The Airbnb Open is just around the corner (November 17-19). Our annual festival of hosting will welcome over 7,000 hosts and guests, from 101 countries, to create new connections — this year in electric Downtown Los Angeles. I’m sharing some details here, as many of you will be joining us.
We’re thrilled that this year’s Open will give attendees ample choices to be educated and inspired. There are a variety of venues within our walkable downtown LA campus for more intimate workshops and conversations:
Clifton’s (also known as the “Host Clubhouse”)
The Oasis (where “Brain Dates” will occur, plus two sessions on Friday — at noon and 3 pm — when CEO Brian Chesky’s press conference/product launch from Nov 17 will be shown)
“Co-hosting Studio” at Skingraft
“Beyond the Home” at Nice Kicks
“Share Your Story” at BNKR
“Peer to Peer Sessions” at Pattern Bar
But, the draw for many may be our speakers in the four historic theaters along South Broadway Street…
The Downtown Palace
The Los Angeles
We have a total of 36 sessions to choose from (almost all of them one-hour with most combining two different speakers or panels during that 60-minute period). With so many great choices during our Friday and Saturday programming, I’ve been receiving lots of inquiries for suggestions.
Here’s my tip sheet for what I consider the best options on a variety of different subjects:
- Hosting Essentials
- Hospitality Best Practices
- Design, Creativity & Innovation
- Entrepreneurship & Social Good
- The Future of Airbnb & the Sharing Economy
- Ways to Collaborate with the Broader Community
- Joy of Travel
Choose the subjects that most interest you, then read my editorial recommendations, and you can build your calendar using the Brain Dates function you’ll see on the “Events” portion of the Airbnb Open website.
Just know that all sessions are first come, first served (although the theaters are big enough so they will rarely fill-up). Additionally, the Los Angeles Theater and Downtown Palace are across the street from each other, as are the Ace and the Orpheum but there’s about three blocks in between these two sets of theaters so plan accordingly. You’ll probably get a nice little workout walking from theater to theater.
Perfect for those who want to explore the nitty-gritty of becoming a better host and understanding the tools Airbnb offers.
1. New Host Tools for 2017 (cofounder Nate Blecharczyk and Donna Boyer) at Orpheum on Friday at 1 pm. This is the best way to learn about new features for hosts. Hopefully, you’ll be impressed that we’ve been listening and trying to incorporate your suggestions.
2. Designing the Mobile App for Home Hosts (Head of Design Alex Schleifer with Jenny Arden plus four Trip and Experience Hosts) at Orpheum on Friday at 5 pm. The title of this session is a little misleading as Alex and Jenny will explain new, wonderful changes to the mobile app, while the other four diverse hosts will talk about what it’s like offering unique experiences to Airbnb guests, Airbnb’s newest opportunity for you to host.
3. Are You Ready for Business? (Lex Bayer, Jon Liebtag, Mike P. Lewis, and Brad Bonney) at Los Angeles Theater on Saturday at 4 pm. Do you know that Airbnb now has more than 100,000 corporate accounts that have had employees stay in an Airbnb listing? If you’d like to learn more about how to attract business travelers (one of our fastest growing segments of Airbnb guests), spend an hour learning from these four Airbnb execs who work with our Business Travel team.
4. Successful Remote Hosting (Alex Nigg and Tammi Sims and Adam Bilter) at Downtown Palace on Friday at 11 am. Alex and Tammi are two of the best host presenters as they’ve had listings in three different places. Adam lives the life we’ve imagined: he’s a digital nomad who runs an online ad agency while traveling the world with his guitar and hosting remotely.
5. Optimizing Your Listing (Rebecca Morgan and Pina De Rosa) at Downtown Palace on Friday at 5 pm. Rebecca is the only host educator who is on the big stage twice so you know she’s popular and her message is impactful. Pina is a compelling speaker as well.
6. Optimizing Your Listing (Rebecca Morgan, Olga Mizrahi and Sarah Endline) at Downtown Palace on Saturday at 10 am. Rebecca’s second session because she had a line out the door at last year’s Open. Olga and Sarah are dynamite presenters as well as long-time hosts.
Some of the best hospitality speakers on the planet are joining us. Whereas the Hosting Essentials sessions are the science of Airbnb hosting, these five sessions introduce you to the art of great hospitality.
