Thursday, February 13, 2014

Alt Summit 2014 Recap: Day 2

Note: Pictures without my watermark are taken by the official Alt photographers Justin Hackworth and Brooke Dennis.

Missed Day 1? Read it here

I have to backtrack a bit because due to pregnancy brain I forgot by arriving 4 hours ahead of schedule on Wednesday I was able to attend the early sessions. When I saw this on the schedule my heart leaped: Overcome Overwhelm: We Once Were Crazy, But Now We're Semi-Sane with Hilary Rushford of Dean Street Society and Whitney English. Hilary was delayed in NYC because of the polar vortex, but she joined via video conference and Whitney moderated - it turned out fine! 

I loved the candid nature of their conversation - Hilary discussing her childhood watching her dad as an entrepreneur and Whitney's experience with bankruptcy. Before officially starting the whirlwind conference the following day this session really helped me set the tone and prepare my mind for what I was about to encounter. 

My key takeaways: 
  • Approach opportunities with wisdom - say yes, to providence
  • Not saying "no" comes from a place of fear and the scarcity/abundance mentality - don't be afraid
  • Purpose = what you're best at + helping others
  • Pick a Daily Top 3 - you can only accomplish 3 key things per day; make those a priority 
Krista (with her fab self!) works the room
Next, I went to How Brands Like to Work with Bloggers featuring Krista Blair and Laura Mays. Representing Nate Berkus, Krista gave the inside scoop on how the brand forms partnerships with bloggers and what they look for. I condensed the session into one key element: STORYTELLING. It's crucial and something I will definitely be working on this year.

Now on to Day 2 . . .


I have to admit I hit snooze a couple times before waking up each day but I was so excited to be at Alt that it definitely wasn't a problem getting up! Again, the gorgeous view made it worth it...

Breakfast wasn't included in the Alt ticket, but I simply grabbed some fruit and a protein bar I had brought with me and headed down to the conference. I registered the day before when I arrived and loved the little notebook by May Designs - it was organized with sections for goals, notes, contacts and follow-up (a Type A's dream!).


From the well-planned notebook, to the bins of Method hand sanitizer at registration I really appreciate how everything was so well thought out during the conference - I adore attention to detail, and it made the conference even that much more enjoyable!

At last it was time for the opening keynote! After a welcome from Sara and Gabrielle, the co-founding sisters of Alt, they introduced Garance DorĂ©. I was only familiar with Garance from the recaps I saw after Alt NYC, and I knew she wouldn't disappoint. As a fashion blogger, her entire image and persona is on point without the snootiness one would think might accompany her French awesomeness. She was honest, self-deprecating and comfortable with us admitting her nervousness and asking us if it was OK for her to sit down while she spoke (you can read her take on her speech here). 

Here's how Garance spoke to me:
  • When it comes to negativity, don't feed the monster - respect yourself and moderate disrespectful comments
  • Always think of your readers in the highest regard (despite nasty comments you might get!) - remember you're talking to individuals
  • Blogger boredom leads to reader boredom
  • Niche is NOT appealing - niche is French for "trap" and is a place a dog sleeps; instead keep exploring
  • People always follow their emotions - as I've always kept in mind, they may not remember what you say, but they always remember how you make them feel
I also loved her punchy imagery during her speech:

Next, I selected my first breakout session: Emotional Analytics: Well-branded is the new well-rounded with Erica Domesek of P.S. I Made This.

I first met Erica at the Scotch Most Gifted Wrapper '13 contest in NYC. I had been following her on social media and asked her if she was going to Alt as she really seemed like the Alt type. She casually replied, "Oh, I think I'm speaking at that," and her nonchalant manner was a complete understatement to her session!

It was definitely one of my favorite blog conference sessions ever

First, she hit it off by these thoughtful place-settings:

Yep, that's her second book, and while the Essie and Sharpie seem simple enough she wove them into her talk: both brands representing her essence and the colors chosen having significance as well. How clever and definitely memorable!

Erica's talk distilled why it's so important to connect to your audience on an emotional level, breaking down her most popular posts and pins and why they strike a nerve. She's a nerdy girl like me who's waaay into data (telling us to do a Statigram analysis ASAP!) and as a fellow-80s baby, loves nostalgia just like I do - a woman after my own heart!

