of exclusivity. Laura Brunow Miner, founder of Phoot Camp
— an annual invitation-only photography retreat and workshop held at various campgrounds, RV parks, and estates throughout the United States — requires potential applicants to submit a self-portrait and a short essay, giving her “a pretty good feel into the identity of the person,” Miner said. “The No. 1 most important thing to me is relationship building, so having an application process allows me to be pretty dang sure that the people who come are going to be amazing.”
Each year, Miner receives more than 200 applicants for the two-day, 35-person event, and from them she chooses roughly 10 to 15 new attendees; about two-thirds of participants are returning artists. “I Google them like crazy and do tons of research,” Miner said. Because of the number of applicants, she’s added a $20 application fee to cover processing time. Another reason it’s especially important that Miner be selective about delegates is that Phoot Camp is an attendee-led event. She said: “People who attend the event then volunteer to lead different sessions.”
A frequent speaker, Miner has seen this model work from the perspective of both organizer and attendee. This year, she spoke at The Do Lectures, an annual, invitation-only ideas festival at Fforest, a luxury campsite in West Wales, U.K. There are 100 attendees and 20 speakers at The Do Lectures, and all of them eat, sleep, socialize, and learn together over the course of three days.
“The difference between The Do Lectures, where people have to apply to attend, and a normal [conference] is I’d just kind of hang out with the speakers at a normal one,” Miner said. “There were probably plenty of interesting attendees there, but I didn't have time to meet them or give them the chance to have a conversation.” By specifically choosing attendees, the value of networking skyrockets. “At The Do Lectures everyone there was really interesting. It didn't really matter who you were talking to, you knew they’d be interesting because they’d gone the extra step of screening attendees.”
To watch The Do Lectures, visit youtube.com/dolectures