7 Ways to Turn BlogHer Into an Actual Business Trip


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I’ve been to BlogHer twice. Once in Chicago and another time in San Diego. It’s a massive conference and if you’re new to blogging there are probably a good number of sessions with valuable content for you. If you are not new to blogging there’s a good chance that you believe you know everything there is to know and you will not attend the sessions. This would be a mistake.

If you’re about to take your hard earned money and spend it to a trip to Chicago let me give you a few tips so that you can spend that money soundly.

1. Don’t drink. If you typically have a glass of wine with dinner at home by all means go ahead and have a glass of wine with dinner at BlogHer but this isn’t a sorority party skip the second glass. This is a business conference and you will likely run into people all day and night that are potential partners. Corporations aren’t looking for a party girl, they’re looking for a business woman.

2. You don’t know everything. You’re going to BlogHer to learn so get busy learning. I never want to be a review blogger. I find what they do to be exhausting however review bloggers know a lot about SEO and working with brands. Why wouldn’t I listen to them? Are you a mom blogger? Meet someone whose womb hasn’t gone pro, listen to what they’re doing. We get tunnel vision and BlogHer is a great place to broaden your depth of field. Find someone who you think has nothing to teach you and have your mind blown when they teach you things.

3. Dress Business Casual. Yes, there will be boas and flowers in hair and party dresses and look-at-me outfits. There will also be some very casual outfits, very very casual. Remember, this is not a tech conference so jeans and flip flops is not de riguer. I would never recommend buying new outfits for BlogHer or being the lady with the tiara but I would recommend wearing something that says, “I’m here to work and to network.”

4. Bring pens. Plural you will lose some of them. Stash pens all over your purse. Of course you already have business cards and even if you don’t, don’t panic. The most important thing you can do is use that badge of yours to collect business cards. When you meet someone jot down a note about where you met them or something they said and write it on the card. Each night empty out that badge with the business cards and send folks a little email letting them know it was really nice to meet them along with an explanation of why. Hint: the why should be easy… you know so much about _____ or I enjoyed hearing about your passion for ____.

5. Set appointments with people you want to work with. Did you meet a publicist from a firm that you’re dying to work with? Ask them if they want to have coffee later in the day, all you really need is 20 minutes. Spend 20 minutes listening to them and figuring out if there’s a way you can work together all the while resisting the urge to shoehorn yourself into a role that really won’t fit.

6. Private off site parties aren’t as much fun as you think they are. Well, maybe they are, maybe they aren’t but when you’re off site you’re with a small group and you could be with them for hours without being in control of your own transportation. If you accept an invitation to an offsite event bring your credit card so that you can grab a taxi home. Better yet, set up an uber account ahead of time with my link and get a $10 credit on your first ride. I assure you that using uber just once will have you completely addicted.

7. Have fun. If blogging is your day job you’re one of the luckiest people in the world. Relax and enjoy it. Everyone is nervous and the most disarming thing you can do is smile and introduce yourself.

What did I miss? Any other tips for bloggers who are going to treat BlogHer as a business trip?

Winning the Lottery Fantasies


This American Life follows kids at Harper High School

I went to elementary school in Manhattan Beach. California had the best schools in the country and Manhattan Beach had some of the best schools in the state. Every morning my mother would leave the house about 15 minutes before us and head East to Watts in order to teach her students. My classrooms were bright and airy, my teachers were local to the community and beloved. Manhattan Beach wasn’t affluent at the time (though it would become so in later years) but all the kids came to class well fed, well loved and in in clean clothes.

My mother’s students came to school hungry, dirty and abused. Some were squatters, some were children of addicts, many were children of gang members and one child came to school and couldn’t sit in his seat because his parents had burned his genitals with a cigarette. This was a third grade classroom.

When the Manhattan Beach schools weren’t a good fit for us (meaning there were only great and not excellent) we went to private schools. My college education was incredibly adequate and nothing worth celebrating but everything I learned in those early years was enough to tide me over. We learned how to learn, which is arguably more important than learning things, whatever those things may be.

My mother, for her part, taught gifted reading and routinely took kids who were not identified as gifted into the programs. She made them read and she made them love it. I’d often hear her talking about how she could teach a kid to read from the back of a cereal box. Unfortunately many school kids may need to learn that way. The money is running out.

We spent a good bit of time at my mother’s school in Watts. It was a scary place for me and a familiar one all at once. We were the only caucasian children there and their blackness wasn’t what made the kids different from us. Even when they were the same age as us, they were older in ways that I could never articulate. I’m pretty sure they knew how to do things that we wouldn’t learn until we lived independently, there was a weariness that kids in the South Bay didn’t quite have. They were very different but I liked them because I knew these were my mother’s other kids and she loved them. The schools were dismal with no color, no lawns and loads of security. The smell was musty, it smelled like defeat.

There weren’t a lot of success stories in Watts but there are a few and I know my mother clings to them. It makes her entire career worth something and when she talks about one student in particular I know she’s as proud of him as she is of her own blood children. It’s a particular joy that only teachers in the roughest parts of town will ever know. He’s her one in a million.

