I had the chance to attend MommyCon Anaheim a few weeks ago. It was a different experience this time because it was last minute, it was primarily to help out a friend, and because this time, I had a little bit of a different approach to it. I also got to partially see it from a vendor perspective, and from the kid perspective which I think was very telling. This review is going to be a different more broken down approach as I view it from all different angles.
Excitement and Buzz: MommyCon has picked up momentum. People are excited about the chance to attend these conferences. Unfortunately, the venue chosen this time in Anaheim could not hold more people, honestly, it could barely hold the people they already had, so it was sad to see so many disappointed people in the communities who wished they could attend the conference. This means the conference is getting bigger and will have more to offer in the future?
Location: Painful, oh so painful. This little circle of hotels surrounding the convention center proved to be painful on this weekend. This was in spitting distance to Disneyland, it was a marathon weekend at Disneyland, and there were multiple events going on at the hotel itself, including another conference across the hall from MommyCon. Parking ran out at a certain point, and so you had to either be staying in the hotel or you had to go park across the street at Disneyland. It was not the easiest to maneuver. It was also $10 to park with no in and out privileges. The locations for different things at MommyCon were split between multiple floors, and areas, so figuring out where you were going was not easy. I was able to locate a total of 3 bright pink MommyCon signs the whole day. I didn’t want to be someone who needed to be in multiple rooms at any given time because that would have been hard to navigate.
Registration: This line was long, and it did not let up for a long time. Vendor registration and Attendee registration was in the same area, and while I think it should have been labeled better, at least the staff that were hired to register people were kind with passing you along. There were only 3 people at the registration table though, and with the 500+ attendees, I can’t imagine it happened quickly. Maybe there were more people there before the conference opened that I didn’t see. I think one issue was that those who did registration, didn’t know how the area was split up for different things, so they weren’t versed on where to direct people. With so much going on, I don’t blame them.
Vendor Relations and Placement: I had the luxury of seeing things from a different perspective this year, and it was kind of nice to come along and help with set up and see things before the doors opened and got crazy. Except for the fact that things were crazy before the doors even opened. Last minute the morning of MommyCon, there were still tables without vendor labels and table placement was being changed midway through set up, making it difficult for those who needed to set up booths to know where they were supposed to be. This messy morning was very similar to what I experienced in 2014, and it made me concerned that this may be another hot mess. This was a huge disappointment. Also, anyone could walk in and out of the exhibition hall during the set up process. I didn’t have my registration done, and I just walked in and out with no security or check in required. I finally got registered at 10am.
Holy Jaime Grayson: The only time I did not want to be in the MommyCon exhibition hall was any time Jaime Grayson was scheduled to be in there. Jaime spent an entire week flying around the country before landing in Anaheim for MommyCon late the night before. You can follow his disaster of a flying adventure on Periscope. I am pretty confident he spent the hours where he was not scheduled to be on the floor of MommyCon, hiding in his room trying to recover from the travel day before. The few hours he was on the floor though was like watching teenage girls swarm Justin Beiber. Jaime is the baby world celebrity. He was there to show you some gear, but really it was swarms of people wanting to meet him. You could barely walk anywhere around the ‘Jaime Zone’, which happens to be in the middle of everything. It was fun to watch just how many people swarmed him during those hours, but boy was it a traffic jam. I miss the old way they did things where Jaime had a speaking session. Especially after experience Gearapalooza and seeing Jaime in his element, it was disappointing that the only time Jaime was on the floor was for picture time with no real time to ask about gear stuff. Don’t ear mark going to MommyCon to see him in 2016 because it was announced that he will not be a feature at all of them.
Giveaways: So apparently the space where MommyCon was held this time was not large enough to hold everyone for the Giveaway time that usually happens with Jaime at the end of the day. So they did it a little differently this time and you come back to the registration table sometime during the day and pull a ticket out of a box. They hole punch your card so you can only enter once. This was probably the most genius thing they have ever done. It gave people the luxury of going in and out of the conference without having to wait 8 hours to see if they win something or forfeit their winnings. It was not chaotic and nobody was in a desperate rush to get a seat or console an unhappy child. Everyone had the same fair chance to enter by just pulling a slip out of the box. It made the whole experience calm and easy. They need to keep this one going, or do ticket numbers or something, the last time was just a hot mess, as usually that is the case when you cram every parent and child into a room with fingers crossed during dinner time.
Clean-Up: This was relatively painless as everyone who wasn’t supposed to be on the floor was shuffled out and the room was broken down by those who were running the booths. Some booths broke down early as they were not receiving many people coming to them, but overall it was a calm after the store. The Baby Wearing center struggled though as their volunteers that ran the center were not around the break it down. So at the end of the day I saw a mom who was in a wheelchair, Jaime Grayson and Annie from Beco (I think) break down the majority of stuff by themselves. Jaime even called out to the masses to come help, but everyone was busy, and baby wearing community was no where in site.
