EXP 2018 - A WILD SUCCESS!

 A view from our general session at Castello di Amorosa. (c) EXP & Marla Aufmuth

A view from our general session at Castello di Amorosa. (c) EXP & Marla Aufmuth

 

Summary

Our first gathering of experience economy pioneers is wrapped and we couldn't be more proud of our team, partners, and community who came together to make EXP a wild success.

  • Onsite, 100% of the attendees pledged to take at least one action to grow EXP

  • In surveys, with so far 40% responded, we have a Net Promoter Score of 100 (!!)

  • 95% said they were extremely likely to include things they learned into their own programs

The key to our success was in the very thoughtful curation of the community, supported by a program filled with surprises and unscripted spaces to connect. Read on to learn more about our approach to unifying the experience economy through experiential learning.

Special thanks goes out to Marla Aufmuth for the beautiful documentation in photos! 

 

Prep - What is an experience pioneer and how do we find them?

 A peek into the group having lunch at the Hans Fahden vineyard. (c) Marla Aufmuth

A peek into the group having lunch at the Hans Fahden vineyard. (c) Marla Aufmuth


Experiential pioneers are visionaries who see beyond what is possible today and boldly step into creating a new category of experience. Attendees were carefully curated by EXP's founder, Sarah Shewey, who reached out to clients from Happily, through friends of friends as well as through "cold calling" on Linkedin. Linkedin was surprisingly effective. In fact, it's how she piqued the interest of Hugh Forrest, Chief Programming Officer of SXSW and Michael Lang, the founder of Woodstock, to come to the event. Every person was interviewed by phone at minimum before coming to EXP, which allowed us to get to know our attendees better and tailor our experience for their needs and personality. The result was about 50% of the group were CEO/Founders, 25% were artists (analog, digital, & VR/AR/XR), and 25% were heads of marketing for iconic cultural brands. 

 

Day Zero - Tuesday  

Our official programming started on Wednesday, June 13 at 8am, so many people arrived the day before. As they headed out to our home property, the Indian Springs Resort and Spa, we gave them a couple of articles to read about the history of Calistoga along with some podcasts and playlists to enjoy on the way over. 

History 

Good ole Wikipedia tells us there are about 5,000 locals in Calistoga! 

John Law reminded us about the creepy history of The Moonies in Calistoga

Indian Springs was settled by the Wapoo Indians more than 8,000 years ago! 

 

Playlist

For EXP only: a sneak preview of the new House of the Gipsies album

Why Did./? Yes, why did, why did?/. with Dustin Wong and John Leland

David Adler & Richard St. Pierre recap C2 2018

Upon arrival, we set up registration in the newly done Merchant House on property. We stocked the fridges with beverages from Nomadica, Health-Ade, Som, and Rebbl as well as laid out gifts from Knock Knock, The Meritage, and Endorfin for guests to enjoy as they bumped into each other for the first time. Special floral centerpieces were delivered to the rooms with handwritten cards for some extra special people to EXP, like Sharon Lyle of Ensemble, the first person to purchase a ticket from us. We worked with the hotel to arrange for a welcome pool party at a pool exclusive to us and being that the weather was 95 degrees, a few brave and (overheated) souls jumped right on in. Most couldn't steal away from the fantastic conversations and the live shucked OystersXO. We realized EXP was going to be off the charts as the conversations couldn't stop and we had to extend the party!  

 

Day One - Wednesday

 Lisa Hurd-Walker's Selffee on an iced latte. (c) Marla Aufmuth

Lisa Hurd-Walker's Selffee on an iced latte. (c) Marla Aufmuth

1:1s

Remember how we interviewed everybody before coming? We set each person up on a 1:1 or a blind date to start the official program. Selffee brought some playfulness with their edible printer that lets people put their photo on an iced latte or a cookie. Anna Bulbrook's instagram followers apparently freaked out on her story where she swirls her face into latte oblivion. We intentionally placed the 1:1s and most all of the programming at EXP in a 90 minute block. Although we knew it might be uncomfortable to spend 90 minutes with a stranger, we intentionally planned for that discomfort so we could break a tendency for new business relationships to be transactional. With a group of 60 people, there was plenty of time for everyone to do business in a non-pressured environment.

