We’ve all been to the run-of-the-mill conferences filled with talking head presentations, lengthy slide decks, and over-priced convention-center food. Conference promotional materials are replete with actionable takeaways and lofty credentials, giving us the impression that we can’t afford not to be there. And having been there we ask ourselves: Why?

There are just a few emerging models that buck the system and offer us very different kinds of experiences. Some call themselves “Unconferences” to distance themselves from the common model and the visions it brings.

“The Swarm is a conference, yes, but more than that it’s an experience.”

One in particular, is a very new conference in our hometown of Asheville, North Carolina called the Melibee Swarm. The Swarm is the brainchild of Missy Gluckmann, aka Melissa, aka the Mel in Melibee. She self identifies as a world traveler, educator, interculturalist, writer and “Queen Bee.” She’s spent a career in higher education and has attended more dreary higher ed conferences than she cares to say.

She attended one of our workshops a year ago, which is where we met Missy. She came to us intrigued by our focus on culture, and left with some new ideas for the creation of the Swarm.

The Swarm is a conference, yes, but more than that it’s an experience. Full disclosure for a moment, as Maria and I are presenting at the Swarm. But you shouldn’t attend this conference for us, the other presenters are amazing, unique, outrageous, slightly sassy, and doing things differently. For example, Vimala Rajendran, who runs a profitable restaurant in Chapel Hill, North Carolina with the motto, “Vimala cooks, everyone eats,” which means that no one is turned away for inability to pay for their meal. And, did I mention her restaurant is profitable? And, she pays a living wage.

Or Patti Digh, who’s written a number of best selling books (but that’s not what’s important), what is important is the uniqueness of her books and the unparalleled authenticity of her spirit. Or Missy herself who is an amazing story teller with a worldwide perspective.

“The Swarm is talking, talking circles, human engagement, art in motion, journaling, writing, listening, and sharing.”

So here’s the scoop. The Swarm is about culture, identity, and perspective. Its pace is slow and focused, yet by no means boring. In fact it’s contemplative and uplifting. One moment we’re inward and cathartic, the other we’re laughing so hard it hurts. Maria and I attended last year and came away feeling energized and happy. We felt like we had learned something about ourselves, and in learning more about our selves we took another step closer to understanding the rich diversity of humanity.

The Swarm is talking, talking circles, human engagement, art in motion, journaling, writing, listening, and sharing. If you can make it to the Swarm November 12 and 13, I would highly recommend it. In particular, if you’re looking for a deeper exchange, an enriching experience, this might just be where you’ll find your tribe.

It’s also the most awesome time to be in Asheville to catch the turning of the leaves, mild temperatures, rolling mountains, and its culture of cool.

And, as a reader of this blog you can use the code “balancedswarm” for a substantial discount.

We hope to see you at the Swarm.

One other benefit of attending: Special to Swarm participants, Maria and I will be offering a one-day workshop following the Swarm on November 14. This is a complimentary program to the Swarm, offering an opportunity for participants to venture deeper into indigenous culture and it’s implications for our modern world. Details here