Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Chicago Takeover: BlogHer '13- The Expo

I have to begin to touch on the real reason that we were in Chicago--- to attend the annual BlogHer conference. The blogging conference of blogging conferences rotates cities each year, and last August when they announced that it would be held in Chicago--- Michelle and I just knew that we had to make it happen. So, we purchased early-bird tickets in September, and I started to forget about the July trip. It suddenly was upon us, and I didn't sleep well for two nights leading up to our departure. I was excited, and maybe a little anxious. This would be my first blogging conference. I wasn't sure what to expect. So, I wanted to share a bit of my experience, for anyone that is considering attending next year's conference.

Night One: The Expo

We traveled in Thursday to Chicago, and Thursday evening brought attendees a "Night at the Expo" to cruise through all of the sponsor booths. There were all kinds of products, and lots to see. I can understand why this conference is sometimes referred to as "SwagHer", because it is easy to get distracted by the shiny things that someone is offering to you for free. I picked up a few items that I will never blog about (like an entire bag full of health/beauty products from CVS Minute Clinic or the Windex), but I tried to stay focused and only engage in conversations with the food and beverage booths. The highlight?

Meeting celebrity chef Michelle Bernstein in the Lean Cuisine booth! This foodie had a total geek-out moment, and I suddenly became painfully shy.
She's been working with the company on their New Lean Cuisine Honestly Good line, and guess what...they are honestly good. So many frozen meals, particularly the diet ones, are so bland and boring. They only have six versions right now, but I opted to try the Lemongrass Salmon from the booth.
This self-proclaimed salmon-hater wanted to truly put it to the test. The fish was mild, and the sauce was packed with flavor! Someone asked me if they were preparing it using a microwave at the booth, and that I can't swear by because I didn't see them actually heat it up for us. Certainly, if they were warming it using another method, then this could affect the presentation. However, this sample did leave me wanting to try one for myself at home. This is by no means a sponsored post, and Lean Cuisine has no idea that I'm writing about them. I was just impressed by the product, and wanted to share that with you. You can find them in Whole Foods and Target locally, but look near the organic frozen section instead of by the regular frozen diet meals. They retail a bit higher, but I think flavor and better quality product are worth it.

We also ran into the Pillsbury Doughboy out on the Expo floor.
I had imagined that the Expo would be a bit bigger, with more vendors, but overall they did a nice job. There was often complimentary food and beverage stations (including alcohol at times), and even some treat stations throughout the day (like the ice cream cooler!).
We ended up spending the entire three hours at The Expo the first evening, mingling with brands and finding friends. I stopped in a few other times throughout the conference to kill some time in between sessions, or to catch a booth that I had missed. I saw some interesting products, had a few conversations that I hope lead to something for this blog, and mostly I just had an entertaining time.

Some Expo Tips:
- be prepared to break your shoulder carrying the heavy tote bags of product
- wear comfortable shoes, as the floor is hard and you walk a lot
- engage in conversation with only the brands that you may be interested in working with
- map out a clear path through the booths so that you don't miss something
- ask the brands "How are you working with bloggers currently, or what do you hope to do?"
- you'll get plenty of swag throughout the conference, so don't bother accepting something that you won't use or won't want to transport home
- If you're flying, bring an extra suitcase or leave enough room in your bag to pack all of the swag

Next up: The conference sessions, and some things that I took away from the experience!


Allison M. said...

My first and only BlogHer was in San Diego two years ago. I was there for work but loved every second of meeting some bloggers in person who I have admired for years.