This is YOUR BlogHer post… of what you wanted to know about BlogHer

Since I wrote a few posts on my first BlogHer experience last year and also already did a picture post of some fun from this year’s event, I figured I’d just keep my BlogHer breakdown easy. So,over on my Facebook page I asked what everyone ACTUALLY wanted to know and got some great questions to answer…

Talk about thermonuclear prostenigation. Then talk about how you had a sauuuuusaaaage. (Kari)
I googled “thermonuclear prostenigation” and it’s totally not even a real thing. So there. As for my sausage eating, one of my goals for visiting Chicago was to have an actual Chicago-style hotdog (I missed out when I visited Chicago last year).

I was super happy that after a long day of conference sessions and not enough food, my friends and I ended up at Portillo’s… which is apparently THE place to go for sausage and hotdogs. We may look all ladylike in this picture, but we devoured our meals like we hadn’t eaten in WEEKS. Oh and I yelled out something terribly inappropriate, because that’s how I roll.*


What surprised you about this year’s event (Bryanne)
How incredibly different my experience was from last year’s BlogHer. Last year I had only been writing my personal blog for about a year and a half and was still kind of flailing around. I hadn’t really made any contacts before the event, so much of the time I was trying to reach out to make new friends but I wasn’t very successful. I also had a 5 month old at home, so instead of going to the parties at night I retreated to my room and rolled around in the bed while reveling in my freedom.

This year I felt MUCH more prepared. Not only have I been writing my personal blog for longer, but I also launched a successful blog at my work. I made a few really good bloggy friends over the past year and was incredibly excited to spend some time with them in person. Not only did I attend every single session that I could (and took lots of notes), but I also went to almost ALL of the parties, including some sponsored parties. All in all, my experience was much better than my first year and I wish I could do it all over again next weekend. After I get some sleep, of course.

Will going to BlogHer make you a better blogger? Was it worth the time and expense (Lillian)
Short answer: yes.

I’ve been working in marketing for almost 15 years now, so believe me when I say I’ve been to A LOT of conferences. However, if you approach the event with an open mind you will get a lot out of it.

Obviously you try to attend conference sessions that will educate you in the areas where you are lacking. But sometimes it’s a good idea to go to a refresher on something you think you already know. Many times I will still get a couple good nuggets of information.

Even if I’m not learning anything from a session, I still study how the speaker is presenting the information. If they have a really great Power Point, I can get ideas on how I can improve our presentations at work. If the presenter has a really engaging ‘ice breaker’ I can then copy it for a work event. Let’s say everything about the presentation is horrible? Well then, I know what NOT to do!

I also really enjoyed the expo hall and not just because it was a crazy free-for-all of giveaways. It’s really cool to be able to see which booths are attracting visitors, which promotional items were snapped up first and who was successful at using iPads to build their mailing lists.

As for blogging specifically, my favorite session was on SEO with real-life tips on how to improve both my personal and professional blogs. I made some great contacts at different companies that will not only benefit me, but benefit my readers. Lastly, I connected with my fellow bloggers on a one-on-one basis, which can then turn into some fantastic guest posting opportunities. Oh yeah, and I had a CRAPLOAD of fun, which makes Joules a happy girl.

If you could plan all the keynote speakers/workshops who and what topics would you choose? (Bryanne)
Wow, this is a great question! Let’s see, if I could choose keynotes for a future BlogHer conference I’d pick:

  • Jenny from The Bloggess,  because she’s an amazing and inspiring blogger who has MADE IT;
  • John and Sherry from Young House Love because they seem to have figured out how to juggle work and home life so well;
  • Tina Fey, because she’s smart, beautiful, funny and successful;
  • Ellen, because I think it would be fun to dance with her;
  • Oprah, because maybe she’d give us all cars; and
  • Train, because it is one of my life DREAMS to sing with Pat Monahan.

I’m not really sure why I assume that if I pick the keynote speakers that I’ll be able to meet/dance with/sing with them all… but that’s how it plays out in my head.

As for workshops, I’d love to learn:

  • Practical tips for connecting with your audience – but not connecting SO MUCH that you end up with a stalker.
  • How to use Facebook as a blogger and actually get to your entire audience (instead of 20% of those who “like you”)
  • More SEO tips. Lots, lots more.
  • How to make the jump from small blogger to huge superstar (if I could get this in 5 steps, that would be great).
  • Statistics behind using social media and what actually works (Facebook, Twitter, G+, Pinterest, Instagram, etc).
  • Making the leap from blogger to author.
  • So much more! I want to learn EVERYTHING!

I really enjoyed attending BlogHer this year and I hope that I’ll be able to go again next year. I feel like each year I build on my foundation of information that I’ve already learned. Which means 10 years from now I’ll deserve a Queen of Blogging crown, right?!

