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Why I Sucked at SXSW So You Don’t Have to

Sxsw Austin Texas

SXSW is a fixture on many a geeks calendar. It’s the biggest and wildest conference on the scene, encompassing “interactive”, film and music. My coolest friends in the UK thought it was the music festival I was attending, I didn’t have the guts to tell them I was only going to the nerdy bits, ha.

On the face of it, the attraction is lots and lots of panels and presentations about all kinds of diverse topics, plus a trade show where you can get to talk to exhibitors. What SXSW is really famous for, though, is the parties and the get-togethers. Austin is a party city at the best of times apparently, SXSW just even more so.

Many people go to conferences on a “mission”. To get a job, land a contract, meet a-listers, get JV partners, date or just party. I was always in two minds about going until I was offered a place on a panel, but that fell through so in the end I booked with the intention of going to meet existing friends and make some new ones.

At one point I was supposed to give two talks, in fact. Neither happened. Really, once I found out I wasn’t speaking I should have cancelled. The whole time I was there I was worried about what was happening at home. My daughter had just come out of hospital and my head wasn’t in the right place anyway, being thousands of miles away just exacerbated that.

This is all background and gives a few insights into why I sucked so bad at SXSW, but here are some points on how I sucked and the tips I learned in the process …

1. Know Why You Are Going

sxsw-friends

Like any ‘project’, you need to know what you hope to get out of it. You need a ‘head’ reason as well as a ‘heart’ one because you are going to be spending money, potentially a lot of money. Originally I knew exactly why I was going, it was to speak. Then I wasn’t going to speak but I figured I would just hang out and maybe could still do some things to help the impending launch of the second edition of our book. Without the speaking I was essentially going to be spending a couple of thou for a meeting or two, to catch up with friends, and a whole bunch of parties, which meant my business brain is worrying where the ROI is. Luckily my friends are totally worth it and all the new people I met were awesome, completely worth their weight in gold. [Strangely the words ‘Totally’ and ‘Awesome’ seemed to keep coming out of my mouth a lot while in Austin]

Don’t suck = Know exactly why you are going and make sure you achieve it.

2. Get Your Head in the Game

I am not the most outgoing of people at the best of times and, as I said earlier, my head was a bit of a mess. This meant that if Deb (shown above) had not encouraged me to be sociable I would have likely missed out on meeting all the cool people I did meet. Yes I wanted to see new people, but thinking about doing something and actually doing it are two entirely different things. Really I knew my daughter would be just fine and my feelings of guilt were just me indulging in self-pity, I should have put my mind to what I should have been doing instead.

Don’t suck = Do what you set out to do, and get a friend to help you.

3. Enjoy Yourself, But Not to Excess

Thankfully, this one was more observed than something I did myself. As many of the SXSW writeups show, there were a few well known folks getting absolutely wrecked in pitifully hilarious and public ways. There is no “what happens in vegas” rule in Austin. It’s full of smart phone equipped social media types. The risk of your antics staying with you are great. Not only that, with a hangover you are not going to enjoy the next day. I did have a couple of drinks, and not being hardened to alcohol and jet lagged it is possible I got a little tipsy, but I am happy to say I remember most of the parties in detail, heh.

Don’t suck = Eat, drink and be merry. But don’t make an arse of yourself.

4. Socialize, Don’t Stalk

When I am nervous in social situations I either gabble or shut down and hide. Most of the time at SXSW I was either in gabble mode or worrying what I had said while in that mode. There are probably dozens of folks now saying “what the heck did he say THAT for??”. That sucks, but not as bad as some of the things I saw or heard about other folks doing.

One of the harsh lessons we learn at high school is that there are social cliques and most of those cliques appear cooler than the one you are in. It can be tempting to do anything it takes to break into or gain acceptance from these social circles, without realizing that in the process your desperation is self defeating. There are various symptoms of this, from one guy asking a social media guru to help you get to the front of the Mashable party line, through to a lady attempting to bump and grind against another guru so she could get … um, more friendly. Meeting new people is a good thing, and by all means introduce yourself to people who you want to meet, they will be glad to get to know you. But if people walk away, are deep in conversation, were trying to use the rest room, or start asking how to get a quickie restraining order … well, it might be time to find another target.

