I’m two weeks away from Alt Summit 2013 and still feel like I’m soaking in the fullness of the experience. It was really incredible and inspired me more than I could have anticipated. I had considered attending Alt 2012 but instead chose to spend the year figuring out where my blog fit into my life, and how I wanted to represent myself in blogging. When the registration opened for 2013 I was ready to make the investment.
The conference weekend was a complete whirlwind, but I felt prepared for the craziness and comfortable in my skin. I think that comfort and confidence enabled me to really reach out and make friends, connect with brands, and enjoy every minute (after exhausting minute) of the weekend.
I’ve taken some time to think about what lessons from Alt 2013 will really make a lasting impact on my blog and my life, and I’d love to share them with you.
The most resounding lesson (that has been repeating over and over in my head for two weeks) was taught by Stefan Sagmeister at the Friday lunch. He was discussing the topic of happiness and sharing some information and amazing clips from his upcoming movie “The Happy Film.” While meandering through his statistics and thoughts, he said that one day he had an ah-hah moment in which he realized that in order to be happy, he needed to do more of the things that he liked, and less of the things he hated.
That idea really resonated with me. It made me consider my day to day life and what things I fill it with. Which of the things I do are things I like? I mean, I’m 30-years-and-two-days-old with a family, business, and hobbies on the side. There is no one else but me shaping my weeks, months and years. I CAN CHOOSE what I want to do! It may seem simple, but the idea of Doing More of What I Like has liberated me from some of the “should” and “have to” of my life. I’m working on letting go of the things I don’t like and inviting in more of the things that I do.
For my life, this is means more unplugging to read books (made from paper!), eating slow meals with fresh ingredients, and folding laundry while it’s warm and cozy. For my blog it means taking time for projects that inspire me and offer value to you, creating focused series with thorough and comprehensive content (like Reindeer Week, or Stretch Yourself), and ensuring the timeline I create is realistic and manageable.
Of all of the lesson I learned at Alt Summit, this one was the farthest reaching. So much so that I cut it out of fabric and am going to hang it above my bed. If just for this tiny tidbit of inspiration, my Alt investment would have been worth it. But guys, there was more!
Your notebook is your best friend. At registration, each attendee was given a notebook and pen. I took profuse notes at all of the lectures, keynote speakers, and each night I even taped all of the business cards I had collected that day into my notebook and wrote little notes about where I had met each person. Each day at Alt is really busy, and taking notes helped me keep the experience organized. I’m sure if I hadn’t been so meticulous I would remember a whole lot less about the experience.
For my life this means I need to make more room for journaling so I continue to remember and build upon the experiences I have, rather than repeat them over and over. For my blog this means sketching and planning before jumping into projects. It also means keeping a clear and organized record of collaborations and sponsorships to be able to build more meaningful relationships.
Impromptu balloon parties are awesome (aka engage the audience.) Cute Katie Soloker of Color Me Katie is full of surprises. Just check out her blog to see what I mean. I was so excited for her keynote talk the last day of Alt. The first few minutes seemed a little rough…Katie is a bitty person with a quiet voice and I think the vast room and semi-exhausted crowd just absorbed her words. Suddenly, when it seemed like she was out of things to say, she invited each of us to reach under our chairs, blow up the balloon that she had put there, and throw them into the air! Just like that, the room was filled with bustling energy, laughter, and tiny Katie bounced up and down over the chairs snapping photos of her impromptu party. Inviting the audience to participate in the fun made all the difference, and was so appropriate, since that’s what Katie is all about anyway. It made her art real to us, and is something everyone who attended her talk will always remember.
For my life this means planning fun and unexpected things to really engage with my family and friends to make them smile and create valuable memories. For my blog it means being even more conscious of my wonderful audience of readers and inviting them to participate in the projects that inspire me, either through comments and social media or by providing the tools for you to create with confidence.
There is always something to learn. All of the lectures I attended were really great. I learned about collaborating with sponsors, earning revenue from blogging, how to be a contributor to other blogs, and organizing my life online. On Friday afternoon I was headed to what I thought was a social media lecture and I ended up in a class about finding your own unique voice by Karen of Chookooloonks. To be honest, I felt a touch of disappointment that I would be missing out on the social media class ( I mean, how am I ever going to figure out twitter?!) but in about 10 seconds I was completely sucked into the lecture and knew that what I was learning about slowing down and being present, stoping comparison, and creating my own story were such valuable and meaningful lessons. In the end, I loved the class, and even got a little emotional when I shook Karen’s hand and told her thank you for telling me what I needed to hear. Any of the classes would have been wonderful, and I’m sure they all are. The thing to really understand is that there will be something valuable to learn in any of them!
For my life this means thinking about each day as an opportunity to become better, and looking for the nuggets of value in the experiences I have. For my blog this means maintaining a teaching environment, ensuring I’m sharing something of value in every post I write.
People are people, say hello. I went into my Alt experience excited to connect with people. That was one of the primary reasons I attended the conference. Getting to spend time in the flesh (rather than via screen) with other wonderful folks was so refreshing, and truly filled my soul. I was lucky to sit in the front during the first keynote, given by Chris Anderson from Wired Magazine. His talk about the second industrial revolution through technology in design was super interesting, informative, and inspirational. I loved hearing about things I had never before heard of (like 3D printers…what the what? I’m thinking we should get this less expensive one for Christmas next year.) After the talk was a question and answer, where I hesitated to raise my hand because I couldn’t think of a great question. Then, the talk ended, and the room began to clear, and Chris stood up five feet from me and I thought why not go say hello?! It could have been so easy to be intimidated, self-conscious, or uninterested, but I remembered then that people are all people, and I was here to connect. Chris was warm and so nice. Once in front of his face, I actually thought of a couple quick questions, that he answered cordially and kindly.
