This is my fourth BlogHer. Well, I think it is - I sorta lost count, and I have been to a couple BlogHer Business events as well. But I think it's an experience at my first BlogHer (BlogHer06) that encapsulates what BlogHer is to me, and why I think I do a pretty damned good job at the conference.
And, yes, it's a broken record post but something I feel I need to say each year.
I go to BlogHer not as a PR person (here's a clue on how not to be THAT PR person) but as a person that's interested in the community. I go to learn, meet new people, see old friends, and be the adorably cute Jeremy Pepper that people know and love. While I might be at BlogHer for work, I still go to be part of the community and look at it from a Kantian perspective - I'm not there to use anyone (not to use anyone as a means to an end) but to treat each person as an end unto herself, understanding that each person - no matter how many or few Twitter followers they have, no matter how long they've been blogging or how big their blog audience is - each person is important, has a story to tell, and, well, deserves to be listened to while she talks. Yes, I say she because meh on most of the guys there; we don't hold the power that women do anyway.
So back to BlogHer06. It was held in San Jose, poolside. I didn't go to the first day - couldn't get off work - but shot down on Saturday, and decided that even if it was a female blogging conference, I was going to be me and participate in conversations. It's me - I'm not shy (well, I am so I compensate by being outgoing), and I have an opinion or two and am not afraid to share it with others.
So I sat down in the circles, the break-out sessions, and participated. I tried to be part of the community and while I had no problem arguing with people, I respected their opinion.
And you know what happened (and this wasn't the intent)? One of the companies there asked for my contact information because they liked that I was participating, while their PR guy was uncomfortable and standing around the pool. They liked that I had no problem jumping in, and participating in the community. They saw the real value in social media - and heck, we just called it blogging back then - was and is just participating in a conversation. It's not this bullshit of engage, but it's about being real and having a conversation, finding a common ground in a community.
Because, that's what BlogHer is: it's a huge community. It's not about the conferences - which are a HUGE part of the community - but about their network of blogs and commenters on the site. It's about the new people that come to the conference (and if memory serves, it's more than 60% of the attendees are first time attendees), and balancing what goes on to serve the veterans and the first-timers. It's about one big community - I ain't saying happy, because no community is fully happy because that's impossible with different conflicting personalities - but it is one big community that has a common goal of empowerment, enjoyment, and more.
Now, why is the title of the post about being an "outlier" at BlogHer? Last year, a first-time attendee PR woman didn't like a comment I made during a discussion. She flustered and called me an "outlier" which made me laugh. While I might be a male at BlogHer, I think being a consistent supporter of the organization and event. And, well, I think it was outsider that she meant - I'm happy to be an outlier: I recognized BlogHer for the power it is early on, much earlier than others who at first bashed it and now embrace it.
And unlike other PR people that portray themselves as social media specialists and leaders - I actually attend the conference and have conversations. A real leader knows when to listen, and be part of a community and conversation, and not just have platitudes about how the Mommy blogger is the new influencer. People are influencers to their own circles ... and each one is important.
If you want to see the other posts I've written on BlogHer, you can go here (they also include other posts where I talk about BlogHer).