If you have a question about BlogHer, feel free to ask it in the comments and I’ll be sure to respond!

*Alcohol might have also been involved.

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What I Wish I Knew Before my First BlogHer

Last year’s BlogHer conference was the first blogging conference I’d EVER attended. After freaking the frack out for weeks (ahem…months) before the event, it went by in a blur. This year I’ll be going to the conference again – this time in Chicago – and I feel like I’m MUCH more prepared. And maybe even much more excited, if that’s possible.

If you want to catch up on my thoughts before/during/after last year’s conference, check out these posts:

Did I mention that I made out with Zac Efron at last year’s BlogHer?

Freaking out before the conference
On my way
Was it worth it?
My Swag breakdown

I will be meeting up with some bloggy friends at BlogHer this year and have been pretending to be a BlogHer Guru to answer their questions. Since over 5,000 ladies attended last year’s conference, I’m sure that there are other people with questions on what to expect. If you’re anything like me, I scoured the internet for BlogHer tips for WEEKS before the event last year!

So here you go, the Pocketful of Joules list of what I wish I knew before my first BlogHer:

The Learning Part
There are a ton of really cool sessions at BlogHer. I mean, one of the main reasons to go is to LEARN, right?

There are keynote speakers each day (in the morning and at lunch) and my personal opinion is that they are usually AWESOME so you should definitely attend each of those sessions. Since almost everyone comes to the keynote presentations, it is a good idea to show up a little early so you can grab your food and get a good seat before the room fills.

The breakout sessions are organized by tracks, such as Marketing & Monetization, Tools & Technology, Interest & Identity and more. If you’d like, you can stick with one track… or you can switch it up and pick a little from each offering. Since there are so many sessions offered, I usually like to write down my choices before I go and include an alternate in case the room is overcrowded.

Take a notebook and scribble down lots of notes. Your first time attending (and probably your second time, I’ll let you know) will be incredibly overwhelming so it’s nice to be able to revisit your thoughts/session tips weeks and months after the conference. Even if they didn’t spark anything at the time, a few months later that information might be exactly what you need to hear!

Bad Networking: I didn’t even get this blogger’s name. I was being a pretty princess though, so that’s obviously very important.

The Networking Part
Did I mention that there were over 5,000 ladies at last year’s conference? Yeah, I’ve got no shame in my game to admit that I was a little intimidated. Okay, a lot intimidated. The kind of intimidated where you want to hide in your hotel room and only come out for a session and then return back into your secure little space.

So what helped me feel less scared? Well, first, reach out to your fellow bloggers BEFORE the conference. If you read other blogs and someone mentions that they’re going, leave them a comment that you’ll be there too and would love to meet up. Go on twitter and checkout the #blogher13 hashtag to see what your twitter friends are saying about the conference.

On the first day of the conference there is a BlogHer Newbie Breakfast. GO! I know its butt-early in the morning and you’d rather sleep in a little extra and grab a coffee on the way… go anyway. Everyone in that room will be new like you. Which means it a little easier to introduce yourself, right?

Also very important: if you find someone you like GET THEIR BLOG BUSINESS CARD! Scribble a little note on the back of it to remind you who they are and what you talked about. That way, when you get home you can start following their blog and maybe you’ll become best bloggy buddies!

The Expo Hall & Swag
Last year there were a few different Expo Halls with trade show tables set up with tons of different companies. Once again, it can be a bit overwhelming when you walk in and there are dozens of ladies crowded around each table.

This is the swag I brought home last year… AFTER I gave back what I didn’t want. Holy Swag Batman!

If I remember correctly, you get a map of vendors in your conference packet. This makes it easy to determine who you MUST visit. I also find it helpful to do a big loop of each room to see what’s there before deciding who to approach. Many companies are giving away free items and coupons. Other times you’ll see a representative that is looking to make blogger connections. Decide what you want out of the experience before jumping in.

If you like free stuff, you can literally FILL your bags with an absolute TON of stuff. However, before shoving three bottles of cleaning solution in your tote think about whether you actually want to deal with lugging it home. Before picking up your sixth cheepo t-shirt with a huge logo on the front… decide if you’d ever actually WEAR it before adding it to your collection. One really cool thing that I took advantage of last year was the BlogHer room where you can trade stuff – you drop off what you don’t want and take what you do want. So if you find yourself in a swag frenzy, you can offload a bit of it before going home.

Packing Tips
Okay there are full posts on what clothing to pack and what shoes to wear, because when you get a bunch of ladies together we like to dress up all pretty. Here’s the dirty secret though, you can really wear whatever you want. It’s true – sure there were some fashion bloggers dressed like they just stomped off a runway, but there were also plenty of people in shorts.