Shaking Chris’ hand set me up to feel comfortable approaching, meeting and talking with everyone I could at ALT. I have been blogging and reading blogs for six years, which has given me a long time to admire some favorite more well-known bloggers. I felt really lucky to meet and talk with some of them at the conference, rather than just gawk at them. I also got to meet some really incredible people who I had never heard of, and who I can’t wait to get to know better.
For my life this means pushing myself outside of my comfort zone to meet and connect with people, make new friends, and value real life relationships. For my blog this means treating my readers as people, and doing my best to respond to emails, comments, and questions with honest and real answers.
Relaxing is as important as working. Each day of the conference there were lounges sponsored by different brands and companies. The first day, BING sponsored a room with the theme #bingittolife. For months leading up to the conference, they had people submit ideas that they had seen and loved with the hashtag #bingittolife, and they presented some of their favorites in the lounge. This huge string art caught my eye one day as I wandered into the lounge. Not only was the art incredibly executed, but the message was meaningful. “Relax and Unwind.” In the middle of the craziness of the conference, this piece spoke volumes, and reflected what was being mentioned-at least in part- in every single lecture I attended: ” love what you do,” “manage your time,” “what is your priority for life?” “be appropriately engaged.” Even busy busy bloggers have to maintain balance in order to continue being effective busy busy bloggers. Dave (who worked for Franklin Covey for years) calls this the need to “Sharpen the Saw,” I’m going to start calling it my need to “Relax and Unwind.”
For my life this means scheduling time to do those things that relax and unwind me. Some of them include running with friends, reading a good book, traveling with my family, soaking in a hot bath, meditating in nature, shopping at the farmer’s market, and instagramming. Just kidding. Sort of. For my blog this means being intentional with the schedule I create for posting, and then step away, allowing myself time to process, be inspired, and plan for future posts and projects.
Partnerships are mutually beneficial. It goes without saying that Alt is filled with sponsors. There were over 30 different, wonderful brands who supported the bloggers at Alt Summit 2013. Blogging has become a valuable advertising option for companies ( I know most of the things I buy were first spotted on a blog somewhere…) and it was really cool to have the chance to mingle with the sponsors and find out if there was a way we could work together! The first evening I attended a dinner sponsored by Gallery Direct, and had such a fun night getting to know the team, and talking about possible partnership ideas. Gallery Direct gifted each of the dinner attendees a gallery wrapped canvas print of a photo we had sent to them before the conference. I simply adore the print I got of little Milo (in costume, as per usual) gazing out the kitchen window. Sponsorships on blogs are no longer going to be just the sidebar and banner ads. Instead, we can be creative and come up with a mutually beneficial partnership where both the brand and the blogger are giving and receiving in a way that feels like a win.
For my life this means approaching challenges from a perspective of teamwork and finding a mutually beneficial win. In a lot of cases this will mean putting in some additional work, but also receiving some additional benefit. For my blog this means being creative when I approach sponsors about partnerships, and staying true to projects and ideas that truly inspire me that can support like-minded companies, as well.
In order of appearance starting with the West Elm Booth: me, Sara from Sarah Hearts, Anna from And Then We Saved, Emily from Tea Collection, Jessica from The Sewing Rabbit, Katherine from Braid Creative, Melissa from Melissa Esplin, Natasha from Little Pink Monster, Ania from The New Diplomats Wife, Susan from Crafter Hours, Nicole from Making it Lovely, Rebecca from Animal Head Vintage, Dana from Made, more with Rebecca, more with Melissa, Dayna from Your Yoko, Chelsea from The Paper Mama
It’s up to you to make the memories (aka step into every single photo booth you see!) With all of the whirlwind of Alt, it can be really easy to finish the day wondering what on earth even happened! Cram so much into a few hours and something’s bound to slip out. Luckily, there was a photo booth around every corner at the conference, and starting before Alt even began, at the Hello Social, I used them to make a quick memory with the people around who I was talking with. It was so much fun! Somehow taking a photo with someone validates the relationship a little bit, and now my plethora of photo booth photos serve as marking points for the days as they passed and the friends I was meeting. Now, I don’t walk around with a photo booth in my pocket (although, now that I’ve thought of it, I’m totally going to have to create an insta-photo-booth kit…) but the idea of stopping and doing something to acknowledge and remember a moment is a valuable practice.
For my life this means stopping to take more photos with my kids and friends while we’re going about regular life (not only photographing things to blog or instagram…ahem), marking occasions with physical reminders like notes, and having as much crazy fun with brand new friends as I do with good old friends. For my blog this acknowledging personal blogging milestones, fostering new and old relationships with other bloggers and brands through sincere commentary and links, and coming up with memorable posts and series that will mark my personal progress as a blogger.
Whew! That’s a lot to think about, right? Now you know why it’s taken me over two weeks to finish articulating the things I learned at Alt Summit. I have never felt so inspired and excited coming away from a weekend before, and I am ready to begin applying these lessons to my life and blog now, and am already getting my speed-fingers ready to buy my ticket for next year (the conference sold out in 30 minutes this year!) If any, or all of this hit home for you, you might want to think about coming, too! I’d love to meet you at the photo booth!
Images via: (1) stop-motion poster by me (2) Brooke Dennis (3) Katie Sokoler (4) Justin Hackworth (5) Brooke Dennis (6) Justin Hackworth (7) Brooke Dennis (8) Various Photo Booths