Attention Mommy blog conferences: I demand a refund.

cannes advertising festivalAfter reading the fascinating Wall Street Journal article about mom blogger conferences  (alternate title: Mommy Bloggers: They’re Just Like Us! Only They Binge on Chips When No One is Looking!), I learned an incredibly important lesson.

It wasn’t that once again, journalists omit facts that get in the way of the condescending story about moms they want to write; cherry pick quotes from well-respected publishers out of context; entirely omit interviews with successful publishers who plainly described the professional benefits of conferences and the secondary benefit of socializing; or even that there remains this weird cultural bias against businesses with “mom” in the name that makes it easy to sling silly insults.

Nope. Not even close. What I did learn is that as it pertains to such events as professional development and networking conferences like Mom 2.0, we’re being robbed.

Robbed!

A 50s-themed beach barbeque at night? A trade show floor with a sense of design and flow to it? Professional networking luncheons? Mini-bars for fuck’s sake?

Those are our greatest, most enticing reasons to escape the horrors of school bus drop-offs and nutritional meals and the rest of our tedious, unfulfilled family existences for sometimes three whole days?

Fuck that shit.

I mean, look at some of the offerings from other business and trade conferences:

Well of course if you happen to work in the fashion industry, you will be privy to much sponsored fabulosity every day of the year–er, after all the important work is done. Take NY Fashion Week for example. I can’t say for sure what’s happening here on behalf of GRANDLIFE but I think mom blog conferences are missing a tremendous opportunity with mask sponsors and feather distributors.

fashion week party

 

For you professional media types, the New Media Expo party will be held at db’s Pong & Pool in the Planet Hollywood Hotel, Las Vegas, featuring a “kicking country music showcase.” Guinness Black Lager and u4rik Vodka are providing beverages until 11:00 p.m., but you can stay and play pool and ping pong, and dance until closing. I have never played ping pong at a conference until closing. Another big miss for us.

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The  Cannes Lions Advertising Festival galas include yacht parties, pool parties, beach parties and hot tub parties. None of which even require you to take vacation time off from work. Hey, it is work! You’re there to uh…well…you know. Work stuff.That’s why you get to expense your $900/night sea-view room at the Intercontinental while doing stuff like this:

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Damn, conference organizers: take a cue from Winter Music Week in Miami. (A very very serious place for very serious business.) Then, we would have the opportunity to attend something called Caligula and Lazerdisk Party Sex. Suddenly I’m feeling a little disappointed about the sad little Kentucky Derby themed cocktail party at Mom 2.0. I mean, they have CALIGULA.

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SXSW Interactive, one of the grand conferences of them all, is of course is attended first and foremost for its valuable skill-building seminars and panels. Occasionally there might be something “exciting and fun” or even vaguely social, if you look really hard in some back alley somewhere. Maybe something with a petting zoo. Or a mini-conference that discusses hard topics like all things starting with the prefix, uni-, from unicorns to unibrows.

conference parties

Of course once in a while, if you’re lucky, you can stumble on events like this big fabulous exclusive, packed-to-the-gills pool party which doesn’t even seem to be at night. How come we don’t get to have big parties during the day? How come we’re focused on panel discussions and keynotes and workshops? Big miss, mom blog conference programmers.

But wait one sec. This big pool party looks like it’s hosted by….wait. Could it be?

wall street journal party at sxsw

Oh my gosh, it’s the Wall Street Journal.

Parent bloggers: You are wasting your energy writing impassioned blog posts defending your public speaking careers, brand relationship building, business skill development, and deal-making opportunities that can pay the mortgage for a year.

There are wayyyy more debauched, more elaborate, and more spendy social events to be had while we neglect our children. If only we had joined another profession.

Darn.

Still, we do have mini-bars.

Sometimes. Unless you’re at Blogher in the NY Hilton.

PS I’ll be speaking at the Mom 2.0 summit next weekend on The Power of Saying No: The Ultimate Guide to Getting Paid What You’re Worth. I’ll also be attending panels, taking notes, seeing business colleagues, making friends, hugging people I meet, sitting down with brand directors, and probably eating something in the evenings, if that’s okay with the Wall Street Journal. I will not be wearing a feathered mask.

{66 Comments}

66 thoughts on “Attention Mommy blog conferences: I demand a refund.”