My favorite soundbites:
  •  Your network is your net worth (yep, it's been said before, but always a good reminder!)
  • Start the creative process with a collage
    • Focus on: color, composition, typography, recognition and nostalgia
  • Create strong content that evokes an emotional response
  • Lead with passion  
  • A tactful way to bring up getting paid for your services especially when a potential partner has a big idea, "Great, what's your budget?"

Next, it was the time that Baby Agbai 2.0 loves most: LUNCH! Somehow someone in charge knew my cravings for Mexican food and fulfilled my desires with a full delicious buffet of it. Score!

It wasn't a keynote lunch, but instead a chance for the attendees to meet and network sponsored by Furbish - I really appreciated this! I met the Simple Green Smoothies co-founders in line and sat with Debbie of Made to Shirts, Elita of Inside Out & About, Mallory and Savannah of Classy Clutter and Bethany of The Glamorous Housewife.

I also liked the postcards with quirky phrases at each place setting:

After lunch I wanted to lay down went to the next breakout session: Blog Revenue: Display Ads, Affiliate Programs, Ad Networks, Sponsorships, and What the Numbers Look Like with a few of my favorite blogging all-stars (go follow them!):

For those of you seeking outside sponsorships, here are their top tips:
  • Start with your blogger friends for connections
  • "Tried and true:" go the social media route directly to brands then follow-up with a DM if they respond to you
  • "Stalker method:" find who's who via LinkedIn and contact directly
Like Erica's session with direct scripts for talking $ with potential partners, this phrase shared in this session was golden for when a minimum prize value is not compelling: "That won't reach my traffic goals; maybe ____ instead."

Regarding the nitty gritty (which I adore!) they shared pricing guidelines with the key being $5-10 per 1,000 unique monthly views. So for example if you're getting 100K views/month you can confidently ask for $200 per sponsored post. Good to know!

I saw that headshots were being provide by Bing and anticipating a bum-rush, I slipped out early to get mine:

I then did a quick run through a few of the sponsors' comfy and creative lounges:

Yes, that's Christy Turlington, and I have a story about meeting her I'll share in a later post!
Nat Geo Kids had animals at their lounge including a fox and skunk (I pass on holding all animals!); I enjoyed playing the Price is Right game at HomeGoods and scored another gift card for my sister; Red Stamp's lounge invoked Valentine's Day

After the break there were a ton of roundtables and design camps to choose from and I selected Rebranding with Amanda Hill of {Re}cycled, Consign & Design. As a continued goal to turn Harlem Lovebirds into a "Brand Quiana" website I enjoyed Amanda's perspective on how to go about doing this. Something I especially struggle with is the DIY vs. hire an expert route. Not only from her, but from others throughout the conference the overwhelming response is to hire an expert. Time is definitely money and all the times spent learning, coding and designing should be spent on content creation. 

My favorite takeaway from Amanda's session was:

"You should be attracting people, and repelling people."

This is such a hard concept for me, and for most bloggers, I think. In general we want to be well-liked so when someone doesn't like us as much as we try to brush it off, it can still get to us at times. Instead we have to understand it's a balance. For those that leave when we rebrand, others will come. Definitely a lesson to keep in mind!

Next, it was time to head upstairs to get ready for the first party of the conference: the green party sponsored by Cricut. I wasn't familiar with Cricut prior to Alt but kept seeing the buzz on social media about their new product launch and a few bloggers who had been invited pre-conference to try it out. As a crafty person who doesn't craft often, the Cricut really caught my eye especially as I walked through the party doors and saw the amazing things it created including dresses, yes, dresses, folks!

The abundant crafting stations scattered throughout the party were such fun! I brought home some bug glasses for Nia

Smilebooth stations were abundant throughout the conference
Dayle of Number 4 Design Studio and Amber of Damask Love captivated by the Cricut Explore
Anna Rose - one of the Cricut co-designers of the amazing dresses in the first party pic above

 I couldn't leave the party without spending some time at the Smilebooth . . .

With my roommates Mindy and Caroline (who left Mindy and me hanging!)
And on this note I was ready to go to bed:

Loved my Asos dress - the first time I ever purchased there (highly recommend it)
Next up: Day 3 (and a few giveaways I won!)