BlogHer gets creative with LobbyCon event

Elisa Camahort Elisa Camahort Page, blogging pioneer and marketing executive, leads all events, marketing and public relations for BlogHer, the number-one community for and guide to blogs by women. BlogHer holds an annual conference to bring together bloggers from around the world for hands-on learning, discussions and networking. The conference sold out in record time this year, but Elisa and her team came up with the creative idea of LobbyCon to extend the event and meet additional demand. We interviewed Elisa to find out more about LobbyCon and gather tips and tricks for event holders looking to create sell out events.

1. How did you come up with the idea for LobbyCon?

BlogHer’s annual conference has actually sold out every year since since its 2005 inception, but never so early as BlogHer ’09. It sold out in March! Because our model sets pricing to be very affordable for our community, the bloggers, we need sponsors to subsidize the cost of attendees. Our first response was to increase our sponsor goal and see if we could bring in more sponsors, and therefore bring in more bloggers. We were successful with that…to the point of the venue’s meeting space capacity. Then we started seeing people blog and tweet about just showing up and hanging out in the lobby. We thought: What can we do for those people. We talked to the hotel about what it would take to stream keynote sessions into an available space. Turns out they had a perfect space…the Chi Bar, which is not in use during the day…and they could indeed stream to the existing screens in that space. We had more room for the parties and on the expo floor, so LobbyCon was born!

2. Are you doing anything differently to ensure that the LobbyCon attendees have a great experience?

While we don’t have space to deliver all of the great break-out programming (and all of the great meals) that full conference attendees will enjoy, we wanted to make sure they had access to more than just the parties and the swag. The streaming of the general sessions, from the opening welcome, to our unique Community Keynote featuring live blog readings, to our Saturday keynotes featuring amazing thinkers like Tina Brown, Ilene Chaiken and danah boyd, was an integral part of what gave LobbyCon real value over literally sitting in the lobby.

3. What do you hope attendees will take away from the event?

We always say that we hope our attendees walk out of every session having learned something they can’t wait to try, having heard something they can’t wait to share and/or having met someone who will be a friend for life.

4. What’s the secret to hosting a sellout event in this economy?

Our entire business, not just our conference business, is built around our community. We can only lead by listening. We find many different ways that the community – the actual bloggers who are willing to buy the tickets, arrange the travel and leave their daily responsibilities – can feel they have a hand in the conference. We have programming that is community-generated. We have our Community Keynote, which was really the highlight of last year’s event. We have a volunteer green committee, who helps us understand where we could take steps to be more green. Our conference bookstore is stocked with books written by attendees. The list goes on. When people feel they had a hand in something, they want to talk about it, share it.

5. What single promotional tactic would you say drove the most attendees to your event?

Twitter has become a much bigger part of our outreach effort over the last 12-18 months.

6. Anything else you’d like to share about the BlogHer ’09 conference and LobbyCon?

Three things:

1. You’ll be able to follow the live blogs of every session at BlogHer.com

2. Audio and video will get posted some time after.

3. We’ll be announcing BlogHer ’10’s location and dates (and opening registration) at BlogHer ’09, don’t miss it!!