  1. As always Liz, so brilliant. I might never figure out why main stream media continues to knock women and mothers down at the knees. Is it really fear? Fear of our true power, our voices and our brains? An attempt to keep us at home? I think it’s time for a feminist revival. A redefinition. A new era.

    1. I think the OMG THEY NEED TO LEAVE THEIR FAMILIES is just a far more interesting story than OMG THEY ARE BUILDING THEIR BUSINESSES AND ENJOYING EVERY MINUTE OF IT.

      Just a guess.

    1. I should submit photos of me in bed at 10 every night at Dad 2.0. Or wait…maybe it was because I wanted to play with the remote control.

  2. Seriously… we need some ping pong and daytime pool parties!!

    I about spit out my coffee reading this… In a good way. Love it. Love it all. Wish I was able to hear you speak at Mom 2.0. Good luck and try not to have too much fun away from your kids. It would be so sad if you got to have fun while working and actually learn something… I just hate that about blog conferences. {Snicker!!!!}

    1. There are plenty of people–some in my life–who believe that every blog conference is spring break. Probably because Instagram photos of people hugging around pools are more interesting than Instagram photos of keynote spekaers from 50 feet back. So I suppose I can’t blame the writer entirely.

      I wonder what would happen if they got wind of the fact that ad agencies have ping pong tables, pool tables, and XBox 360 consoles right in the offices!

  3. In the course of three shot days at BlogHer (that of the missing mini bar) I learned about SEO, best Plugins, Legalities, Google+, Midlife bloggers, Social good campaigns, Corporate use of Twitter…and I met you. I could fill the page with the meaty substance of what was on offer, but suffice to say I saw thousands of women, pens and computers in hand working and learning together.
    Grown and Flown recently posted..Ready to Go?My Profile

  4. Wait, am I hearing (reading) this right? That conferences are there to party and get away from home/kids/wife? Oh, my, where did I spend my life? I must have missed the “right” conferences, as “party” on any IT conference I’ve been so far consist of me and my roommate trying to figure out how to get pop can stuck in vending machine. Good times!. But hey, there is no way someone is questioning the seriousness/masculinity (why, why, why are these confused together???) of geek/IT conference. But since WSJ is looking at “her” conferences, they are only left with option to snicker at kind of parties are there. Maybe as a silver lining: they have nothing else to snicker at?

  5. The article lacks focus. It’s not even well written. It’s a shame. “Especially” being published by the WSJ – you would think the focus would be on the industry of Mom blogging and how both bloggers and marketers are in a symbiotic relationship. This article sounds like it was written by a, dare I say, jealous ex-frat boy.

  6. I was intrigued when I saw the headline/teaser on the front page – I’ll admit that I like having someone else cook and clean for me during business travel. I like the time to myself and the break from the daily kid stuff. I was really disappointed, however, that the article reduced these conferences to glorified sleepovers. I’m in a totally different industry, but the article does a disservice to all women business travelers.

    1. I agree entirely. You know what would be more interesting? A post about the travel industry junkets. I stumbled into one at a resort and holy debauchery! We’re all in the wrong business.

  7. So glad you wrote this. That article got me fired up yesterday. Big warning sign when the WSJ uses ” mommy” in the headline. I knew instantly that it would be trying to trivialize these meetings because they are for women. Corporate life as you know in our businesses have been like this forever. I gave a speech a few months ago and my “warm up” act was jugglers and acrobats. And they even threw fire batons.

  8. Alright, I’m going to say something really unpopular here….

    But honestly, the social media and commentary before a lot of the women’s blogging/Internet conferences ARE about OMG, how will I fit in, what should I wear, where are the good parties, I can’t wait to meet so-and-so….

    And then after it’s “wow, I remember back in the day when blogging conferences were smaller and you knew everyone and there wasn’t so much swag bragging” and very, VERY rarely do I ever hear about the workshops themselves.

    I pay pretty close attention to what is being put out there about conferences via social media and blogs because 1) I’m not there but want to be there, and 2) I can’t afford to go to many conferences, so if I do spend the money to go, I want to make sure I’m getting bang for my buck.

    The amount of information out there via attendees talking about what they learned at conferences is far less than the amount of information out there about the social scene. Maybe that’s because women bloggers are a more socially verbose group…and that’s fine. I like that about women bloggers. I like that we talk, talk, talk about the more social/emotional parts of conferences. Like talking about mothering and letting the cat out of the bag that we’re not all Donna Reed and sometimes that sucks. Not everyone wants to or has to Lean In in the same way. Maybe guys need to Lean In more emotionally, who knows?

