Every year after BlogHer there is a lot of buzz about swag, both good and bad. And my conclusion is this: it's not about the bag. BlogHer and all the events that happen during the BlogHer weekend are about building relationships, meeting people, interacting with brands, having fun, learning, growing. Sure, swag is fun. I like it as much as the next person. But all too often swag takes center stage. Which it shouldn't. It doesn't deserve center stage. There's too much else good out there to focus on.
In 2009, swag was a major post-conference topic, partly because there had been some bad behavior related to it. We experienced some of that at the 2009 Swiffer SocialLuxe Lounge. A few folks figured out how to steal swag bags. That was so surprising to us. And, when we ran out of bags as a result of the stealing, a few people who should have gotten bags didn't...and a few of those people got very upset. I had a heavy heart for weeks. We threw a really beautiful party for a group of really beautiful women, complete with free food, drinks, giveaways, massages, nails, henna, hair and makeup. The party would have been just as amazing and worth people's time with or without swag bags. It just plain stunk that swag added a negative vibe to what was otherwise a really positive and wonderful event.
Fast forward to 2010. Based on last year's experience, Allison, Marie and I thought long and hard about how to curtail the security issues we experienced in 2009. In the end, we decided the only way to avoid the mess we'd experienced in the past was to: 1) cap the party at 350 instead of opening it to all conference attendees like we did last year, and 2) pass the bags out at the beginning of the party when guests were checking in with their IDs, assuring everyone who should receive a swag bag did.
As some attendees learned, registration took far too long at the start of the party. As quickly as we possibly could, we figured out the best way to speed things up but still maintain security. We felt terrible that people had to wait. There was a really rockin' party inside that we wanted them to experience. For heaven's sake, that's why we were throwing the party.
The swag bags this year were amazing. We worked really hard to make the 2010 Avery SocialLuxe Lounge a truly top notch experience for bloggers, so we only accepted items for the swag bag that we believed people would actually want/use/love/need. And, since we love our guests so much, the bags ended up being a little full (okay, a LOT full). Which we were excited about! We couldn't wait for people to get their bags! Until...
...well, until people started complaining about having to carry their bag around during the party. Suddenly, my heart was heavy once again.
Swag is the main reason we had to cap the party guest list. Swag is the reason we had to create a strict registration process. Swag itself is the reason we had to pass bags out at the beginning of the party. The swag, once again, is taking center stage.
I've heard several people say that they waited forever to get into the party, then, when they finally got in, their bag was so heavy they decided to just leave. UGH. That kills me. SocialLuxe is NOT about the bag. It's about the PARTY. A beautiful, pamper-licious, full-of-drinks-and-food party that celebrates bloggers. To think that someone missed out on the party because of the swag makes me sick to my stomach.
It's not about the swag. It just isn't.
I don't regret giving out swag bags. We love giving the best that a swag bag has to offer. We love showering women bloggers with gifts from companies that value their voice. I do believe there is a place for swag, a place where it doesn't dictate how things are done, a place where it is not the focus but simply a nice benefit. We're slowing finding that place. We'll get there.
For as many people who were bummed out during or after the party, there were way more people who were excited, grateful and just downright positive. And that is what SocialLuxe (and really the entire BlogHer weekend) is all about - the joy of all coming together for a great time!
Allison, Marie and I love doing SocialLuxe. It's empowering, challenging and fun. We love throwing a free party for amazing women bloggers, from the newest blogger to the most established and well-known out there. We love bringing all those people together for the greatest Girls' Night Out you can imagine. Whether or not someone wants the bag of goodies, we just want everyone to have a great time. We hope that's what happened. We know we had a blast.
Thanks to everyone who came this year, for sharing your time with us, for letting us hang with you and have a little fun.