Inspiration and Advice from Alt Summit SLC 2013

If you follow me on Twitter or Instagram, you may have caught a glimpse or two of my recent Salt Lake City escapades. Despite my nerves, I not only made it through all three days of Alt Summit without having a panic attack, I had fun. Lots of fun. And I learned a ton.

Sure, I have some regrets (like wishing I wore my Saturday outfit on Thursday when more people would have seen it) and made some silly mistakes (who puts on a full face of makeup but forgets to apply mascara?). Occasionally I fell victim to the comparison trap, which is hard to avoid when you’re surrounded by super successful and uber fashionable bloggers.

Overall, however, I’d call the whole experience a huge success because I actually achieved all four of my goals:

  1. I reached out to brands about potential collaborations.
  2. I networked with other bloggers.
  3. I bonded with friends I had previously only known online (doesn’t that sound sketchy?) and met some lovely girls with whom I’d love to develop friendships.
  4. I pushed myself out of my comfort zone and took risks.

Rather than give you a play-by-play of my time at Alt Summit, I want to share some inspiring and business-savvy sound bites from sessions I attended.

Jenny Komenda of Little Green Notebook was the gutsiest speaker on the “Collaborations with Sponsors” panel. She gave straight-up, no bullshit advice, and I appreciated that she was willing to talk numbers. Most speakers at Alt shied away from revealing their specific numbers (traffic, costs, fees), but Jenny was both open and encouraging.


After Thursday’s boring keynote session (let’s just say, I left early), I had low expectations for Friday’s. First, I had never heard of the speaker, Stefan Sagmeister. (Turns out he’s a world-famous and somewhat controversial graphic designer, and there were many self-described “fan girls” in the audience.) Second, he was going to speak about achieving happiness as a designer, and since I have no artistic ability whatsoever, I didn’t think his speech would be relevant to me.

Well, I was wrong.

Stefan Sagmeister’s keynote did touch upon how he achieved happiness as a designer, but the overarching theme was, simply, happiness. Why are some people happier than others? What can we do to increase our own happiness?

Needless to say, he had my attention, as well as the attention of the entire ballroom. He ended his talk with a 12-minute clip of a documentary he’s working on called “The Happy Film,” and when it’s released, I’ll be the first in line at my local independent movie theater to buy a ticket. Until then I’ll be catching up on his TED talks.



Jasmine Star gave a solo presentation on “Personal Branding” that was easily one of the most motivational sessions at Alt. Injecting personal stories and humor into her talk, Jasmine was energetic, engaging, and — most importantly — inspiring. Her idea of “attract or repel” came up multiple times in later conversations with my Grand America roommates. (Read Jasmine’s review of Alt here.)


Alt-Summit-Jasmine-Star-Personal Branding


Finally, during the class “Being a Contributor,” Victoria Hudgins of A Subtle Revelry asked a question that spoke to me: “Do I want to be freelance my whole life or build my own brand?” (Unfortunately, I couldn’t find a photo of Victoria’s panel.)

I love being a freelance writer. I love the flexibility in work hours, the variety of topics I cover, and the (small amount of) income I generate, but ultimately I would like to build my own brand. What type of brand that might be, however, is still the big question.

As you can imagine, I’m still processing all of the information I gleaned from the panelists, bloggers and brand representatives at Alt Summit. My head is so full, I can hardly think! Today’s assignment is to sort through all of the fabulous business cards I collected (would you like to see them?) and to make a master to-do list. I’ll likely be sharing a little bit more about my experience at Alt during the week alongside some non-Alt Summit posts, so please stay tuned!

{Images 1 and 3 by Justin Hackworth. Images 2, 4, 5, 6, 7 by Brooke Dennis.}

Let’s Discuss

  1. Sandra

    I didn’t really know about Sagmeister either and like you, I learned SOOO much.

    I heard Jasmine speak last year and have thought often about her love you/hate you idea re branding. It’s so freeing, eh?

    And finally, I was in that same panel that Jenny was on – I found it really inspiring to see the shift from banner ads to a focus on content. It’s about content – it’s probably ALWAYS been about content. It’s just too easy to get caught up in the stats and all that.

    It’ll take me a while to digest all that I experienced and absorbed and learned. Phew…

    • PJ

      My mind is definitely still racing…so many thoughts and ideas to process, so many items on my to-do list…

      I’ve never been a fan of banner ads, but the shift to content somewhat frightens me. I’m afraid it will be even harder to form partnerships with brands to do content marketing than it is to secure banner ads. What do you think?

  2. stacey

    SO happy you had fun! i’ve contemplated going to ALT before, but never knew if it would be worth it or not! you’ve definitely convinced me of thinking about it next year! xo

    • PJ

      It was definitely worth it! A huge investment, that’s for sure, but I left feeling very inspired. We’ll see how it all plays out over the course of the next few months, though…

    • PJ

      Totally valid question! Hmm, Alt was not the most diverse group of people I’ve ever seen, but everyone seemed very open and welcoming. I don’t think that you would feel uncomfortable if you attended. A one-day conference like SF or NYC might be a good way to get your toes wet.

      Hope that helps!

  3. Emily @ Peck Life

    Finally sitting down to catch up on Alt recaps! This is so great! I love that you were able to capture the quotes! I too, had never heard of Stefan and didn’t really think it would be relevant to me but I was also wrong. I love him!! It was so wonderful getting to know you in person. It’s too bad we don’t live closer to eachother!

    • PJ

      Thanks! And I loved your recap, too — so beautifully written. I had such a great time hanging out with you! BTW, when is your due date?

  4. Tan

    I so wish I saw Jasmine’s session!
    Great recap and it was SO incredible meeting you. You’re such a lovely and vibrant personality. xoxo

  5. Alix Adams

    PJ! Jasmine was totally my favorite keynote. What she said about branding and being true to myself really stuck with me! It was so lovely meeting you at Alt! You have a great blog and were delightful in person! Also, I must say that I love that your card said “Levi’s Mom”. I feel the same way about Liam. I think all mom’s cards should say they are a mom! (I might use that next year FYI).


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