I was nervous about going to BlogHer18 in New York City.
It was the first conference that I was attending by myself.
In the past, I’ve attended work-related conferences with coworkers or supervisors, and for writing conferences, I’ve attended with at least one writing friend, usually two or three. But this conference was something I was choosing to attend on my own. For someone who treads the line between extrovert and introvert, this was a big step for me. But five months ago, when I heard that BlogHer18 was going to be focused on Health & Wellness, something compelled me to say, YES.
So, I went.
Here are my Top 5 highlights (and just one complaint) from BlogHer18.
HIGHLIGHT #1: BlogHer18 was affordable.
When I signed up in September 2017, BlogHer was running a 50% off special. The registration was only $99 instead of $199. The conference was only a day and an evening, but still, $99 is a steal. First, I checked airline ticket prices to see if I could get a good deal from Seattle to NYC in January. Yes, I could. Second, I called my hubs Marcus to see if he wanted to go to NYC with me in the dead of winter, and he said, yes. I registered for the conference that day. Then, as if the low registration fee wasn’t enough, when I checked in at the conference, they gave me a tote bag filled to the max with samples from their sponsors. I’d never received swag like this before at any conference. (The tote is not shown in this photo but it’s a sturdy one made of natural canvas.)
I already mentioned that the conference was in NYC, but did I mention that I LOVE NYC? I love it so much that Marcus and I went there for our honeymoon nine years ago. No sandy beaches and tropical drinks for these newlyweds. No, the day after we got married, we flew to Manhattan for 10 days of exploring, noshing on bagels and pastrami, watching Broadway shows, strolling through Central Park, riding the subway, and going to museums. So, when I saw I could attend the conference for just $99 and it was in one of my favorite cities in the world, I had to go.
HIGHLIGHT #3: Speakers were AMAZING.
Okay, truth be told, I signed up without knowing who ANY of the speakers were going to be. There was no schedule when I signed up during the 50% OFF deal back in September. But, after looking at past BlogHer conferences, I saw that they were great at securing well-known, influential, and interesting speakers. So, I just hoped that this conference would be just as good as past conferences. And, it was.
There were so many great speakers, from Julianne Hough sharing her struggle with being diagnosed with endometriosis, to Amy Ziering talking about filming documentaries about sexual assault (check out The Hunting Ground, The Invisible War), to the many influencers and entrepreneurs who spoke candidly about their health issues, how they healed (and/or are continuing to heal), and how they’re helping others. All these women blew me away with their courage, honesty, and tenacity!
But, of the many amazing speakers, there were three that especially stuck in my mind…and in my heart.The first one was Jillian Michaels. All I knew about Jillian was that she was a bazillionaire fitness guru and personal trainer. Because I don’t watch network TV, I didn’t know that she had also been one of the trainers on the TV show, The Biggest Loser, for ten years. But, none of that mattered to me because once Jillian started talking (she’s the one on the left in the photo above), I realized she was one of the most authentic, down-to-earth, truthful, and hilarious speakers I’d ever seen. The way she answered an audience member’s question about how to convince her husband to focus on his health and lose weight was so wise and compassionate that I want to remember it forever. As I listened to her, I thought, I want to be as real and honest as she is. If you ever get a chance to see Jillian interviewed at a conference, do it. You won’t regret it.
Later, my whole table had tears in their eyes after listening to Ruthie Lindsey. Some of us even said that the conference was worth coming to, just to hear her story. I felt that way. You can read/watch Ruthie’s story here. Have some tissues handy when you do. Just like Jillian Michaels, if you ever get a chance to see Ruthie speak, do yourself a favor and go. She will blow you away with her warmth, vulnerability, resilience, joyfulness, and humanity.