Chaotic and Busy: It was busy busy busy, but because some of the most popular booths were all on the same side of the room, it added to the crazy feel. MommyCon store, Cloth Diaper Resource Center, Tekhni Time and fitting, Baby wearing Resource Center, Car Seat Information Center, Clek Booth, most of the Cloth Diaper Booths, and Jaime Meet and Greet were all on the same side of the room. So everyone and their best friend was swarming the same side of the room. It was hard. The set up was also hard because on one side of the room with the doors, were 3 rows you needed to walk in and out of, while on the other side where none of these crazy busy booths and it was open and spacious. It might have been better to add some of the lesser known breastfeeding booths to the more open side because they were easily forgotten and lost in the shuffle of cloth-diaper-topia.
Big Kids Not Allowed: I had the luck of experiencing MommyCon with a 5 and 6 year old this year. This was not fun for them. Even though MommyCon tried to offer something for bigger kids at their Little Dippers Arts and Crafts tables sponsored by We Can Too, it was not a highlight for many. The poor boys were bored out of their mind after just an hour of being at MommyCon. None of the products, talks, or activities were related to older kids, and there really wasn’t an offering for older kids. There is talk about Chicago 2016 offering a camp for older kids, and I think this is a great idea. If MommyCon wants to continue to grow, they need to grow with the growing generation and offer stuff for moms and kids who are not diapering and baby wearing any longer. Parenting doesn’t end when kids start talking and going to school and I am hoping they grasp that and start offering more for the families who no longer have babies. Even a space for bigger kids to just play with Legos and Blocks could have added to the experience for them. It would be nice to learn about snacks and lunch boxes too for kids who are in school.
MommyCon offered some fun coloring books for older kids, but glossy paper and the We Can Too crayons did not go well. I highly suggest maybe going with a more matte paper if MommyCon continues to offer these cool coloring books in the future. The color pencils were amazing though, and if product placement was the goal, I was sold on these the moment I saw them. Order me 10 please!
Purchase with a Purpose:
Two booths at MommyCon this year had items to purchase that would support a purpose. Smart Bottoms was at MommyCon selling their Jax and Jill diaper which was exclusive to the event and supporting Giving Diapers Giving Hope, and Eylas had a retail booth with a bunch of products including their Eco Vessel Water bottle that supports Giving Diapers Giving Hope. MommyCon also is about giving back to the community with their Military Discount and Scholarship opportunities for attendees. In partnership with Cotton Babies, MommyCon is also a Share the Love donation site wherever they are hosting the conference as a quick and easy drop off for cloth diaper donations.
Highlights of MommyCon Anaheim:
Seeing the amount of vendors this time and the access to them made for a warm family feeling. The cloth diaper resource center was smaller in space this time, but it seemed to be helpful to a lot of people. It might be better to staff it with more than just poor Kim Rosas, because it looks chaotic and busy at times where another set of hands might have been helpful, at least until Kim learns to clone herself.
Learning about using a menstrual cup and the interruption of Jaime Grayson where he just couldn’t handle period talk anymore. Kim Rosas and Amanda Hearn are an entertaining pair of fun. These two together doing the cup talk is like watching the best infomercial ever. They are a comedic act to be reckoned with. Infographics, and perfect puns, it was a truly fun and laughable learning experience. I have never had so much fun learning about my period before. Kim Rosas is like a very vibrant excited Oprah who wants everyone to have a Size 2 Diva Cup for their Size 2 Vagina!
Shopping, Shopping, Shopping: Save your pennies ladies and gents, MommyCon is exploding with hot vendors, new brands, and it really is the place to mix and mingle with your favorites. There is a bit of exclusivity to the brands and retailers at MommyCon, I think they are the most well known ones more than anything. There are exclusive products just for MommyCon like certain diaper prints and baby carriers, so that is going to probably continue in the future. There are also great deals and discounts only offered at MommyCon. So if you’re looking for latest, greatest and coolest, bring your wallet ready to be emptied because MommyCon is now a shopping experience too! The extra bonus is getting to meet your favorite brands along the way, meet the people that make the stuff you love.
The SWAG (Shit We All Get) Bag:
The gift bag this year that comes with your registration pass is chalked full of fun and more breastfeeding geared stuff. From looking at all the posts on MommyCon this year, it seems the stuff in each bag varies a bit from event to event. I didn’t win any giveaway, and I didn’t get any VIP chance this year, so all I received was a Gift Bag of the basics, which was pretty worth it, and worth its weight in registration price. Highlights of the gift bag are the Ju Ju Be bag and the Kiinde system which is an amazing gift to new moms who are looking for a great pumping and feeding system. I love Kiinde and was so excited to see them in the bag! Way to go MommyCon for promoting the on the go working mom. This gift bag is perfect for any mom who works in my opinion.