 Stacy Conde & Ben Hindman on their 1:1 (c) Marla Aufmuth

Stacy Conde & Ben Hindman on their 1:1 (c) Marla Aufmuth

Workshops

We hosted two workshop sessions - one at 10am and one at 3pm - with partners and attendees leading conversations to share the best practices in forming a team, a community, a strategy for ROI, a budget, and more. Our workshops were set with the intention that by learning more about how others do their work, we could learn more about our own systems. We brought on a Head of Learning, Sarah Hinawi, to help our workshop leaders prepare. Oftentimes we're ready for a talk, but we're not ready for a facilitated conversation with key takeaways. We'll post in more detail about those takeaways to EXP members (apply now to join!

From top left to bottom right: 

  • Build your own damn conference with Anthony Kennada, Gainsight Pulse

  • Creating more diverse and inclusive experiences with Genie Gratto, AnitaB.org

  • Engineering great vendor relationships with The Meritage 

  • Find your people with Radha Agrawal, Daybreaker

  • Mastering flow with Splash's CEO, Ben Hindman

  • Seeking support with Jamie Nami Kim, Kasa Group 

  • The delicate dance of budgeting with Laura Gavin, MKG 

  • Knock Knock's brain dump notepad

Interactive Lunches

Our executive producer Regina Hunt has a long history and passion for the culinary space, and came to EXP with a vision for a plant-based food program that was as delicious as it was inspiring. In fact, by reducing our meat consumption, our small group was able to save easily more than 300,000 gallons of water. During lunch, we had interactive demos with Impossible Foods who brought a scientist to break down the magic behind how their veggie burgers taste impossibly like a real one; Chef Miyoko Schinner of Miyoko's Kitchen came and did a special vegan cheese making workshop with a fondue that was out of this world; and Health-Ade came by with a hands-on demo and gifts to make kombucha at home. Although more than half the attendees have a carnivorous daily diet, all of the vegan food options scored above an 85% in our surveys. 

Wine O'Clock

After the second 90 min workshop, our brains were exploding so a little music and local Napa Valley wines were perfectly in order to shift gears and let conversations flow more naturally. Presence curated live performances by Julian Roy and Busy Bisi, two singer-songwriters from the Bay Area and once again our friends at OystersXO delighted guests. In fact, Oysters XO was our highest rated food partner with a whopping 97% satisfaction score. 

Desolation Center Screening

We ended the evening at Sterling Vineyards with an origin story of the desert music festivals: the Desolation Center. Back in the 80s, a young LA punk community organizer named Stuart Swezey rented school buses and took people into the Mojave Desert to throw a concert that would ultimately inspire the founders of Burning Man, Lollapalooza, and Coachella one day to start their own music festivals in the desert. Stuart, the filmmaker and founder of the Desolation Center, joined us at EXP to introduce the film. Burning Man co-founder John Law joined him, and recognized Stuart for being an influence on their decision to move the playa from beach to the desert. It was a bit surreal to watch the movie under the stars on gorgeous couches provided by Cort and tents from Camp'd Out, and it was amazing. A night to remember. 

The Desolation Center outdoor screening was really special. Enjoyed the film and learning what kicked off festival culture.
— Dustin Varty
 

Day Two

The Magical Breakfast

EXP was self-funded from ticket sales and a handful of brave partners who took a chance on a first time event, so our budget for this wasn't enormous. We knew that the expectations to deliver a phenomenal experience was going to be incredibly high - we probably had one of the hardest rooms in the world to impress. Figuring that it was impossible for us to be the best at a dinner party or provide an unforgettable surprise and delight moment for these experiential masters, we invested our efforts into an often overlooked piece of programming - Breakfast. We found out that there was a castle about 7 minutes away from our home property and orchestrated an elaborate surprise that woke our guests up on Day Two in a dream-like state.

 After walking down about six feet underground, guests entered the Grand Barrel Room, designed by  Next Art .

After walking down about six feet underground, guests entered the Grand Barrel Room, designed by Next Art.

 Three star Michelin Chef  Shawn Gawle  made us breakfast. Served on beautiful place settings by  Hensley  with mocktails by  Seedlip .