Last but not least, one of the main reasons I was looking forward to the conference was to see Arianna Huffington (that’s her on the left with BlogHer President Samantha Skey). Arianna was announced as one of the keynotes after I registered. I read Huffington Post articles all the time and I’ve always been curious about her. She did not disappoint. Listening to Arianna was like listening to the super-wise-no-BS aunt that every woman wishes she had. I tweeted Samantha afterwards, saying that I’d attend a conference where she interviews Arianna for like five hours. I would. And I don’t think I’m the only one.
HIGHLIGHT #4: I realized that I’m not alone.
My key takeway from the BlogHer conference is that I’m not alone. I currently live with several autoimmune disorders. They’re invisible to the naked eye and to everyone I’ve met, I look perfectly healthy. But the thing is, I’m not. Every day, it takes dedicated time, hope, faith, and tenacity to do the things that help me to heal. It’s a long, winding road and sometimes, I feel like giving up, to stop trying. But, something inside me told me to go to this conference and I’m so glad I listened. The speakers at BlogHer18 were what I needed to see, hear, and experience in order to keep going with my health and wellness journey.
HIGHLIGHT #5: Attendees were inspiring.
I met so many cool women at the conference. I wasn’t expecting that. I was just hoping to get good information and inspiration from the speakers. I didn’t realize I’d be just as inspired from my fellow attendees.
I want to give a shout-out to the first people I met at the conference, Jasmin Sanchez and Caitlin Revuelta of Humanscale, a company that makes ergonomic furniture and other products for creating a healthier workplace. I’ve been looking for the right desk chair for decades. I hope that I’ll be able to find one at Humanscale.
Whenever I meet a woman who’s looking for a good sports bra, I’m now referring them to Laura Tempesta’s BRAVOLUTION site. (Isn’t that a cool logo? And a great tagline?) I had a great time talking with Laura, and she recommended two bras that might be the right fit for me (just like the perfect desk chair, I have yet to find the perfect sports bra). As the former sports bra design executive at Nike, with a Master’s degree in Lingerie Design, I trust Laura’s tips.
I love Liana Teresa‘s card! Liana has so much positive energy and hustle that it made me want to have a business or product that needed a logo just so I could hire her. If you need a designer for a product, business, or event, check out Liana’s site. She has a cool blog too.
Some other entrepreneurs I met were Maria Roberts at the first table I sat at who’s co-creator of the beautiful blog Spinach4Breakfast; productivity coach and blogger Julie Torres from the very long lunch line; pilates/yoga instructor and lifestyle coach Lani McGuire from the wonderful meditation session, and Emily Giegerich (and her colleague) who I sat next to at Arianna Huffington’s talk who created the great peer-to-peer resource site, IHadCancer. I love their tagline: Shared Experiences, Shared Strength.
Last but not least, I met Mara Landis, Founder and CEO of Nutmeg Aspirin, while were both in line for the bathroom. Mara’s site just launched and it’s a place to share, explore, and learn ways for “feeling, getting and being better.” If you have tips you’d like to share, check out her site.
And, speaking of bathrooms, here’s my one and only complaint about BlogHer18…
The conference needed A LOT more bathrooms! It took place at Tribeca 360, which was a good location, but there were very few bathroom stalls. They converted the men’s restroom to a women’s restroom, but it still wasn’t enough–only about 8 stalls total. When you have 500 women at a conference, you have to book a location with a lot more bathroom stalls. BlogHer team, you did many things right, but this one thing is imperative to every attendee’s health and comfort. Please step up your bathroom game with the next conference.
In the end, I really enjoyed my time at BlogHer18 and I’d definitely recommend BlogHer conferences to other women. I went to the conference alone, but came away feeling inspired, motivated, enlightened, and feeling less alone. It was definitely worth my time and money.
Peg Cheng is the author of The Contenders, a middle-grade novel that asks, can enemies become friends? She is currently writing another novel that is a re-imagining of the Snow White fairy tale set in 1980s Seattle. Peg is also the creator of Fear & Writing, a workshop for procrastinating writers from all walks of life.