Hot Dogs Across America—Flash Talk Edition

In October, I joined 400 coworkers in Park City, Utah, for the annual all-hands Automattic Grand Meetup. During the weekend, everyone gives a 4-minute flash talk on any subject they would like.

This year, Hot Dogs Across America. Hot Dogs Across America is my quest/challenge with Fischer to see who can eat a hot dog in all fifty states (plus DC!) first. You can watch all four minutes of glory:

The beginning was meant to be a little comedic misdirection, but it fell pretty flat and I didn’t sell it that well. The trip itself, in June 2004, happened pretty much as the video said and ended with the Arizona hot dog. The trip was to the Gila River Indian Community outside of Phoenix to a school under the direction of the Franciscan Sisters of Christian Charity. The local community and the Sisters in general are both wonderful and was a transformative experience. After my first year (and the sponsoring parish opting to not continue the trip), Vanessa and I coordinated the trip for two or three years more.

In addition to Arizona, the video touches on the hot dogs from the District, Georgia, Wyoming, Missouri, New York, Connecticut, New Jersey, and Hawaii.1

  1. I’m still backfilling pictures, maps, and information for all of the states. It’ll come! 🌭 

Flash Talks

At Automattic, we have an all-hands “Grand Meetup” once a year to bring the entire company together under one roof. It’s a crazy week in various ways, but one particularly fun part are the flash talks.

Everyone in the company from the guy who started yesterday to Matt gets up in front of everyone and gives a 4-minute talk on whatever they want to share.

Some of them are funny, others informative, some are completely random semi-off-the-cuff, and others are well-crafted well-timed presentations.

The joy in this is that you get to learn a little bit about all of your coworkers, their humor, what they care about, their preferred drink, or experience a piece of their creativity.

With 200 people, the process took a long time. I admit, I snuck out more than one time during them to call home to check-in. Thankfully, we record all of them and post them on an internal blog (which is a great way for new folks to “meet” some of the old timers a bit faster).

Even though it took a great amount of time, I loved them. It is a relatively quick way to build community and know quirks about your coworkers that we’d often never see working remotely and with so many people. I have a coworker who loves roundabouts (traffic circles). I’d never know otherwise, which is a shame, since anyone who loves traffic circles is a-okay in my book.

Or the guy who sings as Kermit the Frog to his kids?

Or the gal who found animal-lookalikes for everyone’s Gravatar?

Or the guy whose cancer research in a previous job was freaking amazing (and way over my head)?

The next time you’re part of a team that has a retreat, throw these in. When I was president of my fraternity in college, I wished I knew what I know now about flash talks. It would have been such an easy win for building community to give each member 5 minutes (or more, depending on the size of the group) to just talk about whatever they wanted to share.

I don’t know if this is kosher or not, but check out my flash talk from last September about living life with the @Kraft twitter handle.

featured image photocredit: flickr/laffy4k.