should be compensated for their time – not expected to volunteer).  Through a swag vetting service, sponsors could get early feedback that a proposed  giveaway would be a dud. Think of the time, money, and resources saved, as well as the improved blogger relations that would come from gifting a truly appreciated token rather than a spurned offering.   Does the Salvation Army really need all those leftover Jimmy Dean alarm clocks? (But believe it or not, I brought mine home for my son to replace his broken Thomas alarm clock!)

3. On the same note, BlogHer should re-evaluate the all-conference giveaway bag. Frankly, that’s where most of the discarded waste bound for some hapless homeless people came from!

4. BlogHer sponsors could run more experiential programs with attendees rather than offer gifts.  Some sponsors excelled at this, notably Liberty Mutual Insurance and their PR agency Ketchum, which offered a media training program for bloggers; Ecco Shoes, which pampered attendees with free pedicures; and P&G with their hair styling and make-overs.


But there’s still room for more creative experiential marketing programs with bloggers.    How about a leisurely brunch for the late owls who could never make the 10 a.m. breakfast cut-off (including yours truly?) What about some fresh fruit or veggies at the Recharge Lounge?   Or a goodbye brunch? How about  keeping the dance floor pounding all night long? I didn’t want Sparklecorn’s dance floor to close at 11 p.m. – did you?

5. Sponsors would profit from exploring more sustainable gifts. There is an enormous variety of creative, upcycled, recycled and fair trade gifts which would be unique and appreciated by the conference attendees.

6. I’m hopeful that next year, with the conference in California, we’ll see organic food and local, sustainable wines for conference goers to enjoy.

7. BlogHer could encourage sponsors to offer women an option of swag or donations to a crowd-sourced social change project or pet cause.Imagine the real impact of BlogHer if we were able to opt out of swag and reallocate those dollars to The Afghan Women’s Project, Tutus for Tanner, The American Cancer Society or Breast Cancer Fund, Bloganthropy, or another cause dear to the BlogHer community?  With 3500 attendees projected for Blogher ’11, and an estimated $100 per person spent on swag (my own  arguably conservative WAG), we could take funds otherwise spent on “sponsor gifts” and donate $350,000 to causes that make a real difference to our community.

After all – wasn’t that the real message of the keynote? Did you not hear what Gloria Feldt and Marie Wilson said? Women have power. We have economic power. And our voices matter. So what are we doing with that power? Mr. Potato Head or a Crowd-Sourced Cause Donation? Think about it.

And for those who say it can’t be all or nothing, fine. How about letting attendees opt in or opt out of swag from specific brands? That way those bloggers who take samples for review purposes are happy, brands’ products continue to get exposed to new audiences, so they’re happy, and we should all be happy because perhaps we could get to a near-zero waste conference – where we’re not expending resources to ship leftover  notebooks, plastic cups, alarm clocks, and paper – oh, the paper! –  to the Salvation Army.


There was a lot of controversy about the Nestle sponsorship. It led to the boycotting of the conference by some speakers and attendees, and to silent action coordinated by PhDinParenting, who through her blogging, increased  BlogHer community awareness of Nestle’s violations of the WHO’s  International Code of Marketing of Breast-milk Substitutes.   I proudly wore one of the #NoNestle stickers that Crunchy Domestic Goddess handed me.


But to hold BlogHer’s founders to that same standard is not realistic. BlogHer is not a private endeavor. It’s not a B-Corporation. On the contrary, BlogHer is a rare example of a successful venture-capital funded start-up led by a female management team still comprised of the original founders. Jory des Jardins, Elisa Camahort Page and Lisa Stone don’t air their business issues in public, but take it from me – someone who worked for venture backed tech start-ups for years – these gals must be under intense pressure to grow revenue and show profit. They can’t turn away the big bucks that a company like Nestle offers to the conference.

Instead, BlogHer took Nestle’s money and paid for incredible speakers and a wide range of progressive programming. But BlogHer’s not a green or progressive conference, per se. And that’s not all bad. Because while I admire my deep green blogging buddies, I don’t want to spend my time preaching to the choir. I want to move people along the spectrum from light green to a deeper shade of green – and that’s best done by mixing at a conference like BlogHer, which appeals to a very diverse group of women from across the spectrum of ideologies, income levels, religions, and races.

What did you think about BlogHer? Leave a comment and share!

— Lynn

Copyright OrganicMania 2010

The Babies of BlogHer: The Second Annual Round-Up

August 9th, 2010

In the second of what I hope to be an annual series of posts, I pay tribute to the Babies of BlogHer. Last year, I attended my first Blogher conference, and I marveled about how I’d never attended a conference with babes-in-arms. I spent twenty years working in the tech industry, where women at conferences were definitely in the minority. Babies? Fuhgedaboutit!

photo1_babyJoGreepHow appropriate that the first pic I snapped was of a doula – @outtajo aka of JoGreepChildBirth

As I blogged then,

Much has been written about BlogHer. How over-the-top everything was.  The big sponsors. The huge bags of swag. The blow-out parties.   The larger-than-life amazing, inspirational speakers. The networking.  It’s true – all of that was amazing.

But what really blew me away was something much smaller.

The babies. The babies of BlogHer.

They were everywhere you looked.

Though there were fewer than last year, the sight of all those gorgeous babies with their intrepid Mamas still blew me away.


