Nearly three weeks later, I’ve finally had enough time to think through what I want to say about attending Alt Summit.
Lots of my friends have asked me about it since I returned (the most common question: “How do you get invited?” The answer is, “Pay $625 for a ticket.”).
I don’t quite know what to say – it’s hard to sum up an event that massive in a sentence or two, especially to someone who isn’t deeply involved in the blogging world.
I’ve been closely following Alt Summit for a couple of years. Last year was off the table for me, what with a five-week-old baby, but I knew I wanted to go in 2014.
Finally going was such a thrill (a very expensive thrill).
What I Loved:
- The very best part, to be honest, was going with Merrick. It’d been way too long since I’d seen her (July of 2012!). I really had a great time spending so much time with her.
- I’m naturally an introvert, but I told myself I was paying way too much money and had made way too much of an effort to get myself there to sit back. I consciously focused on being as outgoing and social as I could possibly be. It got easier the longer I was there and in that zone.
- The sponsor dinners on Wednesday night were fantastic. The four of us (Merrick, Leanne, Abby, and I) picked the Collectively dinner at Sea Salt, and I was super happy with that choice. It was a smaller event, with only about 25 people there, so you really had a chance to get to know people. I sat next to Alexa, one of the founders of Collectively, and she was absolutely delightful. We also all got a box of Bare Minerals makeup, which pretty much tripled my makeup collection (this says more about how little makeup I own than how big the box was).
- All the classes. I love the behind-the-scenes parts of blogging and it was so delightful to listen and learn about things I find fascinating, whether it was Pinterest or making videos or developing a brand. Serious nerd heaven for me.
- Meeting bloggers in real life. Everyone was just really pleasant. I was especially thrilled to get to meet Liz from Say Yes and spend about 20 minutes with her. She was LOVELY (as Erica had promised she would be).
- Staying in the Grand America. We went back and forth between staying at the hotel and staying with my Grannie (for the extravagant price of free), but in the end we picked to stay on-site, and I’m glad we did. It was hugely convenient to be able to run back to the room at any time (although, because the Grand America is huge, it still took about 15-20 minutes by the time you got back to the Alt festivities), and to not have to change in the public restrooms. The time spent in the lobby in the late evening was also a great, low-key time to meet other Alt attendees too.
- The Shark Tank viewing party with Freshly Picked. Although there had been a lot of nice events, this was the one the whole weekend that felt like a PARTY. Tons of music and dancing. I don’t even like to dance in public, but . . . I totally had a blast.
What I Didn’t Love:
- There was just not enough time with sponsors. With only thirty minutes between sessions and jammed sponsor lounges, it was hard to fit them in. Even with only about a dozen sponsors, I had a chance to talk to just half of them, and in many cases that was because I left a class early or missed the first few minutes of the class. This was frustrating.
- The final keynote. Ben Sieberman (the Pinterest founder) did a little Q&A with Design Mom, and although he was very delightful, it wasn’t really a keynote that left me just totally jazzed. I remember watching the Twitter feeds during Jasmine Starr and Stefan Sagmeister’s talks in past years and how everyone was just on fire. This keynote didn’t do that for me. It was nice, and then it was time to go get dressed for the mini-parties. (Garance Doré, on the other hand, I LOVED. She kicked it off on Thursday morning, and it was just fantastic).
- There were design camps on both days that capped at about 35 people. I can certainly understand that they needed to be small groups, but each class was only offered once, so if you didn’t skip the class beforehand to get in line, you were out of luck. It’s really irritating to pay hundreds and hundreds of dollars and then not be able to go to the sessions you want to. I wish they’d been offered at least twice (the round tables were offered twice each).
- I feel like in years past, people have just RAVED about every detail of the conference. And while there were many lovely lovely things, I didn’t feel like there was a lot that just totally blew my mind. The main exception was the Cricut sponsor lounge on Friday which was all white, with a fog machine and. . .just really impressive. I don’t know how much of it is that, thanks to blogging and Pinterest, I’m kind of desensitized to over-the-top attention to detail, or if it really was just less impressive than it’s been in other years.
- I feel like when people talk about Alt it’s always a ridiculous amount of focus on the fashion. But really? It just didn’t seem like that huge of a deal. I didn’t feel like people were dressed just unbelievably. Mainly it was just a bunch of people dressed nicely, but not over the top. I packed exactly enough clothing, got dressed every morning, and then I really didn’t think about it again.
- It’s a BIG conference. This was their biggest year yet with something like 700 attendees, which meant you didn’t get a chance to meet even half of the people.
- One thing I noticed about Alt is that it’s a diverse enough crowd that there’s basically no one that EVERYONE knows. I even mentioned Design Mom to someone at one point in the conference (who is one of the founders of the conference) and got a totally blank look. So, you don’t really have to feel like “oh, my blog is too small. No one will know who I am.” Everyone is a nobody to someone. Which I actually find very reassuring.
- During the mini-parties on Saturday night (which is when I wore this outfit which was almost 100% borrowed from Merrick), I FaceTimed for a few minutes with Ella before she went to bed. When I got back the next day, my mom said, “I don’t think I’ve seen you having that much fun in YEARS.” There you have it.
For me, the real question to judge how much I liked it or not was “Will I go again next year?”
I wrestled with that a bit during the conference and immediately afterward, but now with a few weeks of distance, I’m almost certain I’ll try and go again next year (assuming my mom wants to watch my children again next January. . . ). In some ways, this felt like a practice year.
Now I have a much better idea of what to expect, how to prepare, and what I want to get out of it.
I felt like it really helped me narrow in on what I want to do with my blog and what kind of things I want to be writing about and working on.
I’m also pretty interested in going to one of their (smaller) one-day conferences, either in New York or San Francisco, depending on where we are this summer.
And if you have questions about Alt (like “um, why did you possibly think I’d care about any of this?”), I’d be happy to try and answer.