In 13 days many of you will be headed to Salt Lake City, to attend Altitude Design Summit. It’s a 4-day conference for bloggers and other creatives, and I had the pleasure of attending last year (in addition to the one-day sister event, Alt NYC, in June).
Professionally, Alt was a game-changer for me. I prepared for many months and really brought my “A-game” to the conference. I stepped WAY outside my comfort zone, networked in a way I never have before, and allowed myself to embrace the evolving “me” that was now officially a “blogger”.
It was awesome.
It was also nerve-wracking, intimidating and completely exhausting. You are pretty much “on” for four days straight, and it can be daunting to navigate the parties, workshops, break-out sessions and of course – wardrobe changes.
As both a very new – and VERY small – blogger, I thought it would be helpful to share some of the tips I found to be most helpful – both in preparation of, during and after the event. Mind you, these are my own personal “dos and don’ts”, and I encourage you – more than anything else – to listen to your own inner voice. What feels right for you. It can be so tempting to look around (both “virtually” and at the conference itself) to see what everyone else is doing. But if it’s not meshing with what works for you then ultimately it won’t work at all.
Here we go!
1. Do your homework (sponsors). Wanna work with sponsors? As you can well imagine, Alt sponsors get inundated with bloggers looking to connect during the conference. I knew that there would be no way to meet and talk with every one, so I took an afternoon to read up on all of the sponsors attending. I honed in on the ones that I felt would be a good fit and focused my efforts on those. It wasn’t many – only 2 or 3 – but I instantly felt less overwhelmed. I made sure to connect on Twitter and introduce myself “virtually”. I attended the mini-parties they hosted, or stopped into the lounges they sponsored. You get it. Everyone’s got a name-tag so it’s easy to spot the sponsors in the room. And the more informed you are about the company, the more impressive you’ll come across. You’ll be more relaxed, too.
2. Do your homework (schedule). Time spent now with the schedule will be time well spent. Thoroughly read through the schedule and familiarize yourself with the itinerary. Highlight the events you really want to attend, with a second choice in case your first pick turns out to be less than you expected. This was one of the best things I did, and eliminated scurrying around trying to figure out where I was supposed to be, or trying to recall which session I wanted to attend.
3. But be flexible! If you’re having an amazing conversation with a sponsor, potential collaborator, or a blogger you’ve admired and are finally meeting in real life, think about how important it is to get to that session. While you can read a recap or borrow notes from a friend, you’ll unlikely be able to replicate a “real” face-to-face conversation. And those conversations – those in-person connections – are the most valuable takeaways from Alt. So make the most of that chat. Pop into a lounge (which will be less crowded while sessions are in progress) and introduce yourself to a sponsor. Or even return to your room for a quick nap. It can feel imperative to soak up every bit of every “thing” but try not to get swept up.
4. Have an elevator pitch (actually, have two). I can’t stress this enough – you should have committed to memory two “pitches” – one for people you meet in general and one that is a bit more fleshed out, for sponsors and potential collaborators. You should be able to quickly – and comfortably – give a taste of who you are and what your blog is all about. For me it was “expert mom and lifestyle writer” (infinity thanks to the incomparable Jessie for her help in prepping my pitches).
5. And have a take-away too. As amazing as you are, it’s impossible to expect everyone you meet at Alt to remember you – so give them a little something to help. Of course you’ll have a business card (more on that in a bit), but how about a “take away” too? I wrote a short bio – and fit two to a page – and printed out a bunch to hand out with my business card. Here’s what it looked like:
As you can see it had my logo AND a picture of moi, plus all of my pertinent info – more than I could fit into a business card but less than a full-on media kit. I handed this out – with my card – to anyone I aspired to work with (again, thanks to Jessie for this great suggestion).
6. “Bring” your business card. Alt attracts some of the most talented design bloggers and creatives. So the devil is in the details and you’ll want to make as good an impression as possible. This doesn’t mean spending a fortune on expensive letterpress cards. And if you’re not a design blogger – or creative – you don’t need to stress about having the most imaginative card out there. But at the very least it should look clean and distinctive. I love, love, love Moo for well-priced cards that look and feel as if they cost a lot more. So this is the time to get that card all spiffed up and ready to go (you can read my post about my favorite business cards from last year’s conference, to get you inspired!). And when someone gives you a card, take a minute after you part ways to jot a few notes on the back. What she was wearing, a memorable comment, anything that will a) help you remember just “who” that was, and b) something to reference when you do the all-important follow-up. Speaking of which:
7. Follow up. And follow up again. While I was very diligent about following up with connections I made, what I should have ALSO done was follow up again a few weeks later. I can’t even fathom the deluge of e-mails people received, and I did myself a disservice by not sending a second note later on, when things quieted down. My pal Melanie pointed this out and it was great advice.