There were also the business psychos who were attacking any likely victims with their sales pitch with a religious fervor. By all means get a return on investment, but it is pretty crazy to beat people over the head with your agenda and kill your brand in the process. While I am not a big fan of business cards, and there were a few occasions where people asked me for one and I had to write my contact details down, the only business card I actively promoted was Jonny B Truant’s just because it rocked so hard.

Don’t suck = There are plenty of cool people to meet, if someone doesn’t walk to talk to you, don’t do something desperate to get their attention, instead find someone more friendly and talk to them.

5. Be Where the Action Is

I was at a pretty decent hotel, but it was too far out of the action. Luckily the R&R Hotel Shuttles were friendly and efficient, so I did manage to get in and out of the conference ok without spending more than I needed to on taxis (which were also fair and friendly it must be said). Where normally I would be able to escape to recharge my social battery and take disco naps, I found the one hour round trip meant every time I nipped off to escape, I missed something important. This actually turned out to be a good thing because it forced me out of my comfort zone and to mix in the bloggers lounge where I met lots of new people, people who I knew from Twitter but not in person, and lovely people who I had met before but not caught up with in a while. Lucky I did make it to the bloggers lounge as the only session I managed to see at the convention center was Darren’s about the Problogger Book, and I knew what he was going to say πŸ˜‰

Don’t suck = Rather than being a coward like me, get stuck in. Try to get a hotel right in the thick of things so you can take up every opportunity. Leave your comfort zone at home, you won’t be needing it.

Over to You

I have (un)intentionally missed out many of the ways I sucked at SXSW, I am sure you can remind me. Plus I am sure you have tips for making the whole convention experience much better. Go ahead and share your thoughts in the comments right now …

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Comments

  1. Chris,

    First, hope your daughter is feeling better.

    Second, I am the same way at events and have had to force myself to follow the same rules you offered – so, for me, great post.

    The most important rule, from my perspective, is #4 with a twist. I beat myself up when I gather up enough courage and introduce myself to one of the ‘cool kids’ – only to have them blow me off. They’re cool. I am not. Therefore, it was me…damn, what did I do?

    Then I realized that the cool kids are under a heckuva lot of pressure and are running around at about 1,000 mph – so I stopped worrying about the impromptu meetings and have tried to identify and schedule time with 1 or 2 cool kids before the event. If I get lucky, I get to share coffee or sit at the same table for lunch with a cool kid.

    Well, thanks for sharing – hope all is well at home, and next time we attend the same event, let me know if I can buy you coffee or a drink.

    Pat

  2. Chris,

    First, hope your daughter is feeling better.

    Second, I am the same way at events and have had to force myself to follow the same rules you offered – so, for me, great post.

    The most important rule, from my perspective, is #4 with a twist. I beat myself up when I gather up enough courage and introduce myself to one of the ‘cool kids’ – only to have them blow me off. They’re cool. I am not. Therefore, it was me…damn, what did I do?

    Then I realized that the cool kids are under a heckuva lot of pressure and are running around at about 1,000 mph – so I stopped worrying about the impromptu meetings and have tried to identify and schedule time with 1 or 2 cool kids before the event. If I get lucky, I get to share coffee or sit at the same table for lunch with a cool kid.

    Well, thanks for sharing – hope all is well at home, and next time we attend the same event, let me know if I can buy you coffee or a drink.

    Pat

  3. I admire the honesty and genuine nature of your post. Your approach represents what “social media” (for lack of a better term) should be. In fact, you’ve described a dimension of events like SXSW that few who don’t attend will see. You brought this alive for me and I appreciate that. Thanks, Chris.

  4. I admire the honesty and genuine nature of your post. Your approach represents what “social media” (for lack of a better term) should be. In fact, you’ve described a dimension of events like SXSW that few who don’t attend will see. You brought this alive for me and I appreciate that. Thanks, Chris.