I wore a mix of everything last year, from a cute maxi dress to a pair of jean shorts. However, I felt most comfortable when I was a teensy bit dressed up. This year I will be bringing a couple dresses for the sessions (with a sweater because conference rooms tend to be kinda chilly) because I FEEL like I look better in dresses. Also, people tend to take a crap-ton of pictures and if I’m going to be photo-bombing a stranger and end up on their blog… I want to look cute, darn it!

For the evenings, it depends on your plans. If you plan to do a bunch of exploring, pack shorts and comfy walking shoes. If you’re going to a sponsor party, something business casual would probably be a good idea. If you plan to shake your tail feather at any of the dancing/drinking parties, add some sparkle or something ridiculous… like a tutu. Or jeans are fine too; if that is what you are most comfortable wearing.

biz cards
Love my updated business cards!

Another MUST HAVE to pack is some blog business cards. You’re going to be making a lot of contacts and EVERYONE will ask you for your card. You can make them super cheap online or even take advantage of this amazing deal from Moo for 100 free mini cards. I did!

Don’t Worry, They Feed You
One of the most frequent questions I’ve gotten is whether any food is provided at the conference. What can I say; my bloggy friends and I get along really well and will definitely not go hungry.

Breakfast is provided each day of the conference. On the first day you can choose to attend the regular breakfast or the newbie breakfast. Last year there was a huge buffet with typical breakfast food: scrambled eggs, bacon, fruit, bagels, etc. And yes, there is coffee. The second day has a keynote presentation interview with Sheryl Sandberg (the author of Lean In) during breakfast. So there will most likely be another buffet for you to load up on before settling down for the talk.

On both Thursday and Friday there are scheduled lunch events with keynote speakers. So before entering the room for the presentation, there will be huge buffet stations with lots of lunch options. Last year there was salads, sandwiches, a bunch of sides and cute little desserts. They also make sure you are caffeinated with soda available for everyone. I’m sure there was water too, but when I’m sitting in presentations all day I need something with a little more kick to keep me going.

Other Food
I honestly can’t remember if there were snacks offered between sessions, but I assume that there was probably something. Conference organizers like to feed you and keep your energy up! Some of the evening parties also have appetizer-type food, but you are on your own for your actual dinner. Believe me, you will WANT to get dinner on your own so that you can have something other than conference food when visiting Chicago.

So there you go, everything I wish I would have known last summer before I dived into BlogHer for the very first time. I feel a bit more prepared this year and am going to force myself to actually go to some of the evening parties to shake my groove thing. I’ve also been invited to special VIP party sponsored by Hasbro, so I’m pretty excited about that!

How about you – are you going to BlogHer this year? Are you jealous of my Zac Efron smooch? Is there a question/concern you have that I haven’t answered?

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Visiting Chicago with a Baby

I did it – I survived my Chicago trip.

For a minute there, I wasn’t sure if I was going to make it!

As I previously wrote in 2 Goofballs & a Baby…on a Plane , I had the opportunity to go to Chicago for a week-long work conference. I was looking forward to the conference – since I’m new to the world of higher education it is really good for me to meet new contacts and learn as much as possible.

Yes, Jack is wearing his “Born in the USA” onesie — I thought it might get us through security faster…

I was also looking forward to the challenge of traveling with my 5 month old baby. He’s a pretty laid back little kid, so I was curious how he’d act both on the plane and in an unfamiliar place.

Looking back on my plan of attack, I did really well. I was super prepared and had pretty much the perfect amount of everything for baby care. I even ended up with extra diapers and outfits because he didn’t pee all over them like I expected.*

Our plan of totally hogging a row of the plane worked out really well (on our departing flight). We boarded between Group A and Group B, so when we got on I went all the way to the back of the plane and we took over the row in front of the bathroom. As expected, nobody wanted to sit by a baby so we were able to keep the space to ourselves!

Since it would be super boring for me to do a play-by-play of the entire trip, here’s the best and worst of it all:

This is Lindsay and Jack showing you how hot it is outside. Well, Lindsay is making a “Chicago is hot” face, but I think Jack is just staring at her boobs.

People Suck
Reason #1: Chicago is pretty crowded and it was super hot the week that we were there too. So I’m sure that everyone wasn’t exactly in the best mood as they were traipsing along on the sidewalk. However, when you’ve got a baby in a stroller you’re pretty limited as to where you can walk since you need to get that thing up the curb’s ramp on either side of the road.

So you can just imagine my fury when I was repetitively knocked into and pushed around! It got to the point that I would just yell out “GOING FOR THE RAMP” when in a crowd of people so that I wouldn’t have to pop a wheelie to get up the curb. Probably annoying to everyone around me, but whatever, it totally worked.