    And honestly, we’re bloggers. It’s the Internet. Do we really believe we have to fly all over the country spending $$$ on hotels and travel and time away so that we can be together in the flesh and blood to learn about the *virtual* world? That’s completely counter intuitive. Business and learning is done around the world every day without people being in the same room.

    So, I see nothing wrong with Katherine Stone saying, “Hell yeah, a lot of trappings to justify a party. But we’re keeping the economy ticking along for some city/hotel/sponsors.” I mean, I don’t think anyone is under the impression that conferences anywhere for anyone are anything but that.

    There are a lot of people justifying their vacations away from family. That’s okay. There’s no “see what I did there” about it anymore.

    1. Thanks Josette. Let me address a couple of points:

      Regarding the balance of posts: If I follow a hashtag of a conference during daytime hours, I find tons of tweets about the content, the speakers, great quotes, business tips. If I follow a hashtag of a conference at night, I find Instagram photos of parties and talk about chardonnay. That may differ depending on the kind of conference, but at Mom 2.0, it’s a highly professional, engaged group of attendees. They actually do go to the panels and keynotes–which is not the case even with big conferences like SXSW. It’s why it remains my favorite conference. I always leave smarter, more inspired, more filled with ideas.

      As far as your question whether we have to travel to “learn about the virtual world” the thing is…yes, we have to travel, but no, it’s not the “virtual” world we’re learning about.

      As an executive and entrepreneur, I’ve found there’s absolutely no substitute for personal connections and relationship development–in any industry–and that simply doesn’t happen by email or even webinar. Meeting a brand VP, a PR director, a website or magazine publisher in person and spending time together–that’s how deals are made, how interviews are conducted, how we sniff each others’ butts (so to speak) and figure out who we want to work with. It’s also how I make a living which supports my family. I think a lot of professional bloggers will share that same story with you.

      I’ll also say while I’m digging on the Cannes conference above, I can name countless ad creatives who got their next jobs by hanging out with the Creative Director by the pool.

      Of course there are hobbyists or people who write for fun or connection like you do, and in that case, then yes. 100% agree that conferences are pretty much a vacation or a chance to see friends. But for a lot of us–particularly those like Lisa Belkin and Katherine Stone and Mir Kamin who took issue with the article in their own posts–we have packed calendars at these conferences that really have little to do with karaoke.
      Mom101 recently posted..Attention Mommy blog conferences: I demand a refund.My Profile

      1. I’ve been in the PR business for more than 3 decades, and you’re absolutely right about the importance of certain conferences — in this case, Mom2.0 — for learning, for leads, for making LinkedIn friendships aside from building your brand. But as a blogger for less than 1 month, while I get the enterpreneurial imperatives of building your community, I’m in the early pink cloud days of loving the connection with an audience, writing about stuff that really matters to me. In other words, it’s all good.

  9. Your inclusion of the phrase “fuck that shit” fit so perfectly within your blog post.

    As always, a great read full of TRUTH!

  10. Huh. I was considering going to BlogHer this year, but clearly there is not enough debauchery to make it worth my time. Thank you for this very informative article.
    Korinthia Klein recently posted..In Real LifeMy Profile

  11. From now on I’m looking for conferences where there’s “dude” or “bro” in the title. Bro 2.0, DudeCom. You know. That way I’m not going to get stiffed on having all the fun while I hurl a box of crackers at my children’s heads as I abandon my loinfruit.

    Thanks for the heads up.

  12. A representative selection of things I have done at blogging conferences:

    -Given tutorials on search engine optimization
    -Attended tutorials on book publishing and web programming
    -Spoken with presidential advisors about health care policy
    -Spoken with Congresswomen about the role of women in politics
    -Moderated a panel on food policy advocacy in social media

    It all felt pretty professional to me.

    Of course, I have also checked in at the hotel on behalf of my conference travel mates so they could go get matching tattoos, and there was that blow-up doll incident involving Erin Kotecki Vest, but she erased that video. I think.

