MYkind: alt summit recap…

… plus, how to survive your next conference, wherever that may be.

Alt Summit felt very different for me this year, possibly because it’s grown leaps and bounds since I first attended (with my sweet roomies Vic and Jaime) in 2010. The sheer number of inspiring creatives was nothing short of overwhelming, and I found that I participated in more 10 second, frenetic conversations this year – and much less 10 hour, life-changing conversations. And as you can probably tell, I’d pick the 10 hour convos any day.

erin loechner alt summit

BUT – it was still a treat to attend, to present an alarmingly brilliant sponsorship panel (pictured above) with Sarah, Danielle and Meg, throw another kickin’ resource party and teach a videoblogging class (with my sweet husband!) for HGTV. And because I’ve been pretty exhausted lately (when does that amazing second trimester energy kick in, friends?!), I slipped away for the bulk of the conference to nap, have quiet lunches and many, many meetings. And I left feeling like yes, I missed out on keynotes, panels and parties, but I took care of myself and furthered my business on the spot, rather than talking about furthering my business. You know?

In short, I feel like this was the first conference where I strategized instead of socialized. I stood up, rather than sat down. And I forged, rather than followed.

Sure, I felt really, really left out when I look back and see the photo booths, streamers and confetti, but I think that next week, when the sparkles fade, I’ll be proud of the relationships I formed and business smarts I gained. I hired an agent, negotiated a contract and committed to a new sponsorship deal – all in the span of three days. And here’s where I state my new conference rules:

erin loechner alt summit 2

1. Come with a plan. Peruse the speaker list and follow the Twitter buzz. Pick out a few choice attendees or business contacts that you’d love to connect with on a deeper level, and invite them to breakfast ahead of time. Conference schedules can be packed, so don’t rely on impromptu meetings; they rarely happen.

2. Save room for others. While I would have loved to plan every second of every day, it’s important to support others and give back to your community. This is why I love throwing impromptu resource parties (pictured below) – you get to hear about some really inspiring goals for the year, help further those goals, and make real connections that will (hopefully!) last beyond the Grand America hotel.

resource party alt summit


3. Be present. I have a hard time with this one, because I get super overwhelmed when I’m around a bajillion people that I love and want to connect with. But when having a conversation, it’s important to be present in that conversation. If you’re not good at this, arrange a conversation in a quiet place where you’re less likely to be interrupted – or less likely to people watch around the room. My best convos this year took place over a secluded breakfast spot, on a brisk walk around the block, a secluded sofa corner of the hotel and yes, the restroom.

4. Follow up. This is what’s happening now. I have a list of a few friends and colleagues that I didn’t get near enough time to chat with, so this week? This week I’m going to email them and see how they enjoyed the conference and what’s to come in their lives for 2012. Maybe even throw in a phone chat or debriefing session along the way. Because even if we didn’t get to toast champagne or break dance in a ballroom, I love them dearly.

In other words, if I missed you at the conference, let’s get in touch this week. I’d love to hear how you plan to take over the world in 2012 and beyond. Plus, chances are, I loved your shoes.

p.s. I didn’t take any photos at the conference (See! I was being present! #3!), so thanks to the AltSummit2012 Flickr group and the amazing photogs for the above shots.
p.p.s. An incredible thank you to Gabby and her Stanley family clanley. They make things happen for the benefit of all.

  • Thanks so much, Erin! This is such perfect advice. I love these tips. Especially the saving room for others. I’ll definitely take your advice for next year. I also found that keeping up on the twitter #altsummit hashtag was extremely helpful. I was able to go to your resource party and interview Emily Henderson all because of twitter! ;) Also, it was so nice meeting you – you’re one of my new favorite people! :)

  • Sage advice, Erin. I think any sort of conference or networking opportunity presents the challenge of coming up with a plan. It sounds like you made magnificent use of your time, while exhausted and pregnant! Good on you!

  • Thanks for sharing! I’ve heard so many great things about this! Maybe I’ll be at a good point next time and be able to attend!

  • whew. i definitely fell into the overwhelmed category! i had no real idea what to expect or how to really be ready for it, but with my first (blog) conference under my belt, i came away with many of the same thoughts for myself!

    i have to say, too – you naturally put people at ease, Erin. it’s amazing. as was your commitment to that little resource party (and even if my goal seemed a little bit lofty — i still expect to make it happen!!) ox

  • thank you so much, friends – you always make me feel better when i’m afraid i did it all wrong. ;)

  • I love how you did it your way. A good reminder! I am one of those “extroverted introverts” and really need some alone time to recharge after a ton of networking. Sometimes I wish that I was that energizer bunny who could be up all.night.long partying and chit chatting but alas, I can’t! I’d be asleep on a couch nearby…

    This was my first blog conference and although I met some great people, I will definitely be even more strategic next year – great, great advice to set up some breakfasts/meetings ahead of time!

