Last week I had the honor of attending ALT Summit. For those of you who are unfamiliar, Alt Summit is a business conference for creative bloggers and brands to connect in a real life setting. With classes, parties, and more, Alt inspires brilliance with everything it does. Jo-Ann Fabric and Craft Stores sponsored my Alt Summit ticket, so that I might have the opportunity to bring that experience to life for you.
Having been to Alt Summit in Salt Lake City for 2 years in a row now, I can honestly say – I love this conference. Alt manages to bring the beauty of our daily blog reading to life, all in one place. Transforming an ordinary hotel conference space, into a creative genius’ dreams. Allowing companies, brands, and bloggers to come together and meet face-to-face.
From check-in, to classes, to parties – everything is over the top and seamless, providing the attendee a first class experience.
Having come from a corporate events background myself, one of the things I love about Alt is that it does a great job of really making attendees excited to be there. Starting off by sending presents in the mail for months leading up to the big event courtesy of Alt sponsors, hosting on-line classes so you have an opportunity to meet fellow attendees, and offering opportunities via contests to host your own party or win tickets. So that when the day comes to finally travel – you cannot wait to get on the airplane. As of that moment, it is officially GO time.
On the airplane, you start looking around to find the super stylish person on board, the person with the DIY earrings or bag, knowing that they are more than likely a fellow attendee. You are on your Instagram feed checking the #altsummit hashtag every 20 minutes or so, smiling at everyone you pass, talking to everyone you meet, and essentially being the most friendly person you can be. It is like being yourself on a great day…times ten.
After check-in there are a few pre-conference classes, to help you get your feet wet. But Alt Summit officially kicks off with the infamous Wednesday night dinners. I find these dinners to be the MOST IMPORTANT part of the entire event. It is also the hardest to choose.
Offering upwards of 10 dinners, each hosted by various sponsors, you need to select which dinner you would like to attend. That is hard all in its own, because often you are torn between which dinner to select! But the Wednesday night dinner offers something the rest of the conference does not, an opportunity to truly CONNECT with your number one brand. To spend a few hours in an intimate setting with your choice company, and really connect on a personal level. Learn what they are looking for, become friends, and truly give them a feel for your personal style and self. Furthermore, you are sitting with like-minded bloggers whom you can talk with, and get to know. It is the only time in the entire conference where you are sitting in a small setting, not surrounded by 700 people. And the company hosting the event knows that out of all of the dinners you could have attended, you chose them.
I chose the ulive dinner, because there were companies and bloggers there in which I was already friends with and wanted to get to know better. After all, I will choose laughter over awkward moments any day of the week! Just to give you an example…
And those are just the people I remember or met at the dinner! So much talent, all squeezed around one table. As always, I was blown away. But my favorite part of the dinner had to be the laughter…and the contest that sprung up between the Simple Simon & Co. ladies. There was a ‘Liz Off’. Liz & Elizabeth ended up having to go home and sew something for one of the ulive reps, by the next morning!!! He would then wear each outfit around the conference the next day, and whomever got the most votes won. Unfortunately for him, he didn’t know what he was signing up for considering we had just finished talking about swants before the contest broke out.
I am pretty sure this one is my favorite…
Come Thursday morning, the conference was in full swing, kicking it off with Garance Doré‘s inspirational speech.
Moving into the emotional branding class by PS I Made This Erica Domesek, whom I adore. I had a little Taylor Swift action going on there…
And then finishing the daytime sessions with a blog revenue class hosted by various superstars, including Design Crush, and Say Yes to Hoboken. Throughout it all you are stopping into the lounges to network with your favorite brands and companies, handing out as many business cards as you can, and eating fabulous treats.
And did I mention the Photobooths, Rule #1 at Alt Summit:
Photo booth EVERY possible chance you get!
I happened to love the animated gif photo booths…we had fun :). For some reason though, I couldn’t stop sticking my tongue out. It was like a bad Miley Cyrus twerking move, I think I picked it up from my kids who happen to stick their tongue out every time I say ‘make a silly face’. I am going to need to work on that. HA!
And that was all before the evening festivities.
The GREEN PARTY. The themed party that occurs on Thursday night, that everyone stresses out about what to wear, and this year’s theme was green.
I had so much fun hanging out with these ladies!!!
