By Li Evans
I think Lisa Barone over at Bruce Clay did a wonderful job at surmizing a concise argument against Michael Gray's post that cast a negative light on the BlogHer Conference. I wanted to add a few more thoughts from my perspective about BlogHer. Since it was my first time at this event, and believe it or not, I traveled with a guy who attended this conference, as well as going to different sessions than Lisa.
Why is BlogHer different? Well first, it's not a search centric or search focused conference, not in any way shape or form, it's about Blogging & Community. Therefore, it's not setup like the type of conferences we are all use to in the search industry. You know, the type of sessions where there is a moderator to introduce panel members, the audience is basically forced to sit in the audience and watch powerpoint presentation after powerpoint presentation on how great some company is. After all that's said and done, THEN the audience gets to ask questions and the panel members answer.
BlogHer is not entirely like that. A lot of sessions that you go to are "discussion based", meaning, the person listed as heading up the session, basically gets the ball rolling. In the case of the sessions I attended, one in particularly, the woman who headed the sessions handed over the lead to a MAN (*gasp*) and he began discussing the opportunities for women who want to start tech companies. He spoke for a decent amount of time - without a powerpoint presentation. Then at another session I went to, another man spoke for a bit too. Over all though, since this is a conference for women bloggers, put together by a women's online community, predominantly women lead the sessions.
At BlogHer, there is a lot more "Group Discussion" and women sharing their own experiences and giving tips, information, website URLs, email addresses, business cards and just about anything you can swap information wise. You don't see that kind of information exchange at search conferences. Not as freely as what happened at BlogHer. Instead of information being swapped over a drink or dinner in tidbits, this information was freely exchanged in front of a lot of women, in rooms that were overflowing with attendees.
BlogHer is a different type of community as well as a different type of conference. Maybe to understand it, you might need to understand how men and women differ in the way they communicate, understanding that would likely give you insight into why things are different. To understand BlogHer, instead of slamming it as an outsider, perhaps, joining the community and interacting with it, you can understand, men are not turned away at all, in fact they are welcomed, more so than if the situation was reversed.
I spoke to many men at this conference. All of them remarked at how different it was. From husbands who tagged along, to men from marketing companies who understood the importance of being there and grasping the whole idea of a conference specifically for women bloggers, not just for themselves, but for their audience. Each of them remarked how totally unlike any other conference it was, and this was in a positive manner.
I've been in session where the panel had no women presenters (I do have to say that each conference head is becoming significantly more aware of the need for balance), I've also noticed a lack of women writers in certain categories on the different tech & marketing news (not just search) sites. Having a section of this blog that's dedicated for women marketers, I just don't get why the situations I just described are still happening? I do see the recognition though, so the hope is, this too will change.
Women like comfort, they love to communicate with each other and tell stories. The discussion type sessions are perfect format for that. It's not "business as usual" at BlogHer, it's adaptive to the way women best communicate and that's something that is really tough for a man to get. Be honest guys, how many times have you remarked about your wife, girlfriend, sister or even you mom "I just don't get you women"? If you did, there wouldn't be this griping about the "All Women Conference", you'd get that first it wasn't "all women", and 2nd maybe you would have gone yourself. :)
We'll be having some more interviews from BlogHer upcoming, Beau's got to recover from the trip back, and have his camera fixed.