My Alt Summit SLC 2013 Review: The Panels

Last week I attended Alt Summit, “the premier business conference for pioneering bloggers and rookie bloggers alike”.

For any bloggers reading this: I am going to give you a real honest rundown of what it was, what I learned, and some things you might want to consider if you plan to attend one in the future.

For any non-bloggers reading this: I’m sorry.

So what is Alt? Essentially three days of panels led by the biggest and best in the industry, and networking. Because Alt caters to bloggers in creative industries there was a lot of pretty, party, and entertaining fluff surrounding the panels that were meant to provide real, useful information on how to elevate and improve ones blog.

The panels this year included a Track A for beginning bloggers, Track B for advanced bloggers and Track C for everyone.

I attended panels in all three tracks and picked up a few tips and insights that I think will help improve things around this little internet space Peppermint Bliss occupies. Here are a few such items:

1. The importance of a Media Kit: Whether you are trying to take on advertising, get a book deal, use your blog as an item on your resume, or parlay your blog into your own business- whatever your end game is- you need to be able to make a case for whatever it is you are accomplishing on your blog. That case should be made in the form of statistics on your traffic and reader engagement. Traffic statistics should reflect how many people are reading your blog daily/monthly, as well as information on who those readers are and where they are coming from that might be important to the individual or company reading it. These statistics can be collected through Alexa, installed sitemeters, surveys and Google analytics, and should be presented in a way that highlights your achievements. Reader engagement can compensate for less impressive traffic stats by showing the power behind those numbers. You can have 10,000 readers a day, but if those readers aren’t commenting, following the links you present, or otherwise supportive and invested in your blog- that doesn’t mean much. However if you have 100 readers that comment passionately, read the things you write and buy the things you buy- that has a significant value. Any information you can get to demonstrate reader engagement- click through stats on your links, survey results showing their interest in your opinion, comment community- gives a context that should prove your blog value.

2. Keeping an editorial calendar. This was a particularly helpful concept for me. When I first started blogging I did a pretty good job of this. I would think of what I wanted to post at least a few days in advance, and tried to have a schedule where I posted on different subjects on different days. As things got going I felt too constrained by that format and found it more productive to write as the spirit moved me. Now, however, I find I am frequently scrambling at the last moment to get something up. Sometimes that means posting something inadequate, and sometimes that means posting about something good inadequately. Overall it means that there isn’t any organization to the content I am trying to bring, which I am sure as a reader is a bit unsatisfying with some weeks being all meaty design posts, others total Biscuit-blitz, and others just a bunch of random junk. While you don’t have to be as rigid as “Moodboard Monday, Tastey Tuesday, Wedding Wednesday etc.” it can be helpful to identify themes in your posts and make sure you address each topic evenly throughout the month. It is no longer enough for blogs to just repost and regurgitate. We are expected to and should be creating original content- whether that is a well-written critique or a craft DIY- you need to give yourself the time to develop your work.

3. How to earn money from your blog. Jenny Komenda was refreshingly frank in talking the real talk about how to make money from your blog. She talked about how banner ads are out and the new ways of integrated creative content and sponsored posts. She gave actual numbers to start from when negotiating CPC vs. CPM rates with advertisers. We got advice on how to begin incorporating advertising into your blog without selling out and losing your audience. It was extremely candid, straightforward and helpful and made me rethink my stance on earning money from Peppermint Bliss- which I will discuss more tomorrow.

4. In a blog shop panel I learned some stuff I probably should have already known about when in the week and month to market, tips on promoting your store through social media etc.

Other than that…Everything I gained from the conference either came from having the freedom to chill and let my mind wander and think seriously about Peppermint Bliss and Biscuit- and from conversations I had with the other ladies in attendance.  Which I know only happened because of the conference- but I have to say I was a little disappointed in the panels.

I didn’t attend every panel, but I felt like a lot of the ones I did attend were at best frustratingly vague and at worst solely self-serving.

And I get it.

It is a tricky thing to ask anyone who has worked hard to gain expertise or advantage to just give it away for free. There is a responsibility people have to protect their trade secrets and their business and to not hand out information they have struggled for years to gain.

BUT- They weren’t giving it away for free. They were being provided a platform to promote their business, to be verified as a success story. Speakers were exposed to a new audience, given a free ticket to attend, and a sort of VIP status at the conference- after every panel there was a line of people waiting to talk to the panelists and give them their business cards. And the exchange is that the rest of us who paid to attend and hear them speak needed to learn something. And not something about how fun it was to work with Anthropologie- but something we can actually use.

If the incentives provided by Alt itself were not enough to make it worth it for panelists to give up more useful information- then that is something that needs to be addressed between the Alt organization and the talent they are trying to attract. But I paid for my ticket to learn some stuff, and that didn’t realllllyyyy happen as much as I thought it should.

