These days it’s rare to find a conference or event where half the attendees aren’t scrolling through Twitter, checking their email or tagging an Instagram post.
While social media can expand the reach of the event, our smartphone addiction can also get in the way of genuine engagement with speakers, spontaneous networking and serendipitous collaboration. You know, the point of going to a gathering with other people.
That’s why Twin Cities-based software engineer and event producer Bobbilee Hartman is launching Lodged Out, a series of unplugged nature-immersed retreats for makers and creatives. The events will be held at youth summer camps, feature a light schedule of fireside chats and workshops, and capacity will be limited to 40 to 50 attendees to keep the event intimate. In other words, the opposite of the app-and-hashtag fueled events held in impersonal conference centers.
“You connect more with people when you’re not distracted,” Hartman said. “No one unplugs ever. I think it is important for us to do that.”
The first Lodged Out event is focused on female makers, and will be held September 18 to 21 at Camp Four Echoes in Worley, Idaho. The four-day retreat features workshops on natural skincare from Kani Botanicals, ceramic decorating techniques from potter Linda Lopez and the basics of hand lettering from typographer Ari Woeste, among others. Meg Lewis, founder of Ghostly Ferns, Teddi Cripps, founder of Hustle and Hide Co., and Lindsey Bro, founder of Cabin Love, will give fireside chats each evening. But Hartman plans to keep the programming light to allow attendees time to take morning hikes, work on projects and chat with fellow attendees. Tickets start at $550, not including travel.
While the location of the retreat, a Girl Scout camp in the summer nestled amongst pine-covered hills and dotted with rustic yurts, is notably Instagrammable, Hartman chose it because it doesn’t have cell reception or wifi.
It’s not that Hartman is totally tech adverse–she’s a software engineer at medtech startup Iora Health after all–but as a frequent conference attendee and a long-time events producer, she knows a thing or two about what helps the tech community bond.
Hartman previously launched and ran the United States branch of Rails Camp, an Australia-based series of unplugged retreats for Rails developers. She also co-runs the Twin Cities events series Doing Stuff, which brings local founders, techies and creatives together to discuss the barriers to trying new things and achieving goals.
“I’m on my computer too much,” she said. “I’m always inspired by people who do stuff with their hands all day and we’re losing that a bit.”
Similarly, the focus on female makers was inspired by an article that Hartman read about collaboration between two women, an architect and a quilter, that resulted in a collection of modern quilts. “I was inspired by…women meeting each other and making something,” she said.
“I wanted to celebrate and connect female founders who are also in the world of building and making,” Hartman added.
Note: The story has been updated to note that the retreats will be held at youth summer camps, not retreat centers, and to clarify a quote from Hartman.