Wednesday, November 11, 2015

60 Daze of Airbnb Open Prep!

Two months ago we were with our oldest daughter Kelly surrounded by a sea of white crosses punctuated with Stars of David at the American Cemetery at Omaha Beach. Later that same day we stood amongst row after row of dark granite headstones memorializing the German soldiers who also lost their lives in France during WWII. We were nearing the end of almost a year of Senior Nomad travel and touring the memorial sites and museums in Normandy before returning to Seattle for a few weeks. I'll write more about our visit in the coming weeks.

Our new mentor and friend Chip Conely
For now I need to catch you up on a whirlwind of activity that has, amazingly brought us back to France! About six months ago we started a conversation with Chip Conely, Head of Global Hospitality & Strategy at Airbnb about the possibility of us speaking about our experiences at an event in Paris in November. The event is the Airbnb Open and it starts tomorrow when thousands of hosts from 110 countries will descend on Parc de le Villette for a big group hug. This morning we got up early in our 82nd Airbnb in Montmartre in the shadow of the famous  Sacre-Coeur Basilica to put the finishing touches on our presentations.

The big stage - our Keynote slides and our giant selves will be on the pink screen!
Not only will we step out on a stage blazing with lights, giant screens, teleprompters and cameras from all angles in front of 5,000 hosts, we will also be giving a half hour break-out sessions each day in front of 250 attendees about how great hosts made a difference in our journey.

My life for the last 6 weeks!

The system is the solution.

We've been scratching out scripts and trying to find the best way to co-present for about two months now. It was much easier spending 24 hours together for 850 days of travel than spending any single day trying to blend our two very different approaches and personalities into a cohesive presentation. Some days we were as synchronized as gold medal figure skaters, other times we were completely unraveled and wondered if we had been on the same journey. Often times we just had to walk away from it. We are nearly there, but barely married!

Michael remains calm in the face of public appearances, while I vacillate between confidence and terror on a minute to minute basis. Today we are going to practice on stage and will get a first look at what tomorrow and the next day will look like - and in the end, we both know it will be fine. And fun. We are surrounded by dozens of great people from Airbnb that truly love us and want us to succeed. Besides we are the only speakers talking about the guest experience so as they say, "We own the category". 

I would like this to be my future office at Airbnb headquarters in SF.

Presenting to the Portland Airbnb office staff.
We had a chance to present a variation on our break-out session at the Airbnb offices in Portland and in San Francisco while we were back in the States. We had great response at both places, mostly from audiences who, on average, were the same age as our adult children so it wasn't hard to getting standing ovations. We also presented our story to Seattle DowntownRotary - one of the largest in the world. Again we were surrounded by a room full of friendly faces. Michael has been a member of the club for 25 years and I had many friends in the audience. But we definitely saw some challenges in our hand-offs to each other and some fumbling with the slide flow. Arrgh. Can we do this?Yes we can!

We have been in Paris since November 4th and have had some very special time with our grandchildren. The balcony of our charming Airbnb looks directly down the street at Coco and Marcel's school, and we have picked them up most everyday for two hours of fun. Meanwhile, baby Jacques gets quality alone time with mom and dad after his day at creche then we all gather for a hectic dinner.

After school rendezvous and kid hand off in Paris
Yesterday we went shopping for a confidence building outfit for me to wear on stage. I was instructed to stay away from solid black or white, small prints or patterns, and anything reflective. Did you know that just about every garment in Paris is either, black, white, black and white or patterned? We finally found just the right look - another checked box on my list.

It's always fun to spend time at our home-away-from home with Carla and Tom.
Before I close I want to thank Carla and Tom Robinson for once again hosting us in the guest house while we were in Seattle for a few weeks. And also thanks to Billy Meyer a long time friend and speaking coach who was an enormous help in getting us prepared for this unexpected part of our journey as Senior Nomads.

Ready as we'll ever be! Wish us luck.
The only thing left to do before we head into the bright lights is decide who controls the PowerPoint clicker!

Thanks for following along!

Debbie and Michael
The Senior Nomads


  1. Good luck! I'm sure you will knock them out of their seats! Can't wait to hear all about it!!

  2. Wow, very exciting! Good luck! I've never had to present as a team but, in your case, I think it adds to your story since working (and sometimes struggling) with the differences as well as the similarities of your personalities is a big part of your journey.

  3. You're going to be great!! I've done a bunch of group presentations through work. They are challenging but you guys are doing all the right stuff by practicing and agnozing over details. It will pay off. Good luck!!

  4. I have been watching the terrible events unfolding in Paris today and I think you are rather close to the affected areas, but am not sure about the distances. I hope that all is well with you and your family and that you will be able to find a moment to update your readers. Thank you.

  5. You did an amazing presentation. Wishing you a fantastic holiday season.