23 January 2012, 11:51
Alt Summit was a blast. If you haven’t heard of it before, sit back & get settled because I’m about to tell you! Basically, Alt Summit is the most fun blog conference I’ve ever attended.
Held in beautiful Salt Lake City, Utah, Alt Summit runs over three days. The first two days are dedicated to panels, keynotes & roundtable discussions, & the last day is devoted to design camps & hands-on skill learning.
The panels & discussions cover all kinds of topics, from the importance of personal branding to taxes for bloggers. You’ll learn about what makes a creative collaboration successful & you’ll hear about some new ways to grow your readership. You’ll discover how to create your own ad network, how to get a book published & learn all about blogger etiquette. It’s pretty fabulous.
It’s hard to explain what makes Alt so much fun, but I really think it’s due to the great attitudes of the attendees. It’s a major estrogen-fest — the only men there seemed to be husbands of women speaking! — but even so, there’s not that usual spirit of competition & stupid girl oneupmanship that so often comes along with a big group of women. (It makes for such a nice change!)
I met so many fantastic girls in my few days in Salt Lake City. It made my heart soar to laugh & talk with all these amazing women! Some of my favourites: The Girls With Glasses — Summer & Brooke have personality for days, they are SO great! Modern Kiddo — Dottie & Alix are hilarious! Designlovefest — Bri is about as real as it gets, I adored her Jasmine Star — Probably the best speaker I saw, & we share a mutual friend in Kat! Can’t wait to see them both in Vegas next month! Making It Lovely — Nicole is such a sweet girl! Design For Mankind — Erin is the Queen of Alt Summit, she knows everybody! I Still Love You — Melissa is an ex-breakdancing calligraphy genius! (Says it all, right?!)
Business cards are spilling out of my bright pink suitcase, too. I’m looking forward to digging through them all & adding some new finds to my RSS reader!
My favourite part of the three days was the mini-parties on Friday night. Alt Summit had control of an entire floor of the Grand America Hotel, with differently-themed parties in every room! It was so much fun, compounded (of course) by the fact that almost every one had a photobooth inside! Bloggers love a photobooth… The parties were so much fun, & gave us all a tremendous opportunity to make new friends. Love!
Gala & Jess; Brooke & Summer; Bri & Gala // Bri & Gala again; party girls!
Tips for Alt newbies!
I love, love, LOVED Alt Summit & I think you will too. Even though it’s primarily a conference for “design blogs” & their ilk, it’s great to get out of your own industry as much as you can. Don’t worry if you’re not a design blogger — I’m not, & I still had a fantastic time! So, if you’re planning on going along next year, here are some things I would encourage…
Set a couple of goals or intentions before you get there. I decided that my main priority was to be outgoing, friendly & positive. Sometimes — believe it or not — I can be a little shy, but I made an effort to be as open as possible, & benefitted hugely.
Conventions can be overwhelming & hard to deal with for even the most social of us, but if you walk around looking like you’re hating life, you’re not going to be able to extract maximum value from your time there. (Don’t worry, you can grimace all you like when you get back to your room!)
Take a break whenever you need to. I skipped a keynote in favour of going back to the hotel room for a little solitude, & I know I wasn’t the only one! I actually spoke to a girl who told me she had spent about an hour in a bathroom stall with her phone, just to get some space. Being around that many people in such an action-packed environment can be exhausting for even the peppiest socialite, so don’t pressure yourself to go to every panel, every keynote, every party. Pace yourself!
Split away from the pack. As much fun as it is to spend all your time with your best friends, you’ll miss out on a lot of interactions because a group is pretty impenetrable! Strike out on your own & talk to some new people. Embrace the unknown! WOO!
...Having said that, having one buddy that you can continually meet up with throughout the Summit is a great thing. It’s even better to have a roommate. I split a room with Jess & it was wonderful because we were able to go over our notes, make plans & talk about what we had both individually gained from the experience. (Um, as well as order room service together, go to Starbucks, hit up every vintage store in a 5 mile radius, etc.!)
Don’t worry so much about what you’re going to wear. Practically everyone I spoke to had had some kind of suitcase or packing anxiety prior to leaving, & really, it doesn’t matter. Bring a bit of sparkle for the parties at night, but during the day, just be your cute self. Most people aren’t really looking!
Definitely give some thought to your business cards, though! Alt Summit is like the business card holy grail. There were more than a few moments where it all felt very Patrick Bateman! (“Oh my god, it even has a watermark.”) I was given cards in vellum envelopes filled with confetti, that came with bracelets, that were all kinds of shapes, sizes & colours. It’s pretty fab. Make your card so brilliant that when people get home, they can’t help but want to check out your site!
Go to Decades! Decades is the best best best vintage clothing store in Salt Lake City, & I want to live there! It’s so fabulous. It also happens to be just around the corner from the Grand America Hotel, where the Summit itself is being held, so there are no excuses! Get thee to Decades!
Sign up for the dinners & design camp classes as soon as you hear about them. I didn’t know you had to do that (oops!) which meant I couldn’t go. From what I saw on Twitter, though, they were super-fun & action-packed!
Drink lots of water. DAMN, Salt Lake City is dry!
How could Alt Summit improve?
Make no mistake: Alt Summit is great, but we all want to get better, right? Just in case any of the Alt Summit organisers are reading this, here are some suggestions that I think would improve the conference in the future…
I think ALL conferences should have three “streams” of learning: sessions for beginners, sessions for intermediates & sessions for advanced people. Honestly, after 5 years doing this & having attended countless blog conferences, there’s not much that I haven’t heard before. I think this could be remedied by created different levels of learning. It’s hard to cater to 500 people, ranging from people who are just about to start a blog all the way up to dinosaur veterans!
I’d love to see more hands-on stuff that is blogging-specific. How about a panel which pulled up 5 blogs on a big screen, & then the panelists went through & critiqued the design, layout & content? That would be immediately helpful for EVERYONE in the audience. It’s actionable, it’s real.
Let’s start talking openly about numbers. I know that maybe sometimes we’re embarrassed to say how much we’re being paid for this or that, or to talk about how many hits we’re getting, but if we don’t share this information, the industry can’t grow. If we’re not sharing what we know, other women can’t ask for what they’re really worth! We need to empower one another through honesty.
Blatant honesty time: I have mostly given up on expecting to learn anything new when I attend a blog conference. Instead, I go for the social aspect, & the excitement of being able to discuss blogging with other people who are as passionate about it as I am. But this doesn’t have to be the way! With some good planning, ALL blog conferences could be a huge learning experience. My suggestion would be to pick speakers who’ve been blogging a long time, & aren’t afraid to be honest & transparent. It’s really important!
Of course, I have to say a huge thank you to the organisers of Alt Summit for inviting me to speak! I had an absolutely incredible time, & I’m already looking forward to next year!
Kisses & crystals & scented candles,
If you enjoyed this, check out: My recap of Blog World Expo — which also happened to be the first time Nubby & I went to Vegas together!, a write-up of the first time I spoke at Independent Fashion Bloggers’ Evolving Influence, an excerpt from Fashion 2.0: Blogging Your Way To The Front Row (well, MY chapter at least!), how to start a blog, more blogging questions, & these very silly photos from when Molly & I were in Austin for SXSWi!