As I sit here writing this, it’s 41° in Virginia and there are ZERO palm trees outside my window. And yesterday when I went outside, nobody handed me a can of La Croix! Can you even believe this?!
The struggle of returning to reality is real, yo.
A few nights ago I returned home from Alt Summit and I’m trying to wrap my head around the experience so I can share it with you all. There’s really so much to tell, so the best way I can serve you is to break it down into a blog series starting with a basic summary of the event. Here goes!
What the %&#! is Alt Summit?
To expand a bit more, the conference is this wonderful mélange of business keynotes, classes, and roundtables with creative workshops and craft breaks. Attendees are creatives ranging from 9-5ers looking to make their hobby grow into a full-time business, to established entrepreneurs and teams. They’re shop owners, bloggers, crafters, designers, photographers, writers, and beyond. Classes and talks cover topics like hiring a team, mastering e-mail marketing, how to pitch to brands and publications, SEO, raising capital, starting a podcast, growing a small e-commerce business, and more.
The networking opportunities are also off the charts: attendees get to have direct contact with big-name bloggers, authors, and brands, and some even offer one-on-one pitch sessions (like Chronicle Books and Better Homes & Gardens). This little website you may have heard of – Pinterest ring a bell to anyone? – had an early start at Alt Summit. Other brands formed because two people met and hit it off at Alt and came up with a plan.
To put it simply – as entrepreneurs, so many of us work from home in solitude. Alt is a way to bring us all together to connect, learn, and get inspired, just as any other industry has its version of a conference (I mean, in my days as a meteorologist I had the AMS Conference), it’s just that ours also gets to have crafts, and our swag is way better.
Speaking of Swag…
There’s a post further in the series to talk more about business cards, swag, and things to buy, but to touch on it briefly, I will say that I went to Palm Springs with one checked bag weighing about 40 lbs, and I came home with two checked bags with a combined weight of 70 lbs (thank you Southwest Airlines and your policy of two free checked bags). Luckily I had read blog posts ahead of time and knew to prepare, so I folded up a big duffel bag and packed it in my suitcase. When it was time to come home, I threw all of my dirty laundry in there and used my hard-sided suitcase to lug home my books and swag items.
Anyway, people take their business cards and other collateral v. seriously at Alt Summit! Here’s a little peek at some of the unique cards I collected during the conference:
If ever there was a time to put your face on your business card and/or have some fun with the design, Alt Summit is it.
Joanna Gaines – Opening Keynote
Pathetic admission here, but I never really knew much about Joanna Gaines. We don’t have cable (and spend 90% of our television time just watching The Office) so I had been a bit out of the loop when people have been fangirling over her in the last few years. I’m basically your grandma when it comes to anything current and ‘in’, so forgive me for my transgressions.
Anyway, her keynote was more of a Q+A with Alt founder/Design Mom Gabrielle Blair, and I really enjoyed it. She had some great nuggets of inspiration, and considering I was still getting over a bout of food poisoning over the weekend in Austin (a story for another time) I managed to jot down a bunch of notes that I’ll share as if they are direct quotes, which they are not, but I really like this font and color combo, so let’s just go with it.
Non-Boring Classes for All!
I touched briefly on it earlier, but I’ll say it again: Alt Summit has classes, workshops, and keynotes for everyone in the creative journey. Just starting out? Take a workshop on how to shoot a flatlay with your phone. Have a business but trying to grow? Go to Oh Joy’s class about hiring a team. Established and in search of something new to try? Go to the workshop where you get hands-on experience recording a podcast.
In addition to the classes hosted by one or two people, there were also panel discussions (like the one about publishing a book), pitch sessions, book signings, and roundtable discussions, like the one Beryl and I co-hosted.
YES, WE ACTUALLY GOT TO PRESENT AT ALT SUMMIT! Our roundtable was called Take it on the Road: How to make money from your passions by hosting workshops and retreats. And look, I’m a pretty humble person most of the time, but also our roundtable was packed. Like day one of roundtables, we had to pull a second table over and still had people standing around to listen. We went through all of our printed worksheets on the first day, but luckily I had the idea ahead of time to offer the full workbook as a download via textiful which worked out fantastically. Anyway, Beryl and I were blown away by how many people were not only interested in our roundtable, but who also took the time to find us later in the week to tell us how much they enjoyed it. I’m proud of us for taking a chance on the pitch when we submitted it last year. Hooray for trying scary things!
Craft Classes @ the Ace Maker Space
This was probably one of the things I wish I had more time to utilise, so I have very big plans to hang out here more often next year! The Ace Hotel was home to the Maker Space, a location to take a break from all of the intense business learning and to get creative with your hands. I’m a photographer by trade but a maker at heart, so it refueled my mind and soul to spend some time crafting in the middle of the week.
I learned to make paper flowers with Rebecca Thuss (of Thuss + Farrell and author of Paper to Petal), practiced calligraphy and lettering with Keli Spanier (of Colette Paperie), made a leather luggage tag with JoAnn Fabrics and Elsie and Emma (of A Beautiful Mess), learned to doodle with Tombow, and made friendship bracelets with Vicki (of Handmade Jungle). I can’t tell you how necessary this break was for my fatigued brain and my exhausted body.
New Pals At the Meetups
One of the cool things Alt helps to facilitate are meetups hosted by attendees. Once again, there were so many I wanted to attend but couldn’t for one reason or another (women’s self defense class – same time as a photo shoot I had; visiting puppies at the shelter – would want to take them all home and would most definitely spend that time sobbing because I couldn’t).
There were meetups for moms, people in the wedding industry, people from certain geographic locations, travel bloggers, etc. There were also meetups that were open to anyone based around field trips, like visiting the Moorten Botanical Garden or a local farmer’s market.
I attended two meetups: one, a vintage airstream cocktail soirée – I hit the ‘attending’ button so hard I practically punched my phone – and the other was a Palm Springs door tour on the last day of the conference. Both were off the charts awesome and I’m so happy I managed to get in to both, as space for most meetups is limited. I left the meetups feeling refreshed (again, a break from hardcore learning) and having made some new friends. Also – MY GOD, THE PHOTOS.
Oh, but there’s so much more…
The art installations. The sponsor areas. The gifting party. There’s no way to sum Alt Summit up in one post. I just can’t do it. Besides, I have so many colorful, vibrant, fun photos to share. PALM SPRINGS MAKES ME SO HAPPY. So I’m going to roll these posts out over time, and I’ll update the links below once they go active. My hope is that future Alt attendees will be able to go through this series before they go, just like I did in the months and weeks leading up to the conference. Please let me know if you have any questions about Alt Summit, and I’ll answer them in a future post!
Coming soon in the Alt Summit blog post series:
Keep reading more about Alt Summit:
(Thanks to Ashton Kelley, Beryl Young, Amanda Park, and others for snapping some photos of me pictured here!)
Looking for a photo session at Alt Summit 2020? Click here!