  5. Here’s a tip that might work for some, especially those nervous about traveling or just going for the first time: bring a buddy, or at least travel or intend to stay at the same hotel as someone you know (perhaps someone from the same area you are from, a fellow tech buddy, etc.). I find that that helps (two heads better than one) when you are in a new area, plus you have someone to hang out with in case you are missing (or can’t find) the action.

  6. Here’s a tip that might work for some, especially those nervous about traveling or just going for the first time: bring a buddy, or at least travel or intend to stay at the same hotel as someone you know (perhaps someone from the same area you are from, a fellow tech buddy, etc.). I find that that helps (two heads better than one) when you are in a new area, plus you have someone to hang out with in case you are missing (or can’t find) the action.

  7. @Pat – Definitely, always up for that πŸ™‚

    @Nancy – Thanks πŸ™‚ For me the social in social media is a lot easier online than in person πŸ™‚

    @David – Very true, if it wasn’t for Deb I would have found it much harder going

  8. @Pat – Definitely, always up for that πŸ™‚

    @Nancy – Thanks πŸ™‚ For me the social in social media is a lot easier online than in person πŸ™‚

    @David – Very true, if it wasn’t for Deb I would have found it much harder going

  9. Chris,

    I completely understand your SXSW malaise. I too was a bit blustered at this year’s conference. And I live here!

    Several things I would like to add to your great list.

    1. Take time to not do SXSW. The weather was awesome for all but the last day. Get out, take a walk around the lake. Enjoy some of Austin, away from the convention center.

    2. Forgive yourself when you don’t make it to a panel or two you intended to attend. While Plancast and my.sxsw.com were good tools to announce your intention to attend certain events at SXSW, it is okay to NOT GO. I found myself having an hour-long conversation with a developer from NZ, now working in the UK, and launching a calendaring app. I missed the “party” I wanted to attend, but I made a friend for life.

    3. WIIFY – What’s in it for You? Try and imagine how you can make the conference better for others rather than always yourself. Several things I did this year to contribute to others enjoyment of SXSW: 1. loaned my bike to developer I met (see #2) so he would not have to pay for transportation. He only go rained on once; 2. loaned a stranger $2 to put in the parking meter, she turned out to be the CEO of a development and interactive firm here in Austin; 3. gave bike-borrowing buddy, Nathan, a ride to the airport when I picked up my bike on WED morning.

    4. Just have fun. So many serious faces, and intent type-a techno folks in one place makes for a pretty intense atmosphere. Perhaps this is why the parties are so necessary. But it’s okay to be whimsical at the trade show as well.

    Thanks Chris. I hope your schedule and family challenges work out next year so you can come back and suck less. (grin)

    We’re all in this internet/social media thing together.

    @jmacofearth

  10. Chris,

    I completely understand your SXSW malaise. I too was a bit blustered at this year’s conference. And I live here!

    Several things I would like to add to your great list.

    1. Take time to not do SXSW. The weather was awesome for all but the last day. Get out, take a walk around the lake. Enjoy some of Austin, away from the convention center.

    2. Forgive yourself when you don’t make it to a panel or two you intended to attend. While Plancast and my.sxsw.com were good tools to announce your intention to attend certain events at SXSW, it is okay to NOT GO. I found myself having an hour-long conversation with a developer from NZ, now working in the UK, and launching a calendaring app. I missed the “party” I wanted to attend, but I made a friend for life.

    3. WIIFY – What’s in it for You? Try and imagine how you can make the conference better for others rather than always yourself. Several things I did this year to contribute to others enjoyment of SXSW: 1. loaned my bike to developer I met (see #2) so he would not have to pay for transportation. He only go rained on once; 2. loaned a stranger $2 to put in the parking meter, she turned out to be the CEO of a development and interactive firm here in Austin; 3. gave bike-borrowing buddy, Nathan, a ride to the airport when I picked up my bike on WED morning.

    4. Just have fun. So many serious faces, and intent type-a techno folks in one place makes for a pretty intense atmosphere. Perhaps this is why the parties are so necessary. But it’s okay to be whimsical at the trade show as well.

    Thanks Chris. I hope your schedule and family challenges work out next year so you can come back and suck less. (grin)

    We’re all in this internet/social media thing together.

