Bringing people together through playful connection, plus finding your weirdos with Stefano Sacchi of Epic Llama

Stefano Sacchi, founder of Epic Llama, designs playful experiences to inspire human connections. Stefano has dedicated his work to creating inclusive spaces that break down barriers and allow people to authentically interact.

We discussed Stefano's origin story of starting an experimental Meetup group in Berlin that evolved into Epic Llama. He shared his passion for thoughtful event facilitation, and how he transitioned his in-person gatherings online during the pandemic. Stefano also talked about his vision for training others to host Epic Llama events in their own communities.

Overall, I was struck by his belief in the duty creatives have to put themselves out there, shine their unique light, and inspire others. Stefano embodies the spirit of building community by bringing people together for meaningful shared experiences.

Watch the interview here, and listen to the podcast episode on your favorite platform here.

Establishing the Breaking Berlin Meetup

Upon his arrival in Berlin, Stefano took the initiative to form a community known as Breaking Berlin. His goal was to gather individuals who embraced their uniqueness and thrived on creativity. Through a series of social experiments and enjoyable events scattered across the city, Stefano aimed to draw in like-minded souls he was eager to engage with.

"It was my need really to, my desire to just find... the weirdos that I belong to."

"I want to meet new people. I want to do these things. There isn't anything like that. So why don't I just create something to attract the people that I would like to connect with, right?"

Stefano saw Breaking Berlin as a funnel for friendships. He started with small experiments like laughing chains on the subway, and it grew into a consistent Meetup with waiting lists. This organic growth showed Stefano the demand for well-facilitated social gatherings, and planted the seeds for starting Epic Llama.

Importance of facilitation and hosting

Stefano believes high-quality facilitation and hosting transforms mediocre events into wonderful ones. He loves when gatherings have a dedicated host who welcomes guests, explains the schedule, and facilitates activities and connections. 

"I'm obsessed with like form-- I'm maybe a bit too formal in that regard. But I love it when I go somewhere, and there's a host."

"All those things are beautiful little facilitation tricks, hosting tricks that can really, really make any gathering, any gathering from mediocre to wonderful, from boring to brilliant."

"If you put effort into hosting and organizing and designing in the space, you should absolutely be paid for your efforts."

Stefano says hosts who put time into thoughtful organizing and design deserve to be paid. He aims to facilitate events slowly, opening people up level-by-level like they're his best friends. This warm, welcoming energy makes his events feel friendly rather than formal.

Pivoting to online events during pandemic  

When in-person events halted due to the pandemic, Stefano transitioned Epic Llama online. He hosted virtual networking events, team buildings, and more on platforms like Gather and Zoom.

"It was being like in real time, they would send us like the challenges and I would see them. And then I made this recap video in the time of their break."

"We literally talk to teams as if they were our best friends. Jokes are everywhere. And we really just--we do it very slowly in a way where people open up."

"Seeing now Vancouver, which is very new and we're finding a new host in London as well."

Stefano designed experiences like virtual scavenger hunts to mimic the camaraderie of in-person events. He also facilitated events in real-time, interacting casually as if guests were his best friends. This helped people open up and connect despite the online format.

Training people to host Epic Llama events

Stefano wants to create a more structured program to train people to host Epic Llama events like "Fuck the Small Talk" in their own cities. So far this has happened organically through friends.

"I've actually been working in my heart and there's already a little, the Wiki and and kind of doing these cohorts, with two or three people max of people who are interested in bringing each other on city."

"Having this very mini kind of two or three day, like spread out of course, like many two day trainings where we give, we give the people the tools."

"They can kind of talk amongst each other as well. It's like you're doing it in, I don't know, Austin or-- yeah, so that's kind of been on the top of my mind right now."

He plans to develop a Wiki, short online trainings, and small cohorts where hosts-in-training can discuss experiences and tools. This peer-to-peer model will provide support beyond just relying on Stefano. Expanding hosts is aligned with Stefano's passion for spreading experiences that foster human connection.

Inspiring creativity by shining your light 

Stefano believes shining your unique "weirdo light" publicly is a service that inspires others. When he occasionally puts himself out there online, he receives invitations and interest from people wanting to collaborate.

"It's like a duty to humanity, to creativity. It's like a service that we need to do to inspire others."

"Get over yourself because other people are waiting, waiting for that light. And maybe if they don't find you, they'll never create it."

"If you have something cool, it's like almost like I'm talking to myself as well as any other creative person who's like, who's reserved, who's a bit more reserved with sharing. It's like, for me, it's almost like a duty."

He thinks creative people have a duty to share their unusual ideas and projects. Getting over fears and putting yourself out there could attract fellow weirdos who are waiting for that light. It also might inspire others who would never create if they didn't see your example first.

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