Last Tuesday, I boarded a plane to Salt Lake City for Altitude Summit, a design conference for bloggers, creative business owners, and brands to come together, collaborate, and learn the ins and outs of creating successful businesses online.
I've wanted to attend Alt for years, but never could bring myself to pay the hefty ticket price. Each year at conference time, I would eagerly scan through all the blogs and Instagram feeds of all my favorite celebri-bloggers to get a feel of the atmosphere there. It was almost painful to watch, knowing that all these amazing connections were being made and I was missing out.
This year, I decided it was my turn to go and treat myself to a fantastic learning and networking experience.
Spoiler alert: it was AMAZING. Worth every penny. I laughed. I cried. I whooped. I want to go back.
Here are my takeaways and advice for newbies who are thinking of attending Alt:
1. Alt is inspiring, and overwhelming. But mostly, inspiring!
I was surrounded by [mostly] women who were pursuing their dreams or trying to learn how to. The speakers and workshop leaders were all shining examples of this. They graciously shared what they knew, while giving us a little kick in the pants in the form of worksheets, to-do lists, endless resources, and a no-bullshit approach to excuse-makers.
I went to Alt with a lot of ideas, completely overwhelmed with executing them all. And what did I learn?
I don't have to execute them all.
I could really only execute the best one, and be well on my way to being a productivity machine. While I received a TON of information from each session and speaker, I was super motivated to finally execute the one idea that I felt the most excited about: I started this blog.
2. People will share their secrets with you and break big ideas down into digestible, actionable pieces. Take notes.
Let me reiterate: take notes. You know how you watch people online who appear to be killin' it and think "how DO they do it?!"?
This is your opportunity to figure that out. Most people are excited to share what they know in a learning environment. It's much more effective to raise your hand in their session or ask for advice over cocktails than it is to email a stranger that you follow online and ask them to give you a piece of their magic.
3. Be authentic and open yourself up to others.
As I surveyed all of the people at Alt, I noticed that there were approximately three types of personalities there: Introverts, Extroverts, and Introverts pretending to be Extroverts. Bless our hearts.
I went to Alt alone, so I didn't have someone to sit by in sessions or go to drinks with at the end of the day. Until I did. I stepped out of my comfort zone a little. Nearly every time I sat down next to a stranger, I stuck out my hand and introduced myself.
Networking with a room full of interesting strangers is EXHAUSTING. It is tempting to sit back, watch, and stay safe in your little corner of the room--and NOT talk to people.
I urge you to reach out, say hello, and even let the presenters and bloggers/business owners that you admire know that you love what they bring to the table.
It's also tempting (especially when we get nervous) to ramble on about what we do without asking the other person anything about what they do. So, remember to be a good listener, too.
You never know who you might connect with and it's important to make the first move sometimes.
4. Most meals and snacks are provided.
While I ate a few meals outside of the conference, I could have easily had my meals covered while at Alt. Coffee, drinks, and snacks were always available between sessions and at the evening parties, and a stellar lunch was provided on both of the full days. We also had dinners with Alt sponsors (mine was with Mailchimp) where a delicious meal was provided at a beautiful restaurant free of charge on the first night.
5. Understand why you are there and start taking action toward your goals immediately. Don't let all your fresh ideas stagnate.
I think if I had gone to Alt the very first year that I found out about it, I would have been completely overwhelmed and would not have had any idea how to put the advice that I got there into action. I was still pretty clueless about what I wanted to do. This year, however, going there with the idea for this blog and a few ideas for Casey D. Sibley Art + Design gave me the focus I needed to get the most out of all the information I received (and ignore the information that was irrelevant).
The day after the conference was over, my flight was scheduled to leave SLC later that evening. I called down to the front desk of my hotel to find out how late I could stay in my room and ordered room service. I opened my notebook, pulled out all the business cards I had collected, and distilled everything from the previous two and a half days into a condensed list of my top priorities moving forward. Then I made a plan of action and have been implementing the things I learned in small chunks each day since.
6. Follow up with your connections, a.s.a.p.
You're going to meet some truly incredible people, promise. The ones that knock your socks off? Let them know, like within a week. The people or brands you want to collaborate with? Reach out soon, because I can guarantee you that others will be doing the same. Make your move while the warm and fuzzy feeling is still there. If you wait too long, you may lose your nerve.
7. There are opportunities to get a free ticket.
One of the cool things about the Alt team is that it becomes pretty apparent that they started this whole thing to expose passionate people to big ideas and make big collaborations a reality for emerging creative business owners. They have made it fairly easy to enter contests and pitch ideas for sessions, workshops, roundtables, parties, and tours and win a free ticket to the conference. Do you have a great business-related topic that you know a lot about? Pitch it! The women hosting sessions represented a very wide range of experience levels, and they all had great information to share.
Did you attend Alt this year? If so what are your biggest takeaways? And if you are planning to attend in the future, what are you curious to know that I didn't elaborate on here?
Leave a comment below and let me know, or get in touch!