The last two weekends This American Life aired a special where they followed students and administrators at Harper High School in Chicago. It’s a high school that saw 29 current and former students shot in a year. It’s a dangerous place to be a child and a very dangerous place to be an adolescent. The stories spoke to me, they reminded me of my mom’s other kids.

The most remarkable commentary comes at the end of the second part when they ask the principal of Harper High what she would do if she won the lottery and she spent 4 minutes and 38 seconds talking about all the ways she would help the kids. I share her fantasies. I long for a world where kids are gifted books of their own, where they play on lawns and wear clean clothes that will keep them warm in the cold or cool in the summer. Safe neighborhoods, after school sports and arts in the classrooms would absolutely delight me. I’d like to know that sick kids could go to the doctor or just stay home where someone could care for them and if I was dreaming really big they’d all get computers and learn how to make that powerful tool work for them.

This morning I poked around the house fantasizing about buying books and good food for the kids in Watts. I can’t even imagine what I’d do with a winning lottery ticket.

How would you spend a windfall?

Someday I’ll Tell You About Kenmore


Traveling to Chicago in the winter is a bear. It’s cold and the traffic is miserable. If there’s only one thing you ever learn from me in your entire life let it be this:

There is a train station in O’Hare Airport. Use it.

I was really happy to meet so many women who I’ve followed online for years. One in particular is Bobbie who had a very serious accident on her way home. Of course I was happy to be with new and old friends but after coming home and hearing about Bobbie, her husband and her kids (just bumps for them, yay!) I sort of didn’t have energy to write about the day.

I will soon.

Baseball season is starting and it’s off to a rocky start. I watch Dance Moms with the kids (just so I can feel smug and superior) and then I realize that the Dance Moms are a little less sociopathic and a little more realistic than the Baseball Dads. The Dance Moms think that their daughters are going to dance their way to Harvard. The Baseball Dads seem to think that their sons are all going to be the next Albert Pujols. It’s possible that one of them will be great, but statistically they’ve got a better chance of being a CEO of a Fortune 500 company than a Major League Baseball pitcher.

I played tennis today and it was awful. I was winning 4 games to one and then we sat down to take a break in the shade (86 degrees today) when my partner asked me how Alexander’s eyes were. I lost set 6-4. In fact I lost some of those games without ever scoring a point.

I keep wondering if we made a terrible mistake by not forcing Alexander to have the “fine tuning” stitches like the doctor suggested. I’m not sure that his eyes are straight (they could be) but I worry that we cost him another surgery by not insisting that they leave some stitches hanging out so they could tweak the eye the second day.

I’m at a standstill today thinking about that. I might try going for a run later. I’m not sure how to get thoughts like these out of my head, but I’m absolutely unable to focus or concentrate.  

The Wit Hotel Chicago Review


It’s like a cheerleader. Beautiful but dumb, and not particularly necessary.

I was at The Wit Hotel in Chicago last week, and it’s a nicely and recently remodeled hotel with some nice assets, but many more serious flaws.

The Wit is a singles scene. They have a wonderful rooftop bar that the locals of Chicago (rightly) want to spend a lot of time in, but that means that as a hotel guest you won’t get good service. In fact, it’s unlikely that you’ll even score a table without a reservation. I was there as part of a Kenmore group, and we did have a table, and some delicious food, but cocktails are served in plastic glasses, which means you will have lukewarm wine. Not a deal breaker, but also not exciting.

My first night at The Wit was horrible. Not sort of bad, but absolutely dreadful. With the air conditioning blasting full force, the room remained over 70 degrees. At 2am I called the front desk. No one answered the phone. At 3am I called the front desk. Still no answer. At 8am when I had to get up for the drive out to Sears I wanted to put the hotel manager’s head on a stick.

When I stopped by the front desk and explained that there hadn’t been any air conditioning on a 92 degree day with ridiculous humidity no one was surprised. You see the building is an old building and in an attempt to be energy efficient they shut off sections of the building’s air conditioning at night.

They had no explanation as to why the front desk didn’t answer the telephone. The staff was lovely and appropriately apologetic. The left a plate of lollipops and fruit in the room after engineering fixed the problem.

Sadly, my friend Ciaran had no air conditioning in her room on our second night.

As much as I appreciate the clean rooms, and hipster vibe of The Wit, I’d caution anyone from actually spending a night there, because when push comes to shove, a hotel room that you can’t sleep in is worse than a tent. I would decline a free night at The Wit. It was that bad.

Will You Be At BlogHer In Chicago?


I will.

I’ve got to admit, I’m a little intimidated by the size and scope of it. The conference looks interesting, and I’m excited to meet people who have given me windows into their lives. I wouldn’t begin to list them, lest I leave someone off the list.

Which brings me to this.

I’m going to the Social Luxe Lounge, Bowl Her and the people’s party. They seem inclusive and I’m looking forward to meeting folks.

Of course my phone has been ringing for the past three days with, “Were you invited to the ______ or the _____?” I hear it’s only 30 people. So folks, am I walking into High School again? Do the brands mean to exclude 500 people or are they really that interested in 30? Am I completely spoiled by the inclusiveness of the 140 Conference and Girls In Tech? Is my bubble about to burst, or was I just wearing blinders?

Here are the parties that seem to “get it”.

Am I off target and just too prickly? Cuz, it’s been known to happen.