Last week, I attended Alt Summit 'down the hill' in nearby Palm Springs. I had never been before and had only gotten some clues as to what to expect from the online Alt communities. While I did a lot of homework beforehand, I couldn't have known to prepare for these things:
1. Update my website before I go.
This was on my to-do list for weeks, but projects and requests got a bit crazy last month and I put my important personal project aside. That was a mistake. Since Alt Day 1, I was handing out my business cards left and right (actually, I handed out a branded illustration print). Not knowing what to expect, I felt I wouldn't get much interest. I wasn’t a blogger or influencer. But my new connections have been visiting my site consistently during, and since, the summit.
2. Tell my clients I'll be gone that week.
Plan out ahead so I'm not working on client work until the last day before the summit, and so I have time for my own business's branding (see #1).
3. Set an email out of office reply.
It’s simple but I didn’t do this. New inquiries will then know why I haven’t replied yet.
Don't commute daily to Alt. It works the first day but meetups happen and so do late night dinners. You'll find yourself running on 4 hours of sleep which makes you less enthusiastic and less talkative the next day.
Have 1-2 nearby restaurant recommendations to share when asked. (I’m local.)
My laptop is great for typing up fast presentation notes, but it doesn't rest nicely on my knees without a downward slope that makes me a bit too nervous. (This issue may not exist for taller women!) Taking photos of slides works well. Hand writing notes works too (the iPad way too). Combining the two later on works even better!
Alt women are friendly!
Bring a wall charger and buy a car charger!
South Palm Springs has terrible mobile data and service. I should have remembered this from when I lived there 6 1/2 years ago, but I didn't. So if you're trying to connect with someone, don't rely on any apps or texts to work at the Ace or Saguaro hotels. Step outside the front entrance of Saguaro if you need to grab some data. Make exact meeting time and location plans beforehand.
You're going to forget names of who you met. Unless you have that superpower.
Know that you're not alone in this, and everyone is friendly and understanding.
Leave an evening open mid-week to decompress.
Leave the last day’s afternoon to decompress.
It's ok to do this solo. You'll say hi to the woman next to you in line. If nobody talks to you, know that it's not you. We're all tired at some point and zone out. Take this alone time to reflect on why you're here, your goals, and find yourself in that moment.
The women in charge of putting on this whole event are accessible. I saw Gabrielle Blair - the founder of Alt Summit and of Design Mom fame - numerous times throughout the conference. I love that she was there along with the rest of us, participating, and taking it all in.
Have Facebook Messenger downloaded to your phone. Someone's going to try to reach out to you through this app and you may miss your meetup opportunity.
When you're in a rush to your first presentation of the day and there's no parking at the downtown Palm Springs Starbucks and the Starbucks in your old neighborhood has a line wrapped around the building, it's ok. The Saguaro will have coffee.
And something that is soooo obvious but I didn’t even consider: Don't wear a hat the first day. It's the perfect fashion/necessity for the desert sun, but when you run into ladies the next day(s), they won't recognize you!