We did it again.
Those who know me know that I am rarely at a loss for words. But even days removed from Dent:Blend Richmond 2018 I still find myself grasping for how to describe just how incredible everyone was – from those on our “stage” to those in the seats. We had a beautiful mélange of artists, physicians, musicians, accountants, designers, entrepreneurs, teachers, researchers, filmmakers, CEO’s, writers, and more – and some people that were 3 or 4 of these things.
Before we get too far, let’s recap for everyone new to this concept exactly what Dent:Blend is: An annual unpretentious event about vision, with smart, thoughtful folks trying to change the world from the stage and the seats. Muppet Baby version of the main Dent event.
We cap attendance so it doesn’t get too big, and this year we had about 55 folks join us from a 1pm lunch through to a final speaker after dinner. This whole-day approach lets us not just get in some cool speakers, but some fantastic activities as well. We don’t have sponsors (outside of Feedback’s hosting and planning) and we don’t dictate speeches. We don’t have ordinary food and we keep it casual and allow time for folks to catch up. It’s very much the anti-conference conference day.
There’s an unofficial theme that creeps in when tying together speakers and this year’s was: “Past Informing Future” or “Home inspiring/informing acts,” and this year it crept even into the drink choices (featuring regional favorites like Northern Neck Ginger Ale or Cheerwine).
Our three keynote speakers really took it to heart. In three custom speeches just for our crew that began after our fantastic Mom’s Siam catered lunch, we dove into a moving and emotional day.
A couple elements stood out and reflected the whole day: Angela Hamilton from Quupe traced a line from Yorktown, VA to NYC, South Africa, Vancouver and back while absolutely resonating with our crew by implore us to “Build a community, don’t network.” Dontrese Brown encouraged us to live purposefully, generously, and intentionally while also enlightening us to the incredible planning of the new Cristo Rey School in Richmond. We ended our day with full bellies from Comfort while listening to teacher David Campbell, founder of the Franklin County Times tell us of the promise and peril of creating a local newspaper in the modern era, while also underlining the entire conference’s message of community.
It wouldn’t be a Dent experience without far more than speeches – but also thoughtful activities. This year we supersized those and took our attendees to Romania through VR, courtesy of Richard Hammer and GoJourni, to tell the story of Diana Burkett (VCU School of Education) and her immigration journey to Richmond. We explored classic and new takes on old beer styles with brewers Mike Hiller from Strangeways Brewing (VA) and Erik Lars Myers from Mystery Brewing (NC), while Nicholas Vaughan of Reservoir Distillery shared their rye wares. Jason Alley spoke with us about Comfort’s new mission before sharing some incredible small plate tastes. And lastly, we gave all attendees three gifts: a ticket to The Edgar Allen Poe Museum (and Tyler Minks from the museum joined us for the day), a download code for the award-wining short film Lost In Buffalo City by attendee writer/producer Todd Densmore, and last but not least an official Dent:Blend Richmond VR cardboard headset.
The effect of all of this? It’s honestly hard to describe. But when you get to the end of the day and people are hugging hard and telling you it was the single best conference day they’ve ever attended – you know something’s right.
When the speakers are all relaying how special it was for them to be a part – you know it is meaningful.
When you’re getting emails early the next morning asking about next year (but warning this one will be hard to top) – you know you’ve pulled off something special. I am so personally proud to know every single attendee and speaker, and cannot wait for next time.
…and there will be a next time. Feedback gets to celebrate our 10th anniversary next year, so what perfect way than to tie it to Dent:Blend Richmond 2019? Stay tuned…
Feedback EVP and Co-Founder