I was struck by lots of things at BlogHer ’11 — a blog conference targeted to women bloggers.
As a first-timer, I was struck by the sheer volume of women who gathered at the San Diego Convention Center. I was also struck by their diversity, energy and intensity.
But mostly, I was struck by their babies—on hips, in strollers, and under conference tables. A few babies even attended the evening cocktail parties. (For the record, these babies could hold their milk).
Given the scale of the conference, these few dozen or so moms did a terrific job of managing their adorable babies. Sometimes there were tears, but that couldn’t be helped. We bloggers couldn’t always contain ourselves. Emotions ran high in this safe and supportive forum that gave women license to bare their souls while sharing their triumphs and tragedies.
But the most significant thing about seeing babies at the conference wasn’t that they were cute. It was that they screamed “female empowerment.” Sometimes, they simply screamed.
The presence of babies exemplified BlogHer’s commitment to setting new standards for helping moms navigate both motherhood and career.
It demonstrated BlogHer’s mission to provide women with the knowledge, resources and tools they need to succeed in business and in life.
It represented a community in which women are accepting and dedicated to helping and supporting one another.
Young moms convened in groups, as did other bloggers with common interests. For example, there were groups of common age, faith, and ethnic background.
There were also groups who awoke with severe hangovers—they gathered late in the afternoon.
Some groups gathered informally, others in scheduled seminars called “Birds of a Feather.” I attended the “Birds of a Feather” for Humor Writers, which was sort of like improv theater. We traded wisecracks about censorship (which I censored for this post).
We not only shared laughs, we shared experiences, opportunities, and business cards. Though I wished for more time to get to know the group, it was nice to put a blog name to a face.
“Open Mic” was a highlight for me. Those of us lucky enough to have our names drawn from the lottery got to experience the joy and terror of reading our blogs in front of a room full of people.
I enjoyed having the chance to listen to others read their blogs aloud, and to share my blog with my peers. They were supportive, and offered words of encouragement. Even the babies smiled—though it may have been gas . . .
I learned a lot at the conference about everything from blog design to branding to cyberbullying. But the most important lesson I learned was from the babies: That blogging is about community, and community can shape success.
Despite what I thought before the conference, the idea is not to stand out from the crowd; it’s to embrace it—unless you’re a baby with a dirty diaper.