1. Setting the Table: The Transforming Power of Hospitality in Business (Danny Meyer) at Ace on Saturday at noon. Danny’s book “Setting the Table” is the best-selling hospitality book of all-time and this famous restaurateur’s message is so inspiring. I will join him on stage for the last 15 minutes, which includes audience Q&A.
2. How to Become a World-Class Hospitality Entrepreneur (Michael Mina and Chip Conley) at Ace on Saturday at 2 pm. Chef Mina has built an empire of nearly 20 different restaurant concepts and will be joined by me in a Fireside Chat with an audience Q&A.
3. Be a 5-Star Host (Holly Stiel and Evelyn Badia) at Ace on Friday at 6 pm. These two powerhouses will keep you riveted to your seat even though it’s time for happy hour. Holly gives hospitality speeches to the best hotel companies of the world and Evelyn is one of our most active hosts in New York and has a very popular hosting podcast.
4. The Joy of Hosting (cofounder Joe Gebbia along with an international panel of five Superhosts) at Los Angeles Theater on Saturday at 10 am. This will be a combination of very fun and very practical as Joe’s theatrical session at last year’s Open was a favorite. And, I love the collection of Superhosts we’ve gathered to talk about what it takes to become a Superhost.
5. Hospitality Moments of Truth (Chip Conley) at Orpheum on Saturday at 9 am. As a boutique hotelier for 30 years, I’ve tapped into that knowledge and given this workshop-style speech (you’ll learn a little bit from your fellow attendees) to Airbnb hosts in 25 cities around the globe to nearly 10,000 hosts and have been told by hundreds of hosts that it had a profound impact on their guest reviews and the amount of business their listing attracted.
Two of the three Airbnb founders are designers so it’s not surprising that creativity is a core part of our programming this year.
1. Feed Your Creative Imagination (cofounder Brian Chesky interviewing Brian Grazer and James Vincent doing a Fireside Chat with Frank Gehry and Lee Clow) at Los Angeles Theater on Saturday at 10 am. Brian Grazer is one of the most respected film producers in the world and his book “A Curious Mind” is a bestseller, and Frank Gehry’s architecture is iconic as was Lee Clow’s advertising for Apple. With Brian Chesky and ad exec James Vincent leading the discussions, this will be a power-packed hour of creativity!
2. Cultivating the Art of Taste and Style (Brian Chesky interviewing Gwyneth Paltrow and Jonathan Mildenhall and Joanna Coles on stage) at Los Angeles Theater on Saturday at noon. Given Gwyneth’s star power and entrepreneurial prowess with her online lifestyle site, Goop, this session may fill-up quickly. For those interested in online content, you’ll also enjoy Joanna’s conversation with CMO Jonathan Mildenhall, as Joanna is Chief Content Officer for Hearst.
3. Designing for Success (Chip Conley interviewing Kelly Wearstler and Liz Lambert, and John Maeda speech) at Downtown Palace on Friday at 9 am. Kelly and Liz are two of the best hospitality designers in the world. Kelly does residential design and Liz operates hotels so I promise an engaging conversation and we’ll critique three hosts’ rooms in need of some design advice. John is a frequent TED speaker with a unique point of view on the importance of design.
4. Interior Design Tips (Rebecca Ruggles, Patrick Dodson, Mario Milakovic, and Katia Blanchard) at Ace on Saturday at 4 pm. Before getting ready for all the evening festivities of Spotlight, consider this deep dive with three global hosts and Airbnb’s interior design lead.
5. The Downtown Story (Brigham Yen, Mister Cartoon, Trevor Kale, and Blair Besten) at Ace on Friday at 10 am. The New York Times suggested in June, “No city in the country is more exciting than Los Angeles right now” and most of their article featured downtown LA (DTLA) as ground zero for the creativity and cool stuff that’s happening. Meet four of the locals who are part of that cool factor. You’ll leave this session knowing DTLA like a local.
Many of our AO attendees are interested in doing well by doing good. We’ve gathered some of the most inspiring entrepreneurs in the world.
1. To Win Big, Go Local (Blake Mycoskie and Kim Rubey with three social entrepreneurs) at Ace on Friday at noon. I’ve heard my friend Blake (founder of TOMS) tell his story many times and each time I’m speechless as he’s such a role model for doing well by doing good. Kim Rubey will lead a conversation of three inspiring social entrepreneurs as well.