    @jmacofearth

  11. Great tips John – you should make it into a post!

    I did get to see some of Austin, great place. I walked along the river to go see Darren, and then he and I walked out for breakfast and to AT&T to try to get a sim card. Next morning I walked the other direction to see Terry and Jonathan. WOuld definitely explore more next time πŸ™‚

  12. Great tips John – you should make it into a post!

    I did get to see some of Austin, great place. I walked along the river to go see Darren, and then he and I walked out for breakfast and to AT&T to try to get a sim card. Next morning I walked the other direction to see Terry and Jonathan. WOuld definitely explore more next time πŸ™‚

  13. Oh boy — your daughter’s leaving the hospital had to be a big one weighing on your mind, Chris. That’ll do it.

    I was wishy-washy about whether to go or not. I went in 2002 and 2003 when it was MUCH smaller. Reading this post (and another that showed just how much sxsw-i grew) made me realize I did the right thing. I’m not good in crowds. That’s also the reason that made it so hard to forgo the event: so many people I knew were going to be there: one from Scotland, one who is a client and several colleagues. But the size factor outnumbered the meet the people factor.

    If I can approach the cool kids, ANYONE can do it. Seriously. This is not a dig on myself. I’m deaf and it makes it harder for me to jump into conversation especially in darker rooms. Don’t equate this to shyness. I’m not shy.

    Furthermore, most of the sessions are panels. I couldn’t always understand all of the panelists or follow the criss-crossing conversation with the audience sitting behind me. It was like watching a tennis game in 360.

    Thanks for your sincere post, Chris.

  14. Oh boy — your daughter’s leaving the hospital had to be a big one weighing on your mind, Chris. That’ll do it.

    I was wishy-washy about whether to go or not. I went in 2002 and 2003 when it was MUCH smaller. Reading this post (and another that showed just how much sxsw-i grew) made me realize I did the right thing. I’m not good in crowds. That’s also the reason that made it so hard to forgo the event: so many people I knew were going to be there: one from Scotland, one who is a client and several colleagues. But the size factor outnumbered the meet the people factor.

    If I can approach the cool kids, ANYONE can do it. Seriously. This is not a dig on myself. I’m deaf and it makes it harder for me to jump into conversation especially in darker rooms. Don’t equate this to shyness. I’m not shy.

    Furthermore, most of the sessions are panels. I couldn’t always understand all of the panelists or follow the criss-crossing conversation with the audience sitting behind me. It was like watching a tennis game in 360.

    Thanks for your sincere post, Chris.

  15. Maryl, thanks for this. I have no excuse other than cowardice πŸ˜‰ SXSWi was huge and I kept hearing it is the fastest growing if not the biggest part now – my theory is the music and movie people were piling into the interactive because that is where their industries are heading (interactive is a channel rather than a medium).

  16. Maryl, thanks for this. I have no excuse other than cowardice πŸ˜‰ SXSWi was huge and I kept hearing it is the fastest growing if not the biggest part now – my theory is the music and movie people were piling into the interactive because that is where their industries are heading (interactive is a channel rather than a medium).

  17. Everyone one at SXSW this year seems to have walked away a little less than satisfied. Next year, let’s make it better.
    Thanks for your post. Hope your daughter is doing better.

  18. Everyone one at SXSW this year seems to have walked away a little less than satisfied. Next year, let’s make it better.
    Thanks for your post. Hope your daughter is doing better.

  19. My daughter is 100% back herself, thanks πŸ™‚ I still think Blog World Expo and SOBCon are my “must attend” conferences, but I did have a great time at SXSW, I just think it is too much for me. Might still give it another go next year though πŸ˜‰

  20. My daughter is 100% back herself, thanks πŸ™‚ I still think Blog World Expo and SOBCon are my “must attend” conferences, but I did have a great time at SXSW, I just think it is too much for me. Might still give it another go next year though πŸ˜‰

  21. Well, despite how bad you think you sucked, I thought you were fabulous. I really enjoyed talking to you and I know other people did, too – and I haven’t heard anyone say anything but good about their experiences with you.

    SXSW is a weird event; there’s no way to “get” it until you go, and, in the end, we all need a friend to remind us to get out of our own heads and start hanging out with people.

