Have you ever been to a blogging conference? I’m sharing the good, the bad and the ugly from my very first Alt Summit experience.
Alt Summit 2019
So I went to Alt Summit this year for the first time. It was interesting to say the least. If you’re not familiar with Alt Summit, it’s a conference created for entrepreneurs and creatives. Apparently it’s “the” conference for bloggers. In the past, I’ve heard nothing but amazing things of the conference so when I got accepted to speak at their 10 year anniversary conference, I was stoked.
I just knew I had to be in the building to soak up everything that the conference had to offer, because it’s the dopest conference around, or so I’ve always heard.
It took place in Palm Springs this year, the same as the last few years. I’ll be honest, my expectations were super high when arriving to the conference. I’m sharing my honest experience because I know how critical it is to get honest reviews about conferences. As bloggers and business owners, we have to spend our money wisely and with the hefty price tag of $1200, Alt Summit is one of the more expensive conferences and it’s important that we get out money’s worth.
So let’s get down to my honest opinions about the conference.
Like I said before, the conference was held in Palm Springs, California. It’s about a 5 hour flight from Orlando and direct flights to Palm Springs can cost $400+. The destination wasn’t ideal to fly to as it’s on the pricier side. Instead we chose to fly into a neighboring city and cut costs by driving to Palm Springs. However, the travel expenses were still costly.
Conference events were hosted at 4 different hotels in Palm Springs. The venues were beyond beautiful and definitely Instagram-worthy. The Alt team did an amazing job at choosing the right venues for the conference. Each venue ranging from 5-15 minutes apart. This was the first major issue that I had with the conference.
Having four different conference venues caused major issues, all of which I’ll dive deeply into below. Sessions were held at each venue and sponsors had booths/setups at the different hotels.
Remember how I said there were events at all 4 hotels? It was a super cool concept, but guess what? The shuttles stopped running at 6pm every single day of the conference. Most nights there were events that went past 6pm.
Guests who weren’t at an event at the hotel they were staying at had to find another way home. Most likely it ended up being Uber or Lyft since most attendees had no car. The transportation costs added on to the high priced ticket they had already bought.
On the days when you were able to catch the shuttle, there was a 10-30 minute wait. If you saw my stories on the second day of the conference, you saw how long the shuttle line was.
By looking at the Alt Summit website, you would think “wow, they have some really amazing sponsors.”
They did. However, there were maybe only 10 of the sponsors actually present. This wasn’t my first rodeo at a conference. Going in, I was expecting the typical experience of getting to stop by sponsor booths and chat with the brands about new initiatives/products and possibly partnering. I only got to chat to maybe a handful of brands that were interested in working with bloggers outside of an affiliate basis.
Certain sponsors had sponsor dinners for the attendees that were invite only but most were capped at 30-100 guests max. There were about 2,000 attendees at the conference. No one knew how you got picked to attend the sponsor dinners but we were pretty sure each sponsor didn’t go through 2,000 attendees to choose.
Joanna Gaines Keynote
If you’re a big Joanna Gaines fan like literally every person on the planet, the keynote would’ve pissed you all the way off.
Imagine yourself traveling hundreds of miles to Alt Summit thinking you’re going to see Joanna Gaines and all you can see is her feet. Yes, her feet!
This was a reality for most of the attendees at the conference. There were 3 large screens at the keynote. One in the middle and one on each side of the conference room. When we walked in to choose our seats we were under the impression that the keynote would be displayed on the screens.
We were wrong.
The screens displayed ‘Magnolia’ the entire time and the stage wasn’t high enough to see anything. The screens blocked the sight of Joanna so anyone sitting on the side of the stage could only see her feet.
We didn’t learn anything new or mind-blowing from the keynote. It was an interview style talk which is the first time I’ve ever seen that style of a keynote but it was good to at least hear her voice in person, I guess.
The lineup of sessions looked promising. I was ready to dive deep into the sessions I had on my schedule and soak up all the knowledge. That’s what conferences are all about, right?
The first session I tried to go to was full. I couldn’t get in. The volunteers were not letting anyone into the room, not even if you wanted to stand. There were about 100 chairs in the room at The Saguaro for the session I was trying to attend and they let maybe 10 people in to stand.
This was the first thing that irked my nerves that day but I let it go and just decided that I would get notes from someone.
In the hall of The Saguaro (yes, I said the hallway), they were doing one-on-one sessions for branding and marketing. There was a line of people waiting to chat with the girls doing the consultations. Everyone in the line was talking and networking because that’s what you’re supposed to do at conferences.
A few minutes after standing in the line a volunteer came over and asked us to “keep it down” a.k.a. stop talking because the people who were lucky enough to get into the sessions were having a hard time hearing the speaker.
A. That wasn’t our fault that they couldn’t hear the speaker.
B. One-on-one consultations should not have been happening in the hallway.
After that moment I was pretty much done for the day. I was able to get into a few sessions later on in the week which I thought were really great sessions.
Now y’all know that the one thing that I do not play about is my food. When I’m ready to eat, I’m ready to eat.
So after the volunteer asked us to stop talking, I left the line and went downstairs to wait for lunch to be served. When you purchase a ticket to Alt Summit, they provide you with breakfast and lunch on most days. This year, lunch was provided on 4 of the 5 days. 3 of those 4 days, each attendee was given a ticket with a venue on it with where they were to eat lunch. On Monday, I was to have lunch at The Saguaro.
At 11:30, lunch was served. I brought my ticket up to the lunch line only to be told that I could not eat until 12:30. That might seem like something small to nitpick about but guess what? We weren’t told when receiving our ticket that they all had different times on them. And at 11:30 when I went to get in the line, there were only maybe 10 people in the food area because sessions were still going on. About 30 minutes later, after calling her boss, the volunteer told me that I could use my ticket early because no one was showing up.