2. The Game Plan: Strategies for Entrepreneurs (two Fireside Chats: Brian Chesky with Ashton Kutcher, and Chip Conley with Peter Guber) at Orpheum on Saturday at 11 am. This will be one of the most popular sessions so best to arrive early. Many people don’t realize what a savvy investor Ashton is (early investor in Airbnb). And Peter Guber’s resume is unparalleled, and he’s now co-owner of the NBA world-champion Golden State Warriors.
3. Building Empathy Through Community (Kim Rubey, Juan Maldonado, and Bob Leibensperger) at Downtown Palace on Saturday at 9 am. As Global Head of Social Impact and Philanthropy, Kim oversees how we engage our community in solving problems typically in the aftermath of emergencies. Juan and Bob will talk about their own experience opening their homes during times of need in their Orlando-area community. After all the venom spewed in this recent US Presidential election, this session may warm your heart and restore some idealism.
4. Local Business. Local Hospitality (Cynthia Mackey, William Shuford III, Daniel Kerzner) at Downtown Palace on Saturday at 3 pm. Three passionate hosts tell their stories of how they built their Airbnb businesses and how so much of that includes connecting with the local community.
5. The Small Business Effect (Mike Janko, Ted Vadakan, Nicole Renna, and Sam Polk) at Ace on Friday at 4 pm. This panel will highlight the variety of entrepreneurs who are working with Airbnb hosts and guests around the globe. A great session for those who want to understand how to sell to our host and guest community.
Quite frankly, in early 2013, I’d never used Airbnb nor did I have an Uber or Lyft app on my iPhone. The world has changed quickly, hasn’t it? These sessions will help you understand what’s in store for the future.
1. Beyond the Home: The Future of Airbnb (Joebot Zadeh, Alex Schleifer, MIke Curtis, Pamela Adams and Nicki Clark) at Orpheum on Friday at 11 am. Highly recommend this session for those interested in learning how you can start hosting local experiences and activities for Airbnb travelers. Airbnb will be making a big press announcement on this new business the day before this session so this will be very topical.
2. Community-Driven Business and Brand (Jonathan Mildenhall) at Los Angeles Theater on Friday at 4 pm. Our CMO Jonathan is so smart and entertaining and his session last year at the Open in Paris, showing some of our best advertising and marketing, was a favorite with attendees. This year, he’ll give you greater insight into where the brand is going in 2017.
3. Q&A with the Founders (with Aisling Hassell) at Los Angeles Theater on Saturday at 2 pm. Head of Global Customer Experience Aisling (based in Dublin) has an exciting job here: helping Brian, Joe, and Nate talk about where the company is going and taking questions from the audience. You never know what will come out at this session, which has become an Airbnb Open tradition.
4. Advanced Research and Design at Airbnb: Looking to the Future and Beyond (Joe Gebbia and Stephen Yarwood) at Los Angeles Theater on Friday at 2 pm. Cofounder Joe will introduce you to Samara, our innovation lab, and former Adelaide (Australia) Lord Mayor and urban futurist Stephen Yarwood will give you a sense of what tomorrow’s sharing economy may look like and how governments can better collaborate with companies like Airbnb.
5. Sharing Economy Insights (Jeremiah Owyang) at Downtown Palace on Saturday at 2:30 pm. In 30 minutes, you will become an expert in the macroeconomics associated with the sharing economy. Jeremiah’s stunning visual presentation gives you a sense of just how big this new phenomenon is and it’s no wonder why as he’s hired by some of the world’s largest companies to advise them on how to join the sharing economy bandwagon.
While Airbnb is often called a “disruptor,” our goal is to continue to grow our collaboration with all kinds of stakeholders, from politicians to landlords to the travel industry. And, yet, we’re only as strong as our host and guest community so many of these sessions will focus on how we organize our community.
1. Partnering with Cities and Our Community (Chris Lehane and Michael Nutter) at Los Angeles Theater on Friday at noon. As Head of Global Policy and Public Affairs, and formerly one of the best-known political strategists in the US, Chris has his finger on the pulse of how we’re creating sensible home sharing legislation. And former Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter will talk about the variety of global Mayors who are now supporting short-term rentals and how we can continue to succeed in persuading legislators that they should support us.
2. Universal Belonging (Belinda Johnson with Eric Holder and David King, Johnica Reed Hawkins, Kharima Richards, and Margaret Richardson) at Ace on Friday at 2 pm. Grab your lunch after seeing Chris Lehane and Michael Nutter at noon and come back for this discussion of how Airbnb can continue to innovate around the subject of bias and discrimination. Chief Business Affairs and Legal Officer Belinda will introduce the former US Attorney General who is now consulting with Airbnb, and Director of Diversity and Belonging David will lead a discussion with the other three panelists.