    For what it’s worth, your diagram above isn’t quite right for me: you should be in the circle with the cool kids.

  22. Well, despite how bad you think you sucked, I thought you were fabulous. I really enjoyed talking to you and I know other people did, too – and I haven’t heard anyone say anything but good about their experiences with you.

    SXSW is a weird event; there’s no way to “get” it until you go, and, in the end, we all need a friend to remind us to get out of our own heads and start hanging out with people.

    For what it’s worth, your diagram above isn’t quite right for me: you should be in the circle with the cool kids.

  23. These are great points and ones which I will heed next time I head out to a conference. I too find the social easier online rather than in person, so I know I need to get myself out there and do it. Are there any conferences like this one in the UK or Europe this year?

  24. These are great points and ones which I will heed next time I head out to a conference. I too find the social easier online rather than in person, so I know I need to get myself out there and do it. Are there any conferences like this one in the UK or Europe this year?

  25. Echo pat, hope all is well with your daughter.

    social celebrity observation is spot on. Perhaps sxsw this the way to meet new people that can advance some personal/professional agenda. So two comments. first based on your post I’d say start your planning for SxSw 2011 this month.

    Read up on cover from 2010, understand the registration and hotel booking process, start reading / following the folks who are in the current #sxsw stream.

    I also would focus more on the accelerator track as a place to learn of new tools.

    Second, your comments about the cool kids is interesting. I too have an observation about that giving this first generation of social media celebs the benefit of the doubt on how they help shape the future of social media as well as the landscape of Sxsw http://bit.ly/bFFlAk

  26. Echo pat, hope all is well with your daughter.

    social celebrity observation is spot on. Perhaps sxsw this the way to meet new people that can advance some personal/professional agenda. So two comments. first based on your post I’d say start your planning for SxSw 2011 this month.

    Read up on cover from 2010, understand the registration and hotel booking process, start reading / following the folks who are in the current #sxsw stream.

    I also would focus more on the accelerator track as a place to learn of new tools.

    Second, your comments about the cool kids is interesting. I too have an observation about that giving this first generation of social media celebs the benefit of the doubt on how they help shape the future of social media as well as the landscape of Sxsw http://bit.ly/bFFlAk

  27. @Charlie – Thanks Charlie, you are definitely a cool kid in my book and meeting you was awesome (there is that word again!).

    @Brenda – Think Visibility is a nice one in the north, and A4U expo is pretty cool for anyone into affiliate stuff.

    @Albert – Thanks for the link, will check it out πŸ™‚

  28. @Charlie – Thanks Charlie, you are definitely a cool kid in my book and meeting you was awesome (there is that word again!).

    @Brenda – Think Visibility is a nice one in the north, and A4U expo is pretty cool for anyone into affiliate stuff.

    @Albert – Thanks for the link, will check it out πŸ™‚

  29. I’m the same way (I think mild Aspergers) and not a big fan of conferences for that and other reasons (don’t want/need a job, don’t really learn much, cost, travel, etc).

    That’s too bad. While you’re in the area you can come to Calgary, meet me and salvage the whole thing! πŸ™‚

  30. I’m the same way (I think mild Aspergers) and not a big fan of conferences for that and other reasons (don’t want/need a job, don’t really learn much, cost, travel, etc).

    That’s too bad. While you’re in the area you can come to Calgary, meet me and salvage the whole thing! πŸ™‚

  31. Did just that Chris. You inspire with your honesty. I follow: http://bit.ly/after-sxsw

  32. Chris,

    Your honesty and self-deprecation are refreshing. You help the people who experience the same kinds of things at big events feel less alone and less like they suck:)

    And, knowing that you feel that way and have a lot of reservations about attending events like but you STILL go gives people with similar feelings the courage to step up and go even when it’s not comfortable.

    Thanks!

    Melani

  33. Did just that Chris. You inspire with your honesty. I follow: http://bit.ly/after-sxsw

  34. Chris,

    Your honesty and self-deprecation are refreshing. You help the people who experience the same kinds of things at big events feel less alone and less like they suck:)

    And, knowing that you feel that way and have a lot of reservations about attending events like but you STILL go gives people with similar feelings the courage to step up and go even when it’s not comfortable.

