Okay, so this post is obviously only vaguely useful if you're reading this wondering if you should come next year, and since this was my first year I can't even say that it's what a normal ALT summit looks like. But I didn't hear anyone saying that this year was terrible or exceptional, so I imagine it was pretty typical...
Which means that typical is awesome. So the venue was great and the event was well-coordinated. It wouldn't have meant anything at all if it weren't for the speakers and attendees. I honestly cannot stress enough how amazing everyone at ALT Summit was. And continues to be, since they did not cease to exist the moment they walked out of The Grand America.
Let's start with the speakers. I lost track of how many times I was so inspired during a talk that the only thing stopping me from running out of the room, arms waving, screaming, "I've got work to do!!!!" was the idea of social decorum. You all can thank my mom.
I'm not going to break it down speaker by speaker, because you all have a life and if you were there, you know how amazing they all were and if you're looking into coming to a future event, these specific speakers probably won't be speaking anyway. So...Okay! Yes, I am. I just can't not tell you how inspiring each of these people are in their own way. I'll make it short, though!
Reachel Bagley of Cardigan Empire opened it up for me with her Early Bird Session on Wednesday afternoon. (Okay, totally got side-tracked there as I went to her website to get the link info. Don't go there unless you have at least half an hour to spend. Trust me.) She gave some great advice about how to network at the event, which was probably the most important information for me about the conference. She is beautiful inside and out and is on a mission to prove that you are, too.
Thursday's Keynote speaker was Lisa Congdon. I went into the conference without checking out the who's who, because that's how I roll. Because of this, I had no idea who Lisa was when I showed up. Within minutes, though, I was floored because I have multiple books by her on my bookshelves. I also did not realize that those books were by the same person, which just reaffirms my belief that I know what I like. Back to Lisa. She blew me away. It was during her talk that I had an epiphany - revamping my website when I moved over to Squarespace was the worst idea I've had in ages. I needed to get back to my roots and allow my passion to guide me. Trying to be like my favorite bloggers really wasn't working for me. Okay, I guess that was more about me that Lisa. Check her out, though, if you haven't already. Follow her on Instagram and buy her books. She brings joy.
Next up: The Alison Show. She is crazy in the best possible way. Her talk was another one of the ones I wanted to run out because I was overflowing with inspiration before the first ten minutes had passed. Her charisma and energy are contagious. Honestly. Her about page says that she started her blog "to share more love" and after her talk I truly believe her. She's awesome, and if you ever get the change to learn a dance move from her, do it!
So now it's still the morning at Alt Summit, and I am exploding with inspiration. My next session is called "Improve Your Instagram Photography" which is a little premature, seeing as I didn't have an Instagram account. Still, never one to back away from the face of ridiculousness, I boldly entered the room. Sara Deragon and Lisa Anderson Shaffer co-taught the session and it was quite good. It's hard to figure out how good, because although it did inspire me to create an Instagram account and start posting some pictures, I obviously don't have a before and after to compare.
After lunch, I headed to a Design Camp headed up by the talented (and sweet) photographer Meg Tsang-Hand. Meg used to be an architect, but left it to take up photography, and that has made many, many people happy. Her style is beautiful, quiet, and unique. I'd love to have my photograph taken by her one of these days. Awhhhhh.... Okay, enough day dreaming about how dreamy I would look in those pictures. Back to Alt. Meg hosted a Photography Basics session and it was great. My favorite component was about how to develop a consistent style. But more on that later... As for Meg, she is incredibly down-to-earth and if you have a wedding coming up or just want to capture a moment in time, be sure to call her. She's worth traveling for.
You can breath a sigh of relief. We've made it through Thursday and now it's time to leave all that information swirling through your head while you party. But go to bed early, because tomorrow it starts all over.
BRRRRNNNNGGGG! Your alarm clock is going off now (it's already 7!?!) and you have two hours to shower, get dressed, meet your new friends for breakfast, and get to the first session. If you hurry, you may have time to peek into the sponsors' rooms and grab a coffee. Which you will spill in one of the conference rooms. Yep.
Fridays sessions were generally a little less pertinent to my situation, but I'm always curious about what others are doing and I'm up for anything, so I didn't mind.
The first session I attended was a panel entitled, "Using Your Blog or Business to Do Good," which is something that is near and dear to me, so this one I was truly excited about. One of the motivational dampers I've been feeling recently is the realization that as a young adult I believed I was going to make the world a better place. On a large scale. On most days, I'm lucky to make my home a better place, never mind the entire planet. You guys, I used disposable diapers! WHO HAVE I BECOME!?! During my epiphany, I realized that I was going to have to strive harder in the "doing good" area if I want to look back on my life as a success. Obviously, this session was just what the doctor ordered. The panel was made up of Laura Mayers of the Mom 2.0 Summit, Sydney Price with Kate Spade's On Purpose Campaign, Heather Armstrong of Dooce and Laura Probst from The Honest Company. The panel was excellent and in another post I'll tell you more about what I came away with, but right now let me just tell you that this panel highlighted one of the overarching messages Alt gave to all of us: There are so many paths. One is not better than the other. Follow your heart and jump right in.
Next up, "Taking Your Shop to The Next Level." This was another panel. It was composed of DeNai Jones of Petunia Pickle Bottom, Kate Richardson from Puj, Annalisa Thomas of Oilo, and Elle Rowley of Solly Baby. This was definitely one of the sessions that was a little off base, because. well....I don't have a shop. But I could? Better to be prepared, just in case. And what I learned was that if I try to open a shop and it becomes successful I will have a nervous breakdown. I'm considering opening a shop, though, as soon as I prepare myself for a nervous breakdown. I want to have doctors on speed-dial and a facility eagerly awaiting my arrival before I open up, you know?
The conference ended with a speaker - Dallas Clayton. If you don't know who he is, you have to click on his link right away. Go ahead; I'll wait. Okay, so back to business... Dallas ended the conference on as high a note as Lisa Congdon started it. They were the perfect bookends, if you ask me. Which no one did, but if they had, that's what I would have told them. Dallas had an entire conference room of (mostly) women stand up and shout "I love you!" It was cool. Weird, but cool. Like Dallas.
Okay, so the speakers were amazing, but perhaps that's to be expected. Alt Summit does have a reputation to uphold. What about the attendees, though?
As you may know (if you read this post), I have a slight phobia about being in a room with multiple women. Don't laugh, it's true. I was incredibly nervous about coming to Alt Summit. It's kind of like having acrophobia (a fear of heights, people) and taking a helicopter to the top of Mt. Fuji. It was intense but I think it might have been the best exposure therapy ever, because the women at Alt were fantastically friendly and supportive. I'm pretty sure I even made friends! I can't be positive, because one of the reasons for my anxiety is that I am a "what you see is what you get" kinda girl, in that if I don't like you, I can't hide it. So many women are good at seeming interested in friendship, but are really just being polite. Then I feel all awkward when I suggest we get coffee and they make up some lame excuse. And then I start wondering, what if it's not an excuse and they really do need to bath their aging grandmother on Friday afternoons? Should I try again?
But even if the women I met were just being polite, they were being genuinely, sweetly polite. I cannot stress enough the sense of camaraderie and support I felt while there. I would be talking to a fantastic blogger whom I read regularly (Willowday, I'm talking about you!) and upon hearing that I was just starting out and figuring out what to do with this blog (more on that later...), she would completely validate me and what I am trying to do. Without any sense of superiority. It was rock-my-world amazing.
If you're considering going to an Alt Summit, do it. Go! Go! What are you waiting for?!