My 5 Takeaways from Teaching at Alt Summit

The Saguaro Hotel Palm Springs

Alt is where it all started for me.

Somehow two years ago I got it in my head to apply to be a speaker at Alt. I pitched a bunch of different ideas and was chosen (woot) to speak on editing, specifically "How to Develop a Consistent Style". I prepared for weeks and the classed turned out pretty good (although it could have used some finessing).  Since then I've found the courage to pitch different classes at other conferences and even hosted my own workshop, each time honing in what works and what doesn't work. 

Upon hearing Alt Summit would be in Palm Springs, I applied again to be speaker at Alt and got those magic words from the Design Mom, Gabrielle Blair, in response, "Congratulations! You've been selected as a speaker for Alt Summit 2017." I would be teaching a photo editing workshop. I literally screamed when I got the email. 

Fast forward to Thursday morning of the conference, with my hair and makeup did, I taught photo editing to my cozy class of 25-30 attendees. The hour and fifteen minutes flew by, and I felt so completely happy with how it turned out. So I just wanted to shared some takeaways I learned from teaching at Alt this year. 

1. Unexpected challenges can foster creative problem solving and better results.  

In that same email congratulating me on being a speaker, Gabrielle snuck in a little fun surprise, "The room will not have a screen or projector. So please plan your class as a true, hands-on type workshop." Yikes. Those words haunted me. How do you teach a class about work done solely on a computer without a screen or projector? What does hands-on really mean?? Blerg. Can you feel how stressed I was?

So that was my challenge: how do I effectively teach a bunch of people "blindly"? I queried one of my handy facebook groups and got several helpful suggestions which eventually inspired my final solution. I ended up asking all the students to bring a laptop and gave them each a digital folder containing a pdf of the slides of my talking points and a Lightroom catalog for them to follow along with. I made sure my entire spiel was only twenty minutes so I could spend the rest of the time going around helping people one-on-one. Overall I think this workshop was more successful than any of my other talks, and I owe it to not having a projector. Had I had a projector and screen I imagine my workshop would have been pretty dry. The way I presented ended up being completely much more effective as I was forced to go table to table to help attendees individually and see what their specific needs were. 

2. Teaching will bring out the best or the worst of you. 

Teaching is no joke. It's not easy. It's stressful and challenging for someone like me. I honestly had to learn to be a better person while I was teaching my class. There were plenty of moments when I thought I was going to go crazy. I definitely had to exercise plenty of grace and patience, but it all worth it. 

3. Ask for help and accept it when it's offered. 

Like I mentioned before, in a facebook group I asked how I could teach an editing class without a screen or projector. The help and resources I received from that simple ask were invaluable to me. I really owe much of the success of the workshop to those who helped me in that group. So often someone else has already solved your problem, so why not take advantage of their knowledge and save yourself some of the legwork. I saved so much time figuring out my pickle by simply asking for help. You really have nothing to lose by asking for a little help. 

At my workshop I had an Alt representative. I wish I could remember his name because he was so incredibly helpful. While I was preparing to speak, my Alt rep went around helping people load the workshop material on their computers. That little bit of help was really loads and loads helpful to me. Part of my personality is to always turn away help--I never want to put someone out or inconvenience them, so over the years I've really had to learn to accept help when it's offered because utilizing the people around me is really such an invaluable asset. 

photo by justin hackworth

photo by justin hackworth

4. Trust yourself. 

When I was in college I presented a multi-million dollar housing project to Bank of America for a competition. I was super nervous, but I'll never forget what one of my teammates said to calm my nerves, "You know this material. Trust yourself." To this day her words have stuck with me. Even though I'm pretty snazzy at editing, I was scared about my workshop. What if no one learned anything? What if no one showed up? What if I didn't make sense? What if my screen/projector solution didn't work? But I knew the material backwards and forwards, so I trusted that. I trusted myself. In the end that's all I needed and everything worked out. A couple people might have even told me it was the best class they'd been to at the conference. (cue happy dance.)

5. Share knowledge generously. 

I once had a mentor who shared everything about his business with me from his business practices to his insurance agent. He was generous with his knowledge and I'm indebted to him for that, so I've always used that as a model in how I want to interact with other creatives. I tell my creative friends I have no secrets with regards to my business. And I really don't. If there's something you want to know about my business I'll share it with you. 

At my workshop I was so happy to see that the attendees were learning something. Even if it was just one small thing, I was happy I could share that with them. There's no reason for me to keep this editing knowledge to myself when I could instead be helping people with what I know. 

All in all I felt like my workshop was a total success. I'm so thankful for the people who attended my workshop, their patience with me, and the really, really good questions they asked. 

 

Saguaro Hotel, Palm Springs, CA. February 2, 2016 | Fuji x100s