3. Create “unprogrammed” time.
A key component of Thin Air, announced during the opening session, was having “unprogrammed” time on the agenda for people to connect. This was done by setting up the Thin Air Lounge at a downtown restaurant, Butcher’s Chop House, which was open each afternoon of the festival and featured live music acts, a few presentations on product innovation, wine tastings, snacks and more. More importantly, it created a casual space for conference attendees to have conversations and get to know each other outside of the formal sessions. Planners, steal this idea.
4. Make sessions interactive, but let them flow as they may.
On the first full day of the conference, I attended a breakfast session called “The Impact of Human Performance on Global Populations.” I knew it was going to be good when I walked in to find containers of Play-Doh, pipe cleaners, foam sheets, markers and other creative props in the middle of each table. Desi Matel-Anderson, CEO of a disaster solutions company called The Field Innovation Team, led us through a new-to-me brainstorming style centered on design thinking. She challenged us to create physical models of ideas we had for solving problems in the world. I may not have met all the objectives Matel-Anderson had planned when I ended up with a blue-and-pink Play-Doh model of a cheeseburger; yet the session sparked my creative juices in a whole new way and got everyone at my table interacting with each other.
5. Close things with a bang.
There’s nothing quite like downtown Park City, which is just as magical in person as it looks in photos (think little twinkly lights, cute restaurants and local boutiques dotting each block). Thin Air organizers took full advantage of the area by holding a free outdoor concert from the band Thievery Corporation on Main Street on the last evening. You can do the same for your event by maximizing your destination’s best assets—and it doesn’t hurt to have some great music too.