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On the Future of Travel: an interview with Hotel Tonight's Amanda Richardson

The latest Fast Forward conversation: an interview with Hotel Tonight's Chief Data and Strategy Officer, the fabulous Amanda Richardson. Dan and Amanda discuss "real-time pricing, the incredible power of user data in crafting products, and the existential threat of Google swallowing up all service industries."

July Updates: Independence and Innovation

July is halfway over, and while the summer months might make us nostalgic for the days of summer camp, road trips, and one hit wonders, the Studio Kairos crew has been working too hard to think about anything other than the next project. (and we have some exciting new work on the horizon!) In the meantime, here's what some of our speakers have been up to... 

Josh Robin reported from Queens on the 40th anniversary of the Hindu Temple Society of North America, the first Hindu temple in North America.  Opened on the site of a former Russian Orthodox Church, the temple was first opened on July 4, 1977. Congregants weren’t welcomed into the neighborhood right away, so they welcomed the neighborhood into the congregation. Located on Bowne Street, the temple was smack dab in the same location where John Bowne had fought for religious freedom in the colonies.

Dan Costa was recently asked to define what PCMag fights against. Not used to thinking in these terms, Dan finally realized, “Some enemies are worth having, and some battles reveal who you really are...I'm talking about PCMag picking the right fights. So let's get ready to rumble!”  Dan and PCMag are fighting against Brand Spin, Payola, Fanboys, and Hack Journalism.  You can read more about it here.

Sophia Stuart spent time at Children’s Hospital of Los Angeles learning about IVEY, “a small, —just 13.5 inches tall—robot named for the IV procedures it helps young patients endure.” IVEY is just one of the new technologies being used at CHLA - there is also a family Fitbit challenge, and an entire program dedicated to innovation.  

Since we can’t take IVEY home with us, how about adopting a puppy named Cramp, Satty, or Booncy? John Keefe spent one Saturday creating a program that generated an algorithm mimicking dog names. Unfortunately, the names aren’t real, but if you adopt a dog, we’re sure John would be happy to let you use one.

Last month’s blog post mentioned Dan’s trip to D.C. to interview Peter Cherukuri, President & Chief Innovation Officer for DC startup incubator 1776, and Aneesh Chopra, who was the first U.S. CTO under Obama. The podcasts are up on PCMag.com - keep an eye out for new Fast Forward podcasts in the upcoming weeks.

To get in touch with Josh, Dan, Sophia, John, and the rest of the Studio Kairos team for an event or project, say hello and tell us about it! We'd love to hear from you.

June Updates: Books, Cyborgs, and Apple

Time is flying - it's hard to believe that it's almost summer, even though it's been in the 90's in New York City this week. Summer certainly doesn't mean down time for the Studio Kairos crew, and here are some of the things we're working on this month.

Manoush is working on the audio recording of her book, Bored and Brilliant, which will be out this fall, on September 5. Place your pre-order here. While she's doing that, we're working on an October book tour as well as other appearances that go well into 2018. 

Sophia continues to write for a number of publications, including PCMagWWD and Singularity Hub, as well as some lucky private clients. When I last sat down with Sophia in Los Angeles, we got into deep conversation about how Hollywood plays a role in technology development and why Los Angeles is the city of the future. Two thought provoking topics worthy of further exploration and discussion, for sure.

Photo by Melpomenem/iStock / Getty Images

Dan's latest Fast Forward podcasts have had him in San Francisco at the recent Apple event and at the Hotel Tonight HQ talking with Chief Data & Strategy Officer Amanda Richardson, as well as in Washington DC where he chatted with Peter Cherukuri, President & Chief Innovation Officer for DC startup incubator 1776, and Aneesh Chopra, who was the first U.S. CTO under Obama. Stay tuned for those podcasts, which will be posted on PCMag.com very soon. 

Meanwhile, you can listen to Dan's conversation with Go Kart Labs' Adam Dole, recorded last week at Go Kart's launch event (which we produced) to celebrate their new DC location. Adam interviewed Dan about the Apple news, AI, and what to expect in the digital home market.

As always, to have Manoush, Sophia, Dan, or any of our other smart speakers swing by to talk about what's coming in the ever-changing world of technology, or just spark some inspiration with a future-forward talk, please get in touch.

The Future lives at Moogfest

The future of music festivals and tech conferences is embodied in Moogfest. It's taken awhile for people to catch up, but each year the festival goes on, another round of people head to Durham to celebrate their interest in music along with a fascination - and concern - about our collective future. It's a wonderfully diverse, edgy, and true to it's mission, future forward experience. 

