There’s Now a Summer Camp for Networking, and It Kicks Ass

‘Let’s get drinks’ is so 2016

July 20, 2017 9:00 am

When I entered my tent, bourbon-breathed and rain-soaked at 4 A.M., my bunkmate said, “Thank God, it’s you!”

But we didn’t know each other. Well, that’s not totally true: we had met just a few minutes earlier, in a wood-burning hot tub for two. Except there were nine people in it. A pretty intimate affair — especially for an icebreaking exercise.

I was at the first New York edition of Outpost, a traveling trade show that is one part mixer, one part camping trip and all parts wonderful. Think of it as a more rugged and egalitarian Summit at Sea. The venue? Outlier Inn, a colony of offbeat Airbnbs just a couple hours outside of Manhattan.

Outpost started in 2016, when they hosted an event in Bodega Bay. Since, they’ve hosted two similar invite-only events: one in Joshua Tree, as well as the one I attended, in New York. Their first event open to the public will take place this September, at Camp Navarro in California (you can apply for tickets right here).

outpost (17 images)

Over the 72 hours I was there, I hiked, jumped in a lake, burned the sh*t out of a marshmallow, talked about data mining with a guy named Cheese, and met at least 15 people who I fully expect to work with, in some capacity, over the next year. In other words, this is a networking event that actually accomplishes what it promises: helping people — and brands — help other people.

Here are four ways they’re making networking something to look forward to.

You’re stuck together.
I had no idea what I was getting into upon arrival. Sights at a typical networking event include greeting people you already know, checking your watch and — yes, something I’m completely guilty of — hanging out in the loo to kill time. But when a group of strangers find themselves in the middle of the woods together for an entire weekend, the mindset shifts to, “Well, I ought to get to know these people, ‘cause, hell, we’re not going anywhere.” It’s refreshing and very effective.

Actual brand exposure is the new press release.
I’d read all about the futurist Oru kayak, but getting out onto a lake and paddling around on one was a game-changer. Traditional tradeshows are easy to execute and reach a vast number of people. They’re also formulaic and crazy boring. Outpost introduces synergistic brands — from Teva to Disc-O-Beds — to a curated group of influencers and then lets those influencers take the goods for a test drive. In a saturated marketplace, the difference between a billboard and a best friend mean something.

Dinner and drinks are about as exciting as a lobotomy.
Outpost has activities. And activities spark conversation, which in turn sparks meaningful relationships. We picked up survival skills from Goal Zero. Learned how to make kombucha with Revive. Concocted fresh apple crisp over the fire with Barebones Living. Then we cleaned up a lake together care of United by Blue. It’s icebreaking without the mundane social lubricant of dinner and drinks. That said, there is still dinner and enough drinks to make one feel their age. Cheers, Bulleit.

It’s f*cking fun.
That old adage — “Work hard. Play hard.” — is just that: old. We’re not our parents’ children and work no longer has to be (only) a chore. By Outpost day, you very well may be exchanging emails with 80 new contacts. But come sundown, you’ll be feeding alpacas and dancing to live music like deranged maniacs that never have to pick up dry cleaning or pay taxes.

All in all, it’s a destination-worthy affair for anyone who is tired of doing things the hard way.

For our part, we’ll be at their next event, and probably many more afterward.

You should come too. Who knows — maybe we’ll be bunkmates.  

photos courtesy of  Monica Semergiu, Molly Decoudreaux and Evan Dudley


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