I am still flying high from my first Alt Summit and wanted to recap and share more about my experience with you.
If you’re unfamiliar, Alt Summit (short for Altitude Summit) is a blogger’s conference held twice a year in Salt Lake City, Utah. It is a great way to learn more about the blogging world, including helpful tips and techniques, and connect with other bloggers. Most importantly, Alt Summit is meant to inspire through sharing.
I actually signed up for the 2014 winter Alt Summit, but chickened out at the last minute and ended up canceling my registration. I don’t regret this action as it just wasn’t the right time for me to go, but I did make it a point to truly consider it for the next year. I am so happy I decided to go. The whole time I was at the conference I kept noticing how right it felt in terms of both my personal and public life. I am on the verge of undertaking some big changes in how I present my content and went into Alt hoping for some guidance, reassurance, and inspiration for this new part of my online journey. I came out with that much and more!
I’m going to break down this photo-heavy post by day and share the personal pics I snapped on my phone along the way, what classes and panels I attended, and lastly, a summary of my experience and where I stand now, post-Alt. I hope this helps give you a sense of my Alt experience as a newbie.
Day #1 – January 21, 2015
I didn’t have to travel far to attend Alt Summit this winter, as I had spent the previous three and a half weeks at our family vacation home about an hour’s drive from Salt Lake City. I drove in on Wednesday afternoon to check into the beautiful Grand America Hotel, the only five star accommodation in the area. I was stunned by the gorgeous suite I had the pleasure of staying in (especially that lovely deep tub, which I fully enjoyed after a long day of conferencing). The view of Salt Lake City is spectacular! Looking down into the courtyard in the evening is another beautiful scene. I thoroughly enjoyed my stay in this beautiful hotel and was grateful to be on site for easy back and forth throughout the conference.
After getting settled in my room, I popped downstairs to check into the conference where I was given the schedule, my badge, and a beautiful notebook. I was fortunate to attend the conference with my friend, Kristina, another YouTuber/blogger, and a couple of her blogger friends. It was really nice to be at my first conference with some friendly and familiar faces, although now that I’ve been, I know I would have managed just fine on my own. Everyone I had the pleasure of meeting was very friendly and genuinely interested in swapping cards and sharing stories. Also, Alt provides ways to get to know other attendees and make connections in advance with closed Facebook groups and Pinterest pages.
After grabbing a bite and discussing our Alt plane, the four of us headed to an early bird session with Karen Walrond of Chookooloonks, a professional photographer and blogger. Karen’s talk was a great way to kick off the conference, as it presented me with a lot of questions that got me thinking about how I frame my content. Karen encouraged us to consider our about page, include a mission statement, work on an elevator pitch, and create tag lines for our brands. These are all things I’ve heard about but haven’t previously invested a lot of time and thought into. Karen illuminated how focusing on these can allow you to communicate your message better with your audience.
All attendees were given the opportunity to sign up for small group sponsor dinners held by different brands on Wednesday night. I had the pleasure of attending Minted‘s dinner at Taqueria 27, a Mexican restaurant in Salt Lake. Minted put out a beautiful spread with festive decorations and table settings, highlighting their new fabric line with the table linens and totes they provided as gifts. They also gave each of us a framed print with our logos as a beautiful Alt memento. It was nice to be able to meet some of the other Alt attendees in a more intimate setting and enjoy a tasty meal together.
Day #2 – January 22, 2015
I woke up bright and early on Thursday so I could enjoy a leisurely paced morning without the need to rush. Fortunately, I had taken the time to “curate” my Alt wardrobe before packing so I didn’t have to figure any of that out and could focus on my plan for the day and enjoy a nice breakfast. Room service breakfast is always one of my favorite parts about being in a hotel. The Grand’s continental spread did not disappoint!
This collage is composed of photos I took of Lisa Congdon‘s slides during her keynote.