    Thanks!

    Melani

  35. Debbie Ferm says:

    Hi Chris,

    I enjoy your take on things, because you’re so normal:)

    All the attention seeking behavior at events like this give me the creeps. I wasn’t at SXSW, but when I do go to conferences, I’m such a nerd that I actually go to the panels and enjoy them. And I hang out with the people I came with and just talk to whoever happens by.

    Dang, that probably means I’m not cool.

    I hope your little girl is feeling better. You’re obviously a good dad:)

  36. Debbie Ferm says:

    Hi Chris,

    I enjoy your take on things, because you’re so normal:)

    All the attention seeking behavior at events like this give me the creeps. I wasn’t at SXSW, but when I do go to conferences, I’m such a nerd that I actually go to the panels and enjoy them. And I hang out with the people I came with and just talk to whoever happens by.

    Dang, that probably means I’m not cool.

    I hope your little girl is feeling better. You’re obviously a good dad:)

  37. I sympathize Chris. I am admittedly shy in large crowds, but if I can get one person to connect with, I get a boost of confidence and it makes socializing much easier. It’s hard to forget that nerdy kid from the high school hallways πŸ™‚ The nice thing to remember is that I think most of us were that person, so we get each other.

    Glad your daughter is feeling better.

  38. I sympathize Chris. I am admittedly shy in large crowds, but if I can get one person to connect with, I get a boost of confidence and it makes socializing much easier. It’s hard to forget that nerdy kid from the high school hallways πŸ™‚ The nice thing to remember is that I think most of us were that person, so we get each other.

    Glad your daughter is feeling better.

  39. Hi Chris,
    Great post, and ironic in that I consider you one of the “cool kids” who I’d like to get to meet at one of these events!

    I was asked to present “Visual Problem Solving: 5 Diagrams in 15 Minutes”, this year, so I remember running around the house like Charlie with the Golden Ticket when I received the email that my panel was accepted. No, not really running around the house, but just about. So, imagine my dismay when my 86 year old dad went into the intensive care unit 7 days before SxSW? My compromise was to cut my travel to the bare bones, flying in late Sunday night (arriving at 3:30AM Monday, to give my talk at 5PM). I, like you, had the mix of familial concern and almost dogged determination that I was supposed to get something out of going, especially if I would now only have two days of SxSW goodness to attend.

    My event went better than I had expected, and I gave myself permission to not go to any parties, to eat lightly, to not frantically work the exhibition hall, and to step out of the rooms to have long phone calls from the medical team updating me on my Dad’s condition (stable with some slight improvement, btw).

    As a pre-cursor to going, I had checked around town with people I know in real life who would be at SxSW, and I did my best to connect up with them where/whenever possible for two reasons:

    1)It’s always better to have someone familiar around at these kind of events so you’re not alone and/or in introduction mode. Sometimes I think these events are worse than speed dating!

    2)It’s actually easier a lot of times to meet other people when you’re having a conversation already, especially when others overhear what you’re talking about and want to join in. It’s an easier icebreaker, and you’re under less pressure to start conversations.

    I arrived back home with much to unpack, but perhaps my greatest takeaway: I had a great experience by going with the flow, being adaptable to juggling my responsibilities while taking in enough to satisfy without over stuffing myself.

    After all, I’ll be back next year, and then maybe you and I can have a conversation in person?

    Final note: hope your daughter is fully recovered and didn’t even mind your little trip away.

    • @Will – If you are still in Calgary then it’s a deal πŸ™‚

      @John – Awesome πŸ˜€

      @Melani – Thanks Melani, I appreciate it πŸ™‚

      @Debbie – It’s funny, at Blog World Expo I enjoyed going to lots of panels, and at SOBCon I stay for the entire thing. Only at SXSW does it seem the “done thing” to not go to any πŸ™‚

      @Maranda – Ha, I think I just have wedgie post traumatic stress disorder πŸ˜‰

      @Dean – Good to see your Dad’s condition is stable, hope he continues to improve.