    And still thinking of the fab video blogging session! Made my first one this morning. Now just the editing…cue the learning curve!

  • It sounds like you kicked butt and did what was JUST RIGHT for you and your business. Congrats on a new perspective and thanks for sharing!

  • Erin, Alt was my first experience with a blog conference and I didn’t know at all what to expect. While next time around I will be a lot more prepared and ready to network your example of a class act. Your easy quick ability to share a smile and your knowledge was inspiring. Thank you!

  • i’m still feeling overwhelmed by the whole experience. it was a lot to take in, but at the same time i loved it! and i wanted to thank you for your inspiration and practical tips! you’re a true gem, erin. thank you for making time to have the resource party. i felt such great energy and encouragement from sharing big ideas to a group of likeminded people. now it’s time to make those connections and see what amazing things will come of it! :)

  • Love your takes on the conference. I always get frustrated at conferences for the lack of deep-conversations I end up having and need to just make that part of the plan! Congrats on the new adventures it sounds like you’ll be on too!

  • Thanks for these words. It should be right what you did at Alt being at the level you’re at. I didn’t get to meet you or participate in any of the sessions/classes you gave but I love your work and will keep following!

  • thanks for your kind words and encouragement, ladies — i wish we could all meet again for hugs and deep convos!

  • Erin-
    I adore you and your perspective!! What a professional + strategic plan. Although I did not attend Alt… I hope to in the future. And, your sound advice has given me confidence to insert myself as something other than an outsider once it get there ;-)
    Will you be traveling to Austin for SXSW???

  • It was such a pleasure to meet you and chat with you at the Wednesday dinner. You are adorable! Sounds like you had some great strategies going into the conference and I will certainly remember them for next year. Big hug!

  • It’s a real milestone, I think, In any worthwhile endeavor, when you reach the point of realizing that you yourself are worth nurturing at all costs. Good for you. I would only have liked to have been in on those 10 hour conversations, but celebrate your progress and success!

  • Sounds like a perfect plan and strategy for a conference to me, yay for you achieveing so much in 3 days! And don’t know about this 2nd trimester business, still waiting for energy to kick in too!

  • I really liked this post, Erin. It’s nice to hear that you can benefit from a conference like Alt even if you’re not all hyped up on the sparkly-pink-unicorn-koolaid, which most Alt roundups have sounded! Sounds a bit intimidating! Good to know there’s a calmer, more strategic option if I decide to make it next year.

    Also, what’s a resource party? Intrigued..

  • The bathrooms at the Grand America are nice enough to hold board meetings in. Good call. :-)

  • I missed being there this year, last year was really inspirational to me. I was thinking this morning how much I’ve grown as a blogger in the past year and I think my push was at Alt.

  • I wish I had overcome my “oh my gosh, there’s Erin Loechner” fear and actually said Hi. I think I would have enjoyed even a 10-second convo with you.

    Although I was a first-time-Alter and my recap post is heavy with the party photos, I do agree that Alt was the best place to advance your business and make connections. I put my book proposal directly in the hands of Lia Ronnen, Executive Editor of Artisan Books. I talked to Ben Silbermann and invited him to come speak to my network of Canadian design bloggers. You don’t get those kind of opportunities anywhere else. The “business” side that Alt brings doesn’t get much discussion so I’m glad you talked about it.

    I think as bloggers evolve, Alt will need to evolve too. More offerings on the business of blogging and not just on the mechanics of it. Maybe an actual session for Resource Parties so you can make things happen, instantaneously? That plus the sparkly shoes would pretty much make it the best conference ever.

  • ohhh i wish you’d said hi, too!
    and jen, you are RIGHT on. i agree – i look forward to alt evolving over the next few years. it’s already come so far! :)

    big hugs!

  • As always, you’re fabulous! I think more tweet quotes from you during Alt than anyone else. You are words of wisdom!!

  • Love this Erin! So nice to hear your honest thoughts and happy you did what’s important for you! I agree about being overwhelmed and I definitely prefer the longer, deeper conversations to the 10 second ones. Now that I have the first Alt on under my belt, I can make even more out of next year! It was so nice meeting you!! xoxo

  • Alt scares me. It seems so over the top, liked a forced glittery competition. The sponsored party rooms and the white party…I mean, I’m interested in the things I could learn there but that just does not sound like fun. It sounds exhausting.

    I loved your post. Loved it loved it. Thank you for being honest. And real. And I still think you’re shiny and great :)

  • awww you are such a dear, elizabeth! it is very overwhelming, yes, but also fun. if you take lots of breaks. ;)

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