Alt Summit was a roller coaster — physically, emotionally, mentally. I’ve already told you about the physical lows. Now let me tell you about everything else.
Altitude Design Summit, as it is officially known, is a conference for design bloggers primarily. There are subsets of bloggers who write about food, fashion, DIY activities, event planning, and parenting. Other interested people join in, such as graphic designers, photographers, and companies large and small hoping to get in touch with all these bloggers.
The conference began Wednesday evening. A number of companies sponsored dinners at restaurants scattered across Salt Lake City. I went to Settebello, a fancy pizza joint, and was hosted by a lovely group of ladies from the denim company Citizens of Humanity.
Thursday started with panels. During Getting Past Zero, Mariah Danielsen of Oh, What Love suggested interviewing people that you want to collaborate with on your blog, and my roommate Mina talked about a blog’s curb appeal to retain readers. I heard some really good advice about building e-courses (something I’m considering) from Mariah Bruehl of Playful Learning during Four Ways to Earn Revenue From Your Blog.
We had a keynote lunch from Chris Anderson of 3D Robotics and then more afternoon panels. Jasmine Star spoke about the power of showcasing your personality on your blog and monetizing side projects instead of monetizing your blog in her talk on branding.
The day ended with a Clue-themed party where everyone had to dress in mustard, plum, white, peacock, scarlet, or green. I went with green — a green reptilian print dress with ruffled skirt, sky-high green pumps, and a spiked bracelet with green beads.
Friday began with roundtable discussions and panels. Erin Loechner gave some brilliant advice on Getting Your Online Life Organized. She suggested the app Gee Tasks for migrating Gmail to do lists onto your cell phone, TheSwizzle.com for bulk junk email unsubscribing, Feedly as a pretty RSS feed, and the app Pocket for saving articles to read later.
The lunchtime keynote speech from designer Stefan Sagmeister was incredibly inspiring. His idea of spacing out sabbaticals throughout a person’s working life in order to keep the passion for your calling — instead of falling victim to a career (for advancement and promotion) or a job (done for money 9-5) — rang true to me. I want to see The Happy Film, his documentary on the search for happiness, and The Happy Show, a supplemental exhibition that might travel to Chicago at some point.
One more panel and then a keynote talk from the street artist/photographer/blogger Katie Sokoler closed out the business part of the day. At the end of Katie’s talk, we all blew up balloons and tossed them in the air. At first I was a little annoyed, but as the balloon toss kept going and going, the joy in the room became infectious. For what seemed like ages, we kept tossing and hitting multicolored balloons back into the air. Somehow I ended up sitting in the epicenter and, by the end, was laughing my head off.
And then we party jumped from suite to suite during the mini parties, each with a different theme. I loved the Great Gatsby-themed party Erin threw and the mod party thrown by The Girls with Glasses. I rocked the dance floor as I’m known to do.
Saturday morning was when I woke up sick. I dragged myself to part of the Photo Styling workshop and then the Walking Photography Tour around Salt Lake City. I was excited to see the Mormon Temple. But I spent the rest of the day in my room with tissues, either napping or mainlining mint tea.
Alt was exhausting, which is probably why I got sick. For a first time attendee, introducing myself over and over again was tough. I’m a social person, but there were more then 600 people there. Of course I didn’t even meet half, but jumping from session to session, conversation to conversation takes a lot out of a person. The brief moments of exchange made me wish the pace was a little slower and that I could get to know people better on an individual level in order to facilitate better connections and a deeper exchange of information. But look at all the beautiful business cards I collected during my time there!
The sessions varied between inspirational and practical knowledge. Oprah-like inspiration isn’t exactly my thing, so I most appreciated those filled with really concrete examples and information.
One of the most honest pieces of advice came from Helen Jane of Federated Media during the Advanced Blogging Skills panel. Someone asked if it was worth writing for a bigger blog for free. Helen hemmed for a minute saying it was complicated, but then admitted it wasn’t. She said if you are writing for a big, monetized blog, obviously your content is already of a good enough value and you don’t need to write for free just to learn/practice. She said to focus on your own work and/or work that pays. And that was exactly the kind of candor I was looking for when I signed up to go to Alt.