8. Don’t freak out about the clothes. There was a LOT of chatter last year about what people were wearing to Alt. And if you look at the recaps you will see that people do indeed KILL it with the clothes. There was also a bit of backlash on-line, implying that Alt was becoming too much a “fashion show”, and that the clothes were overshadowing everything else. But here’s the thing: Alt is a very unique conference. It attracts a higher percentage of fashion, graphic and lifestyle creatives. In general these are professionals who are passionate about aesthetics and this will, of course, extend to their wardrobes. But I can pretty much guarantee that for every pair of colored tights, for every messy top knot, for every striped t-shirt, there is a blog behind it that is stellar. In every way. Blogging is ultimately a business, and the bloggers who attend Alt are some of the very best – and most professional – in the field. That said, there are hundreds of attendees – of all ages, sizes and styles. Did I put a lot of thought into my outfits? Hell yes. But did I re-invent myself? Hell no. By all means treat yourself to a new pair of shoes or a fab party dress. But don’t freak out. I promise you’ll fit in just fine.
9. Connect before you arrive. Use the hashtag #altsummit on Twitter to reach out and connect with people in advance of the conference. Find out who’s going to the same sponsor dinner as you. Read a blog post by someone who’s attending and comment on it. While I was lucky to have a bunch of friends at the conference with me, I also met several “new” friends who I had chatted with on-line and made time to meet for a drink or cup of coffee. Those were some of the most memorable moments at Alt for me, and made the experience that much richer.
10. Push yourself. Even if it’s just a little bit. I become a very shy person when put into a group setting. But there is truly no place for shyness here. Alt is an incredible opportunity to meet extraordinary people – and if you hold up the walls, you’ll miss out. Which would be a shame. So just keep telling yourself, “I’m here. I’m going to own this. She’s just a person like me”. And go over and introduce yourself to that blogger you admire. Or the woman with the fabulous lipstick. Or the sponsor that you are dying to work with. You have nothing to lose, and like everything else, the more you do it the less awkward it will be. And to make the “doing” a little easier, I’m thrilled to share with you that Alt is doing something new this year – Alt Representatives! They are some of my very favorite bloggers and ladies around, and you can read MJ’s post to find out more about them. Make sure you find ALL of these lovelies and say hello from me! You’ll have a bunch of wonderful new friends in no time!
Some final thoughts:
Bring a large tote bag. I can’t overstate the amount of “stuff” you will amass each day. So by all means carry a cute bag if you like, but make sure you have a tote to hold the stuff. There will be a lot of stuff.
I don’t know where I read this tip (so if it was yours, please let me know!), but be sure to have hand sanitizer, “on-hand”. Not only for the obvious, but if nerves are running high and your palms are a bit clammy, a little hand sanitizer will dry them right up. This was genius. (Update: It was PJ! Here’s the post, with more great tips!)
Bring mints. They’re more discreet than gum and will eradicate any trace of your morning coffee or lunchtime salad.
Drink. All. The water. Seriously, you will not believe how dehydrated you will get – make sure you are constantly sipping.
A portable phone charger will be your best friend, and maybe help a “new friend” in need.
Keep a tube of hand cream in your tote. That dryness I mentioned will extend to your hands too, and as you’ll be shaking lots of them, you want yours to be nice and soft. I like this one, and always have a travel size in my bag.
Stock up on high-protein bars and grab a few before you leave your hotel room each day. Your body might not be on the same clock as the scheduled meals, and the last thing you need is plummeting blood sugar or a hunger headache. And a growling stomach is totally awkward.
That about wraps it up for me! I loved Mara’s tips too (she’s one of my very favorite people and she and her husband are speaking at Alt this year – you DON’T want to miss it), and you can check out my Pinterest board for some great recaps of last year’s conference.
And above all, have fun! I’ll be following along and enjoying the excitement vicariously!