One week from today, I will be attending a conference for bloggers called Altitude Summit (“ALT”, for short). There are apparently a lot of conferences for bloggers. It makes sense, right? Everyone has their own little piece of the internet so there would be an entire industry dedicated to helping every type of blogger cultivate his or her own virtual lot.
This particular blogging conference focuses on design. Interior design, paper design, graphic design, DIY, photography, fashion. Pretty much all things visual. It attracts people who can talk for hours about type selection or color. The kind of people who totally light my fire. There are some pretty amazing people scheduled to speak. I mean, Ben Silbermann and Evan Sharp? Come on. I get that I am a total dork, but I can’t wait to hear what they have to say.
I know what you are thinking. “But you don’t write about design. You don’t even know how to use your camera!” So true. However, I am a very visual person. And I might even be a bit crafty. Not Martha Stewart editor crafty, but crafty all the same. I even scrapbook. For real. And don’t get me started on color. Or type. I may not be educated but I am very opinionated. (And that, apparently, is where my daughter gets it.)
Believe it or not, this is not the first time that I will attend ALT. I went last year on a whim. No blog. No idea what I would write about if I had a blog. I followed some of the bloggers that were attending and don’t mind saying that I got a bit sucked up in the creative whirlwind that they were generating. I was itching for a creative outlet and maybe adult company. I bought a ticket on the last possible day from someone who could no longer attend. I had no plan. I had (pretty cute) business cards that introduced me as a "wannabe designer - hesitant blogger." Sad, really.
I walked into a conference full of people without knowing a soul. I wanted to leave immediately. I called my husband from the first function and told him that I was coming home. I felt under-dressed and under-creative. I felt like a frumpy old lady at a sorority party. But I didn’t leave. I stayed and listened. Here are the three things that have stuck with me for the past year:
1. Be yourself. Always. Don’t get caught up in what everyone else is doing or the need to dress just so or the need to style everything with paper straws or make what everyone is making on Pinterest. This seems like a simple lesson but it was something that I was really struggling with last year. I wanted to be so many things other than what I was (as even my conference attendance and business cards were proof). But then I attended Jasmine Star’s presentation on personal branding and it was like a light bulb went on. (Side note: if you are going to ALT this year and have not heard Jasmine speak, do yourself a favor and go.)
Jasmine had a lot to say about being true to yourself in light of the fact that you are your brand. The one message that stuck with me the most was when she said that you are better off being disliked for 100% of who you are than liked for a copy of what people think you are. I’m paraphrasing, of course. Either way, think about that for a minute. Or 10 seconds because you know it is totally true. Who wants to be liked for something that they are not?
The message to be yourself resonated consistently throughout the conference. Perhaps I was just looking for it, but it seemed to show up in writing style (use your own voice, all of them - huge thank you to Tiffani Jones Brown for an excellent talk on this), content (write about what you love – thank you Mara of A Blog About Love), and success (a.k.a. happiness - an outstanding and inspirational keynote by Stefan Sagmeister). Of course, there were many more people with consistent messages. These are just the examples that I remember off the top of my head. Let me point out that I can’t remember what I had for breakfast most days and I remember this stuff from a year ago. The people who speak at this conference are amazing.
Jessika pointed out very simply that the genuine moment of connection is a key element to any successful blog. While her panel presentation was focused on creating community as a blogger and as a creator, everything she said related to life in general. Join discussions. Listen and remember. Reach out. Interact. Aren’t these things required of us to participate in life? We are not taught as children to count our friends as we do on Facebook. We are taught to be interested in our friends. We learn what is important to them, what they like to eat or to do. In the world of social media, this message seems to have gotten lost a little. Don’t get me wrong, I get excited when someone follows me on Instagram. But almost 100% of the time, I follow them too. And I try to comment on a post or two to make a connection. Try me. I’d love a few new friends.
Melanie led a small group discussion about the power of women. And she knows what she is talking about. In the last year, she has started some pretty cool projects out of collaborations with other women. The message I took away from this panel was to look for like-minded people. To create a community where I might not see one on first glance. I was also reminded that it is far better to compliment others instead of being jealous of their successes. Compliments build confidence and positive energy instead of self-doubt. In both parties. Thank you Kelsey of Pinegate Road for this gem. I’ve learned to make it a habit over the past year.
3. Try something. You can’t succeed if you don’t try. You can’t create a community if you don’t look for members. You can’t be liked or disliked if you stay in your house in your pajamas. Try something. Who knows where it will lead?
I’m guilty of being gun-shy on this one. But I’ve started my little corner of the internet. It’s based on what I actually do. In my house. Everyday. Sometimes I do it in my pajamas. I sure would like some company, though. Leave a comment. I’ll respond. Follow me on Instagram. I’ll check you out too. Comment on my pins on Pinterest. I can’t wait to see what you are pinning. Let’s get to know each other.
So for those of you going to ALT this year for the first time, try not to worry too much about your outfits. Wear something that makes you feel fantastic even if it isn’t the height of fashion. Listen. Smile. And if you see me hanging out alone in the corner, come say hello. I’d love to meet you.