I decided to wear camouflage like a BOSS. More on that in a future post. But yes, it is hand sewn, yes I used a pattern, and yes I will share what I did! It was awesome.
Moving on to Friday, I had the honor of sitting in on a fabulous round table class by Amy Locurto of Living Locurto. Whom I officially love now. She spoke about pricing for your worth, and what we as bloggers should be charging for our work. Amy opened my eyes to how we should be valuing ourselves, and it is not always about pageviews – but rather what your hourly rate would be as a consultant – I loved that. She was truly inspiring and phenomenal.
I visited the Cricut lounge, hosted by the incredible Rachel Faucet of Handmade Charlotte, and heard all about their new machine launching soon.
And the very best part, is I got to meet and hang out with these 2 incredible ladies!!!! Erin and Celina of the 2013 Sewing Rabbit Team!!! Eeek, I love them. They are truly so much more fabulous in person, I was honored and thrilled to have had the opportunity to hang out with them!
Honestly, that was like the icing on the cake for me. After having worked with them every day for the past year, to meet them in person was a dream come true!
I also got to hand out fun presents from Jo-Ann Fabric and Craft Stores to my friends, which everyone loved!!!
I listened to a fabulous class on dealing with negativity hosted by my roomie Dana, which was so much fun! I haven’t laughed so hard in a class yet. And then went to lunch where I had the opportunity to listen to Christy Turlington Burns and Heather Armstrong of Dooce, just to name a couple, speak about Every Mother Counts.
The class I was looking forward to most of all, was the Pinterest class in which our very own Celina Bailey was a panelist!!! Let me be the first to tell you, she was INCREDIBLE. I kid you not, it was the most packed class I saw while there. It was standing room only. And she knocked it out of the park.
I was so happy for her, she had a line a mile long after the class of people wanting to talk to her and ask questions. She was truly amazing.
From there we all went to hear the founder of Pinterest talk, Mr. Ben Silberman. And of course, he was fabulous as well. Encouraging us to continue reaching for our dreams, and that failure is ok. To ENDURE.
After a day full of amazing classes and speakers, you finish with a BANG. The Friday night mini-parties. Where you roam from room to room, all with different themes, all transporting you to someone else’s vision of creativity.
I danced with Garance Dore, I watched our fellow Susan of Freshly Picked get a deal with Damon on Shark Tank, I got loads of goodies from the sponsors, and I mainly had fun with my girls…
Alt Summit is this amazing experience, something you cannot get anywhere else. A place where 700 of the most creative people you know, people who are incredible in every way and are chasing after their dreams whole-heartedly, come together to meet, connect, laugh, learn, inspire, and party. It is jam packed with awesomeness, and you are completely wiped out when it is all over – feeling indeed like you turned into a pumpkin at midnight.
Here is my advice for those of you thinking about attending Alt Summit, or other conferences in the future…
- Should I attend Alt Summit (or other conference)? You need to know what you want in your personal brand first. Do you simply enjoy blogging, and are happy with where you are at? No, its expensive and you will feel like a wallflower. Do you want to grow with brands and other bloggers, and bring your blog to the next level? YES. This is the place for you. There is no other place where you can go, and be in the elevator next to the Creative Director of Brit & Co. (Hi Anjelika!), play Plinko with Wayfair reps, or make a yarn letter with Bing. THIS IS WHERE YOU NEED TO BE to do any of that, and to get your business seen by the right people.
- Should I have a roommate? YES YES YES. I know, you are leaving your family and life behind for a few days, and the idea of bubble baths are appealing. GET A ROOMMATE. Even if you don’t know them all that well, they will be your wingmen for the entire event! When you are feeling uncomfortable in a room, you suddenly have a person you can text to find out exactly where they are. Not only that, but you walk away from the conference already a winner, whether or not you connect with a brand, because you have made real friends with incredible ladies having spent that time together. I got four of them, and had the time of my life! Love these girls…
- How do I make the most of Alt Summit? Get out there! I know it is awkward feeling like you are promoting yourself, but guess what – if you aren’t willing to do it, no one else is going to do it for you. Have a better response to the question: ‘What kind of blog do you write?’. ‘Sewing blog’ is a conversation ender. You don’t just write a sewing blog, you author the MOST AMAZING SEWING BLOG OUT THERE (*insert exaggerated wink here). You need to smile, be friendly, and be unafraid to approach the people you want to meet. After all, they are just PEOPLE – like you! Jump in every Photobooth you see, smile at everyone you pass, talk to the people in the elevator with you, compliment your neighbors bag – whatever it takes! Just be your most awesome self, love on others and talk them up whenever possible, and you will naturally rise to the top.