3. Working Together with the Travel Industry (Chip Conley, Avi Brosh, Joe D’Alessandro, Douglas Quinby and Rob Fulton) at Downtown Palace on Friday at 1 pm. If you’re ambitious, you could do these first three sessions listed here back-to-back (Friday from noon till 3 pm). I’ll be leading this panel of four travel industry execs talking about how Airbnb can grow its collaboration with an industry that has, at times, been fearful of the emergence of the sharing economy. I’ll make sure to “spice-up” the conversation to keep it interesting.
4. The Power of Community: Host Connections Around the World (Lia Enkelis, Peter Kwan, Emery Lieberman, Melissa O’Young, and Priscilla Torelli) at Downtown Palace on Saturday at 11:30 am. If you want to understand how to mobilize your local hosts, so they can be a positive force in the community and a political force at City Hall, you should definitely come to this session of three seasoned host/activists and two Airbnb leaders.
5. Building Relationships with Landlords and Neighbors (Jaja Jackson, Cathy Cook, Fatima Husain, and Mike Jackson) at Downtown Palace on Friday at 3 pm. Two Airbnb execs converse with two experienced hosts who understand how to create positive relationships in multi-family housing buildings. Great for anyone who is unclear on how to approach their landlord or neighbors about home sharing.
We have invited some of our most active Airbnb guests to join us at this year’s Open so these sessions will be particularly interesting to these attendees. But, we all travel, don’t we? So, take a break from thinking about hosting and tap into the transformational nature of travel. To be honest, of all seven categories of sessions we’re offering, I think these five hours of programming below are the most impressive and inspiring.
1. Creative Living Beyond Fear: Traveling with Curiosity (Elizabeth Gilbert) at Orpheum on Friday at 9 am. “Eat Pray Love” may be the ultimate 21st century book that has created global wanderlust and Liz is one of the best authors/speakers on the planet. All those who attend her session receive a free copy of her book “Big Magic” and she will offer a “meet and greet” session at 11 am at The Oasis after her talk.
2. Expanding Your Mind Through Travel (Jason Silva, Steven Kotler, Nicos Hadjicostis) at Ace on Saturday at 10 am. Trust me: this will be a mind-expanding one-hour! Jason and Steven, both extremely engaging speakers, are modern day philosophers with a fascination with “flow” and “awe” who will explore how travel puts us in an altered state. And, Nicos, whose new book “Destination Earth” is a must-read, spent six and a half non-stop years traveling the globe so he knows, first-hand, the transformative nature of travel.
3. The Beauty of Travel (Louie Schwartzberg and James Altucher) at Los Angeles Theater on Friday at 6 pm. Don’t miss this one if you love breathtaking imagery and spellbinding storytelling. Louie is a three-time TED speaker due to his innovative short films, and James has been living in Airbnb’s for years now with just 15 possessions (he sold everything else) and has one of the largest audiences in the world for his podcasts and blogs.
4. Leaps of Faith: Strategic Risk-Taking (Mike Lewis, and Chip Conley with Michael and Debbie Campbell) at Orpheum on Friday at 3 pm. All AO LA attendees will receive a copy of the Campbell’s new book “Your Keys, Our Home” that outlines their past three years as “Senior Nomads” staying only in Airbnb’s. Their talk at last year’s Open brought tears to the eyes of many attendees. I have the good fortune of interviewing them on stage and then opening it up for 15-20 minutes of audience Q&A. And, Mike Lewis is a role model for a younger generation who knows travel and taking leaps is part of what makes life interesting.
5. Insights from World Travelers (Zim Ugochukwu, Neel Sharma, and Nicos Hadjicostis plus a panel of Chenyu Zheng, Rolando Archila, and Michael and Debbie Campbell) at Downtown Palace on Saturday at 1 pm. So many passionate voices in this session so it will last closer to 90 minutes. Zim and Neel have really unique stories of how they connect with locals when they travel, and Nicos’ panel of global travelers will help you learn how you might be able to spend a year or two on the road.
Our vision in creating the Airbnb Open in 2014 was to offer a festival of travel and hospitality that becomes admired as one of the ultimate, must-attend cultural events of our time. AO LA accelerates us on our path toward this vision. We hope you come away from this event realizing how transformative hosting and travel are in creating a saner and safer world.