Well, I'm back from ALT Summit NYC and I must say that it was really pretty darn incredible. It is still all sort of sinking in and I have so much to show you, but I thought I would begin today with a peek at my behind-the-scenes ALT preparations. If you are like me, you've probably read countless blog posts over the past few years detailing all the fabulousness that is ALT. I had been toying with the idea of attending ALT's really "big" conference (it takes place over the better part of four days) in Salt Lake City, but it seemed like a big commitment - especially since I kinda hate (HATE!) flying. So, when they announced ALT would be holding another one-day conference in NYC this summer, I jumped at the opportunity to attend.And to take the train.
Again, if you've done any research about ALT, you probably know that it is a pretty big deal in the blogging community, in that it attracts really impressive big-name speakers and sponsors. Additionally, things like having a super cool wardrobe and gorgeous business cards play a huge role in the overall ALT experience. So it was not without some trepidation that I approached the conference. For one, I was attending by myself and I wasn't really going to know anyone there. I consider myself a pretty socially adept individual, but the thought of walking alone into a room filled with super stylish and majorly accomplished women (who seemingly all knew each other) was a bit daunting. Sooooo....I did what I usually do and I managed my anxiety by doing lots of preparation and shopping. :-) Here's what I did and what I discovered...
The Business Card.
I had seen on Pinterest what some other attendees had done in previous years, so I knew that the business card bar was set pretty high. I already had some cards that I really liked and I didn't see any reason to re-design them just for the conference. Instead, I decided to fancy them up a bit. I put them in little cello bags with pink and white striped headers in an attempt to make them look like little bags of candy. As you may know, Such Pretty Thing's tag line is "all things pretty, vintage, floral, and sweet", so I included all the little things that represented that - "pretty" pastel confetti, gold "vintage" sequins, little bouquets of millinery "flowers" (forget-me-nots, of course), and some "sweet" little pink and white candy sticks. And I made 200 of them. Yes, 200! There were to be 300 attendees at the conference, but I didn't think I was physically going to be able to introduce myself to that many people in one day. So, I made 200 bags and brought along another 100 plain cards in case I ran out.
Reality check: I probably only personally handed out about 60 to 75 bags to people that I actually had the opportunity to strike up a conversation with. If I had attended the longer conference in SLC, I suspect I would have eventually run out of them...but in one day, you can only do so much. At the end of the day, I just placed the remaining ones on people's seats. I didn't want to schlep them home with me - especially after all the time it took to make them. :-) I should also note, that while some people went above and beyond when designing their cards (letter-pressed, gilded, hand-sewn, etc...), plenty of people just had nice, simple cards. And upon some reflection, I don't think it really mattered - honestly, if a person and/or their blog were interesting, who cared if their card was the most spectacular one on the board? Not I.
This was a biggie for me. And this is where the (excessive) shopping comes in. Again, in pictures I had seen of past events, ALT seemed to attract some pretty stylish folks. This was fine with me. I love fashion and I love having a good reason to go shopping. But, I will admit that I did perseverate way too much on this aspect of the event (i.e., drove my girlfriends crazy). Should I wear nice pants and a blouse? Were jeans too casual? Was a maxi dress too much? Was a statement necklace a prerequisite? Wedges that would kill my feet after ten minutes or comfy flats? To make matters worse, I needed two outfits - one for the chichi sponsor dinner on Wednesday night and one for the conference all day Thursday. It took me about two weeks, countless trips to the mall, and lots of $$$ to decide what to wear. Ultimately, I chose good jeans, heels and a lace blouse for dinner and a maxi dress and pretty (flat) sandals for the conference. And, oh yes, a statement necklace with each one. :-)
Reality check: My outfits were just fine, but I really needn't have put so much thought (anxiety!) into them. Yes, some people did look like they had just stepped off the pages of Vogue, but the majority of us just looked like regular, nicely-dressed people attending a design conference. If nothing else, just wear some really cool shoes. Cool shoes are big at ALT!
Packing and What to Bring.
Given that this was barely a two-day event, I didn't really have to bring all that much. But if you are planning to attend ALT in the future, there are a few things to keep in mind.
A Big Bag.
First and foremost, you need a really big tote (or two)! There is so much fabulous swag handed out (books, magazines, t-shirts, candy, etc...), you will need a big bag to carry it all in. And it doesn't hurt if it's a cute bag. This is a design conference after all. You will also need several smaller bags - one for holding your business cards and one for collecting all the cards that you will receive.
At the very least, you will need your phone. I never go anywhere without my iPhone - I can use it to get directions, take pictures, upload to FB and Instagram, and text my husband to make sure the kids and dog are surviving my absence. :-) I also found it helpful to bring my iPad to take notes, but a notebook and pen would work just fine as well. I also brought a "real" camera. I would say most people did, as they are all bloggers! But I decided not to bring my SLR because I didn't want to carry it all day. Instead, I brought a more manageable, smaller camera and that was perfectly fine. Of course, don't forget all your chargers, extra batteries, etc.. It's a long day.
Reality check: I ended up mostly using my iPhone to take pictures - it was just easier - and since it takes such great photos, I probably could have even skipped my regular camera.
Mixing and Mingling.
As I said previously, I was a "bit" nervous about going alone.
Reality check: Going alone is totally doable. But in all honesty, I would probably go with someone I know next time. I think I foolishly expected to run into familiar faces, but when you realize this was just 300 people out of the literally millions of bloggers out there, the chances are pretty slim. There were certainly other people there who came alone, but I think it might have been more fun to have a buddy there (even if she was across the room the whole time and I never even hung out with her). It would have been comforting in those moments of elementary school flashbacks when I thought "who am I going to sit with at lunch?". :-) But that is just me and I suspect some people would actually prefer to go alone.
I will say that going alone did force me to be extra out-going and that is not a bad thing. I did meet lots of people and, in general, almost everyone I met was super friendly and nice. Most people that I approached were responsive and happy to engage in conversation. I met lots of interesting and talented people and that was a lot of fun. Now, obviously there will always be a few people who aren't as friendly and you have to be able to handle that and move on. Maybe they are having a bad day. Maybe they are just shy. Or maybe they really do just have terrible personalities. It happens, so don't take it personally.
I am so glad that I went to ALT! I would absolutely do it again. But next time, I will try to care just a little bit less about having the perfect business card and wardrobe. I will likely bring a blogging buddy. And I will definitely bring a really, really big tote bag.