- How do I connect with someone? It’s not just about going up to someone and handing them your business card. Make a true heart-to-heart connection. LISTEN to them, don’t simply pitch your own ideas. HEAR what they are looking for. Be a person, a true person, who cares what they have to say. Don’t simply wait for your opportunity to pitch yourself. If you know who you want to connect with prior to the conference, drop them an e-mail to let them know you will be there! Exchange cell phone numbers so you can text one another during the conference if appropriate. If you are walking up to someone during the event, try not to interrupt their current conversation – but get involved in an organic way. Or ask someone you know to introduce you. Trust me – they WANT to meet you. They have paid a lot of money to be there, to meet YOU. Just be approachable, be friendly, be yourself – and they will love you. Just remember – its not about meeting all of the companies / brands. Its about meeting the right ones for a great fit.
- How can I afford it? This is the tough one. The reason that keeps so many people at home, browsing the hashtag feed wishing they were there. At the end of the day, we all have husbands or families or financial situations that are tough to justify going to a conference. I was blessed to have Jo-Ann Fabric and Craft Stores sponsor my ticket this year, but the last couple of conferences I attended it was all out of pocket. Alt Summit is not just a giant girl’s get-away party. It is a NETWORKING event. And you need to look at it as such, an investment in your business. Last year I made back what I paid to go, via company connections and work. For some people they are getting a return on their investment based on what they learn in the classes. Either which way, you need to go on faith, trusting that you will make the connection(s) that pay off. So the second you start looking at your blog as a business, you need to start wondering which conference you should be attending. Alt Summit, SNAP!, Sewing Summit, Mom Summit 2.0, Quilt Market, and the list goes on. Choose the one that is the right fit for you, and make it a priority to attend.
- Other random tips…These may not work for you, but are things that work for me. 1) Don’t ever sit (unless you are eating), at a party. That is the moment you become a wallflower and get tired. It’s a long day, trust me – you will fall asleep and rather be in your room if you are sitting. 2) If there is music playing, DANCE. 3) Don’t be afraid to not be stylish. After sitting in the hotel lobby late one night, in my high heels and sore feet, the person I was most jealous of was the smart girl who came down in her pajamas to hang out. 4) Take advantage of the ‘off-hours’ time. I made some great connections in the early morning hours, when I was awake due to jet lag and sitting in the hotel lobby in my sweats drinking coffee. We had a sort of ‘breakfast club’ with Pretty Prudent, Lesley Graham, and more. 5) Talk others up, especially during introductions. Never miss out on an opportunity to shine the light on someone else. It will make you feel great. 6) Presents for your roommates? Always a great thing. 7) Have a media kit ready. If you cannot get it together before the conference, no problem. Make sure you have a pdf version to follow up with after the event. 8) Don’t sweat the people who ignore you. Yes, I get ignored…a lot. When you are in a room with blogging superstars, there tends to be gravitational pull towards the celebs. Often this can leave you standing alone, or worse if you happen to be talking to that celeb…the person who comes up to join you can shoulder you out of the conversation. Try not to sweat it. It stinks, I know. But it does not reflect on you as a person. The person ignoring you simply does not know how awesome you are…yet. 9) Don’t let the numbers you hear let you feel like less of a blogger. You start to hear some pretty big blog numbers get thrown around at conference. So-and-so has 2 million page views, while so-and-so only has 1.5 million monthly page views. Don’t let it get you down. Remember you have something AWESOME to offer people, your unique voice. No one can take that away from you.
Just know, wherever you are at in your sewing or blogging life – you already are a superhero or rock star in someone’e eyes. Whether that be your husband, your children, your Mom, or someone else. You don’t need a conference to tell you so.
But it sure is fun.
Thank you so much again to Jo-Ann Fabric and Craft Stores for sponsoring my ticket to Alt Summit. Be sure to stop on by as I share some of the incredible outfits I made to wear to Alt Summit, and how you can make them too!
Thanks so much for stopping by, and until next time…