Five Takeaways from ALT

By Kate Riley January 31, 2013

Not all of you are bloggers so I try to keep the blogging related posts to a minimum, and I usually don’t write about conferences but I did want to share just a few takeaways from my recent trip to the Altitude Design Summit conference for those interested. I didn’t bring my fancy camera, I’ve learned I don’t like carrying it around at these types of events when a cell phone camera will do.

It was a three day event with many bloggers, designers, and big brands present, including the lovely BH&G team I work with. I had the opportunity to meet and interview one of my entrepreneur role models Annie Selke, and I enjoyed most of the sessions and speakers over the three very full days. Here is a condensed summary of what I found most relevant for those of you bloggers out there who are interested.

alt 2013

Brand.  There must have been a memo that went out that required the word “personal brand” in every session because I’m pretty sure I heard it in every one. With all the talk I think it mostly it boils down to this: as a blogger be true to your passions and in control of your content or product – make it your very best . The more you tailor your brand and your style, the more you’ll attract or potentially repel others – expect not everyone will like you or what you’re about. Also choose carefully who you partner with in blogging (and business and life) since your relationships are a reflection of you (and your personal brand, there I said it too.)  

Authenticity.   Be true to yourself and let your personality shine. Only you can be you, so be you.  Create original compelling content by writing about your passions, write like you think and speak. It’s stuff you’ve heard before, it’s cliché, but it’s truth. If you struggle to find your voice, Karen spoke on the subject and she summarized her tips in this article. 

Define Your Own Success.  One of my favorite messages was one by gregarious and passionate Jasmin Star who reminded us that we all need to clearly define our own success which is not anyone else’s definition. I completely agree with that. Everyone’s path in life, in blogging, and in business is different so carve your own path, define what “success” means to you and you alone, write it down, work hard to get there, and when you do, raise your glass.  

Risk.  The best speaker was the keynote on the second day, a brazen and creative graphic designer Stefan Sagmeister who said something so perfect in the middle of his talk I wrote it down and will someday make into a printable quote of some kind. “Life will be richer when you’re willing to risk more.” I feel that especially this year as I take on a new venture, I hope you all are taking more risks large and small too.

Style. At these events, where design bloggers congregate, there are a lot of cute outfits. Maybe they were brand names maybe they were from Target I really don’t know or care but everyone was pulled together and stylish but also casual and I liked that. I bought this striped blazer to wear to the event and I found it so comfortable I declare I shall wear it everyday that I go out in public and am not wearing yoga pants. Which isn’t often.

And a final tip, if you’re not staying at the hotel (I stayed at a nearby less expensive one), plan out your travel to and from the event since fancy shoes and icy sidewalks don’t mix.  Which I learned the hard way.

shoes and street

I’d like to personally thank both my sister and Mandi for giving me rides to and from. If you want a pictorial, Justin has a good post that captures the spirit of the event in pictures. And because I committed to sharing these I have to tell you briefly of these two very true embarrassing incidents I experienced.

#1:  Everyone was rockin the false eyelashes and since I have only twelve maybe thirteen eyelashes on each eyelid I thought this would be a good opportunity for me to embellish my own lids. Turns out I have no talent for applying false eyelashes at all and by session two I started feeling them popping off my lids and by lunch it was a disaster and I had to remove them privately and in shame in a bathroom stall.  #conferencefail#1

#2:  On the second day I had to use the facilities so I walked through the propped open door and immediately thought to myself “why is this women’s bathroom so close to the other women’s bathroom? That’s just bad floor planning.” It smelled funny, but I proceeded to do my business. And then I went to wash my hands and I heard a stall open up, and then next to the faucet came a man. And then I turned to see the urinals that I had failed to see when I entered and the reality of the fact that I was in the men’s room came crashing down around me. And as I exited no less than 6 ladies with noses crinkled in disbelief observed my #conferencefail#2.  

Other than that, the trip was a success, but only because I narrowly escaped washing my hair with this




  1. I am glad to hear your trip was a success. Although I literally lol when I read about your eyelash experience. I have been there. lol

  2. LOL! I was skiing in Tahoe once and went into the “Ladies” restroom. The very first stall was open so I jumped in without looking around. I was doing my business when I heard a man’s voice. I thought – there is man in the women’s restroom. Then I heard another man and then quiet talking and realized – OMG there is a woman in the man’s restroom and it’s ME!!!
    When I came out of the stall the two men at the urinal just looked at me and we awkwardly smiled at each other and I skulked out without washing my hands.

