UPDATED 10:36 EST / JULY 27 2009

A View From BlogHer ‘09

image It was a short three years ago that I attended my first BlogHer 2006 Conference in San Jose. As I recall the sold out attendee list was somewhere between 300 and 400 passionate women bloggers. The entire conference was bloggers helping bloggers, a community coming together to celebrate something we shared in common. The sponsor exhibits were in a small lobby and included about a dozen 10 foot tables. A small swag bag — icing on the cake — included a t-shirt other small gifts from sponsors. I still have the t-shirt. The cocktail parties were simple sponsored events meant for networking with other attendees by the pool.

Two years ago, I was lucky enough to speak that the BlogHer conference here in Chicago. BlogHer 2007, the sold out attendee list was numbered at 800. The conference at Navy Pier seemed to take itself more seriously. Upon registration the swag was handed over in a fabulous backpack that included some well-packaged gifts from some well-known sponsors. I remember sitting in the first session next going through the contents with a woman I just met talking about each product and its value.

image The cocktail party out on the terrace also offered a t-shirt from the vendor "oops!" who sponsored the wine we were drinking. A small dinner event to which small groups were invited included a swag bag that contained a purse, some makeup, and other tokens. I remember the items distinctly, because a person talked with about the mission of the company and how their team had decide what items would be in the little bag she was handing me and how they hoped I might use them.

I was unable to attend the 2008 event. But I made it BlogHer this year.

A Few Words About BlogHer 2009
image BlogHer 2009 was a well-organized event that drew women from all levels of blogging. It sold out early. I’m not sure of the attendee numbers. To accommodate those on the waiting list, BlogHer added a non-session ticket called, "LobbyCon," for folks who wanted to network and attend the parties. The exhibit hall was now on the expo level and included celebrity visits by Paul Dean and Tim Gunn and huge parties … as many as 7 on one night.

The Community keynote panel was outstanding. Carefully chosen blog posts from the past few months were read by their authors. It was moving reminder of why we all do this.

In a conversation we share with Aliza Sherman, Sheryl Victor remarked "As a market, I was surprised and inspired to be at conference where people were talking about and sharing emotions. The orchestration of the event was seamless and well done. The panels worked even when the rooms were too small. The image lobby conversations were outstanding.

Still …
Everywhere at the conference swag seemed to be the attraction. The LobbyCon folks didn’t get the official BlogHer Swag Bag, but they could collect swag at exhibit booths and sponsored parties. The lines for the swag bags were long. Some bloggers were going from party to party to collect the swag. Free is an "attractive" word, but it’s not necessarily a relationship maker.

In a Web 2.0 world, the ever-growing swag bag is fascinating. We talk about customization. Then we fill bags with "prizes" that look the same for every person who attends our parties.

If I have seven shopping bags of swag collected in three short days, have you gotten my attention?

Swag is the new black in broadcasting.

[Liz Strauss is the founder of SOBCon, a brand strategist, and author of Successful-Blog.]

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