Why I May Not Return To Alt Summit and Also Loved It
It’s not just the fact that I’ve felt wildly out of sorts all day or that it’s a Monday post-travel - Alt Summit was a weird experience.
And in the full interest of keeping this honest and open and not just a diatribe of all the shiz that went wrong, let’s break it down by the things I want in a conference and discuss some pros and cons, shall we?
Buckle up, kids. Let’s get this show on the road.
And here we have what draws all folks to Palm Springs - it’s instagrammable AF.
For real and for true, the social media veneer Alt has cultivated isn’t that far off from the truth. Take pretty much any photo of yourself, bonus points for an artsy angle or mural wall, slap on A Color Story filter, and you’re pretty much golden (literally). Everything is gorgeous and has a glow about it (except for the pasty irish skin of yours truly) and there is a literal rainbow wall of balconies at the Saguaro hotel.
Aside from the visual ambiance, the atmosphere was generally incredibly positive.
Almost to a fault.
And here’s where we’ll take a small turn onto Quibble Drive: it kinda felt like I wasn’t allowed to say that I wasn’t having a good time. Which really made me wonder if this was more of a co-ed conference rather than an almost-exclusively women’s conference, what might folks be saying? Might there be more honesty about what’s going wrong?
I’m a pretty positive person, sometimes to a fault, but there were times when even I couldn’t handle or keep up with the pep and pop of the conference.
General Ambiance: 4 happy cactuses.
I’ve already mentioned how gorgeous Palm Springs was (truly - it can’t be understated, it’s frickin’ GORGEOUS), so let’s chat about the hotels in which the conference is hosted.
As I understand it, in previous years the conference was at one (1!) hotel. And that sounds dreamy.
This year it was split among four (I think…? I never felt clear on this) hotels, and they were NOT close to each other. There was a promised shuttle - at one point I heard it was promised to be picking up from any location every six minutes - but the shuttle itself had a spotty schedule at best. Thankfully I was almost always able to find someone with a rental and could buy them a coffee for their time and trouble, but to go in thinking that transport was taken care of and then it REALLY wasn’t was frustrating. Add in a packed schedule and I honestly wrote off most of the classes I had hoped to attend. I stuck with a select few because those were the ones that matched up properly with my locations and travel times. And I’m really bummed to have missed some of the classes! And others, not so much… Which leads me to…
Location: 3 mediocre Uber rides.
First and foremost, there needs to be some indication of the level of these talks so that those of us that want to learn can plan accordingly! It doesn’t have to be complicated - just a little colored dot or something next to the presenter’s name that will clue the rest of us in to who they’re talking to and what level they’ll be teaching.
That being said, the majority of the talks I went to were exactly what I hoped for - I did my research into who I was listening to, the precis of the talk was clear and concise, and I left with actionable steps to apply to my own business! YES - this is exactly what I wanted!
And a note to anyone who wants to present at Alt - please oh please create an Alt landing page for those of us that want to take ALLLLLL the notes but were busy listening and being present k thx byyyyyyyeeeeee.
Classes and workshops: 1 half full notebook
An interview is not a keynote.
An INTERVIEW is not a keynote.
An interview is NOT a keynote.
And interview is not a KEYNOTE.
Got that? Good, moving on.
Keynote: 0 because there was no KEYNOTE.
Easily the best part of Alt Summit: the people. I got to meet so many friends I’ve made on Instagram in real life for the first time, and in many cases had the odd feeling that we already knew each other but also this was the first time we were meeting? It was weird and wonderful in ALLLLL the good ways. I had too many cold brews, all the heart to hearts I could dream of, and one impromptu photoshoot that was SO. MUCH. FUN. And I get real awkward when a camera comes out.
I saved this category for last because truly, this is the thing that makes me think I’ll be back at Alt.
While I definitely have some issues (see above for my feelings on the keynote), I met so many incredible women that I would never get to meet otherwise.
Did I have to work extra hard to make my Alt my own? Yes.
Was I disappointed with the gap between social media and real life at the conference? Yes.
Am I ready to say never again? HECK. NO.
Love the conference or not, my people are there, and even if I end up going to Palm Springs next year just to be in the same place as my people, I’m not ready to give that part of the experience up.
And to all the amazing folks I met - I can’t wait until our paths cross again.
People: a million hugs and kisses and a stray balloon.
Here’s the thing that has stuck in my craw about Alt summit: in my experience, everyone was really positive and on-board with everything until I expressed some polite dissatisfaction with the conference and I was met with OMG ME TOO and I’m wondering how much of this is because we’re womxn and there’s a certain insidious positivity that permeates our sphere of entrepreneurship. Because honestly, this wasn’t Fyre Festival, and in no way did I feel abused by the conference. But the lack of communication about the problems and the incessant IT’S ALL GOOD from the attendees made for a weird vortex that may enable organizers to not truly address the problems of the conference. And beyond Alt, I think we as womxn and gender-expansive business owners need to do some hard work of assessing our satisfaction and experiences in real-time and vocalizing when we’re dissatisfied. To do otherwise is simply a disservice.