Last month I spent four wonderful crazy days in Salt Lake City, Utah for the Alt Design Summit. If you haven’t heard of Alt before, imagine this: a conference which brings together 600+ (mostly women) bloggers + business & life savvy learning panels with industry toppers + design classes (Illustrator 101, anyone?) + croissant bread pudding + sequins + polka dots all wrapped up inside The Grand America Hotel. That’s the simplified equation, but let me elaborate…
Last year when I was still living in Houston, I entered into a solid pact with Alicia & Bri (the Whimsey Box girls!): we were going to meet up for Alt Summit in 2013. Thankfully with a bit of planning, we were able to make it happen! I had been following Alt Summit summaries and hashtags in previous years and was pinching myself that I’d actually be there this year. I wanted to attend Alt Summit to learn and connect with other like minded women who are using their blogs as platforms to help others and grow their businesses. There’s something about being surrounded by people with momentum, hustle, and drive that I love so much because it lets me believe that I can do this, too. I couldn’t put my finger on exactly why I wanted to attend… I wasn’t looking to monetize my blog, or pitch a book idea to an editor… but I knew that I did and do want to build community, photograph beautiful weddings in Portland and beyond, connect with my readers, share stories and do all of this with intention and excitement, hustle and momentum.
After landing in Salt Lake, my rolly suitcase and I caught a cab to the hotel with Meg and Maddie from A Practical Wedding. I checked into the hotel room and was reunited with Bri and Alicia, and met Rachel. The four of us were roomies in suite 582. I changed out of my plane clothes (traveling never really makes you feel clean, right?), bundled up and walked to Minted’s sponsored dinner at Cucina Toscana (you can see some official photos here). Minted did a beautiful job decorating the venue and the food was spectacular. What sold me was the hot chocolate they served after the tiramisu. Dessert after dessert? You’re speaking to my heart! This was my first chance to make new friends! People had travelled from as far away as Hong Kong to be at that dinner. Walking the almost-mile back to the hotel with Sarah, Robin, and Rachel, we had a bunch to talk about and neither of us slipped on any ice. Win.
To get an idea of the sorts of panels that were happening during the day, check out the schedule. At any given time, there were three panels going on at once, broken up with a lunchtime keynote speaker. Sometimes it was tough making a choice because every panel seemed so good. Here are the panels I attended and loved:
- Collaborating with Sponsors with Mitra Morgan, Merrilee Liddiard, Camille Styles, Annie Selke, & Jenny Komenda
- Personal Branding with Jasmine Star
- Getting Your Online Life Organized with Erin Loechner
- Building Offline Events with Laura Mayes, Stacey Ferguson, Megan Gilger, & Danielle Krysa
- Feeling the Fear roundtable with Michelle Edgemont
- It’s Not Too Late to Start a Blog with Mara Kofoed, Kirsten Krason, Steph Morgan, & Erin Kennedy
- Media Kits 101 with Meg Keene and Maddie Eisenhart
- Illustrator 101 with Melanie Burk
The Grand Hotel truly went above and beyond to make sure we were comfortable and well-fed at all times. Hot chocolate bar, and aforementioned bread pudding… other hotels, take note. At night when the panels were over, Alt Summit and the sponsors had fantastic parties arranged for us. Thursday evening was a Clue party where everyone had to wear either mustard, peacock (what I wore), plum, white, scarlet, or green. There was always something to do… downtime could wait until I was home!
Packing my suitcase up for the short flight home, I rolled my clothes into neat little cylinders, and made sure I had one zippered compartment free to store all of the beautiful business cards I had received from the people I had met. So much variety and creativity. Each one represents a connection and shared experience. I treasure that I had the chance to meet the ladies behind these pieces of card stock, wood puppy pins, and pom poms. Thumbing through my notebook and thinking back on Alt Summit, here are some snippets that have me thinking:
- Compelling and original content is key.
- When you work with others, whether sponsors or clients, make it a win win experience for everyone.
- When you work together with the right clients, magic happens.
- “Make it simple, make it personal, make it beautiful.” Merrilee Liddiard
- Always put your readers first.
- “Seek to work with people who work like you, who have goals that complement yours and vice versa.” Mitra Morgan
- Blogging is powerful… we essentially own the means of production. What are we going to create with this power?
- “When it comes to my story, it has to be mine, and I have to love it.” Jasmine Star
- “When organizing your online life, think customization, not organization.” Erin Loechner
- “Actually doing the things I set out to do increases the level of my satisfaction.” Stefan Sagmeister
- “Having guts always works out for me.” Stefan Sagmeister
- Don’t worry about finding your voice. Use the voice you already have. Let authenticity be your x-factor. Mara Kofoed
- “When planning offline events, ask yourself: how will this offline experience translate to my readers so it’s an event that they’ll fall in love with as well?” Megan Gilger
And this is how it translates to action; my goals following Alt Summit:
- Write an e-mail to every single person who I traded business with. I want to build relationships and sustain friendships.
- Blog five times a week. I need to make this happen.
- Plan a styled shoot with Kae. I’m really excited for this collaboration… we’ve been pinning for a while on our top secret pin board. Shhh!
- Reach out to local businesses to collaborate so that we can create fresh content.
- I ordered a lightmeter, film, and batteries. The only thing missing is a medium format film camera I’ve got my eye on. I’m going to start shooting film this year!
- Create an offline event for my local couples… something fun that brings people together. Of course, there will be food.
- Work on a personal food photography project. I want to create something that would be editorial worthy.
- I’ve created a framework/checklist of things I need to be doing for my business every single day. Check off all the boxes (but don’t confine yourself to them). Do the work. Every. Single. Day!
Would I go to Alt Summit again next year? Absolutely. Let me know if you have any questions I can answer!