Also, there is a difference between giving it away so a less motivated, less creative people can copy you, and nurturing the talent that could contribute something that will elevate the whole industry.

And I know that is a tall order. Overall I am really pleased I went. The keynotes were fantastic. The meals and parties and facilities were great. Everything ran incredibly smoothly & efficiently. The framework and organization were really impressive. It seems like Alt has nailed the framework, now it might be time to refocus on the content. The medium is great- we need more message.

So that was my review of the panels- tomorrow I will share some thoughts on the networking, the famous Alt business card exchange, and pictures from the trip.

Right now I am going to hide in the back room at Biscuit because I am sosososo sick. Have any of you been to Salt Lake City? Do any of you live there?? What is UP with the air quality? I think I have the black lung. What a crazy bummer for such a beautiful place.

Did any of you reading attend Alt? Or have you in years past? What did you feel about the panels?

Comments

  1. ann January 28, 2013 at 7:54 am

    I don’t have any connection to alt summit and am not a creative type for work, I just like reading decorating blogs. I have found in my profession, when I become dissapointed in an industry “function/seminar” it is because I have moved onto the next level……..Maybe you are ready to be a panelist on something……maybe you are looking for a different venue….what a joy to realize that is the place you are now in: )

  2. Sarah's Fab Day January 28, 2013 at 8:00 am

    I went to Alt last year and felt the exact same way about the panels. I made sure that I let them know that in my review but it sounds like it’s a lot of the same. Don’t get me wrong because I had fun, I just didn’t come away loaded with tangible information.

  3. ifs ands & butts January 28, 2013 at 9:39 am

    I’ve always wanted to attend one of the European blog panels, but they somehow always conflict – which is such a shame. Among learning so much, it really seems like they make for great networking opportunities.

  4. Danielle January 28, 2013 at 10:24 am

    I love this candid review of Alt. I’ve never been, but I feel like everyone comes back and says “OMG it was so AMAZZZZZZZING.” Which you said it was, but it’s nice to hear you say that they also left something on the table. Also, I’m so excited to see what new things you have for the blog! I love your randomness, but I’m sure whatever structure you come up with will be great.

  5. Meri January 28, 2013 at 11:18 am

    Thanks so much for the honest review! I blog as a hobby (I have a full-time office job) and I lust after Alt each year when the bloggers I read gush about its fabulousness. Even though I’m sure I could glean plenty out of it (and network like crazy) I’m relieved to hear I’m not missing out on all the secrets that could help me get to “the next level”. It sounds like other professional conferences I’ve attended, plenty of great networking, some good tricks of the trade and LOTS of horn-tooting!! Hope you feel better soon:)

  6. Meghan January 28, 2013 at 11:53 am

    Thanks for the great info on Alt! I’ve live in SLC for a few years and have always debating buying a ticket so it’s nice to get some positive and critical commentary on the conference. Oh–and the air quality isn’t normally that awful. It’s caused by an ‘inversion’ aka when crappy air gets stuck between the Great Salt Lake and the mountains–last night it stormed and pushed all that gunk out and now the air is much better :) Too bad you didn’t get to experience how really lovely SLC can be!

  7. meredith January 28, 2013 at 12:20 pm

    Your honesty is so refreshing… like the comments before me, I have longed to attend Alt Summit, and still may… just with different expectations! Your analysis seems spot on. I cannot wait to see where you take Peppermint Bliss and the Biscuit brand. I do have to say that I love that your blog always has a bit of the “unexpected”– the fact that you never know whether it will be a business-related post, a design post or a post about the woes of red shoes on Gracie keep me coming back for more!

  8. Kim January 28, 2013 at 1:06 pm

    I too appreciate your candidness. I’m fairly new to blogging so I missed the ticket sale last summer. I was considering going next year or even next summer to the NYC event, but I’m glad to read this so I’ll have more realistic expectations if I do go.

  9. Lauren @ T&G January 28, 2013 at 1:54 pm

    I really appreciate this recap! Even just you writing a summary about Alt makes me want to be a better blogger. Can’t wait to see what changes you bring to PB.

  10. mrs. V - Chez V January 28, 2013 at 2:05 pm

    Thank you for such a candid review – lots of thoughts on this. Content, as they say, is king. Ironic that some feel the ‘content’ at ALT is missing.

  11. Kkrs January 28, 2013 at 2:18 pm

    I find it ironic that they would host a conference about blogging tips and then remain semi-vague about the whole thing. Which is a Shane because wouldn’t being helpful help out everyone?! As for the air quality in SLC, I think it’s the altitude mixed with pollution. It’s better when you get out of the city and into the mountains!
    Kkrs

  12. Joi January 28, 2013 at 3:35 pm

    Thanks for your honesty! I’d love to go someday because it looks like a great time! Everyone is so cute and it just looks like a blogger’s paradise–ha! Good to know I won’t be coming back home a super star blogger, though!

