Don’t worry, there will only be two parts to this blog post. I learned a whole lot at Alt Summit and want to share it with anyone who might be toying with the idea of starting a blog, an online shop or transitioning their blog from a hobby to a marketing tool (like I am).
First, I learned that I love blogging! It sounds cheesy and perhaps this should be an obvious requirement for attending the conference. The week gave me an opportunity to think about my own journey. I’ve been blogging for over a year now. I started as a way to process my move from New York to Texas and make sense of the change. Within six months I narrowed my topic to sharing books and reading tips with parents. I continued blogging because I enjoyed it. Monetizing the blog has not necessarily been a goal until recently. Blogging has been more of a hobby, and now I want to commit to sharing reading tips with parents on my blog in addition to tutoring and consulting. So, when I received an email explaining that I was taken off of the waiting list, I felt an overwhelming desire to drop everything and go, and that's what I did.
A couple of people have asked me if I felt Alt Summit was worth it, and I’ll go ahead and get to the point of this post: YES!
Here are ten things I learned from attending my very first (non-teaching) blogging conference.
1. Determine your goal for the week.
The conference is jam-packed with sessions, tons of amazing people and eager sponsors. You simply can't do it all or meet them all. Cyndie Spiegel and Tiffany Han gave a very inspirational early bird class and told us to decide what we wanted from the week and then ask for it. I decided to focus on networking with bloggers that were most relevant to my niche. Meri Cherry was at the top of my list and I was able to meet her the first night at the cocktail party! She’s just as inspiring in person as she is online and was kind enough to also introduce me to Ana from Babble Dabble Do, Gina from Willow Day and Megan from Art Pantry. These women took me under their wing and were willing to share, listen and provide much-needed advice. Since I made the meeting a priority, I was able to leave the conference feeling like it was a successful trip.
2. Create a list of questions.
I wanted my interactions to feel natural and organic. In doing so, however, I failed to prepare a list of specific questions. I did not anticipate my interactions with bloggers would allow much time or openness, but Alt provides several opportunities to mingle and network outside of classes. Bloggers and brands are more open about their business and willing to help than you might anticipate. Here are a few specific questions you might consider asking an admired blogger if given the opportunity:
- How do you determine your audience? Did you select them or did they find you?
- How did you market your e-book?
- What things would you do differently if you were starting today?
- How did you evolve with the new Instagram algorithm?
- At what point did you begin pitching sponsorships?
- How do I determine a rate for sponsored posts?
- How do you manage your time? Do you dedicate certain days to writing and others to emails and projects?
3. Arrive early!
The first day of the conference consists of registration, early bird classes, and a kickoff party. The conference feels small and intimate. Arriving early allowed me to meet some of the big names without standing in line. Cyndie Spiegel gave me her undivided attention and introduced me to an author and blogger who seems like an all-around amazing person, Megan Nicolay. I met Liz Stanley form Say Yes, who is warm and kind and Janssen from Everyday Reading, who made me feel very welcome. I met all of these people within the first thirty minutes of arriving! So yes, getting there early really pays off.
4. Put effort into your business card.
I heard that the business cards were a big deal at Alt Summit. The truth is that some people bring them and some do not. It’s okay if you don’t have one, but for a first timer, I am very glad that I invested in mine because it gave me a chance to be memorable and have a conversation topic right away.
5. Attend all of the parties.
The week can be pretty exhausting when you are talking and networking from nine in the morning to ten at night on certain days. There were several times when I thought to myself, “This would be the perfect opportunity to work on my site and get ahead with blog posts before going home.” I spent a lot of money and made myself attend and I don’t regret it at all. The parties are so much fun and provide time to really get to know others on a personal level.
6. Attend the roundtables and hop to as many as possible.
The roundtables are quick and very informative. The leaders of these discussions have done the groundwork of building blogs and businesses and have been in the trenches the last few years. They are experts and are completely willing to share any information with you. If you are curious about specifics, this is a great time to ask and you will likely be pleasantly surprised by their answers.
7. Don’t be afraid to go alone.
I went without knowing a soul, and since I’m pretty new to blogging, I also didn’t have many online blogging acquaintances attending Alt Summit. This actually played to my advantage. I met tons of people because I felt that I needed to make the most of my time. It allowed me to talk to people and not feel that I needed to be somewhere by a certain time or support someone else's agenda.
8.. Considering having a pitch idea in mind.
I’m not suggesting that you provide unsolicited pitches or requesting collaborations with strangers right away. However, I had a very hard time understanding how I would work with the sponsors at Alt before I arrived. Then, within one day of attending classes, I was able to see more clearly how my goals could also help promote sales of brands and products. If you take some time to really study Instagram feeds and how brands support their unique goals before attending Alt Summit, you might have a better idea of which sponsors you want to spend the most time with during the week.
9. Don’t get discouraged.
What I learned is that blogging is not dead. It’s very easy to get super discouraged because it’s true that it isn’t 2008 and I’m probably not going to be the next Joanna Goddard. I still follow the same five blogs that I followed back in 2008, because I feel personally connected to those bloggers. However, as blogs have evolved, so has the Internet. There are lots of niches out there and various ways to present them, and I’m positive that everyone has something unique to share.
10. Follow up and give back.
I fully believe in karma, and God and the universe supporting you when you go all in. I felt that Alt Summit really provided the things I wanted it to for me, and I’m eager to learn more. I followed up with bloggers that I met and then tried to return the favor for some friends here in Dallas by connecting people who I know could benefit from knowing one another. I felt quite stressed about money when I went to Alt, and guess what I came home to? A random reimbursement check from our mortgage basically paying for the trip.
If you read all of that, thank you. I hope it was helpful. I'll try to provide content info soon also.