I know it’s been a week since I was at BlogWorld & New Media Expo 2009, but I needed time to digest all that I experienced while there, and formulate an opinion to share with you.
A number of travel bloggers wrote to me asking this burning question: Is it worth the time, effort, and expense to attend BlogWorld Expo?
The only answer I can give is “that depends”……I know that sounds like a cop-out, but really it does depend on what/how much you already know going in to it, and what you expect to get out of it.
BWE consists of three days of four educational sessions per day, in ten different but concurrently run tracks, lasting roughly an hour and 15 minutes each, along with keynote addresses and a break for lunch. So twice each morning and twice each afternoon you choose which session to attend from ten that are scheduled. The ten tracks were varied but primarily focused on a specific blogging niche, as well as social networking and blog monetization.
If you blog in a niche that was represented in the educational sessions (Mommy blogging, Sports blogging, Military blogging, Real Estate blogging, and Medical blogging), then you would have definitely found something of value in some of those sessions.
If you manage a non-profit, those sessions were highly valuable as well (in my spare time I serve as webmaster for a non-profit environmental group, so I attended those sessions).
If you’re new to using social media networks to connect with others and build an audience, then you would likely have gotten something of value from those social media sessions. However, if you’re already very experienced with social media, you might have been interested in some of the opinions of the panelists, but it’s unlikely that you would have learned anything new.
Sadly the travel bloggers track was skimpy, with just a few sessions presented only on the last day, and although the panelists in those sessions did a great job, there just wasn’t enough time to really do more than brush the surface of what is one of the fastest growing blog segments – travel blogging. My favorite session was “The Future of Travel Blogging – 2009 and Beyond” (see photo and panelists at right).
Although I was pleased to see that there was some information presented by PR folks on what criteria they use to choose travel bloggers for media trips, there was no formal discussion concerning the ongoing controversy over both the ethics of accepting free trips and the soon-to-be-in-effect FTC disclosure rules concerning any material compensation, which would include media trips. However, I did greatly enjoy chatting informally with the few other travel bloggers in attendance on those subjects and hearing their opinions.
I’m hoping that next year they’ll present many more sessions for the travel blog niche on all three days.
What I didn’t like about BlogWorld Expo:
- Adequate session descriptions were not available online for most of the sessions (and some of the session titles were confusing) – this makes it difficult to assess in advance which sessions you should attend, or even if you should attend the conference to begin with. It wasn’t until I’d checked in and picked up a show booklet that I found adequate session descriptions;
- Some of the panelists seemed less-than-fully qualified to be sitting on their panels;
- Many of the sessions were panel discussions, with panelist offering primarily opinions, in some cases advice, but little in the way of specific tools, resources, or definitive answers (although I heard that the audio/video sessions were much more informative);
- I liked that many of the sessions allowed for questions from the audience, but a strict 1 question per person rule should have been enforced. A number of people did not get to ask questions because the first few often asked several questions each. Those with multiple questions, or questions that require a long involved answer, should seek out the panelists during the break times;
What I DID like about BlogWorld Expo
- The opportunity to meet and speak with a lot of other bloggers;
- The opportunity to hang out with other travel bloggers whom I knew only through their blogs but whose writing I admired;
- The abiltiy to engage in discussions with people whose opinions both matched and differed from my own. I learned as much from these people as from any of the sessions;
- There really was a wide variety of sessions to choose from, covering a broad array of interests (everything from the aforementioned niche-specific sessions for Real Estate / Sports / Medical / Military / Mommy bloggers, to audio/video podcasting, tools for non-profits, and loads of social networking sessions) offering a little bit of something for everyone
- Plenty of exhibitors, including a terrific WordPress Genius Bar where I finally got a nagging WP problem solved;
- Plenty of extracurricular events for networking with others (official parties and tweet-ups);
A few suggestions for the BWE organizers (for next year)
- PLEASE put comprehensive session descriptions online early. I heard from a lot of people who decided not to go because they couldn’t find out what the sessions would be about – titles just don’t cut it;
- Please don’t schedule a keynote or panel session during lunch. Lunch on the first day was great, but very few people could hear (or see) the speakers during lunch. It’s unfair to either the speakers or the audience.
- For a conference of this size, you really need to bring in a greater selection of food vendors – the two choices offered were inadequately supplied and staffed, expensive, and just not great quality. I heard a lot of complaints, and a fair number of people left the convention center to go get food elsewhere;
- I’ll give kudos to for the abundant suppy of water, juice, and coffee, which got me through, but please ask Aramark to include non-diary and soy creamers for the coffee and tea – some of us just can’t handle (or digest) half-n-half;
- Consider holding the after-parties somewhere OTHER than loud, noisy nightclubs where conversations are impossible and drinks are expensive (we truly appreciated the free beer, but if you’re not a beer drinker, $10 to $13 for a different drink is too pricey);
Last piece of advice if you decide to go next year: I was very UNhappy staying at the Hilton Las Vegas Convention Center. Although they had a good room rate for BWE attendees, they do NOT offer free wi-fi (as the Courtyard Marriott does), and they are quite a fair hike from the conference, being on the opposite side of the convention center (sure you can ride the monorail, for an additional $10/day expense). The Renaissance is the closest, but the Courtyard offers the best deal.
Did you attend BlogWorld Expo? Please share your experience and advice!