I’ve decided that I’m not going to blog about BlogHer12. I’m really pretty much just over it. I wasn’t inspired, and other than the great contacts that I made there—especially two fabulous girls that I see becoming good friends—it was pretty forgettable.
I found it to be offensively commercial and corporate, and terribly high school-cliquey. Not only was it commercial, but the push for consumerism was geared toward the stereotype of the stay-at-home mom (Gorton’s fish products? Household cleaners? An oven mitt as swag??), which I think directly conflicts with what I believed the mission of BlogHer to be: to inspire the independent, modern woman, and load her up with information that she can use to further her skills and profession-whether that be inside the home or out. I just think there are better ways of providing help to stay-at-home moms than sensory overload with more materialism and products they don’t need.
Instead, there were loads of sugary coffee creamers and snacks, home furnishing companies-all about making a nice home and feeding your children. There were also a handful of organizations represented that either provided services, or information regarding politics or business. I’d like to see a much larger impact by these types of venders the next time, but I don’t think that they would provide the amount of sponsorship funds necessary to pull off an event like this on their own. I’m sure the corporate omnipresence is a necessary evil at an event like this. That said, the toilet paper ads covering every single mirror and every floor in front of each bathroom stall on both floors was a bit much, no? Is that really going to make you run out and buy that particular brand of TP? I hate that “quilted” stuff anyway, it’s always full of lint.
Katie Couric’s interview was the highlight. She’s even more intelligent and articulate than I thought, and I’ve been a huge fan since the early 90s. Aside from that, and a few personal conversations that I had that day (Yanic, Jen, Jeannette!), I didn’t experience much that was significantly helpful or enlightening.
Each session that I attended felt more like a support group or a big love fest among bloggers and groupies who have known each other for years. Instead of information regarding how to grow your readership or business, I heard how amazing, funny and inspiring the panelists were. There was a lot of laughing at “inside” jokes that I guess you’d understand if you had been reading the blogs of the panelists for years. In fairness, I left each session after about the first 15 to 20 minutes, so they may have been more on-topic as the sessions progressed, but after speaking with other attendees later, I got the feeling that they didn’t.
I don’t think any type of critical opinion of the conference will be received well, and I don’t think I’ve read any other negative reviews. I’m sure I’ll be quite unpopular once this blog hits the web. I’m not trying to be difficult, just honest. It seemed that there was a great lack of critical response to anything anyone had to say during the conference; instead it was all praise and glory and fierce support no matter what was said.
In fact, when Malaak Compton-Rock had her—what should we call it? —well, “brain-fart” is what she called it; people were appalled and walked out. Yet, I haven’t seen a single post on what happened to her. Please let me know if I’m missing posts on this topic, because I’d like to read thoughts about what happened to her.
For those of you who weren’t there, I’ll first tell you that Malaak is a gorgeous, powerful woman who runs an organization that provides multiple services to disadvantaged youths (click her name in the previous paragraph to learn more). I was impressed with the promo they showed us before she came out and excited to hear all about her projects. However, as soon as she sat down on stage, she was basically unable to effectively engage in the interview with Soledad O’Brien and Christy Turlington. At first, I thought she had a problem with the fear of public speaking. She literally could not find words to speak, and repeated “um, the children…the foundation” over and over, until Soledad realized what was happening and took over. It was incredibly uncomfortable, and because I suffer with speaking and social anxiety nearly every day of my life, I commiserated and actually felt a physical reaction to this—I started shaking and my heart raced. Eventually though, it became clear that she wasn’t really going to recover, and things were only going to get worse.
When she finally found her voice, she rambled on in a disjointed way. She appeared spaced out, and at one point after Soledad asked a very simple question that as the founder of the organization, Malaak should have been able to answer, Malaak replied, “I’m sorry?” as though she had not been listening!
I think it’s important for us to discuss this, because so many people—men, women, children, suffer from severe speaking anxiety. There isn’t enough information or services provided to deal with this. Ignoring the fact that this happened only serves to perpetuate negative views on this very common issue, and to make it seem as though there was something wrong with her that’s too taboo to speak of. I thought we were all there to offer support and encouragement for each other, good and bad. A few people said that they had seen her speak before, and she did very well. That’s what makes this all the more concerning. Maybe I’m entirely wrong, and she has no fear of speaking—in which case I’d still like to know what happened. I am glad though that I learned about her organization as well as those of Christy Turlington and Soledad O’Brien.
I’m even more determined now to get my message out about this type of anxiety, and I’m in the very early stages of exploring options for creating my own support services for people with this issue. I’d love to help kids, because I think that if we address the issue when kids are struggling in school to speak up in class or give presentations, it can really turn their entire higher education and career paths around, increase self-esteem, and make them more productive, healthy adults. If anyone reading is interested in developing this idea further with me, please send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org
In the future I’ll attend smaller, more intimate conferences with a focus on writing and publishing. 5,000 women is just a few too many in one place for my needs and preferences. As an introvert, the chaos was too distracting for me. Also, the extreme mom-focus doesn’t make sense for me, for obvious reasons. I think it’s great that moms have this forum where they can learn from each other and bond, but needless to say, I can’t relate. (That guy in the Lorax costume really freaked me out)
Ok, so I guess I just did blog about BlogHer12 after all. I hope I don’t sound jaded or bitter (I know I do, but that’s truly not how I feel!). I’m just relaying the experience that I personally had that day, which happened to have been mostly negative for me. I won’t even go into the fact that at registration, I was given neither the free drink tickets I should have been given, or instructions to visit the Expo to pick up my big swag bag (both of which I just happened to stumble upon later—thanks Yanic!). I asked at registration whether attendees receive anything with the conference price, but the woman who checked me in said nothing as she pointed at the program sitting on the counter.
The good news is that the negativity from that day isn’t lingering, and I’m well on my way to creating and fulfilling personal goals that I have for myself. BlogHer was just one little step along the way, meant to enhance my resources for achieving the results that I want. The writing, job search and personal goals are all going well, and I feel good and healthy.
I’m glad that the majority of the 5,000 participants of BlogHer did not have the experience that I did, and I’m happy for the success of the founders. It must be absolutely thrilling yet exhausting to pull off an event of this size. I wonder how much they were able to actually experience or enjoy the weekend themselves. I’m particularly impressed with the amazing speakers they had this year: President Obama, Martha Stewart, Katie Couric, Soledad O’Brien, Christy Turlington and Malaak Compton-Rock. I’m assuming we’ll have video of these other speakers at some point. Check out www.blogher.com