One of the first Mommy-Baby duos I snapped, Jen from Baby Making Machine and her Lil’ J were gorgeous! Those flowers make Lil’ Baby J look like a tropical goddess! (She’s only a month old!)

This year, I tried to include name tags in photos so that I could link back to the Mamas’ sites, but I’ve still fallen short! If you can identify one of the anonymous Mamas, please leave a comment so we know who she is!

EmilywithbabyBeautiful red-headed Emily (of ??) with her little sleeping moppet.

When I asked why there seemed to be fewer babies than last year, I was told it was because of reports about a baby being bumped at Blogher ’09. What a shame. BlogHer is a great place for babies, and I hope to see even more of them at Blogher ’11 in San Diego! (Particularly BlogHer co-founder Jory des Jardins’ baby!)

MorraAaronMele&friendwbaby photo

Morra Aarons Mele, right, and The Mama Bee with her adorable baby

Did I spot your baby? What was it like to bring your baby to BlogHer? Would you recommend it to other Moms? Leave a comment and share!

And if I snapped your pic, and it’s not posted…check back. I’ll be adding more to the post (including my own tykes) but I want to get up some other posts too! Oh…and real work!

— Lynn

Copyright 2010 OrganicMania

The Babies of BlogHer

July 31st, 2009

Much has been written about BlogHer. How over-the-top everything was.  The big sponsors. The huge bags of swag. The blow-out parties. The larger-than-life amazing, inspirational speakers. The networking.  It’s true – all of that was amazing.

But what really blew me away was something much smaller.


The babies. The babies of BlogHer.

They were everywhere you looked.

I’m old enough to have  graduated from college at a time when I thought I needed man-tailored suits, a leather briefcase, and  short hair to make it in the Big Apple.  My first byline was the androgenous “L.A. Miller,” lest I appeared like a “Southern Belle” for using my full name – Lynn Anne Miller.

I remember being one of the few women in the room at most of the 300 or so conferences I attended during my years in corporate marketing.

I’ve never, ever been to a conference with babies.

It was amazing.

Amazing to see women free to pursue their own interests, all while caring for their babies.


So now you know who I am. I was that woman running all over the place taking pictures of the babies of BlogHer. I wish I had captured them all. But here are eight of the wonderful babies of BlogHer, some pictured alongside their smiling mothers.

If you recognize the babies (or their mothers) please leave a comment so I can add a caption to each picture. (Or similarly, if you would like a picture to be removed, just let me know!)








This last picture is of my Big Boys and their Dad at the airport, soon after my return from Blogher. After looking at all those little babies, it  made me realize that my boys truly are not babies any more. They’re growing up much too fast.


— Lynn

Copyright OrganicMania 2009

Greenies in BlogHer Land: SwagHer

July 27th, 2009

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).

What happened?

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 .

gmcphotoPhoto: 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.

greenleadershipphotoThe Eco-Leadership Panel at BlogHer. L to R: Diane of Big Green Purse, Siel of Green LA Girl, 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!

— Lynn

Copyright 2009 OrganicMania

The “Unofficial” BlogHer Stay-at-Home Spouse Survival Manual: 10 Tips

July 16th, 2009


Hear that groaning and moaning? It’s a long, low whine coming from husbands all over America as they realize that they get to watch the kids for a night or two – or even three – while the wives are away at the BlogHer ’09 conference in Chicago.

“What?,” he says.
“But I don’t remember you telling me!”
“Where is it on the calendar?”

“But I have a meeting..I have golf..I have…”

A few weeks ago I blogged here about how hard it was for me when my husband left town for a ten day business trip. I felt like a single Mom.

Paybacks are hell. (Evil grin).

Back in the rip roaring ‘90s, when I was single and childless, I was one of the “tech road warriors.” Flying across the country every week, I’d often settle in to my airplane seat next to some mild mannered middle aged man who was on the phone with his wife or kids.

Later we’d chat and he’d say, “Oh, my wife has it much harder than me,” as he mumbled “Diet Coke” to the flight attendant.

Sure, I thought dismissively, in my know-it-all 20-something way. She’s at home with the kids. What’s so hard about that?

Flash forward 15 years and now I know what’s so hard about that.

And I have a feeling that the men of America are about to find out what’s so hard about that too.

So here’s my first tip about helping your husband to cope while you’re away.


Isn’t that a gorgeous castle by the sea? Actually, that’s the view my husband enjoyed from one of the wonderful resort hotels he stayed in for 10 days while in Italy.

That photo came through on my iPhone just as I was finishing up dinner with our 2-year-old and 6-year-old boys. This was my view.


That’s the bunch of hair and dirt and spaghetti and feta cheese I swept up after our dinner.

I didn’t feel too great when I compared his view to mine.

My wonderful husband says he wants me to have fun in Chicago, he hopes I have a great time, and I can send him all the crazy photos I’d like and he’ll be fine with it.

But still…I’m not so sure. My advice? No matter how beautiful Chicago  is, gals, don’t send your husbands pix of the great time you’re having while he’s dealing with your wonderfully mannered children who will be on their best behavior while Mommy is gone.

Check out OrganicMania tomorrow for more tips to share with your worried spouse as he prepares to be a single parent.    And leave me a comment with any tips to share on how you’re preparing your spouse!

— Lynn

Copyright OrganicMania 2009