3 out of the 4 days, the conference ran out of food. Bloggers were calling the conference the “Fyre Fest” of conferences. On one day, food was carted away from one hotel to another because they had run out of food. During the Novagratz keynote, they also ran out of food.
Not getting the lunch that you were promised added on another expense to your trip.
Our “luxury” hotel looked amazing on the website. We stayed at The Riviera Hotel which is a Marriott property. I’ve never stayed at a Marriott property that I wasn’t absolutely in love with.
The Riviera was nothing but pure disappointment.
The first room that we were in was in Building 5 facing the Chiki pool. Our bathroom was swarmed with ants so we ended up moving to another room after one night of being in there.
When we moved to the second room, it was just okay. The beds were hard as hell. The showers in the bathroom had a European vibe that I think the hotel thought was supposed to be cool but the entire time we were taking showers, we were freezing because there was only half a glass enclosing the shower.
The second day we were at the hotel, my husband took T for a swim in the Soleil pool. She ended up getting severely dehydrated because the pool was 90 degrees and it was about the same temperature outside. I’ve never been in a heated pool so hot. It literally felt more like a hot tub.
During our entire stay, you could tell that the hotel was understaffed and wasn’t prepared for having such a large conference plus regular hotel guests. Our room took forever to get cleaned the days we stayed there. We ended up checking out of our hotel a day early because we were just fed up with all the issues.
Behind the scenes as a speaker
So I was a speaker at this year’s conference. This was only my second time speaking at a large conference but I did know what to expect as a speaker.
I expected two things – communication and organization. That was it.
As a speaker, I didn’t get either of the two. Originally when applying to speak I was under the impression that I was applying to speak only once. When I was accepted, I was told that I would actually be holding a roundtable session on 2 days during the conference. I was told which two days I would be speaking but not the times. I found out the times I would be presenting from the conference app. No one on the Alt team communicated my presentation times to me.
When I arrived in the Riviera Ballroom for my roundtable session I thought that my table would already be chosen with a sign stating the title of my session.
I was wrong again.
The signs for every roundtable session were scattered onto the first round table you saw when you walked into the ballroom. Each speaker had to go through the piles to find their sign and choose their own table. There was no one their to direct us. We kind of just figured it out on our own.
The concept of roundtables is that conference attendees are supposed to move around from table to table every 20-30 minutes. There was no one there during the roundtables to announce when it was time to move to another table. The roundtables were so unorganized. My session was dope and I got a lot of great feedback despite everything being so unorganized.
I heard throughout the conference from other speakers that they were completely out of the loop. There wasn’t anyone to check on whether or not the speakers were showing up for their sessions. Some speakers weren’t at the conference at all and last minute changes were made to the schedule. In some sessions, speakers struggled with the tech and there was no one there to help.
The swag bags at a conference are a seemingly important part. We live for good swag. We don’t want the pens and the notepads and the useless discount codes. Give us great products that we can rave about or don’t give us anything at all.
Alt had great swag at their gifting party but guess what? They ran out of that too.
The gifting party took place on Monday night at the same time as a few of the sponsor dinners so if you were attending one of those, you were out of luck. The line to get into the gifting party was long, of course, and each person could only get 5 items. Before they even got to the end of the line, they ran out of products. All that was left was lactation and postpartum tea which wasn’t any use to you if you weren’t pregnant or nursing.
Diversity and Inclusion
If you’re looking for a blogger conference filled with diversity, this ain’t it. Throughout the conference I saw maybe about 12-25 women of color at the conference. There could have been more but I didn’t see them.
The cliques were going hard. Since this was the 10th year of the conference, people had formed groups from past years and it was obvious.
Why am I telling you all of this?
I’m writing this post solely to tell my honest opinion about the experience that I had, not to tear anyone’s hard work down or to belittle someone’s conference but if I was going to a conference that someone else had been to – I would want them to give me their honest opinion about everything before I spent thousands of dollars.
Here’s the thing about conferences. There are so many out there that cater to bloggers and creatives that it’s hard to tell which ones are a hit. I’ve seen so many other bloggers that attended this conference raving about how amazing it was when that just wasn’t the case.
It was amazing for the connections I made with some of the wonderful women in attendance. I made some connections that will last for a long time. But overall the conference was unorganized and very overwhelming. It didn’t live up to the hype at all.
The Alt Summit tickets are expensive and honestly I would want someone looking out for me when I’m about to drop a stack on a conference ticket and not even get my money’s worth.
Would I go again?
Even after all of this I might just give it another shot but not on my own dime. I wouldn’t be willing to spend my own money on a ticket only to be disappointed. The tickets are expensive and quite honestly I would’ve been highly upset had I paid for a ticket this year.
Word is that a volunteer asked conference attendees how Alt could make it better next year. The guest told them that they could have the conference at one venue large enough to hold everyone and streamline the venues, like a conference center. The response was that there is no way to make a conference center cute.
I don’t know about you but I’d rather be at a conference that is organized and efficient than “cute” but that’s just me.
I would speak again or maybe go on behalf of a brand if asked and costs were covered. My expectations would be much, much lower. I would expect nothing more than getting a great vacation out of it and maybe meeting a few dope ass creatives.
My point is that you know when I don’t have tons of photos to fill a blog post, I just wasn’t feeling it. I’m going to leave it up to you whether or not you spend your hard earned coins on Alt but I won’t. Tickets are already on sale for next year and it’s another 5-day conference so we’ll see how that goes.
Even though so many things went wrong this year, all of the hiccups are things that could be addressed if the team wanted to. Honestly though, I don’t see that happening.