Last week in Chicago, I attended BlogHer09 -- one of the largest conferences for "women who blog," and I was there in my capacity as "the leading expert on career advice and employment."

That's a big title, I know, but it's on my business card and I stand by my brand. I was prepared to introduce myself and be inundated with requests for advice on résumés, interviewing and landing a sweet new job.

Unfortunately, there wasn't much time to dispense career advice at BlogHer09 because the attendees were interested in three things: swag, drinking heavily and talking about their personal blogging spheres.

The Swag
It goes without saying that a blogging convention will be swag-driven because no one makes any money using social media tools. Free stuff is an important part of attracting both attendees and vendors to the event.

BlogHer09 had a bevy of sponsors, from Clorox to PepsiCo, and I was amazed by how much money was spent on swag, trinkets and obligatory parties. I met celebrities such as Carson Kressley, Tim Gunn and Paula Deen, and those appearances aren't cheap.

Click here to read more about BlogHer after the jump.


If you combine the dollars invested in swag with the money invested in celebrity appearances, it's clear to me that BlogHer represents an important segment of the social media world.

In addition to celebrities, you couldn't walk five feet without tripping over free tchotchkes on the expo floor. Would you want free laundry detergent, Mr. Potato Head dolls, and bottles of Diet Pepsi? Oh yeah, the women of BlogHer wanted that stuff -- and more.

A much-publicized post by the BlogHer Crocs rep details the way in which some bloggers downright expected the booty.

I'm sure these freebies will be re-gifted to in-laws, neighbors and elementary school teachers during holiday season. I know my mother-in-law can't get enough canvas tote bags and free granola bars, so I grabbed her a box of Quaker Oats Fiber One bars on my way out of Chicago.

One bonus lesson from the celeb photo ops: Everyone looks thinner when photographed next to the Michelin Man.

The Drinks

It doesn't surprise me that the women of BlogHer like to drink, because many of them are mothers. They don't have much time to invest in themselves, let alone margaritas and fruity martinis.

What surprised me most were the conversations that emerged when women sat around drinking and let their guard down.

The Cafeteria-Style Catfights

If you think women in a big group all resort to junior-high-style cafeteria cliques that sneer at one another, you are sexist -- and also a little right. It turns out that many attendees of BlogHer align into personal blogging spheres, and many of those spheres don't get along.

As an example, there were mommybloggers versus divabloggers (women with kids who focus on themselves). There were fatbloggers versus fitnessbloggers. There were lesbianbloggers versus bloggers with conservative values.

Since I'm a careerblogger and almost everyone needs a job, I don't have a natural enemy or clique. I was able to float around the conference and have conversations with everyone, which is unfortunate, because part of me misses seventh grade. I long for the drama of having a nemesis.

Bottom Line
I emerged from BlogHer09 with three goals: I need to grab more swag at future conferences, I need to drink more fruity martinis and complain about my husband, and I need to start a blogging sphere of my own and create some trouble. I better get started right away because BlogHer10 is only a year away.

Laurie Ruettimann is a writer, speaker and HR exec with Fortune 500 experience. She blogs at Punk Rock Human Resources.