    HAHAHA – you are not alone!

  3. Haha – the bathroom story was great. My boyfriend did that once in a movie theater. Walked into the restroom, thought, “That’s weird that this theater doesn’t have urinals in the men’s room,” and began, uhm, doing his thing in the first stall, WITH THE DOOR OPEN! Sure enough women started coming in before he realized his mistake. He played it cool leaving the bathroom but made us leave the theater 5 minutes before the movie ended so he wouldn’t be recognized. At least when a woman uses a men’s restroom, some folks will think she is brave what with long lines usually at the women’s room. Men doing it are just creepy! :)

  4. I love your authenticity. LOL. It’s so refreshing to encounter someone that doesn’t take themselves too seriously. I have no interest in blogging but truly enjoyed this post.

  5. Shame on Utah for not getting the sidewalks cleaned off. Yet residents must clear their sidewalks within 24 hours or take a chance of being fined.

  6. I am not a blogger, but sometimes in reading things I don’t do there is still something to be learned and often times with your blog some humor to be found. I am going to admit that I enterred a mem’s rrom once, but luckily realized in time before using the facilities or running into anyone. Wow! Hartz Shampoo… you could have started a new trend maybe. We had a dog and I always removed the dog shampoo after her bath because I envisioned that my husband would use it just because it was in the shower and would not read labels. Maybe your sister could put the shampoo in a cabinet in the bathroom close by. As a sister I would expect you’d be forgiving if you had used the shampoo, but I know of some people that would be quite offended if they had made that mistake.

  7. I can relate to the shoes. I live just outside SLC and this year I have resorted to carrying my shoes in a bag and wearing my snow boots to work and changing when I get there.

  8. I can top you on the eyelashes. I wore them to my senior prom and they fell off in my salad at dinner. Nice.

    I would love to go to Alt next year. Curious if you liked it enough to go back?? I swear, though, I think the outfit planning alone would make me crazy. I am not accustomed to looking “cute” for several days in a row. :)

  9. Laughed about the bathroom incident. I accidentally walked into a men’s room once, but immediately spotted the urinals and did a hasty retreat!

  10. You can take the girl out of Cali but not the Cali out of the girl – even if it’s Northern CA. Nice shoes. :)

  11. Oh my goodness about the men’s room! id DIE
    As for the eyelashes, they take practice! I wear them every day since I dont naturally have any. You gotta use either LashGrip or Lash Duo glue (they are the best) and bring a little tube with you so you can touch em up if a corner starts coming off!!

    I had no idea bloggers went to that kind of length for these things. Crazy!!

  12. I walked into the men’s bathroom once. I was txting while walking and not paying attention and the next thing I know i’m standing in front of urinals. Lucky for me no one was in there and I went right back out. Although there was a guy waiting for his wife outside of the women’s bathroom and had himself a good chuckle. :P

    I don’t wear falsies for the fear of the same thing happening. Which i’m quite sure it definitely would happen to me.


  13. Try Rapidlash!!! It has transformed by post turning 40 eyelash and eyebrow thinning. Maybe you can make them a sponsor LOL.

  14. Oh you make me miss SLC! My husband and I just moved to Montana from Wells, NV, and we used to drive the 2 1/2 hours to Salt Lake all the time! We saw a whole concert series there at the convention center. I miss it!!

  15. That is hilarious! Thank you for sharing. I needed a good laugh today. I’ve also mistakenly used the mens room, so at least I know I’m in good company! Thanks for the blogging tips too :)

  16. I totally did that just the other day! I was at a grocery store where I don’t usually shop & my 4 year old had to go potty so I took him into the ladies room with me. Exact same experience! I noticed it smelled funny and it wasn’t until he had finished and we were headed to the sink to wash our hands that I came face to face with. a. man. – then I saw the urinals. So embarassing! We just bypassed the sinks completely (it was a doorless restroom) and ran around the corner as quickly as we could to wash our hands in the actual ladies room!

  17. I am laughing so hard…..I went into the bathroom one time at Walmart. I remember looking down the aisles underneath the stalls, like you do sometimes, to see if anyone else was in there with me, and thinking “who in their right mind would wear those shoes? They look just like men’s shoes!” Imagine my horror when I was washing my hands at the sink, like you were, and a man came out of the stall to wash his hands too! So I really feel for you. And I’ve done the eyelashes thing too. Good grief. And I thought I was the only one!! So glad to hear I’m not. Thanks for sharing. Good to know you’re not perfect!