  40. Hi Chris,
    Great post, and ironic in that I consider you one of the “cool kids” who I’d like to get to meet at one of these events!

    I was asked to present “Visual Problem Solving: 5 Diagrams in 15 Minutes”, this year, so I remember running around the house like Charlie with the Golden Ticket when I received the email that my panel was accepted. No, not really running around the house, but just about. So, imagine my dismay when my 86 year old dad went into the intensive care unit 7 days before SxSW? My compromise was to cut my travel to the bare bones, flying in late Sunday night (arriving at 3:30AM Monday, to give my talk at 5PM). I, like you, had the mix of familial concern and almost dogged determination that I was supposed to get something out of going, especially if I would now only have two days of SxSW goodness to attend.

    My event went better than I had expected, and I gave myself permission to not go to any parties, to eat lightly, to not frantically work the exhibition hall, and to step out of the rooms to have long phone calls from the medical team updating me on my Dad’s condition (stable with some slight improvement, btw).

    As a pre-cursor to going, I had checked around town with people I know in real life who would be at SxSW, and I did my best to connect up with them where/whenever possible for two reasons:

    1)It’s always better to have someone familiar around at these kind of events so you’re not alone and/or in introduction mode. Sometimes I think these events are worse than speed dating!

    2)It’s actually easier a lot of times to meet other people when you’re having a conversation already, especially when others overhear what you’re talking about and want to join in. It’s an easier icebreaker, and you’re under less pressure to start conversations.

    I arrived back home with much to unpack, but perhaps my greatest takeaway: I had a great experience by going with the flow, being adaptable to juggling my responsibilities while taking in enough to satisfy without over stuffing myself.

    After all, I’ll be back next year, and then maybe you and I can have a conversation in person?

    Final note: hope your daughter is fully recovered and didn’t even mind your little trip away.

    • @Will – If you are still in Calgary then it’s a deal πŸ™‚

      @John – Awesome πŸ˜€

      @Melani – Thanks Melani, I appreciate it πŸ™‚

      @Debbie – It’s funny, at Blog World Expo I enjoyed going to lots of panels, and at SOBCon I stay for the entire thing. Only at SXSW does it seem the “done thing” to not go to any πŸ™‚

      @Maranda – Ha, I think I just have wedgie post traumatic stress disorder πŸ˜‰

      @Dean – Good to see your Dad’s condition is stable, hope he continues to improve.

  41. Hilarious. Heartfelt. Cringer. This was almost as good as being there – without the expense and the very likelihood that I would be nervously overdrinking and gabbling.
    Thanks for sharing, and for reminding us that we’re all too human, both behind our screens and out in the world.

  42. Hilarious. Heartfelt. Cringer. This was almost as good as being there – without the expense and the very likelihood that I would be nervously overdrinking and gabbling.
    Thanks for sharing, and for reminding us that we’re all too human, both behind our screens and out in the world.

  43. Very interesting topic. I think I would feel just as awkward and out of place. I will keep these tips in mind, should I find myself in this situation.

  44. Very interesting topic. I think I would feel just as awkward and out of place. I will keep these tips in mind, should I find myself in this situation.

  45. Chris,

    You did NOT suck. You were very generous with your limited time and made a solid effort get better acquainted with people. I’m so glad we finally had a chance to meet πŸ™‚

    More importantly, I’m so glad your daughter is ok and that you felt comfortable enough to make such a huge trip to Austin. Thanks for the great tips – it’s excellent advice for anyone planning a trip to SXSW or any industry event. Hope to see you next year!

  46. Chris,

    You did NOT suck. You were very generous with your limited time and made a solid effort get better acquainted with people. I’m so glad we finally had a chance to meet πŸ™‚

    More importantly, I’m so glad your daughter is ok and that you felt comfortable enough to make such a huge trip to Austin. Thanks for the great tips – it’s excellent advice for anyone planning a trip to SXSW or any industry event. Hope to see you next year!

  47. OK, Mr.Silly, first and foremost: You anything but sucked. You are interesting, friendly, kind, and everyone you spoke with was happy you were there. You ARE one of the cool kids. No I take that back, as much as I hate this term, you’re a rock star.

