When Charlie Melcher created the Future of StoryTelling (FoST) Summit five years ago, it was to explore how technology was reinventing storytelling. But he also was determined to blow up the conference model and to reinvent how people meet from beginning to end — and beyond.
“We’re really thinking about taking our guests on a journey from before the summit all the way to two months after,” Melcher told Convene Podcast host Ashley Milne-Tyte about the two-day, invitation-only gathering, which is held in October at Snug Harbor Cultural Center on Staten Island. “They should feel like they’ve been on an adventure, a luxury adventure of some sort. Transported. Transformed.” (FoST also was the subject of our January cover story, “Meet the Future.”)
The literal transportation to the event for the first day is a private ferry, which chugs across Long Island Sound from Manhattan, which Melcher likens to embarking on “a hero’s journey.” The ferry trip also helps reset participants’ brains in preparation for what lies ahead, he said.
With a start like that, how can you finish strong? Two months after the FOST Summit — around the holidays in December — participants receive a “memento box,” filled with personal reminders of the event:
A partial list of contents includes:
• A customized book filled with takeaways from the Summit, featuring the attendee’s photo on the cover.
• A customized poster, featuring attendees as the star of the movie “A Snug and Deadly Harbor,” a tie-in to a meta-narrative from the Summit. Melcher hired actors and a film crew to draw participants into an old Hollywood-style noir film.
• A copy of Hamilton: The Revolution by Lin-Manuel Miranda and Jeremy McCarter; Tony Award–winning producer Jeffrey Sellers was a FoST presenter.
• A virtual-reality viewer from a sponsor, along with a stack of download codes for games/experiences featured at the Summit and a companion public festival.
Every event budget may not stretch to cover the costs of printing custom books or poster of course — it helps that Melcher is a digital and print publisher. But the idea of creating a list of takeaways, presented in a meaningful way, is one that can be adjusted to fit almost any budget.