  18. Thanks for the insights–my blogging partner and I are hoping to go to this next year. Maybe we should start planning outfits now! I spent 15 years in PR so I’m curious to experience these conferences as my own brand, not repping a big one trying to get bloggers’ attention!

  19. Oh thanks for that, you had me LOL-ing. Although now Im terrified that I need to wear false eyelashes at Haven. I cannot possibly pull that off unless its Halloween and Im drinking.

  20. I’m not a blogger but for some reason I’m always interested to hear stories/takeaways from Alt. Thanks for the post!

  21. Yaaaayyyyyy!! Kate screws up sometimes too!!!!!!! Can’t say that I have had false eyelashes fall off on me or smelled urinal cakes up close and personal, well lately anyhow. I do have a suggestion though. I have discovered “False Lashes” by MAC and they come pretty close to the real fake thing. They come out so long sometimes that they really aren’t appropriate for day wear, but evenings, yes please!!! Okay, maybe during the day if you know you will see an old flame at the grocery store, but that’s about it.

  22. That is hilarious about the mens bathroom. Sorry, that made me laugh :) I didn’t even know what this conference was until last week I started seeing #altsummit all over my instagram. I have since looked it up and see there is one in NYC in a few months that I am considering attending. Might be fun! Anyway, thanks for sharing your experience!

  23. I’m not cut out for fake eyelashes either! You are more brave than I am, I have never tried them. As for the rest of the post, it was SO helpful; as a beginning blogger, I am always looking for ways to be more efficient in my blogging! Thank you for this great post. I’m still finding my niche in the blogging world, but you are one I follow everyday. :)

  24. Kate:

    I loved your post today, specifically what you wrote about the travails you suffered on your trip: platform shoes in the slush, the attempt at glam eyelashes gone wrong, the men’s bathroom episode and the dog shampoo.

    A lot of interior design bloggers do make the attempt to “make it real” every now and then by talking about how messy their house really is, or how unruly their children are. I appreciate the attempts at saying “my life looks perfect but it’s not”…I just usually find those attempts a bit limp and lifeless.

    Today, you brought it! Life is imperfect and undignified and we all so need to and yearn to hear about that every now and then.

    I loved it. Well done and thank you! Judy B.

  25. Ha ha, the bathroom story was funny – could have happened to me, too. Good for you that you enjoyed your time at the conference, sounds like lots of inspiration!

  26. Doesn’t matter you’re so awesome regardless!!!! I couldn’t help but think of that Southwest commericial “Want to Get-a-way?” with the men’s bathroom incident :)

  27. Your stories made me smile. I needed that today! I hope you’ll come back to visit Utah when we haven’t been hit with constant blizzards and snow. I read someone’s post about the sidewalks not being cleared. I know for us, North of SLC, we were out constantly shoveling and it was a losing battle. I think my hubby was especially happy I insisted on purchasing the snowblower with the handwarming system since he end up doing not only ours, but my mother’s walks as well.
    I very much enjoy your blog. Thank you

  28. Thanks for sharing your conference fails. I needed a good belly laugh today. And you are not alone — I have inadvertently entered the mens restroom once or twice — and understand the embarrassment that comes with it.

  29. That was a fun post. I’ve totally gone into the wrong bathroom before and can appreciate how embarrassed you were. I’ve also tried the false lashes (for Halloween) and hated the way they felt. I don’t know how people wear them. Thanks for the blogging tips as well.

  30. Thank you for this! I am determined to make it to ALT next year (when I get over that shy bone that keeps me back EVERY YEAR) and I always appreciate a nice list of takeaways. Look forward to meeting you in person one day!

  31. So great to know I am not the only female on the planet that has used the men’s restroom by mistake. I too did not realize my mistake until I came out of the stall and saw the urinals. As I made an exit hoping nobody had noticed, I walked out to see every male Chinese waiter in the place huddled together laughing hysterically.

  32. Thanks for sharing this! I hope to be at alt summit next year. I am totally with you on the “Life will be richer when you’re willing to risk more” quote! That has a lot of relevance in my life right now :)
    xx Melissa

  33. So now I don’t feel like I’m the only one who does goofy things. At least you pulled it off with class! :)

    And your shoes… I LOVE YOUR SHOES!

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