The first official day of the conference kicked off with an opening keynote by Lisa Congdon, an amazingly talented woman who found her art groove in her thirties and went on to become a successful self-employed working artist with no scholastic training. Her story is so inspiring! Listening to her speak about her journey made me realize how similar much of the blogger experience is across the board, even between people from very different backgrounds with drastically different content. The internet is such an amazing vehicle to share with the world, but it takes hard work, perseverance, dedication, sheer grit, and a whole lot of patience to make an imprint. There are always going to be obstacles to overcome and people who do not understand or appreciate the very personal efforts that go into sharing online, but that’s all part of the journey. I think this is well illustrated by a quote Lisa shared from Twitter Co-Founder, Biz Stone: “Timing, perseverance, and ten years of trying will eventually make you look like an overnight success.”
Lisa provided four lessons that helped her in her journey that I wanted to share with you:
1. Own it and own all of it.
2. Give it everything you have.
3. Let go of the idea that it will all someday be perfect.
4. Be kind. Care. Stay humble.
When you think about it, these are really life lessons that could apply to most anyone in most any situation (if not all). I felt so honored to be in that room absorbing this advice from such an amazing person. What an incredibly powerful way to frame the beginning of the conference!
This is a photo I took of one of Alison Faulkner‘s slides during her session.
After a short break, we headed to a session called “Awesome Tools for Building an Awesome Online Brand” with Alison Faulkner of The Alison Show. Alison is an incredible lady with such joie de vivre that she brings to everything she does. Her positive and upbeat energy is contagious and I felt buoyant in her presence. Alison gave us a lot of useful tips for building your personal brand and why it’s important to invest time and resources into doing so. This was especially beneficial for me as I’m contemplating how I present my content. I loved her enthusiasm and honesty, which never faltered during her presentation.
Here are the tools that Alison suggested for building an awesome brand:
1. Define it
4. Know Your Audience
5. Let it go
The context and anecdotes Alison provided drove her point home in a personal and lasting way. I look forward to following her journey as it unfolds online.
BabyLit, a publishing company that provides classic literature in baby books, hosted lunch on Thursday, which was marked by cute as a button table decor and a nice buffet. It was great to take a breather after an intense morning and meet other bloggers in a casual setting.
After lunch, we sat in on a panel discussing Instagram and how to use it to build your business with Allison Silber of Engaged and Inspired, Pei Ketron of Pei Ketron, Andi Teggart of Piquora, and Jordan Ferney of Oh Happy Day. I’ve never really considered my Instagram account as a business building tool before and was interested to hear how these ladies use their accounts in a very dedicated way. I’ve never been about the numbers personally on any of my social media and other online platforms and am uncertain if I will take all of their advice to heart, but learning how other’s approach these sorts of things is always beneficial. Sometimes knowing what someone else does and why allows you to examine better what you do and the reasonings behind it and either feel stronger about it or be inspired to make changes, even if they do not reflect the exact advice you were given. My biggest takeaway from this session was this: “Be someone you would want to follow.” I think this a great way to frame all online contributions and it is an excellent reminder to stay true and post only what you yourself would want to see.
On a side note, there were quite a few sponsors at this event which camped out in different lounges with booths and activities. I didn’t photograph most of these, although I do share them briefly in my coordinating video (see below). One of my personal favorite sponsors was The Honest Company, which provides “unquestionably safe, eco-friendly, beautiful, convenient, and affordable” household and personal products geared towards families. I’d heard about this brand before but never used any of their products. The Honest Company decked out the public restrooms with everything from soaps and room sprays to lotions and candles. They put out jars of their chapsticks for attendees to take, which was the perfect gift in the dry Salt Lake climate. I was impressed with their marketing and look forward to trying more of their products in the future.
