Altsummit Salt Lake City is coming up in a few weeks, which means one thing, most attendees are freaking out on twitter about what to wear, what to bring, what it will be like, and all-around nerves that go with attending a conference for the first time. If this is your first time attending Alt, I’d like to hold your hand and guide you through the sometimes (what seems like) craziness of this annual bloggers conference at the Grand America hotel in Salt Lake City. My first year at Alt SLC was 2012 just two months after I launched this business. I was nervous, knew NOBODY, stayed with strangers, and had no idea what I was doing. At the end of that conference I had made friends with some of the ladies that I am dear friends with today, made business contacts that led me to money making opportunities, and got my awesome business cards into the hands of hundreds of people.
The second year I went, 2013, I was honored to be going as a speaker. The second year, feeling like a veteran, was truly different than the first and I implemented some tips that I learned that first year to make Alt even better.
Here are my tips for making AltSummit a wonderful, fun, profitable, learning experience from a first timers and a speakers point of view:
1. Your clothes matter, but not that much.
Everyone puts a lot of emphasize on what they will wear at AltSummit. Will it be cool enough? Trendy enough? Whatever enough? How about ask yourself if it will be comfortable and fun enough? Comfort and fun are key. Making it a little professional looking is great, too. Think: COMFORT + FUN + PROFESSIONAL = YOU BEING AWESOME. You will not feel like yourself and be confident to talk to strangers if you are wearing some uncomfortable, crazy heels with an itchy sequin shirt because someone told you that sequin shirts were the next big thing. Many of the attendees, like myself, work from home and wear PJs 99% of the time. This is the perfect excuse for us to wear extra fun outfits that would look silly on our daily runs to my local coffee shop. My advice: grab your favorite outfit, add that fun accessory that is sitting in your closet and you never wear (may I recommend a fun ban.do?), pair it with COMFORTABLE shoes, put on a bright lipstick, and you are done.
Example outfits I wore last year: long sleeve animal print dress (professional) with teal tights (fun) and ankle boots (comfort), gray V-neck t-shirt (comfort), floral print denim (fun), and blazer (professional). Remember, comfort plus fun plus professional and you’re golden.
2. Well known bloggers are people too
Go up to anyone, even those big, internet-famous bloggers who you are nervous to talk to, and introduce yourself (see number 4). The bloggers with a million hits a month are people just like you. They have insecurities, fears, and scary business decisions to make. This is your one chance to get to know them on a personal level. Starting a conversation with an honest compliment always works.
3. Business cards actually do matter
Everyone puts a lot of emphasize on business cards. Yes, these actually matter. Ok, they don’t have to sing a song and create world peace, but they do have to be impactful, simple, eye-catching, and informative. I have two versions: both are foil printed on thick white stock. See where they’ve shown up on the web in this Google image search. It’s a little last minute right now to order new business cards, but if you do have time, be sure they have your name, email, website, and title. It’s surprising how many don’t have this basic information. Bring at least 150 cards.
4. Practice introducing yourself and your blog
When I attended AltSummit NYC over the summer, 9 out of 10 people that I asked what they do said this: “I have a lifestyle blog.” YAWN. I’M BORED. What kind of lifestyle blog? What does lifestyle blog even mean? Is it a colorful, modern, lifestyle blog that specializes in budget crafts? Than say that. Is it a vegan cooking blog with stories of raising six kids? Than say that. Is your lifestyle blog about a queer lady living the urban life on a waitress salary and repurposing thrift store clothes? THAN TELL ME THAT. All of the AltSummit attendees will meet hundreds of new people, the second you introduce yourself with a generic description of your blog, you have been forgotten. Own what you write about. Practice saying it. Be confident about it. Your lifestyle blog is completely different than Joe Schmo’s lifestyle blog down the street. Tell me why in one sentence and I’m interested in being your friend and learning more about your life.
5. You gotta eat
To avoid going broke and eating unhealthy during AltSummit, bring your own breakfast and snacks. Purchasing breakfast at the Grand America everyday gets pricey. I bring oatmeal packets and use the coffee machine in the room for hot water. AltSummit is wonderful at having yummy snacks out during breaks, although if you have food allergies or want to eat healthier, stash your snack of choice in your purse. I recommend homemade trail mix
6. The bigger the better when it comes to your bag
Carry a large bag. You’ll need room for swag, business cards, your phone charger (trust me), snacks, and a notebook.
7. The lobby is where it’s at.
The real AltSummit, where you get to know your fellow bloggers and business owners, is in the lobby of the hotel. Ask someone you’d love to get to know better to have a coffee in the lobby. Pick each other’s brains. Invite others to sit at your table. Exchange cell phone numbers. Send each other encouraging texts for the next year. Meet again at AltSummit 2015 as successful business owners.
8. Follow up with people and sponsors that you’ve met
You are going to meet a lot of people and a lot of sponsors. Some of which you will totally jive with, others you will never talk to again. The ones that you would love to work with in 2014, either by collaborating or by them paying you for your talents, follow up two weeks after Alt. The week after Alt, I’m always trying to find a space to store all my swag, unpack my bag, and get back to daily life. I have a whole week of emails to catch up on and am overwhelmed. Send the follow-up email 2-3 weeks after. Make it short and to the point.
9. Leave the hotel, for your sanity
Staying at the Grand America and going to AltSummit everyday means that you will most likely not leave the hotel, until well, you are actually leaving. This will slowly make you insane. It will be freezing, but go outside. I recommend taking a two block walk to Decades to buy a little something vintage, then walking two more blocks to Deseret Industries to find a consignment treasure.
10. Leave room in your suitcase
Trust me, you’ll need room for your swag, business cards from new friends, and treasures from Decades.