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BlogHer Business vs. SXSWi = My thoughts

April 17, 2008

This has been a very busy start of the year for me.  I fulfilled some personal objectives and made an effort to be social, not just online but in person.  To this goal, I attended two very different conferences, SXSWi (South by Southwest Interactive) in March, and BlogHer Business (BHB) at the beginning of April.  I got done with SXSWi, and while it wasn’t perfect, I was happy that I went there.  That is, until I went to BHB and saw what a conference could and should be.

Don’t get me wrong – a lot of people GET SWSW and what they’re trying to accomplish.  I heard many times that I shouldn’t expect too much from the sessions, and SXSW is “all about the hallways.”  But why did I come out of those 4 days feeling like I had wasted a lot of time, after spending 2 incredibly productive days with the BlogHer crowd?  Three main areas of comparison come to mind:

Sessions – At SXSW, I got the feeling that a lot of them were winging it.  The session I always come back to as the best example of “phoning it in”, literally and figuratively, is the one on creative mobile content that featured Jeremiah Owyang, Chris Heuer and Chris Brogan.  These are thought leaders, people who have blogs I follow religiously and often quote in my own dealings.  No offense guys, but your session was useless.  Essentially, they broke the audience up and took us out of the room to “create”.  My group stood in the Bloghaus while Jerimiah talked with someone into what looked like a tape recorder.  I didn’t get any perspective into why he was asking the questions that he was (if he even was asking questions).  I got the feeling that Chris Heuer was trying harder, but still, it wasn’t working for me.  I didn’t see Brogan, so I can’t say what he was or wasn’t doing.   When you put the thought leaders of social media in a room, you expect more.   I got really angry when I realized that I was missing Kathy Sierra’s session, and after about 10 minutes of staring at this, I headed to Kathy’s well-prepared session (and learned a ton).  

In contrast, all of the BlogHer Business sessions were focused, information packed, and productive.  Plus, they run on time!  Speakers spend a great time planning what they are going to say, whether they have powerpoints or not.  Moderators add value by directing the conversation and adding their own viewpoints where appropriate.  In the two days at BHB, I got enough inspiration to last me at least a year.  Until I next BH event, I suppose!

Focus – SXSW is huge, and offers a lot for more than just me.  So, truth be told, you may be an interactive designer, or some other field than marketing and really would get more out of SXSW that I can.  BHB is totally focused on me and what I do – it’s for marketers, PR folks, advertisers and the like.  For that reason alone, I found myself at home there. 

Socialization – OK, so SXSW is all about the hallways.  But I have to tell you, I made more connections, and more valuable connections at BHB in 2 hours of meet and greet than I did in all my time at SXSW.  I’ll pull BHB’s hallways up against SXSW’s any day. 

I’m sure I’m opening myself up to some flaming and negative comments, but BlogHer Business was such an amazing and productive meeting for me, and I really wanted to give Jory, Elisa, Lisa and Kristy some love for making that happen.  I also want people to know for next year, when I have a choice, I’m going to BHB and skipping SXSW.  Anyone looking to better understand women bloggers and learn how to make connections with them cannot afford to miss BHB.   

Soapbox dismounted.  Flame away. 

8 Comments leave one →
  1. April 17, 2008 11:00 am

    I finally decided to write a comment on your blog. I just wanted to say good job. I really enjoy reading your posts.

    Tina Russell

  2. April 17, 2008 11:09 am

    No flames here! Everyone has their own experience and different things that work for them.

    My perspective was pretty different. I would probably return to SXSW over BlogHer. I thought BlogHer was great, but I personally got more out of SXSW. I didn’t attend the session you attended though 🙂

  3. April 17, 2008 11:31 am

    Hi Shannon – Thanks for your (flame free) comment. I’ve thought a lot about this, and my guess as to why BHB was right for me is that I prefer a more structured conference. If I am going through the effort to putting in my time, I expect a certain amount of effort back from the conference. I didn’t feel that with SXSW. Also, BHB is razor sharp in it’s focus and that focus benefits me. It may not to all people, so thanks for sharing.

  4. April 17, 2008 12:21 pm

    Ellen, just wanted to thank you profusely for such a wonderful post. When we put up info for next year’s conference, I’ll just put this link under the Who Should Attend and Why section, if you don’t mind 🙂

  5. April 17, 2008 4:15 pm

    Ellen, thanks for the post! I have to give all props to my colleague Elisa, who spends a great deal of time wooing terrific speakers and working up the program. What really makes the conference pop for me is the contributions of the attendees — the questions, the ideas, the feedback turns the whole thing into a focused and valuable conversation. Just like last year, I found myself thinking that the smartest people I met were women I sat next to in sessions with whom I got into deep conversations about what was being said from the dais.

  6. April 21, 2008 12:57 pm

    Hi Ellen,
    Great post! I was wondering about the SXSW conference and your post helped clarify my prospects for attending next year. I had a fabulous time at BlogHer Business, and it was great to meet such vibrant personalities like yours at the event!

    All my best,


  1. BlogHer Business 2009 Recap «
  2. SXSW Redux «

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