By Anna Truss
*Editor’s Note: This series features LaunchTN employees sharing their memories of 3686, as we approach the festival’s 10-year anniversary.*
Ashlin Smith, LaunchTN’s partnerships & development Manager, has been involved with 3686 for the past six years.
Ashlin’s first year participating in the festival was in 2017, when she was in the LaunchTN Summer Internship Program through an internship with the Biz Foundry in Cookeville. She was a mic runner for 3686 at the Schermerhorn [Symphony Center] that year.
“I had a really awesome time getting to hear from some great minds, but also meeting other interns…and volunteers who were there that year as well,” Ashlin said.
The next year, she interned for LaunchTN directly and worked closely with the team planning for 3686. These experiences with the team encouraged Ashlin to apply for and land a permanent position with LaunchTN, after she finished graduate school.
“I then became a program manager for the internship program, which was a really cool, full circle moment — to have been the intern for two years and now getting to be the person putting together the program,” she said.
The Development team
Ashlin is now a member of the Development team, which secures partnership opportunities with various organizations in the Tennessee area.
“Our number one priority is getting plugged in with the community and making sure our partners are aware of everything that’s going on throughout the festival,” Ashlin said.
That priority ties in perfectly with Ashlin’s favorite thing about attending 3686 — the stories and the people.
“You don’t get to hear all the stories about what happened until after the event has wrapped and you get the chance to connect with people again to ask how their experience was,” Ashlin said. “I look forward to those conversations the most.”
Her favorite year of 3686 was last year in 2022. She worked the registration table, which allowed her to greet many of the attendees.
“It was a moment for me where I realized how many people I’ve actually gotten to know since working here and how many people I’ve built relationships with,” Ashlin said. “It was a really exciting moment to start the day by seeing so many friendly faces.”
The networking and connections provided by 3686 are unique to the structure of the event. The different opportunities to truly build relationships are provided over the course of the festival, which allows attendees to be more than just a person in a seat.
Advice from Ashlin
Ashlin’s final advice for first-time attendees of 3686 is relationship focused.
“Be willing to meet other people and put yourself out there,” she said. “It can feel intimidating, but you shouldn’t miss out on the opportunity to say hi and connect with other attendees. It’s an opportunity to make connections that last far past the festival in September.”
Her love for LaunchTN and 3686 is one of Ashlin’s inspirations.
“3686 is unlike other conferences that I’ve attended, not just because I work here and I love it, but really because I do think that it brings a new feeling to networking opportunities,” Ashlin said. “I’m really excited for whatever stories are going to come out of this year’s 3686.”