    (Maybe you should hang out with me for debauchery purposes next time, Liz.)
    Jaelithe recently posted..Boys vs. Tropes vs. WomenMy Profile

  13. Liz, I’ll be seeing you next week at the frivolous and unimportant Mom 2.0 Summit. Frankly, your ‘awkward hug’ was just upgraded to air kisses and ass slaps, because, as a mom, I am incapable of networking in a professional and businesslike manner, according to the WSJ. Also, I will probably lick my finger and remove the mini-bar schmutz off your face. Looking forward to it.

  14. Mom blogging conference? All a hazy recollection of strip poker, mini bar raids (and, one BlogHer year, bedbugs came free with the hotel room), sponsored pedi-cab rides from hot cabbies we called Mr. Ass. I think I was on a panel once, but I was likely still drunk from the night before, so I don’t really recall.

    Ppppffffh. #suckitWSJ

  15. I attend several trade shows a year for work, and you’re abso-freaking-lutely on the money. I’m remembering a cigar bar, complete with paid chicklets in tight dresses and lots of free alcohol on the rooftop at a Hard Rock Hotel, a meet and greet with Sammy Hagar, and a conference IN BERMUDA. With golf. I’m not complaining, but the honest truth is that none if it is worth leaving my family behind to see.
    Kristin Shaw (Two Cannoli) recently posted..Simple acts of kindnessMy Profile

    1. Oh man, where would the golf industry be without conferences?

      Meanwhile, no one has to apologize for any of it. It’s just odd to me that in an article about business conferences, it really mentions very little about the business.

    1. Seriously, I thought a unicorn cake at Blogher Sparkecorn was all keerazy but now I realize…I was mistaken. Making a big L sign with fingers over my forehead right now.

  16. Don’t ever forget who owns the WSJ and what his political goals are. Demeaning women, especially mothers, is part of the plan to allow him and his ilk to continue to believe they still rule the world. How can they feel empowered if they don’t disempower a whole group by painting them all with the same broad brush (his wife, of course, is the exceptional Mommie). But guess what? Ain’t gonna happen any more. Social media, with voices like yours, are too big, even for the likes of Rupert.

  17. I am so ticked off that the graphic in the article forgot to include a pic of one of those “mommies” stuffing her suitcase with swag. Dammit!!!

    *snort*
    Elaine A. recently posted..The "H" WordMy Profile

  18. I have a theory. I think the author of the WSJ article was probably denied a few conferences/business trips:-)

    How else can one explain her failure to understand that a majority of the attendees are talented entrepreneurs who make a living through their blogs and want to network with others like them?
    I Love Gifting recently posted..Saying it with words: 10 house warming giftsMy Profile

  19. Sadly, very sadly TSA has been using my recent and regular security visits through airports and train stations as a training visual for how to spot a Mommy running away from her family in pursuit of something deeply superficial and highly inconsequential…net result, you should all be extra wary on route to 2.0! More to the point, well said Liz.

  20. Seriously. What a bunch of clowns.

    Not that I’m apologizing for her sloppy journalism, but it seems like good writing and solid journalism have been devalued as of late. So much so that even respectable rags have to resort to this divisive and “eyeball grabbing” BS. Sad, sad, sad.
    Deb recently posted..I’m $o Gang$taMy Profile

  21. This post had me cracking up and nodding my head all at the same time.

    Having one foot in social media and one in more “traditional” communications, I have always been a bit perplexed by the clear double standards. You pointed it out oh-so eloquently with the Wall Street Journal’s sponsorship of an event (nice pic by the way) but this goes beyond conferences.

    While bloggers are getting called out for receiving free stuff, where were the critics when GMA spent a week live broadcasting on a cruise line (promotional consideration provided by…)? And am I the only one who shakes her head when a room full of reporters munching on free seafood complains about the tech bloggers taking the free lunch at CES (true story)?

    Clearly, I don’t know the answer, but I certainly don’t understand the point of articles like this one in the Wall Street Journal which just appear designed to tear down others.
    Kristin – Manic Mommies recently posted..Week off due to Color RunMy Profile

  22. It really surprised me to learn that the author of the WSJ article had not only attended BlogHer but had moderated a panel. How is it that she missed all the professional networking going on around her? I spend 4 days at BlogHer every year, and sure I have a cocktail in the evenings, but I also work my ass off 14 hours a day on little sleep. But because I have a husband and kids back at home, I’m only playing with my giggly girlfriends?

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