If we don’t say it enough, here it is again: Rangle is all about community. Meetups, tech conferences, workshops, festivals, you name it. If we can learn, share, or build relationships, we’ll be there. And most of the time, as Rangle’s Community Manager, so am I.

But this weekend, as I sat in a summer camp mess hall alongside 200 other humans who haven't showered in days (no judgment) with a djembe drum balanced on my feet I thought, “this is a new one”.

Welcome to Fireside Conference. Where 400+ startup founders and tech professionals from all over the world descend on rural Ontario to - get this - escape technology. With no cell service or wifi at Camp Walden, the program consists of chats around literal firesides, music, activities, and workshops. The idea is to informally and authentically connect with people with similar ambitions, pain points, and passions. And of course, they delivered. But more on that later.

Why was Rangle there?

Core Rangle values are learning and community. This is because to us, when you share knowledge and build relationships (aka work together) great ideas are formed and big problems are solved. Fireside Conference not only creates a space for tech professionals to learn from each other, but to connect in person without the distraction (or perhaps the crutch) of the next phone call, email, or meeting.

Right! But about the djembe drums…

This year Rangle was an official partner of Fireside, which means we got to share a bit about what we do, as well as create an activity that would help enhance the conference experience. Our CEO, Nick Van Weerdenburg, spoke about how we help our partners unlock value in their business, as well as the integral role company culture plays in Rangle’s success. Plus, our SVP of Strategy, Amit Kanigsberg, recorded an interview with Michelle Manafy, editorial director of Digital Content Next (@michellemanafy) on human positive design in technology, and the need for an ethical code as we create new technology. Plus, I hosted a drum circle workshop with the help of Shaw Percussion.

Fireside organizers Steven Pulver and Dan Levine were sure it would be a hit (pun intended), and it was. The hall was rammed! The noise was deafening! The rhythm was... hard to decipher because everyone was having too much fun banging on their drums! For better or worse, the experience taught me that no amount of technology will ever replace the spirit, energy, and community that a collective of people can create in real life.

So, what else did I learn?

There were some amazing conversations at Fireside, the importance of storytelling, the need for tension and the wisdom of disturbance were common themes. I’m sure most attendees had a eureka moment.  

Here are a few from the perspective of a community-builder:

You can’t force a meaningful relationship

Have you ever been on a “networking break” at a conference and instantly felt drained? Unfortunately for startup founders, this kind of networking is crucial to the hustle. So a shared experience like that offered at Fireside (mushroom foraging and lock picking included) not only offered reprieve from a forced conversation, but a genuine and joyful experience. I met people from Montreal, San Francisco, San Diego, and New York that I spoke to for only a few minutes, but because we shared an experience, I feel comfortable calling them real connections. My mandate moving forward is to harness this same feeling in all of our community work by creating more active, intentional experiences in our spaces.

There is real power in community and community values

I see a lot of companies investing in community right now. Everyone now understands how well a grassroots reputation can play for a brand. But hosting a meetup doesn’t always mean a business has community values, and sponsoring a non-profit initiative doesn’t always mean they understand or meet the needs of the interest group. Alternatively, when a company prioritizes community-building, their reputation will grow organically and success will follow. At least, that’s what happened at Rangle.

2020 is a big year for us. We’re expanding to three major cities (Atlanta, Amsterdam, and Tokyo), and so we'll have to work harder to keep our local, Toronto roots. Fireside helped reaffirm for me the power of our community work, and why this work must play a key role in our expansion. It’s important that we continue to create learning spaces in Toronto while we seek new ways to build meaningful relationships with our team, partners, and greater network on a global scale.

A valuable partnership isn’t always about the end goal

At Rangle we talk about values a lot. Values as part of our identity, the financial value that we provide our partners, etc. But despite how engaged conference attendees were in our activations, I got just as much - if not more, value from my working relationship with Fireside organizers, Steven and Dan.

As a community manager coordinating so many events and partnerships, external parties and my outside colleagues have the potential to impact my total Rangle experience. Having such an easy, collaborative experience with Fireside organizers was the first time I truly appreciated Rangle’s own partnership model, and why its a cornerstone to our success. If you can understand each other, brainstorm, problem-solve and be flexible, working outside the bounds of an internal team has more opportunity than consequence, making everyone’s job a little easier. We share the same values as Fireside, clearly, and I don’t think our conference presence would have been as strong had we not both worked from a place of genuinely wanting each attendee to have the best experience that they possibly could.

What's next?

Shower time!

No seriously, thank you for the opportunity to work together, Fireside, and thank you to each and every attendee that showed up for the real conversations, the community spirit, and the authentic connections. Until next year, play on!

Interested in seeing where Rangle will be next in the community? Check out our community page for our upcoming Meetups and events we're attending!