Last week, I attended the Altitude Design Summit, a yearly design and craft blogging conference held at the chic Grand America Hotel in Salt Lake City. Being a graphic designer, design in all its forms is a passion of mine. I follow dozens of design blogs from which I draw inspiration on a daily basis. That’s how I first heard about the Alt Summit last January: suddenly, all my favorite blogs were posting about it, and in fact, after checking out the schedule, I realized that all my favorite bloggers were speakers at the conference. My first thought was, “Why haven’t I heard about this conference before now?” then, “I have to make sure I make it there next year”.
I knew attending the summit would be fulfilling from a creative point of view, but I wondered whether I would draw true relevant advice for my work and my blog. My blog isn’t about design but about food, after all, but I figured I would give it a try. I registered for the conference, reserved a hotel room, booked my flight and waited for January 18 2012 to arrive.
As I fly back home, I can say that Alt was one of the best conferences I’ve attended so far. Many other attendees share my enthusiasm and several happy posts have already been written on the subject. Although I share everyone’s super happy, positive, creatively charged state of mind, I thought it would be great to round up the five objective reasons why I loved Alt Summit – and, if you have a blog as well, I think you will too.
1) Abundance of relevant advice
The amount of straight-to-the-point information delivered at Alt was simply mind-boggling. After the first panel I attended, I had already filled six notebook pages with notes and new to-dos. After three panels, I switched to taking notes with my iPad because my hand was tired. What I loved most was that the advice provided was at advanced level. This is a bloggers’ conference after all; no offence to novices out there, but the vast majority of Alt attendees already have a blog and were at the conference to learn how to take it to the next level. The panelists clearly created their presentations with that in mind and (very!) generously provided their top tips to help others succeed. When the info wasn’t new to me, it still reminded me of important action items I had neglected until now.
A roomfull of attentive design lovers:
2) Transparency of provided information
At many blogging conferences, talking about numbers is taboo. It’s as if some speakers fear that their performance will go down if they talk too much about it. Not so at Alt. From the very first conference I attended (The Business of Blogging), statistics were poured down on us: traffic numbers, revenues, earned CPC and CPM, ad rates – it felt like no topic was out of bounds with design bloggers. Sure, the speakers who shared their stats had nothing to be ashamed of, but it was very helpful to (finally) be able to figure out ballparks for an intermediate blogger like me.
3) Approachable speakers
Another common complaint about blogging conferences is how hard it can be to reach the speakers. You usually get a short window of opportunity to present yourself or speak to a presenter at the end of sessions or during the Q&A periods, but rarely beyond that. Some speakers will stay at the conference only for the day they are scheduled to be on a panel. Others will hang out amongst themselves, making it intimidating for outsiders to introduce themselves. Again, not so at Alt. I’ve seen the most popular design bloggers (you know, those who rack in millions of visitors monthly) mingle from the first to the last hour of the conference. They attended each other’s sessions, roundtables and design camps. Instead of forming a close-knit group, they seemed to voluntarily split and mix with new people all the time, especially at lunch and dinner. That’s how I was able to introduce myself to personal favorite Jordan Ferney over morning coffee, and to have lunch with the fabulous Girls with Glasses, Summer and Brooke. Star bloggers are just like you and me – and those who speak at Alt seem to know that.
The ever-so-lovely Erin Loechner, from Design for Mankind:
4) Variety of topics covered
When I registered with Alt, the schedule wasn’t published yet so I was unsure if the topics covered would be relevant to me, as a food blogger. However, when I was able to go through the full agenda, my problem turned out to be making choices! There were three different tracks to choose from at each session, 18 roundtable topics on Friday morning, and 20 design camps on Saturday, with topics ranging from sewing and upholstery, to photography and videoblogging. Special tours were also offered on Saturday: to the Sundance film festival, to the mountains to ski, to thrift stores, and even – lucky me! – to Salt Lake City gourmet shops more about that delicious activity soon). Even the keynotes seemed to have been chosen to cover opposite sides of the motivation scale: from the business point of view, with Pinterest’s charismatic CEO Ben Silbermann (who got a standing ovation), to down-to-earth and feel-good author of best-selling book “The Happiness Project“, Gretchen Rubin. Alt’s schedule ensured that people with a wide variety of backgrounds could “design” a conference tailored to their needs.
Roundtable with Adrienne Cardon, “Tips From Ad Agencies That Will Make You a Better Blogger”:
Above picture (c) Justin Hackworth
Working on my project at design camp ‘Cut Paper Crafts’:
Above picture (c) b.a.d photography
Our fabulous design camp group, with talented teacher and artist Patricia Zapata in the middle:
Above picture (c) b.a.d photography
5) Value for money
Flying to conferences from Canada, my traveling costs are high so I try to make sure I get good value for the money when I choose to invest in such an activity. At Alt, I was served. This conference delivered the best ROI of all the ones I’ve attended so far. For $345, I got three full conference days, lunches, dinners, different snacks served at breaks (as well as coffee, tea and beverages at all times), the coveted Alt gift box, lots of freebies from the sponsors, material and tools at my design camps and generous tastings during my foodie tour. And dinners weren’t a boring kind of thing: on the first night, attendees chose from over a dozen options which were hosted at some of Salt Lake City’s finest restaurants. Thursday was a Diner en blanc, and Friday was the mini-parties nights where eight hotel suites were transformed into themed nights complete with food and drink. I should also mention that prior to attending the conference, free webinars were offered to attendees to help them prepare for the event. And I’ve already mentioned the abundance and quality of information and advice provided at Alt. Get it? Best. Value. For. Money.
Above picture (c) JustinHackworth.com
My roommate, Melanie Saucier, and I at Thursday night’s Diner en blanc:
Above picture (c) b.a.d photography
Of course, there are countless other things I loved about Alt. In no particular order:
- Meeting my friendly fellow attendees: Heart-warming
- Eyeing everyone’s fabulous style: Inspiring
- Marveling at each business card I was handed: Creatively stimulating
- Discovering so many great new blogs: Overwhelming (in a good way!)
For all of these reasons, I will for sure attend Alt Design Summit again in 2013. Will I meet you there?
Instagram snapshot of Friday night’s mini-parties:
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