Fireside: A Different Kind of Conference

Fireside Stage

The summer was over, the kids were back in school. That meant it was time for Fireside Conf (#Fireside), a summer camp style retreat event for innovators, entrepreneurs, influencers and investors taking place at Camp Walden located North of Bancroft, Ontario. For those of you unfamiliar with Ontario, Bancroft is about halfway between Barrie and Ottawa, a 3-4 hour drive for attendees from Toronto and surrounding areas. The actual camp location is in a virtual deadzone – that’s right – no cell service or data!

For many, the idea of spending several days in unheated cabins without electricity or data may be daunting, but, for the people of Fireside, it is an opportunity to get away from the online world and a chance to build true relationships in person, face to face.

Fireside Stage

You will find all types of people at Fireside: investors, journalists, entrepreneurs, municipal staff, innovators, techies, engineers, lawyers and so many more. The difference between Fireside and a traditional conference is the lack of barriers between attendees. While some may be speakers, each speaker is part of the event as a whole. It is very likely you will share a meal with them in the mess hall, play a board game, throw axes, or make s’mores together over a midnight campfire.

The conversations at Fireside vary greatly. One moment the subject may be cryptocurrency, the next, whether you should zipline into the water in 9 degree weather (I chose not to though I did indulge in water sport the day before in slightly warmer temperatures).

As a return attendee, it was great to reconnect with people I met last year and even better to be able connect people to each other. For me, the value of Fireside is priceless and the opportunities endless. Fireside is what you make it – a full retreat with all activities found at camp to a place to build real relationships, create new business ideas or find an ideal partner. It is an experience where you open yourself and may be vulnerable – the unwritten rule at Fireside is much like Fight Club – “what is said at Fireside stays at Fireside”.

As always, my hat is off to Daniel and Steven, Sol and all the many volunteers, staff and sponsors for their amazing work launching and organizing this event each year.

One last thought. In addition to being an amazing place to connect with others, Fireside also engages in philanthropy. 2019 supported #SickNotWeak, a movement started by Michael Landsberg bringing light to the fact that mental illness is a sickness, not a weakness – something I know far too well. Thank you everyone who participated in conversations, talks and panels about mental health. A further thank you to everyone who participated in the auctions to raise funds for #sicknotweak. Please, if you are struggling silently, talk to someone. My own door is always open (send me a message or call our main line and ask for Rebecca).

Take a moment now and ask yourself what you want from events you attend? What value are you seeking? For me, the answer is connection and conversation. I don’t want to be a butt in a seat watching someone on a pedestal (stage) where there is little interaction between attendees and speakers. I want to share experiences and stories with the amazing people in the audience. Fireside gives all attendees the ability to connect with each other.