Reason #2: On our return flight we were so ready to just get on the shuttle and get home. When the first shuttle to our lot filled, the representative pointed us towards another shuttle that was pulling up to the curb. So, the entire group that was left trudged over to the new shuttle. While standing in line, a lady shoved my baby (in his carseat) aside so that she could get on with her group. Yeah, she SHOVED my baby. However, at this point I was so tired that I didn’t feel like opening a can of whoopass {I know, totally out of character for me!}. I ended up sitting next to her on the ride to our car and pretty much forgetting about it once we got off to go home.**

Waiting in line to get on our “standby” flight. Which was also the time that Jack decided he NEEDED his bottle.

People Rock
Reason #1:Throughout the entire week we ran into truly nice people. The hotel staff was phenomenal, I met lots of great people at my conference and even waiters/waitresses were super accommodating for Jack. I was so incredibly pleasantly surprised by how “small town” it felt to be in such a large city.

Reason #2: Our return flight was delayed by a couple hours, which would have us arriving home around 2:00 am. Yeah, not so great with a baby. We chanced it and arrived at the airport early to see if they could switch us onto an earlier flight and the awesome people of Southwest Airlines hooked us up. We were able to fly out around 7:00 pm and Jack and I got home around 11.

Shit Happens {Literally}
I stuck with my plan to change Jack’s diaper right before we boarded the plane. However, within about 15 minutes, Jack decided that it would be a wonderful time to drop a number two. Awesome. Of course, the bathroom with the changing table is located in the very front of the plane (and we were all the way at the back), but it was surprisingly not that terrible to use.

Fast forward a few days…Jack has not pooped the entire trip. UNTIL the plane takes off for our return journey. Yup, within about 5 minutes Jack decides to stink up our entire row and we had to sit there forever until the seatbelt light went off (actually I got up before the light went off and was instructed to sit back down, oopsie). I guess that just goes to show you, you can’t really plan with a kid!

Teething Bites
Remember how I told you that Jack was a laid back baby? Yeah, well not so much when he’s teething. Which he started on Tuesday. I got a frantic “he won’t stop screaming” text from Lindsay about 2 hours before my classes ended. So, we scooped Jack up and ran to Walgreens where we loaded up on Infant Advil, Baby Orajel and Teething Tablets. The poor guy was screaming his head off in pain, but stopped the exact instant I touched his gums with the Orajel. Thank god for medicine!

Between the Orajel and Advil, most of Jack’s pain was kept under control. However, one evening the ache came on really strong and fast and he had a baby freakout while waiting for the medicine to work. Thankfully once the medicine kicked in he went down for an early bedtime and we were able to get takeout to enjoy in our room while watching True Blood.

Week O’ Fun
Even with the conference, the extreme heat and Jack’s teething, we were still able to have lots of fun. We ate some incredibly delicious food (favorites were tapas and an amazing sushi place), saw some sights (loved the Navy Pier at night!), had lots of yummy drinks and did a good bit of shopping too! It was lots of fun, but also super exhausting which is why I totally crashed the entire weekend that I was home.

So, when I say I survived the trip – I truly feel like I deserve some sort of medal for getting through it! Thank goodness I had Lindsay there with me, otherwise there is absolutely no way I would have gotten back home in one piece.

I can’t believe that in only a few days I need to pack up and leave again. But this time it will be just me going to NYC for the BlogHer conference. Just ME! This will be my first time away without my baby and I’m almost indecently excited to sprawl out across the bed in my hotel room and only worry about myself for a couple days!

Here’s some more pictures from our trip:

At some fancy sushi restaurant called Friendly Sushi which had the BEST sushi I’ve had EVER. As you can tell, even Jack wants a piece!
This is how I keep Lindsay happy!

Jack loves his lion souvenir! And you would not believe how many times it took for me to type “souvenir” for spellcheck to figure out what the heck I was trying to say.
The hotel provided us with a crib for a midget. It took Jack about 1.82 minutes to scooch himself to the top of the crib and get his head squished at the end.
And this is where Jack usually ended up.
Bubba Gump…YUM!
Apparently my drink took too long to come and I decided to eat the bucket?

*If you don’t have kids, you’re wondering how on earth a baby pees all over their outfit. I know, I totally thought the same thing. I mean, they ARE in a diaper, right?! Anyways, now that I actually have a little rugrat of my own, I realize that they are magical beings that can somehow pee OUT THE SIDE of a diaper with no warning at all!

**This happened on Friday night. On Sunday morning I went to the Tot Swap and the moment I walked in the door a lady came over to me. The SAME LADY from the shuttle. She said that she really wanted to apologize for shoving in front of me in line to get on the shuttle. She was trying to stay with her group, but that was no excuse for her to get in front of me. She said that she realized that she “acted like a total bitch” and felt guilty all weekend long. I was absolutely flabbergasted, what are the chances that she’d run into me again?!

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