Alt Summit can be extremely overwhelming for first timers. This time last year I was scouring the internet for every bit of information I could find about what to wear, what to pack, and what to expect. So I’ve gathered up a few real questions from first-timers in hopes that I can answer some burning questions for you.
Do people actually exchange business cards at Alt Summit? If so, how many should I bring?
Absolutely yes. Business cards are kind of a thing at Alt Summit – some people go all out by putting their logo on stickers, postcards, and more, while others keep it super simple with a standard business card. There’s no wrong way to do it. Keep an eye out for the business card wall, a designated spot to pop your business card for all to see. People usually toss extras on nearby tables just in case someone wants to take a card with them. Plan to hand out cards any time you exchange words with somebody: I am an introvert so I used my confetti-stuffed cards as a way to break the ice into a conversation – Hi! I’m Alicia, and here’s a mini party!
Last year I brought 200 business cards and handed out about 150 of them. I didn’t hand as many out on Sunday and Monday last year (I attest that to being on the tail end of food poisoning upon arrival thanks to a questionable breakfast in Austin the day before), but over the rest of the week I was spreading my cards around to anyone I came in contact with. I would suggest bringing along at least 100 cards, but closer to 150-200 if you can.
Some people take it one step further and turn their business cards into something totally different, like postcards, matchbooks, patches, stickers, and coasters. These were so fun to receive and some of them are still hanging out in my office! If you aren’t trying to be extra and want to simply hand out standard business cards, that’s totally fine and in fact, is what most people did, so don’t feel like you’re underachieving if you don’t have swag to go along with your card. The most important things to include? Your name, type of business, website, email, and Instagram handle if you use it often. Bonus points for putting your face on your card – there’s no better way for someone to remember who you were than to actually see your face when they find your card again.
Post-Alt I came home with loads of business cards and after I decompressed from the conference, I sat in my office one day going through each card one by one. I looked up websites and Instagrams and started following along with people whose work, mission, art, or personality I found interesting. I’ve since connected with some of these people – some of whom I didn’t even get to spend a lot of time with at Alt – and I can’t wait to see them again this year!
Are people friendly?
Yeah, they really are. This is a conference for like-minded people – we’re the colorful, quirky, artsy ones – and to see people who share that mentality everywhere you look is really comforting. I’m sure in any situation there are mean girls, they’re generally going to be the exception and not the rule at Alt Summit.
How do I meet people? Will I be included/how do I make sure I don’t spend the entire conference surrounded by people but still feeling alone? How do I make sure I’m not going to be eating alone?
The age-old question for every introvert on Earth. Some people attend Alt Summit with friends, so it’s easy for them to have built-in companionship for the week… until they part ways to attend different events. Others are attending alone altogether and have nobody to rely on for a lunch partner. Events like Alt Summit are advertised to be the sort of thing where everyone just becomes immediate friends, but for those of us who are introverts, it’s not that easy. I’m friendly and can get along with almost anyone, as long as I’m approached first and not the other way around. I am so so so afraid of just sliding my way into an open conversation, or going up to someone else on their own and striking up a conversation. That said, whenever I’m going solo I try to make it a goal to go out of my comfort zone to talk to someone.
Are you an introvert like I am? Here are a few tips:
- Appear approachable! If you want to be left alone to have some recharge time, then by all means pop on your headphones or get deep into a book. But if you’re hoping to be approached, look like you’re willing to be approached. Eye contact, smiling, and offering up a neighboring seat are all ways to initiate contact without being too forward.
- Start with individuals or small groups: it’s way easier to strike up a conversation with another solo individual or a small group versus a large, loud group of girls.
- Use your business card as an excuse to chat! Like I mentioned above, I slid myself into little groups by saying Hey – here’s a mini party! Do you have business cards, too? It’s a technique that only really works at Alt, so use it to your advantage!
- Shower compliments everywhere! I wore a few handmade outfits to Alt last year. I also carried around a very obnoxiously bright yellow tote every day. These two things earned me so many compliments from fellow Alties, and then we’d get into a conversation about how I sewed my own dress, whether or not they do any crafty hobbies, etc. On the flipside, I was able to easily and genuinely compliment people on various things – their outfits, hair, their roundtable session, etc. Sometimes it turned into a conversation, sometimes it was a “thanks!” and we continued on with our day. But if it turns into a conversation, it’s a really easy starter!