After the Instagram breakout session, Alt offered even smaller setting choices, including design camps and roundtables. I was keen on attending the Re-Branding Your Blog roundtable with PJ Feinstein of A Girl Named PJ. PJ has just completed a major overhaul of her blog and branding and had lots of useful advice to give others considering it as well. While it’s not as simple as just changing your name and your logo, PJ made it seem very attainable and more importantly, worthwhile if it feels essential to staying true to your message.
I filed so much useful and inspirational information, thoughts, and feelings away by the end of the day that my head was reeling! I used the break between the last session and dinner to calm and quiet my mind with yoga.
On Thursday night, Alt threw a Downton Abbey themed party in the Grand Salon of the hotel, which was a stunning affair. Having never seen the show, I decided to play it safe with a nice looking dress and simple accessories. I’m certainly no fashionista, but I felt comfortable and put together in what I wore for this party, as well as all of the other events and sessions I attended. I share in detail what I wore to the conference in this post if you’re interested. I settled on a gorgeous lace overlay dress from Anthropologie, sparkly Tory Burch flats, and Kate Spade accessories. I assumed the party would be a cocktail and appetizer kind of deal where you have to stand, which is why I wore flats instead of heels. It ended up being something in between that and a sit down affair with some tables that were already full by the time we got there. It was a beautiful event and I very much enjoyed seeing other people’s creativity with their Downton Abbey inspired outfits.
Day #3 – January 23, 2015
I was so wrapped up in the conference on Friday that I completely spaced on taking my own photos. Fortunately, Alt had two professional photographers who covered the conference and provided access to their photos to all attendees. All photos that are not originally mine are used with permission and credited below.
On Friday morning, we chose to sit in on a session about affiliate links run by Corrine Stokoe of Mint Arrow. I’ve used affiliate links for a little while now as a means to monetize my content, although I haven’t really put a lot of thought or effort into the why and how. It was so interesting to listen to Corrine share her tips and tricks, since it’s pretty new to me. I especially enjoyed her views on affiliate guilt and her analogy of bloggers using affiliate links to servers in a restaurant (I recommend watching my video where I shared this part of her talk). There’s no reason to feel guilty about earning a small commission when you provide a service that costs buyers absolutely nothing to use. As Corrine said, “embrace who you are and what you rock at.”
After that session, we learned more about the business side of blogging with lawyer Amanda Schreyer of Prince Lobel. This class was probably the most informative in terms of practical blogging guidance out of all I attended. There is so much to learn about how to protect your content and stay within the legal limits according to the law and FTC policies. I took a lot of notes! Amanda helped me more seriously consider hiring a lawyer to help make sure that I am protected in sharing what I do online.
The lunch keynote was held by two powerhouse female CEOs: Jess Lee of Polyvore and Susan Petersen of Freshly Picked. Talk about inspirational! Hearing their amazing stories of success from small beginnings was definitely a high point of the conference. Unfortunately, having them speak during lunch turned out to be quite distracting as there was a lot of noise from the food service as well as people talking. My tip would be to try and sit at a table as close to the speakers as possible to be able to hear better.
The final breakout session of the conference was held after lunch. We chose to attend a class on monetizing your business with Jessie Artigue of Style and Pepper and Hilary Rushford of Dean Street Society. These ladies had a lot of energy and started off the class with a dance party. While I felt they spoke well and on point, they focused primarily on sharing how they monetize their style/fashion-related businesses and less on how this can apply to other fields. I wish they had provided more tips and practical applications for bloggers in general.
Dallas Clayton, a children’s book author and illustrator of the popular Awesome Book series, gave the closing keynote. Dallas was incredible. He went totally off book and flowed through a series of thoughts and ideas he shared outloud with us. It was such a different way of speaking than any of the other amazing people we heard over the course of the conference and just what was needed in my opinion to bring to light the power of openly sharing creativity. In particular, I felt like Dallas’s keynote was the perfect bookend and counterpoint to Lisa Congdon’s opening address. Obviously, this was the Alt organizers intent with providing two extremely creative artists with very different ways of expressing themselves. Dallas’s words were funny, uplifting, thoughtful, and profound all at the same time. At the very end he read us a poem about creativity he had just written and it struck such a chord with me. I can’t wait until he publishes it and shares it with the world! Some of my takeaways from his keynote include “get out of your comfort zones,” “get lost,” “no rules,” “find your own Spin Doctors,” and “you can change at any point.” In other words, do what you want and believe in yourself (I’ll come back to this in a moment). I left the room feeling light as a feather and grinning from ear to ear. I highly recommend following Dallas on Instagram for daily inspiration.