"At Moogfest, the technology, in turn, pointed toward ideas about what happens at the human-machine interface: scientific, spiritual, pleasurable, dystopian. It celebrated not only the gizmos that humans invent to play music, but also the ways that music plays the brain." - NY Times

City Brilliance: New Orleans

After many years of traveling the world to meet with clients and work on projects (plus, I just like to travel) you might think that my favorite places are far-flung locations that require an overnight flight and subscription to Duolingo. It's partially true - there's nothing quite like landing in a city or country where you don't speak the language, can't make sense of the landscape, and need to adapt quickly to new cultural norms. (Jan Chipchase recently wrote a great post about this) But guess what? That can happen in this country, too.

The iconic Blue Dog by artist George Rodrigue.

The iconic Blue Dog by artist George Rodrigue.

New Orleans is America's most exotic city. Put simply, it's not like anywhere else and arriving there can be a shock to the system. The accent is southern but different somehow, and often difficult to understand. The streets feel more European than American. Mother Nature plays all her keys here -- a damp chill in winter, unbearable heat in the summer, and when it rains, it feels like the world is about to end.

To people who don't venture far outside the French Quarter, I suppose it feels like a Hollywood studio or Epcot - not real, just an escape from reality where the world is made of beignets, Hurricane cocktails, pretty plantation homes and jazz music. That's certainly part of it. But to me, New Orleans is as real as it gets. The city has a deep and complicated history, and there is a true sense of place. The best way to visit New Orleans is to see it all, even if you've only got a day or two. It's one of the world's most enriching destinations.

So, when I had a client project that was focused on improving storytelling capabilities (read: rethink their marketing message, give better presentations, increase engagement), simply running a workshop in a meeting room was not going to do it. They needed to get out in the world and find some stories of their own so they could get some fresh perspective and get back into practice. The obvious solution: an off-site, immersive working session in New Orleans. 

The famous above-ground tombstones.

The famous above-ground tombstones.

From Tennessee Williams to Anne Rice to Louis Armstrong and Lucinda Williams, New Orleans-born and bred writers, artists, and musicians have been telling their stories to the world throughout history. So, we spent our days with storytellers. We began by grounding ourselves in the place itself via a walking tour with the charming Dr Gumbo. "The Cure for the Common Tour" was a walk along the riverfront, through the colorful history of the city, finishing up - as you do - in a bar, cocktail in hand. We spent an afternoon inside The Cabildo talking about writing and storytelling with Tom Piazza, one of the lead writers on HBO's "Treme". We had lunch at the Contemporary Arts Center with a jazz band, learning about the importance of improvisation in music and art (and, innovation) in between musical interludes. 

We worked into the evening, albeit around the dinner table or at the bar, learning about the history of cocktails from one of the city's best bartenders (because bartenders = good storytellers) or doing a whisky flight with a meal to connect the flavors of food with drink. After dinner, we found our way to Frenchman Street, where I let everyone go off to find their own adventures (totally awesome and potentially dangerous).

They all made it back in one piece and the next morning, they all had stories. 

Inside Preservation Hall

Inside Preservation Hall

You don't have to go far to change your perspective or inject some adventure into your life, professional or otherwise. New Orleans is a great place to get it done. Here are a few places to add to your itinerary:

STAY in the Warehouse District or Garden District, not the French Quarter. I like Old 77 and the Henry Howard

IF YOU MEET for business, don't meet in the hotel - book a space at one of the city's amazing museums, like CACNO

DO see some music. It spills out from everywhere so it's an easy to-do, but make sure to hit Frenchman Street and Preservation Hall. Add Tipitina'sMaple Leaf, and Candlelight Lounge.

It may seem weird to visit this museum, which is located in a residential neighborhood in a former funeral home -- but, if you want to go deep into New Orleans culture in an easy and interesting way, this is a cool experience. Backstreet Cultural Museum in Treme.

EAT everywhere. The food scene is outrageous, as you can imagine. I'd have to write an entire post dedicated to my favorite places in order to include them all. Here are two that I visit every time I'm in NOLA: Herbsaint and La Petite Grocery.

DRINK same as above: everywhere. Some of my favorites: Bouligny Tavern in the Garden district. French 75 in the French Quarter. Addiction Coffee. Catahoula for coffee and cocktails.

For more ideas, feel free to drop me a note.