  13. Amy January 28, 2013 at 4:00 pm

    Thanks for being so honest. I have been dying to go to alt and still plan to attend next year. Do you think it’s friendly to first timers?

  14. Lauren Maxwell January 28, 2013 at 5:11 pm

    Thank you for these notes on Alt. I’ve always wanted to go so badly but can’t quite make it happen yet! Glad you had a great time and happy to discover your blog. :)

  15. Brittany January 28, 2013 at 6:20 pm

    So glad someone has finally given a review of Alt that isn’t 100% positive. I am trying to grow my blog and I am just started a small business so I have been deciding whether to go next year. Looks like it is a great networking opportunity but I would be pretty bummed to go and not get some of the great ‘tips and secrets’ you are paying for. Hopefully they take reviews like yours seriously!
    PS I love your blog and I think randomness sometimes makes blogs more fun and exciting :)

  16. Sarah January 28, 2013 at 8:13 pm

    Love your honestly. I recall reading the SAME EXACT recaps about ALT last year – content is king, know your voice, blah, blah, but I truly think every.single.blog has become the same – everyone needs that Kate Spade coffee table book, a pair of Deer Antlers and a chevron plate – I find that truly original blogs are ones that speak honestly and offer a lot of peeks in to personal life and not just pretty things.

  17. The Rustic Modernist January 28, 2013 at 8:18 pm

    Thank you so much for this honest review. I have always wondered what Alt is like, thought about going many times and decided not to for fear that it wouldn’t really be worth it. It’s super great to read that it’s not all crazy amazing and awesome blogging heaven out there. Love your blog btw. And your random posts are great.
    Heidi | The Rustic Modernist

  18. Makeup 1959 January 28, 2013 at 8:37 pm

    I’m sorry but that black lung comment was funny. You’re frankness is very similar to mine. I’m seriously considering starting a blog. I already have bought the name. You’re insights are fabulous . Thank you.

  19. Chassity January 28, 2013 at 9:29 pm

    For realz, couldn’t have said it better. I just finished writing my recap post and came over for your linky and am just nodding and nodding :)

    LOVE your face!! xoxo

  20. Gaby January 28, 2013 at 11:10 pm

    I agree 100% with your review, and feel absolutely the same about the conference. I would just have said the exact same thing ;)

  21. Courtney January 29, 2013 at 2:20 am

    Hi! I introduced myself during lunch at Alt this year. As a first timer, I didn’t know what to expect and honestly didnt know if I was in the right place going to the conference. I am a small business owner who has a small blog so I started to attend the A session track but jumped around too. There were a couple things I learned in the panel like the affliated marketing but was given no tangible way to start. I learned more by talking to others during lunch or after the sessions then during. And there were a couple sessions where I just stopped taking notes because it did seem like a sales pitch on how many people want them to contribute. I thought maybe I was missing something because I don’t have the traffic these other sites do but it is nice to hear that you, a blogger I love, felt the same way. Now don’t get me wrong, I do think the experience is worth it for the connections and hey, it’s prettty fun!

  22. Claire January 29, 2013 at 8:32 am

    Keeping it real B – love it. Claire

  23. Kate January 29, 2013 at 10:10 pm

    Great recap, loved hearing what you learned and where they can improve — a very honest review!

    And I agree with one of the other commenters, I think YOU should be a panelist next year.

  24. Holly Phillips January 29, 2013 at 10:28 pm

    I love your recap of ALT. I agree with lots of your opinions regarding self promotion or panelist vs sharing information. Overall the great speakers outweighed the bad. What a crazy few days.

    Hope to meet next year.

  25. Clover January 30, 2013 at 4:03 pm

    Thank you so much for sharing! I think it’s great!

    xx,
    Clover

  26. Aisha Zaza August 19, 2013 at 1:26 pm

    Bailey, thanks so much for sharing about your Alt experience. I just registered to go to Alt 2014 and am SO excited about it. Hopefully they took some reviews into serious consideration and are pushing for a more quality message experience for the upcoming conference. Also, stoked I found your blog :)

    Aisha
    ww.themiddleofhere.com

  27. Mollie November 3, 2013 at 7:20 am

    I’ve been thinking about attending an Alt conference but I wanted an honest review of it, thank you! I still might go one year just for fun but know I know not to expect a college course.:)

  28. […] But check out Bailey’s recap of what she took away from the panels she went to here  Lisa’s recap is fab, […]

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