Estimated reading time: 3 minute(s)
We’ve all been in one of those meetings where the speaker is droning on, reading aloud each bullet from his Power Point presentation while the audience slowly zone outs and begins checking e-mails. Looks like those days are over. Matt Homann, Founder and Advisor for Invisible Girlfriend and CEO of Kendeo is opening up a new facility, Filament, that’s going to change the way meetings are held in St. Louis and beyond.
Homann has spent the last 15 years doing creative facilitation with small groups all the way to large conferences with his company Kendeo and others, helping clients build a more creative, collaborative experience using all manner of tools, from board games to live drawing. He found that often when a client brought him in, they may have really wanted to do a great meeting but were often limited by the space they had to use. Oftentimes it was a hotel ballroom or an office conference room, spaces that don’t lend themselves to the type of creative work Homann specializes in.
“We’re often handcuffed by the type of work we’d like to do because we can’t get into the room more than an hour before the meeting, we can’t put stuff on the walls. All of those things we do to make an engaging meeting, space plays a huge part in,” he says.
About three years ago, Homann was looking for a new office space for Kendeo. During the search, he realized how affordable and accessible space was in St. Louis, so he decided to get a space big enough to do some meetings onsite. That idea became Filament.
Homann eventually acquired a 10,000-square-foot space at 15th Street and Washington Avenue, which is scheduled to be up and running around the first of the year. Homann describes it as “the anti-ballroom,” with plenty of light and lots of open space for breakout sessions and face-to-face interactions. The facility will be able to accommodate a maximum of 150 to 200 people. Filament isn’t a pure event venue, or a co-working space. As Homann says, “you can’t rent the space, you buy a meeting.” The idea is to be a tool that can make meetings better.
“We often refer to Filament as a Better Meeting Machine. If you think about it meetings, conferences, off-site retreats, pretty much any type of organized meeting that happens outside of the office, are universally terrible,” says Homann. “What we’re trying to do is build a better meeting experience where it’s face-to-face, it’s collaboration first. It honors the way both introverts and extroverts think and making it so the best part of the meeting is the meeting and not the networking reception on the last day. When we have an opportunity to make the meeting match the space and the space match the meeting, it’s a dramatically different outcome.”
In addition to facilitating meetings, Filament will also offer creative programming.
“One of the things we’re focused on at Filament that’s crucial for us is trying to build events that we can both learn from and help bring the smartest, most interesting people in St. Louis into a room together where they haven’t been before.”
One of the first initiatives is a monthly book club, dubbed Focus@Filament. In keeping with the innovative nature of the company, it’ll be anything but a traditional take on the concept. Initially, there will be a limit of 25 to 50 people. Instead of a group reading and discussing a single book, five books will be chosen around a theme. Homann is beta testing the book club with an event in December around the theme of Creativity and will host the first public book club event in January around the theme of Resolutions. Attendees select in advance which book they will read, and for the first hour of the event, discuss the book they read with others who read the same one. Participants then switch up and sit with people who’ve read the other books and share insights gained from the reading. Afterward, participants will be challenged to implement something they took away from the group related to the theme in their professional or personal lives.
Also in the works is an event incubator, tentatively named Event Nest, where once a quarter groups will pitch ideas for events, with the winner getting a free event designed by Filament. Homann says Filament is also working to commercialize some of the games and tools it uses in order to bring a “taste” of Filament to those who can’t come to the facility.
Once the first Filament is completed, Homann says he’d like to look to West County for the next Filament location.
“If the model works there, then the plan is to see how many of them we can put around the country, because every city needs a Filament. Meetings are terrible everywhere. It’s not a uniquely Midwestern thing.”