The last official event of the conference were the mini parties in the hotel on Friday evening hosted by Jo-Ann Fabrics, Hive, Tiny Prints, and Lindt Chocolates (can you guess which one was my favorite? I’ll give you a hint, they had chocolate 😉 ). What fun! The parties were set up round robin style in rooms next to each other with different themes and activities. It was a great way to wrap up two very intense and jam-packed days and say goodbye to people we met along the way.
As I mentioned previously, I was fortunate to attend the conference with some familiar faces. I am so honored I was able to share my first Alt Summit experience with these ladies! My friend Kristina (to the left of me), from K Werner Design, introduced me to two of her close friends in the crafting blog world. Kathy (on my right), is an amazing card maker who blogs at The Daily Marker. Jennifer (next to Kathy), showcases her stamping skills on Jennifer McGuire Ink. Kristina and Jennifer also offer card making classes through their business, Online Card Classes. Please check out these amazingly talented women and show them some love!
Check out my vlog-style footage from the conference if you’re interested in seeing more:
I left Alt Summit with a brain stuffed to the brim with new information from smart people who have been where I am now, a file filled with beautiful business cards from people I met and want to know better, and a heart filled with inspiration from the amazingly talented and creative people who shared their stories. I cannot emphasize enough just how fulfilling my first Alt Summit and conference experience was. I have never felt so validated as a blogger sharing with the world online.
I think blogging is still in its beginning stages where it’s not always recognized as not only a valid form of expression but a career path. I still hesitate to call it a “job” or “work” for the negative reaction I am far too accustomed to receiving when I do. The truth is that this is how I choose to spend the majority of my time and I invest quite a bit of myself and my resources into it. When you google the definition of a career, you get this: “an occupation undertaken for a significant period of a person’s life and with opportunities for progress.” That sounds like a pretty accurate description of what I’ve been doing for the last chunk of my life, so why am I so afraid to own it?
While I had no aspirations of turning my online sharing into a job when I started my first YouTube channel over four and a half years ago, I am delighted by the journey it has taken me on. Alt allowed me to see myself in the world of bloggers as a real blogger for the first time ever. I wasn’t consciously aware that this was something I needed, but now that I’ve experienced it, I know I needed it more than anything. I feel like I’m on the verge of taking my content to the next level. I still plan on sharing in pretty much the same capacity, but I’ve felt a need for better framework for a long time now, something that flows better with my content. That framework is my branding, to use the lingo of the blogging world. I feel now that by taking the leap and investing in rebuilding my framework, my “brand,” that my content will more accurately reflect who I am and what I’m all about. This is a leap of faith, since changing your branding when you’re already somewhat established can be tricky, but I know now, post-Alt, that I can’t not take that chance.
My main goal has always been to share what I am genuinely interested in sharing. I wouldn’t be staying true to that goal if I left thing status quo. Lisa Congdon encouraged “stretching” to expand your limits and discover new things about yourself, Jess Lee and Susan Petersen stressed the power of perseverance and staying true to your vision, and Dallas Clayton emphasized “no rules” and doing what you want. These incredible people all have this in common: they know who they are, they persevere, and they take chances.
I am ready to really own what I do and what I’m all about. I can’t wait to see what happens next.
Thanks for sharing in my journey. Let’s rock this year!
* I am not affiliated with Altitude Summit. This is not a sponsored post. All opinions are genuinely my own. *