Laney of Team MommyCon: So my last run in with Laney ended with me frustrated and pissed to hell with her attitude. She was a huge part of my shitty experience at MommyCon 2014. This year though, I have to change my opinion and give her the benefit of the doubt that she had a shitty day at MommyCon SF 2014 and that is not her natural attitude. I watched Laney of Team MommyCon not do registration this year, but instead was in her own element and working the show like a pro. I don’t think I saw her stop to mix and mingle or sit around. She was running around like an event planner would (I should know, I did it for 2 years), and the moment when she did finally sit down at the end of the day after she set up the room for the final seminar, she sat down next to me and laughed and had fun watching Kim Rosas and Amanda Hearn. I’m pretty sure she had no idea who I was or that I was giving her a bit of the side eye wondering if she had a death wish or was going to kill me right there, but it was interesting to just see her sit and actually enjoy a moment. She maybe sat down for a whole 3 minutes total, but after watching her run around all day offering customer service and catering, I can say she really is a different version of the Laney I met at MommyCon SF 2014. So I retract my previous opinion of Laney Kolker of Team MommyCon. She really is a professional working face of the show, and maybe dare I say, an enjoyable person to interact with, even if it was only for a minute.
Ehh for Xza: So I ran into Xza of Team MommyCon and who I would say might be the face of the whole conference 4 times. I didn’t have an enjoyable experience. I understand Xza is there working the show floor and she did have Luella her infant daughter with her for a bit of it, but 3 of the four times I saw her, she was without child, and while I wanted to say hi, there was no acknowledgement from her whatsoever. It was a bit disheartening to see her exclusively mix and mingle with the same crowd throughout the day when there were people who wanted to say hello not from that crowd. I wanted to thank her for the experience and ask her a question, but the one time in passing where she was alone and just walking down a hall, she ignored everyone. If it was just me trying to approach her, I might have been more understanding that she was just ignoring me, but that wasn’t the case. It just very much felt like she was the star, and working with the general public wasn’t required. Hopefully this was an isolated incident because her persona on periscope is very inviting and the first time I met her in 2014, she was actually very sweet and welcoming.
Overall Experience: I think after another run in with MommyCon and seeing it from a different perspective and allowing other opinions to influence me, I would go again. I think there are still a lot of things they need to work on. Being that this was their third year running, MommyCon has grown significantly and maybe shrunk a little too in certain aspects. MommyCon was larger in Orange County in the past, but it looks like this time, they underestimated their popularity. There needs to be a lot of fixes between hiring more staff for the day of the event, being aware of parking and competing conferences and locations they choose for their event, and offering a little bit more for the growing family, but it sounds like 2016 is on its way to being a better experience.
Wishes for my next run in with MommyCon:
– More central location for everything. Doing a scout of a location before picking it would be helpful to understand the dynamics of movement. You are looking at 500+ parents who will be with their children, with strollers, baby carriers, and toting stuff. There needs to be a larger floor plan for movement and traffic on the exhibitor floor. There needs to also be an easier way to travel from room to room verses having different things on different levels or areas of the hotel. That is not convenient for a mom with a tot with her.
– Something for bigger kids. If MommyCon 2013 had toddlers, MommyCon 2016 probably has those toddlers getting ready or already in school. Offer something for the growing family experience.
– Make the Map and schedule easier to read. I’m not a genius, nor am I an idiot and the schedule was still difficult to read. Technically, one of the hired staff couldn’t even figure out the schedule and map when I asked her for assistance.
– Security needs to be improved. That fact that I was able to walk in and out of the exhibit hall before opening without my registration pass, and the rest of the team did too, makes me wonder if there is any point in buying tickets aside from the free goody bag and giveaway.
– Plan Ahead! Way ahead. VIP tickets should not be this hard. Some people travel from far away and if 2015 attendees have to stalk your website for a chance at VIP tickets when in 2014 it was open to general public during regular registration, then something has changed and not for the better. I preferred it the old way when you could figure out your schedule way before the event, not 30 days before, especially if I am flying across the country to attend the event.
– Please for the love of all things, make Parking easier. 2 different events in 2 different places 400 miles from each other has proved to me that the logistics of parking were not considered during the planning of MommyCon.
– More seminars and something new. There was not a lot of new stuff with MommyCon this year and that was a bit disappointing. I am looking forward to more offerings in the next year. Please for the love of all thing baby, let there be something new in 2016.
Here are to fingers crossed for an even better MommyCon Experience in 2016.