In March 2023, I attended my third Alt Summit in Palm Springs, California. Alt Summit is a women-focused conference and community for thousands of creative entrepreneurs and influencers. For one week a year, Alt Summit brings us together to meet in person. There are classes, workshops, crafts, panel discussions, art installations, keynote speakers, meetups, sponsored dinners, free headshots, and more.
It may sound like other conferences, but it really is different. The community is so welcoming. I attended alone in 2019. I mustered up courage to be outgoing and talk to strangers a while hoping I didn't just stand there like a wallflower the entire time. From the moment I walked up to register, the women in line started to talk with me, and not in the schmoozy salesy way of other networking events. This was friendliness. This was openness. This felt like a true connective community. And this year, after being apart for 3 years (pandemic), I still felt "at home.”
Instead of being spread between 3-4 hotels like it had been in the past, Alt Summit was based at the Saguaro Hotel. The conference bought out the entire hotel. I commuted with my sister (a first-time Alt attendee!) from my home to the hotel each day which was just under 80 miles round trip. It was such an intense 4-day event. On top of being social for that many days in a row, after being out of that atmosphere for a few years, I took the following week to decompress, catch up on urgent work stuff, and reflect on the experience. The following are my reflections from this year, some of which can be applied to other conferences:
Saying hi to old friends and meeting new people is the most fun and interesting activity at this conference!
The data service or wifi was slow or non-existent in some main areas of the hotel.
This is already common in the industry. You have to decide what's best for you and your business, and stick with one direction for a while.
I brought a magnetic hook to hang metal business card. The next day the entire thing (card and hook) was missing. Either it was taken down by staff (for what reason I do not know), it all blew away in the wind overnight (doubtful), or someone loved my card so much they took the entire thing (this would make me happy).
Roundtables are literally round tables where one presenter at each talks about one topic. The presentations are occurring simultaneously. Each presentation is supposed to last 15 minutes, and then you switch to another table/topic. You choose whatever topics interest you. As you can imagine, having 10 or more tables in a room with at least 10 presenters talking plus attendees asking questions and general chatter happening, it can get pretty loud. It could be better if each topic was in a different room or spread out in an open outdoor space.
Due to the internet issues, presenters should be aware that we can't always load their follow-along materials or sign up with their lists immediately during the class. One suggestion would be a list of materials sent out by the summit of the presenters and their materials ahead of time or immediately after the conference. Online summits do this sometimes and it's super helpful!
The commute did offer financial benefits. However it added to the length of the exhausting day. But seeing very excited dogs at the end of a long day makes it worth it.
Eating dinner with new connections and friends afterwards is a welcomed bonus!
Moving through the hotel, finding spaces to talk, and grabbing a table for food was so much easier.
If a new photographer friend offers them too, even better! Even if you happen to not be wearing any makeup and your hair is pulled back into a ponytail, the new connection and showing trust in an expert to do a wonderful job is more important.
When a client invited me to lunch with their team, I excitedly said yes! However, it was at the tail end of the conference and I was exhausted. My social cup was drained and I was very quiet during the lunch despite honestly having a great time. I'm sure no one thought I was being weird or anti-social, but if I could do it over, I think I would pick a time before the conference started or left myself a day to recharge so I could be fully present to enjoy lunch with a great client.
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