Spring 2017: Updates from the Network

Photo by amenic181/iStock / Getty Images

The year is heating up for Manoush Zomorodi, who is in Oxford this week speaking at the Skoll Foundation World Forum. She heads to Vancouver mid-month to speak at this year's TED conference. And this fall, her book "Bored and Brilliant: Rediscovering the Lost Art of Spacing Out" will be released on St Martin's Press. (pre-order it here)

We're super excited to announce the addition of a new speaker - Matthew Brimer, co founder of global learning experience General Assembly and the awesome morning dance party Daybreaker. I first saw Matt speak in this video (HustleCon 2015), loved his story as well as his businesses, which are designed to build communities. His thinking on the future of work and education is especially timely now, as people seek to update their skills to move forward in their careers or start on a new journey personally and professionally.

Finally, we made it back from SXSW in one piece, with a ton of new content for Fast Forward, Dan Costa's interview show about living in the future. If you've never been to SXSW, his series from Austin will give you a snapshot of what you'll see and hear while there; and if you have been, you know how overwhelming the festival can be -- think of this as a curated program from 2017. The interviews will be posted each week, starting with his interview with VP of Product for Pandora. Pandora launched a new premium service at SXSW, one that rivals Spotify and delivers a "unique set of playlist features tailored to each person's distinct preferences".  

Fast Forward with Dan Costa: Interview with Chris Becherer, VP of Product, Pandora

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Rethinking the Meeting and Event Experience

Typical conference ballroom set up. Not a place where you'd want to spend an hour, let alone a day. The upside is the table, where you can lay your head when you want to take a nap.

The meeting and events industry has long relied on the same formula - travel to a beachside destination, host the event in a luxury hotel, meet in a ballroom. Spend the budget on hotel-provided F&B, Powerpoint presentations on the biggest screen possible, and deliver entertainment in the form of an overpaid 90's band while executives enjoy "afterglow" at the bar.

The world has changed, people. Forecasts for 2017 predict that the meetings and events industry will remain somewhat stagnant, as budgets tighten, companies spend less on travel, and uncertainty in the world requires more vigilance.

It's challenging to reimagine a meeting or a conference. My team is often hired to do exactly that - create something extraordinary, "unlike anything we've done before", only to bump up against resistance when we finally get down to business. But, a new reality is here and organizations - whether a Fortune 500 company, an industry association, or a media company with an annual conference - must evolve. 

We can agree that Millennials are influencing much of the shift in programming, and we know that people want experiences not things. However, it's the smart use of technology that can truly transform the experience in a way that's never been done before.

I only know a handful of people who are actually using technology to change the way an event can be experienced, beyond a mobile app or registration check-in via tablet. See Charles Adler's comment about a recent talk he gave in South Korea after a 24-hr flight - he asks why he couldn't have participated remotely via AR, as a hologram on stage, saving himself the fatigue and the conference producer the expense. It's a good question. Production companies like Freeman XP are starting to build these things into their portfolio of services. Conference and meeting planners need to do the same. Why not offer a VR experience for employee training rather than a lengthy breakout session; or a conference as a paid live stream with global reach, rather than as a live event exclusive only to those who can afford to travel to the conference location? Utilizing technology to bring people and information together in an efficient, modern way clears the agenda for more in-person interaction and activities. It also opens up an opportunity to address another challenge - personalization. Find a way to customize the experience, you deliver more value.

And, I hear you - you could argue that giving a presentation remotely or live streaming an event is antithetical to the in-person experience. However, it just requires thinking differently about how those experiences are designed. Isn't that the fun part anyway?

Every day, we use technology to do the most mundane tasks, to improve our lives, to save time - order groceries, take college courses, purchase printer ink and have it delivered on the same day, even meditate. Your audience is already there. Now is the time to take them on an entirely new journey.

On this snowday...

Manoush in Fast Company, talking about digital privacy.

Tomorrow, Dan Costa interviews Steve Singh of SAP about boundary-less business. They'll also chat about his incredible career, which began at Apple in the Steve 1.0 era. Tune in at 10am ET or catch the podcast on iTunes.

Check out Sophia's piece for PCMag this week on how VR might be able to help people with mental illness. 

And John Keefe, formerly the Senior Editor of Data News at WNYC, has moved on to work in his own Bot Studio at Quartz. It's an exciting move and we're looking forward to the ideas and experiments that he'll be sharing as he gets settled into his new gig.

New Speaker: Sascha Segan

We're thrilled to have top mobile technology expert Sascha Segan join our mighty roster of super smart, talented speakers and advisers. Sascha is the lead mobile analyst for PCMag.com as well as an award-winning travel writer.

Having a conversation with Sascha is a mind-bending experience - his depth of knowledge on mobile technology is unparalleled. Ask him to start digging into what the next generation of mobile and wireless technology means for business and society, and the way you think about the future will take a sharp left turn.