Saturday morning breakfast was your typical continental breakfast comprised of stale pastries. And I’d like someone to explain why the hotel staff told me I MUST remain at the buffet table to which I was assigned and that NO I may not go over to the gluten free table once I had already taken food from the non gluten free table. I understand that perhaps they were trying to reserve that food for people who truly had issues with gluten and really needed it but then maybe they should have put bowls of fresh fruit on our buffet tables too because that’s what I was trying to get.
I had to eat while sitting in a corner on the floor at the Newbie Breakfast because there weren’t enough tables and chairs for us. I didn’t even bother attending the opening keynote and speed dating session because when I arrived at the room for it, once again, there weren’t enough places for everyone.
Once all 5000 people were in attendance, sessions filled up fast. Once full, they were closed to any more attendees due to fire regulations so you could find yourself out of luck with no chance of getting into any sessions that were applicable to you.
The Hilton gave away our hotel room for the first night. They said that someone decided to extend their stay and instead of saying “I’m sorry but your room is already booked for tonight” they just gave it away. That meant that they first tried to give us one king sized bed – uh no, we’re roomies not lovers and we chose a double room for a reason. Then they wanted to give us a rollaway bed. Uh no again. Finally they gave us a room with one king size bed and one sofa bed. We had no choice but to take it. The sofa bed mattress felt like a slab of concrete. The free room service they gave us as an apology was good but it didn’t really make up for the pain I was in all day.
There were no restaurants in which to have a decent dinner in the Hilton itself and room service was as outrageously expensive as you would expect it to be.
Most of the official parties were disappointing. I had heard all about how wonderful they were and perhaps my expectations were too high. Most of the appetizers served tasted like some kind of frozen convenience food (aka not very good) but the sliders they served actually belong in the “ugly” category. They were inedible. Trust me – I am quite good at doing the “take one little bite and swallow it even if it tastes bad” polite thing but those sliders were so disgusting that I actually spat the bite out into my napkin and went running for a drink and mint to try to get that taste out of my mouth. I’m convinced that they weren’t just bad food in the sense of flavour but that they were bad in the sense that they were past their expiration date. I later heard they had been sitting in a warming tray (oh and by the way, they weren’t warm. All the appetizers were cold.) for over 6 hours before I got to them. I’m a Community Food Advisor and I have my certification in Food Safety. This was anything but. The music at most of the parties was too loud and this comes from someone who likes loud music. We were supposed to be trying to meet new people and network but we had to shout at each other to be heard and even then it didn’t always work. The rooms most of the parties were held in were not the most conducive environment to feeling festive and there were never enough places to sit or enough tables on which to place the plates of nasty food and the drinks used to wash the taste of said food out of your mouth. I felt like I was back in high school at those parties. I was not one of the cool kids and the cliques had no interest in meeting anyone new from what I could tell.
Ummmm is it that difficult to start the parties on time? Several of them didn’t and after having rushed around to get ready and get to them at a decent time, it was frustrating to stand in line waiting for the doors to open.
5000 attendees. And the fact that either BlogHer leadership and/or the hotel seemed unprepared to handle 5000 attendees. After the debacle over lunch and lining up to get in to see Martha Stewart, I didn’t even bother attending the Katie Couric keynote even though I had been really excited about it before. I just couldn’t cope with another mess and went out to explore the city instead. Speaking of which, I would have appreciated more time built in to the schedule to see the city instead of having to choose to ditch some sessions and some parties for it.
There seemed to be a lack of communication that was mentioned over and over again by other newbies. We often felt very much like outsiders who had not been given a key to the inner circle. There were things going on that we didn’t understand and weren’t given enough information about. I know that most people knew NOTHING about the Geek Bar sessions until it was far too late and they had been sold out for ages already. I know that most people I spoke to complained about finding it difficult to find their “tribe” and yet they knew nothing about the “Birds of a Feather” breakfast and it seemed poorly attended to me.
The wifi was spotty at best and by Friday it became downright impossible to live blog or live tweet during the sessions. I’m sorry but as far as I’m concerned if you’re holding a conference for 5000 bloggers you should know that they are nearly all going to want to use the wifi and you should have made sure it could handle that many at once. Even in my hotel room, there were significant periods of time that I couldn’t connect to the wifi.
Sure there were electrical outlets but during Pathfinder Day in some rooms there were only 2 that were free to be used. Thank God I had the foresight to bring a power bar (making me the most popular woman there!) so we could share them. During the regular sessions on Friday and Saturday, you could only get electrical outlets if you were lucky enough to sit at one of the tables. Otherwise, you had to try to juggle your laptop on your lap with no electricity, hanging onto it for dear life when anyone decided they were leaving to go to another session and walked past you with NO concern for you or your laptop. I can’t even count how many times I was stepped on.
Some of the brand representatives were not who I’d want representing MY company. They seemed unable to answer basic questions about their company and the products and many of them made it clear they had no interest whatsoever in talking to anyone. Others only cared about my numbers (stats) and had no interest in my personality, my audience, and what I could bring to them.
The sessions were marked beginner or advanced. I assumed that advanced was too far ahead of me and chose to go to beginner sessions. I also made the assumption that by beginner, we were talking about people who at least had a basic knowledge of blogging and social media. When questions like “What is SEO?” and “What’s a permalink”?” were being asked, I realized that I was wrong. There were people there who hadn’t even started blogging yet and were there to learn BEFORE they did. Nothing wrong with that but it’s not what I expected. Don’t get me wrong – even in some of the beginner sessions there were still nuggets of gold to be had but I found some of the advanced sessions to be still somewhat beginner for me. I think BlogHer needs to have several tracks for people to attend. It needs to be made clear that beginner sessions are ones for people who are not yet blogging or who have only just begun and then there need to be perhaps Beginner Level 2, Intermediate, and Advanced sessions. For each, I think we need to be told more specifically what the audience expectations are so we can find our best fit. Also, please please please, if you have a really specific question to ask – one that’s really only applicable to your unique niche and situation, could you wait until after the session to ask it? Question time was so limited and it was frustrating to have it consumed by things that didn’t pertain to me in the least.
Also, did the speakers not have any prior knowledge about how big the rooms were going to be? I have to say, those slides were useless for anyone past the midway point in most rooms. If you were sitting in the back, you likely couldn’t see most of the information on them. While telling us that you’ll provide a PDF later is lovely, it’s also not much use at the time when you’re talking about something and we can’t even connect to what you’re saying because we can’t make out the slides. Reading it later on a PDF may not do the trick.
Some speakers were not very good. They rambled and seemed really poorly organized.
There needed to be more evening hours at the Expo. I couldn’t attend Evening at the Expo as that’s when the Official Canadian party was taking place and honestly, I didn’t want to take time away from the learning sessions to go. Ultimately that’s what I had to do or I never would have even seen the Expo. Closing every day at 5 pm seems a tad early. Perhaps it should stay open until 7 each day so that we can visit after sessions have ended for the day?
The whole event was very very loud. 5000 women bloggers seems to translate into we talk non-stop and that made it loud. Really, that’s not that bad a thing unless you’re me. I live alone and most of my days are very quiet – I’m not used to that much constant noise and found it necessary at one point to just head up to my hotel room and relish the silence for a while before I could cope again.