Three star Michelin Chef Shawn Gawle made us breakfast. Served on beautiful place settings by Hensley with mocktails by Seedlip.

 Radha's face tells the whole story of how people felt walking in.

Radha's face tells the whole story of how people felt walking in.

  Wisteria Lane  made flower crowns for every guest. We think Lisa wore it best.

Wisteria Lane made flower crowns for every guest. We think Lisa wore it best.

 And Sarah got up on stage for the first time as a host and thanked all her partners and introduced the speakers for the morning.

And Sarah got up on stage for the first time as a host and thanked all her partners and introduced the speakers for the morning.

Speakers from top left to bottom right: 

  • Regina Hunt came up with Chef and invited everyone to enjoy a thoughtful breakfast.

  • Stacy Horne spoke about the qualities of Pop up cities, gatherings that last for weeks or months at a time.

  • Bonnie Tsui of Pop-up Magazine shared a story about the aftermath of the Sonoma fires.

  • Sarah Hinawi shared the lessons learned from workshops on the previous day.

  • Hugh Forrest told us a war story and a wild success from SXSW.

  • M Eifler gave us a peek into the future of identity and human interaction.

  • Natalie Sun made a powerful request for producers to place art and artists before logistics.

  • Eric Gradman talked about the immersive design theory behind Two Bit Circus' new VR arcade.

  • Hope Hall closed us out with a lot of encouragement from her time in the Obama White House.

Hope was our runaway speaker, the only person to receive a 100% score of excellence on the survey! 

A super special thanks goes to all of our partners for this experience: Castello di Amorosa (venue), Next Art (creative), MS Event Production (AV), Wisteria Lane (florals), Chef Shawn Gawle (food), Seedlip (drink), Happily (staff). 

A hike and a garden

After being in a dungeon for two hours, we took attendees out to nearby Bothe-Napa Valley State Park and walked in beautiful sunlight over a stream and through redwoods. The fresh air and time to talk, not just listen, was a welcome break. Lunch was hosted at the beautiful Hans Fahden vineyard, where we were welcomed with their wines and enjoyed sitting on a bridge over a giant lily pond. The gardens were spectacular and was rated as the most favorite venue of EXP. Our favorite oyster man, Rifko of OystersXO, came back and taught us all how to shuck our own oysters! 

The hike was a much needed moment to slow down and connect with people. It was the days highlight for me as I got to have some deep conversations at a relaxed pace.
— Ebenezer Bond

Show and tell me what to do & Onsite Coaching

Something that we thought that our pioneers needed the most, beyond just inspiration, was support. We asked Sara Carbone and Jamie Nami Kim to provide onsite executive coaching as needed. Many people came in saying they felt "Imposter Syndrome" as they were coming into the conference, and we also found that break times after group sessions had a high demand for 1:1 coaching. Our Show and Tell Me What to Do program offered a way for attendees to source wisdom from the crowds - a fresh flip on the one-to-many format of talks. The results back on the Show and Tell Me What to Do were very hit-and-miss. People loved it or hated it, and we think that next time we'll introduce this as an unofficial and optional program. 

Dinner & Dancing

It's always hard to say goodbye to new best friends but DJ Just Me (Radha from Daybreaker) brought the heart and soul while Christine Marie brought the joy and weird with her 3d shadow dance party to close out EXP. We also had a special pop-up art installation from Dan Goods and David Delgado of The Studio at NASA/JPL, who inspired awe with their cloud chamber: "a small magic box that allows you to see particles that have traveled to Earth from exploded stars". Pretty cool! 

 

Looking forward

100% of those who came to EXP said that they wanted to help us grow the community, and we're super thankful for everyone's generosity and enthusiasm. We've decided to make EXP a biennial retreat, and build a members program that includes a quarterly journal, backstage passes to other member events, an online directory, and access to our local events. The next local event will be with the google empathy lab and Michael Ventura, the CEO of Sub Rosa on July 18 in San Francisco. If you'd like to join, please apply to be a member or partner with us to co-host a local event and get connected to the most exciting experience pioneers in the world today! 

Sarah Shewey