Thin Air Innovation Festival is Sheer Genius

If you’re smart, this time next year you will be in Park City, Utah, for the second annual Thin Air Innovation Festival. Last night was the opening night for this debut event; Kevin Plank, CEO of Under Armour and Adam Lashinsky, Technology Editor of Fortune Magazine used the keynote time to talk about the evolution of innovations in human performance and how wearable technology is impacting the training and performance for athletes of all levels.

But the most exciting aspect of this festival is not this year’s content, but rather the festival’s underlying concept.

Thin Air is a wrap-around event. It’s designed to attract small to medium-sized business groups to Park City near the end of the ski season. Thin Air opened with last night’s high-profile keynote, then features human performance breakout sessions early this morning. But the bulk of the day is left open for smaller organizations to program their own content, or to simply blow off some steam and go skiing.

Image: Melissa Marsted

Image: Melissa Marsted

There’s also time for guests from different groups to mingle and meet each other. In fact, the whole conference ends Friday night with a giant open air concert on historic Main Street, which features Thievery Corporation.

Bill Malone, President and CEO of the Park City Chamber of Commerce gave me the example of an organization that has invested in about 75 different companies; they invited the CEO of each company to come to this year’s event. 

Image by Carla Boecklin.
Image by Carla Boecklin.

Malone says, “We think we can create added value, for any size group coming here for an executive retreat or a combination of meeting and skiing. I’m having 10 VCs here, and otherwise that group wouldn’t have had the capacity, time, or bandwidth to put together speakers like Kevin Plank and also Hoby Darling, CEO and President of SkullCandy.”

Here’s what I think is notable about the Thin Air concept: When it comes to conferences, small companies can fight above their weight class.

If you only have 30 people in your organization, you don’t have to settle for a mediocre speaker and the same 30 people you see every day. Instead, you can have it all… the excitement of a big event, the power and energy of a live music performance, and still the intimacy and focus of bringing your core team together way outside of your office.

This is how you bring out talent in people: Stimulate their creativity, pump up their energy and bring them to an inspiring setting.

In fairness, I’m a bit biased.

Park City is my adopted home, and it is literally surrounded by mountain peaks that reach 10,000 feet high. If you get an hour off, you can make it to a peak. Few other places offer such easy access to spectacular natural resources just 35 minutes away from a major airport.

This year’s festival was a test, says Malone, but one they are committed to continuing. It’s a bold concept designed to make Park City not just a host for corporate events but also a creator and programmer of such events.

To learn more, visit the Thin Air Innovation Festival.

Bruce Kasanoff is a social media ghostwriter.

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Forbes Thu, 04/07/2016 - 08:15