Alt for Outsiders

Hi friends, In my two earlier posts on Altitude Summit {here and here}, I promised to write another instalment all about attending Alt as an outsider. Ok, so the term 'outsider' might be taking it a little far - but travelling to the US from England was definitely a scary prospect. While America is an English-speaking country, there are so many cultural differences, and I had no clue as to whether I was going to fall flat on my face. {Not literally, although that too was a possibility...}

I'm happy to say I didn't fall flat on my face, literally or otherwise. In fact, as you may have gathered from earlier blog posts, I had a wonderful time. I met so many incredible people, learnt heaps, listened to some amazing talks {hello, Martha!} and came away feeling inspired and bursting with ideas.

So, if you're thinking about going to Alt 2015 {I know I am!}, and you're not from the US/Canada, here are my top tips:

1) Get on social media: As soon as I knew I was going to Alt I jumped onto every social media platform and chatted to people who were also attending. By following the hashtag #altsummit on twitter and instagram, I could follow along and feel part of things before I left home. I struck up twitter chats, commented on instagram and messaged people on facebook, and I'm so glad I did. It gave me a few friendly faces to look out for at the event, and even led to me sharing a hotel room with the delightful Celine Navarro. Celine is from France so we were friendly quickly, and it was such a treat to have someone lovely to hang out with.

2) Sign up for as much as you can: If there are socials being arranged outside of the Alt event, get involved! I made sure I signed up to a breakfast on the first day, giving me time to meet more lovely bloggers ahead of the first session. It was the perfect start to the day and meant I'd already warmed up a bit, ahead of the big start! Thanks so much Tan, for arranging this breakfast! This also feeds into tip 1, as these meet ups were arranged via the official Alt Facebook group - so another good reason to join in.

3) Don't ignore the sponsors: Going into Alt, I assumed that brands wouldn't be that keen to work with me, since I was a UK blogger. I was wrong. That said, it's important to do your research. Ahead of Alt, take a look at the sponsor list and see what presence, if any, they have in your home country. Then, if you can see that a collaboration may work, get in touch with the brand, before the conference kicks off. That way, when you get to Alt you can go and introduce yourself you'll already have the preliminary introductions taken care of. I did this with a couple of brands and it was as simple as sending them a Twitter message to get the correct contact info, then sending them an email about me, my blog and my ideas for collaborations. Simple, and so worth it.

4) Opt for a hotel with free wifi: Travelling abroad can become pretty costly, especially if you want to use the net on your phone. As a blogger, net access is pretty important and so it goes without saying that free wifi will be your saviour. There is free wifi during Alt at The Grand America, so you'll be sorted in the conference rooms, but it's also worth checking that your hotel also has access {if you don't stay at the Grand}. I stayed over the road at the Little America and the wifi was quick and free.

5) Smile, smile, smile: It won't always be easy, sometimes you'll feel like no one wants to talk to you, and everyone else has a BFF with them, but honestly it's not the case. I think the majority of people at Alt this summer went by themselves, knowing no body else. And whether you're from the US or the UK, this is a brave thing to do. So do go up to people, smile, introduce yourself and then go from there. An added bonus is that your different accent, whether British, French or whatever, will set you apart and be an instant conversation starter.

6) Do your research: As with any trip away from home, it pays to do your research. Whether you want to stock up on snacks for the week or fancy doing a bit of sightseeing or shopping, looking up addresses, travel links or any other helpful info is so worth it. For the record, Trader Joes isn't far from The Grand America, Target is pretty handy {although we drove in Celine's rental car which made it super easy} and if you have a car and some time the Bonneville Salt Flats are immense and so worth visiting. Utah is beautiful and definitely worth exploring!

7) Make the most of your time: Admittedly, this could go for any Alt attendees, but I felt this so keenly as someone who'd travelled thousands of miles to attend. If there's someone you want to say hi to - do it. If there's a brand you want to chat to - do it. You get the picture. Go easy on yourself of course, there is a lot to take in, and you'll know when you're at capacity, but if fear is holding you back from introducing yourself to someone then tell it to take a hike, and go and say hi. I kept telling myself I didn't fly all this way to wuss out. I brought my best self, and was determined to squeeze every last drop out of the experience.

8) Take a deep breath and go for it: Right before I got on the plane at Gatwick, I had a mini wobble. I was walking up the ramp to board, and my eyes filled up with tears. Suddenly a wave of fear and panic washed over me, and not just at the prospect of an eleven hour flight by myself, with no husband to hold my hand on take off. Flying somewhere solo, especially overseas is a big deal. It is scary. But you can totally do it. Take a deep breath, gather yourself and think of the good stuff, the exciting stuff and go for it! Even the introverts among us can do this. It's that old cliche about jumping in at the deep end - terrifying, but wow - so worth it.

I hope these tips help, and if you're thinking of heading to Alt Summit 2015 let me know, I'm saving up already!