January was a crazy travel month for me. When I bought my ticket to Alt Summit back in mid 2016, I had no idea where life would be taking me at this time in 2017. I was grateful that this year Alt Summit moved to sunny Palm Springs and so it made the travel much easier for me, being just a quick 90 minute drive from home. It was held at the colorful Saguaro Hotel that lies just beneath the snow capped San Bernardino mountains. Seeing the palm trees shining in the sun, up against the snow covered mountains was quite a sight to behold.
I had tons of people emailing, texting and direct messaging me via Instagram while I was gone asking questions and wondering how the conference was…so I thought it might be helpful to write a little something up to hopefully answer any questions you might have before you go.
WHO SHOULD ATTEND ALT : THE CLASSES
Alt has been around for a long time…it’s definitely one of, if not THE original blog conference. It attracts creatives of all kinds. Photographers, artists, bloggers from every niche, podcasters, authors, you name it, you will run into them here. There are also many who attend as representatives of brands, PR people, attorneys that specialize in internet law, all kinds of interesting people. Experience levels range anywhere from those who are considering starting a blog to people who have been blogging for a decade or longer. A wide range of people. I first attended in January 2015. I had heard about it for a year or two and decided that if I was going to try and take my passion for blogging and make it more of a career, I needed to attend and see what all the buzz was about. At that time, the conference was held at the Grand America Hotel in Salt lake City, UT. I didn’t know anything about blogging as a job and I really didn’t know any other bloggers. I had never networked in my life, and was quite nervous to attend. What I found as a new blogger who was looking to soak up everything I could about blogging as a career, were great, super informative classes and TONS of useful information. There are a wide range of topics covered…everything from how to get published, how to monetize your blog, how to effectively grow and and utilize your social media, creating a community etc., as well as workshops like photo editing, styling, modeling etc. Because it is such a popular, long running conference, it draws big name speakers too, like Darcy Miller from Martha Stewart and Todd Oldham. I came home with my head spinning that first year and was super excited to implement everything I had learned. It totally changed my approach to blogging and made me a much more organized, purposeful blogger and gave me the tools I needed to help myself earn a little money doing what I love to help offset the many costs associated with blogging that I had previously just been paying out of pocket for years and years.
Fast forward 2 years…
While I did bring some helpful nuggets home this year, (I always learn at least one or two little tidbits everywhere I go), I feel like I may have outgrown Alt Summit a little bit at this point. This year’s classes seemed to be heavily geared towards newer bloggers. As a matter of fact, several of the people I had met 2 years ago as first time Alt Summit attendees, were teaching the classes this year. 🙂 The teachers are all informative and you can tell they put a lot of time and effort into their presentations, and it is always good to learn from others, but if you are a more advanced blogger that already has a healthy social following, blogs regularly with great engagement, and is already working with companies through affiliate networks or sponsorships, then you are probably ready to teach at Alt, rather than attend. In short, class schedules are not posted until a week or so before the conference. If I had seen the classes offered this year prior to purchasing my ticket, I probably would not have attended. Again, not because the classes are not good…I think they are usually some of the best and most straightforward in the industry, but they were too heavily geared toward newbies to make the steep ticket price worth it for a more experienced blogger.
ATTENDING ALT: THE PEOPLE
Alt Summit has a reputation for being a bit of a click-ish conference, and unfortunately that has been my experience. I have met some VERY nice people, but for the most part, I do not think it is place where people are going to make friends. I feel like it is a place where they go to hang out with friends. If you are going to go, I HIGHLY suggest you attend with a friend, or be willing to get out of your comfort zone and sign up to share a room with other attendees that you haven’t met that are looking for roomies. I think that this would totally change the experience. The conference schedule includes a TON of free time each day and they host parties at night. It would be WAY more fun to hit the parties with a friend than to wander around by yourself like I have the last two years. Trying to get people to make eye contact with me so I could say hi and introduce myself was like pulling teeth. I even have business cards with candy, people! 😉
The Saguaro was a perfect location for Instagram obsessed conference goers like all of us creatives, it’s bright and colorful and kitschy…the fashion bloggers were having a field day! I have never seen so many photo shoots going on in one place! 😉 If you are looking for the ultimate retro Palm Springs hotel for your next getaway, The Saguaro might just be the place for you. The Saguaro is an old motel converted into a hotel. It’s painted like a rainbow and the grounds have been updated with a super hip pool and entertaining area. The hotel also has a fun restaurant and bar. Brightly painted rooms are modest and comfortable with a mini fridge, TV and Mexican style furnishings. It’s a fun place for a weekend by the pool…and it makes for great pictures. But, if I’m giving it a grade strictly as a location to host a large conference like Alt, I would have to give it a C-. I may have been spoiled by attending my first year at the Grand America, which is truly grand in every sense, but the conference facilities and space planning were not good at this location. None of the classrooms had tables, making it difficult to take notes for hours on a laptop or in a notebook. Some of the classes were held in the hotel bar which was open to the lobby, making it very difficult to hear the teachers. It was also very small leaving many conference attendees standing throughout classes. It was difficult to interact with sponsors because they were in the hotel lobby or out by the pool. On several occasions I tried to go speak with sponsors during the day and their booths were completely empty. Meals were served in the parking lot, on tables set up on the asphalt in the blazing sun. In order to do this, a huge part of the parking lot for the hotel was blocked off during the duration of the conference, making it difficult to park anywhere near a large portion of the hotel rooms, which made dragging luggage around fun. With ticket prices at $500 a pop, the facilities need to be more conducive to hosting large crowds in my opinion. It was definitely a “form over function” choice as far as the location was concerned, in my opinion. I personally would not attend again if it was held at this location.
WHAT TO WEAR
There is a lot of hype surrounding Alt Summit about what to wear to the parties and such. You will see more people at this conference sporting colored hair and outfits with flair than most places you go, but don’t let all the hype stress you out. What is most important is to feel comfortable in what you are wearing. Just like the wide variety of people and blogger types attending, there will be a wide variety of outfits too. If you’re comfortable in jeans and a t-shirt…wear it, if a dress and heels are your thing…go for it. Nothing is out of place here. You will already be stretching yourself by meeting new people and pitching sponsors, so make sure you are comfortable in your clothes. 😉
There are great sponsors at Alt. Some of those that attended this year included The Home Depot, Sherwin Williams, Minted, Waverly Inspirations, Munchkin and others. They are typically inundated with conference goers all trying to make connections…which is exactly what you are there to do, so go for it. My suggestion would just be to try and find a time to sneak away…maybe leave a class 15 minutes early, or skip a round table discussion to get a chance to talk to the sponsors you really want to connect with when the crowds might not be so big. Another suggestion…bring a media kit that makes you stand out. I will share the media kit that I have used for the last 3 years at conferences in another post. It ALWAYS makes the conversation easier when you present them with something that takes them by surprise and sets you apart (in a good way of course! 😉
I hope this review and tips help you to decide if Alt is right for you. I know that these are only my opinions and experiences and others might have very different views about these things, so make sure to read a few posts like this before you decide to spend the money on a conference like this. They are an investment, a big one. I would never discourage you from making a big investment in yourself and your business, you just want to make sure it is the right investment for your needs.
Feel free to leave any additional questions you might have in the comments and I will happily answer them to the best of my ability. 🙂
Have a great day!