“One of the marvelous things about community is that it enables us to welcome and help people in a way we couldn’t as individuals.” — Jean Vanier
This started as a post about a happy hour. You’ll likely need some context.
When one finds people who share one’s values, who are genuinely interested in one’s life experiences, and who also have a killer sense of humor? One wants to be around those kinds of people. At least I do.
For the last two years Heather Brunner literally set the table for people just like that. Heather is the CEO of WPEngine here in Austin, Texas. In 2018 and 2019 she hosted dinner parties for a number attendees of the Culturati Summit 2018 in Austin. Both years, she gave everyone a great gift.
The Culturati Summit in Austin is a remarkable 36-hour event where leaders from around the country gather to talk culture and how to effect culture change where they work. The day is built for interaction and discussion with formal presentations and informal networking opportunities. It’s designed to allow attendees to come away recharged with new ideas, inspiration, and new relationships.
It gets better. Each year the Culturati crew arranges for attendees to join local CEO’s for dinner the night before the summit. I don’t think I’m alone in saying the dinner might be the highlight of the event, which is saying a lot.
So, what was Heather’s gift? It was a dinner discussion thoughtfully designed and graciously executed to help strangers get to know one another and become friends. We easily could have small-talked with people next to us around the table, ordered, eaten, and then gone home. Instead, Heather warmly introduced the evening and led with questions that allowed people to share a bit more than just information like, “where do you work?” and “what do you do?”
Everyone had time to tell their stories about travel or family . We heard so many heartwarming memories and hopes for the future. It was nice. We caught real glimpses of one another and, being a diverse group, could still see ourselves in one another. It was really nice.
Enter the happy hour. Finally.
Personally, I didn’t want to wait too long to see those people again. I want to be around those kinds of people…so, happy hour?
A few months after my first Culturati Summit in 2018, I suggested we all meet at the Roosevelt Room in Austin for drinks. (Side note, the RR is my favorite drinking spot. It’s amazing. At the first Culturati dinner, one of the guests mentioned he was one of the owners. I was gobsmacked.) A number of us met up that first year. The owner joined and even paid the tab. Gobsmacked again.
We had our second happy hour just last week and a number of the Heather Brunner Dinner Crew carved out time to meet up. It’s not easy. Time is definitely hard to come by for these folks. One couple from our dinner group was expecting their second baby about 4 days after the happy hour, so they were understandably tentative. People are flat out busy.
For those who joined happy hour #2, that community spark is still there. These are good people and because of those dinners, it was easy to reconnect. The gift abides.
Last week we discussed a lot of topics:
- Memories from Culturati 2019
- Trust at work
- Trampolines with kids (related to health above)
- Raising Pigs (also related to family)
- Commercial farming
- Community service
- Massive truck tailgate demand in the oil fields of west Texas (apparently a very big deal)
All of that in about an hour and half to two hours. It’s a real honor to be part of that group of people. And it’s fine excuse to visit the Roosevelt Room, too.