- Offer to take their photo, and ask if they’ll take yours. Whether you’re a photographer or not, this is a great way to start talking to someone. So many of us are wandering around Alt on our own, so we have to rely on selfies. If you see someone taking a selfie, or struggling to set up their camera for a self portrait, ask if they’d like you to take their photo. Maybe they’ll return the favor!
- Use your talents, or ask about theirs. I’m a professional photographer, so I used that as a way to connect with people. “I love your outfit, can I take a portrait?” was an easy ice-breaker for me. When I saw someone painting I’d ask to take a photo of them working, and if they seemed like they wanted to chat I’d ask about their art.
- Be brave, little introvert. Alt is a safe space. Most people are there specifically to connect with others, so go outside your comfort zone and connect! It’s hard – trust me, I know – but you never know what cool people you’ll meet!
Extroverts, don’t go quite yet! I’ve got some tips for you, too:
- Take a lone introvert under your wing. We introverts rely on the socialization of extraverts to bring us into conversations. And even moreso, to feel welcome. It’s easy to feel like we’re not wanted/included in groups, but if someone goes out of their way to ask us a question or to listen when we do contribute, it can help us come out of our shell.
- Invite solo people to hang out! Are you chatting with a group of new friends and see someone alone nearby, sort of listening but not trying to be too obvious? Invite them to join in! Introverts have a very hard time just sliding into a new group, but a little invite will open that door we need to feel like we’re accepted.
- Watch for social cues. On the other end of the spectrum, the thing that all introverts have in common – no matter how outgoing they can be once comfortable – is that we need downtime away from socialization in order to recharge. If you spot someone solo who has their nose in a book, headphones on, or otherwise looks like they are completely content to be left alone, go with your instinct and let them be. Alt Summit is so much fun, but it’s also very overwhelming for introverts who are most likely sharing a room and have little chance to have true alone time to recharge.
What are the most frequent questions people ask when meeting a first-timer?
Last year I was asked by a lot of people “is this your first Alt?” usually followed up by “Are you enjoying it?” so definitely be prepared for that question. Other things people will ask are “What do you do for work or hobby?” and “Where are you from?”. Otherwise the questions will run wild!
What type of questions should I be asking myself in advance to prepare mentally and business-wise for Alt?
First, make sure you have an elevator pitch. When you meet so. many. people. all day, every day, you’re going to be asked over and over what it is that you do that brought you to Alt, be it your actual work, a potential business idea, or a serious hobby. Having a quick sentence or two to describe it succinctly is crucial, because people will lose interest if you don’t get to the point.
Second, decide what your main goal is for the conference. Is it to hit all the ‘start a business’ type classes? Are you trying to learn all you can about book publishing, podcasting, or photography? Are you there to network or find potential clients? Or do you want to make stuff and get creative? Make sure your personalized schedule reflects that goal. It’s easy to stuff your day with everything you want to do, but I did that last year and it was exhausting. This year I plan to do less and schedule more downtime into my day so that I can reflect on what I’ve learned, process any inspiration I might have gotten, or simply to enjoy the California sunshine by the pool.
Mentally, I just think it’s important to realize how exhausting each day can be IF you don’t schedule in downtime. Extroverts will likely need less, but introverts will lose energy from just being surrounded by so many people all day. Be sure to sit by the pool, lay in the grass, bring a project to work on, or sneak away to your room for a nap. Don’t forget to eat and stay hydrated!
What should I pack if I can only bring one carry on size suitcase and a bag for under my airplane seat and how much room should I leave in my bag to bring back stuff?
Normally I am a carry-it-all-on kind of girl, but not for Alt. I definitely checked a bag that had room to spare, and came home with that bag absolutely full of stuff and a duffle bag packed with my dirty clothes. I’ve answered all the packing questions on this post here.
Keep reading more about Alt Summit:
- Alt Summit 2019: Post-Alt Wrap-Up + Blog Series
- Alt Summit 2019: The Hotels
- Prepping for Alt: What to Wear + Packing Tips
- Prepping for Alt: FAQ (this post)
- Prepping for Alt: Overall Tips + Advice for First Timers
Looking for a photo session at Alt Summit 2020? Click here!