January 31, 2014
As many of you know, I jetted away to attend Alt Summit last week, a blogging conference in Salt Lake City, Utah. I’ve been asked numerous times (usually accompanied by a skeptical smile) what on earth a blogging conference actually is (and if there are more than 10 people in attendance!) so thought I’d attempt to sum up my experience for you. Alt was organized specifically for creative lifestyle bloggers like myself and topics each year range from “The Business Of Blogging”, “Personal Branding”, “Pinterest Strategies”, to”Growing Your Community” and many more. I went on my own (yep, that’s right!) and actually feel pretty darn proud of myself for taking the leap! While it would have been super awesome to have gone with a friend, not having a “wingman” really pushed me to introduce myself and yes, it was waaay out of my comfort zone. I definitely had some awkward/sweaty-palm/not-sure-where-to-stand-or-look moments and totally missed out on a couple of good interactions because of my own hesitation/fear/nerves but Que Sera Sera, so goes life. My only agenda (so to speak) was to be myself, meet new people and learn as much as possible to bring back to my Spruce partners and to apply here at Birch + Bird. And I’m happy to say that I feel like I accomplished all of my goals, yay!
If you’re looking to attend Alt Summit or another big conference in your field, I thought I’d share some of my top tips + things that I learned from my own experience in chilly Salt Lake:
- Invest in eye-catching business cards: I am so glad that I splurged on mine! They were a great conversation piece and honestly stood out from the rest. I’ve never seen so many beautiful cards in one place so, yes, you definitely want yours to be memorable.
- Plan out your outfits ahead of time: Although I’ve amped things up since opening Spruce fashion is an area of design that I have yet to master and I was freaking out the week before Alt. My sister-in-law Amy (who also happens to have been one of my best friends since high school) saved the day, in a very BIG way! We raided her closet (which is to-die-for!) for some key pieces (like blazers and statement jewelry) to mix in with things I already had. I chose outfits for each day (and night) before I left and it literally took all of the stress out of what to wear each day. Everyone at Alt Summit is dressed to the nines, not necessarily fancy, just entirely with it. But, to be totally honest, it all became one big blur by day 2 so don’t stress, just be prepared and wear what you feel makes you looks your best.
- Stay at the hotel: By the time I bought my conference ticket, the Grand America was sold out so I booked another hotel nearby. Thankfully, some blogger friends had booked an extra room and I was able to cancel my other booking but I think my entire experience would have been much different if I’d stayed offsite. First off, the Grand America is gorgeous so I lived it up for 4 nights, mega perk! Also, I didn’t leave the hotel for 2.5 days. Like, ever. Sure, I felt mildly claustrophobic and Vitamin-D-deprived by Friday night but it was so great to be able to pop up to my room between sessions to drop off swag (there’s lots of it!), freshen up or simply take a break from the masses.
- Go with your gut: I did my best to pre-plan what sessions I attended and had a good idea of what I wanted to learn before setting foot in Salt Lake. That being said, a couple of my favourite speakers were ones that I switched to literally 5 minutes before they started, based entirely on recommendations by past-attendees that I sat beside at lunch. So have a plan but be flexible.
- Take what you need: On a similar note as going with your gut, if you start a session and realize that you’re not getting as much as you think you should out of it, leave and move onto another one, even if it’s halfway through. I did this twice and was so glad that I did. If you find yourself checking Instagram or catching up on emails, it’s time to move on. Not that what the speakers are saying isn’t awesome, it just might not be what you need.
- Get around: Sure, you may go with friends or blogging/business partners but chatting with people you know every meal or break isn’t going to expand your horizons. I made a conscious effort not to cling-on to people I’d talked to before (it was hard!) and to sit next to new people at each meal. But I was lucky enough to know 4 awesome gals from Abbotsford though (hooray for Helinda + Lucy of Vitala and Laurel + Pam of The Sugarplum Sisters) which really made the parties a lot more fun! I had several moments outside of the Alt schedule that I wish I’d had the nerve to pull up a chair with a group of other bloggers but, sigh, I didn’t. Which brings me to my next tip. . .
- Don’t get down on yourself: Seriously. The voices in our heads can make us crazy, can’t they? I’ll never be the most fashionable girl at the party or the funniest or the most outgoing etc, etc, etc. But I am me. Mom, wife, friend, store owner, blogger, over-achiever-extraordinaire. Yep, that’s right, I’m awesome and so are you! Sure, moments at big events like Alt may bring you right back to to high school and the cool girls but so what. We’re all nervous and insecure but we also all have a lot to bring to the party. So bring it! “Be yourself and nothing less”, which just so happened to be our “cool girl’s” motto in high school (it’s true, ask Amy 😉
- Take time for yourself: Staying at the Grand America was a vacation in itself but I splurged and booked myself in for an extra day. My brain was so full by the end of the conference and I really needed some time to decompress. I also didn’t want to leave Salt Lake without taking a look around so I walked the downtown area on Saturday and was lucky enough to get the grand tour of Park City by my friend’s daughter later that afternoon. We just so happened to see Amy Poehler and Paul Rudd sitting directly behind us at dinner too ? NO JOKE! Overall, it was really relaxing to have so much alone time (I had more baths in 4 days than I usually have in 2 months!) but I do wish that I’d brought some workout gear along with me. I feel like it would have really energized me to hit the gym at least a couple of times during such a information-heavy event. Next time!
I left filled to the brim with ideas but also feeling confident, knowing that great things are ahead for me personally and especially for Spruce Collective. I also realized that the measure of success is very different to different people, and that for me, creating ideas and writing is truly what I am good at so I can’t waver and let self-doubt get in the way. A positive way to kick off the weekend, don’t you think? I’d love to hear your own experiences from Alt Summit or similar conventions so please share!