    Yeah, you were a little stalkerish and seeing you behind me in the airport coffeeshop was startling, but we enjoyed good conversation, good food and good meetings together and I value the experience. All kidding aside, you didn’t need me to get you out there. People genuinely enjoy your company and you’re more than worthy of all the accolades.

    Can’t wait to see you at BlogWorld. Hey, someone has to make sure you get breakfast.

  48. I must be the oddball. I have no plan when I go to conferences, I just go with the flow and take opportunities as they present themselves. It works for me is all I can say.

    But I empathize with you. I’m much the same way, and I can’t imagine being worried about a sick daughter. Let’s hope SOBCon treats you better. πŸ™‚

  49. OK, Mr.Silly, first and foremost: You anything but sucked. You are interesting, friendly, kind, and everyone you spoke with was happy you were there. You ARE one of the cool kids. No I take that back, as much as I hate this term, you’re a rock star.

    Yeah, you were a little stalkerish and seeing you behind me in the airport coffeeshop was startling, but we enjoyed good conversation, good food and good meetings together and I value the experience. All kidding aside, you didn’t need me to get you out there. People genuinely enjoy your company and you’re more than worthy of all the accolades.

    Can’t wait to see you at BlogWorld. Hey, someone has to make sure you get breakfast.

  50. I must be the oddball. I have no plan when I go to conferences, I just go with the flow and take opportunities as they present themselves. It works for me is all I can say.

    But I empathize with you. I’m much the same way, and I can’t imagine being worried about a sick daughter. Let’s hope SOBCon treats you better. πŸ™‚

  51. Okay, good news. Although I still think you sound the most like Ringo, I can now, upon considering, hear that you do sound a lot like John too.

    The further good news is that as Charlie said, I don’t think you’re outside of that circle as much as you may think you are. Didn’t you spend a bunch of time at a house with Darren Rowse, Brian Clark, Sonia Simone, and Naomi Dunford? Someone must think you’re cool. πŸ™‚

    • @Cynthia – Well, I am human, but about 99% perfect πŸ˜‰

      @Kelli – Glad to help πŸ™‚

      @Mary – My daughter did play on my mind but I needn’t have worried, she was fine. It was brilliant to see you πŸ™‚

      @Deb – Sorry for following you around, I sure hope at this Blog World I will be in a position to get my own perfectly legal breakfast instead of smuggling contraband πŸ˜‰

      @Michael – I am looking forward to seeing you Michael – SOBCon is going to rock, it always does. Much more my speed and an ego-free zone. No them and us there, it’s all us πŸ™‚

      @Johnny – I just know where the bodies are buried. (Hint: where do you think all that BBQ came from?)

  52. Okay, good news. Although I still think you sound the most like Ringo, I can now, upon considering, hear that you do sound a lot like John too.

    The further good news is that as Charlie said, I don’t think you’re outside of that circle as much as you may think you are. Didn’t you spend a bunch of time at a house with Darren Rowse, Brian Clark, Sonia Simone, and Naomi Dunford? Someone must think you’re cool. πŸ™‚

    • @Cynthia – Well, I am human, but about 99% perfect πŸ˜‰

      @Kelli – Glad to help πŸ™‚

      @Mary – My daughter did play on my mind but I needn’t have worried, she was fine. It was brilliant to see you πŸ™‚

      @Deb – Sorry for following you around, I sure hope at this Blog World I will be in a position to get my own perfectly legal breakfast instead of smuggling contraband πŸ˜‰

      @Michael – I am looking forward to seeing you Michael – SOBCon is going to rock, it always does. Much more my speed and an ego-free zone. No them and us there, it’s all us πŸ™‚

      @Johnny – I just know where the bodies are buried. (Hint: where do you think all that BBQ came from?)

  53. Hey Chris,

    It’s a great post, but I agree with Charlie: I don’t think you sucked in Austin. I enjoyed hanging out with you in the 3-4 different spots we ended up meeting at.

    In terms of ROI and a couple thousand bucks / quid, I agree it’s hard to measure in a traditional way, but whenever I think of partnerships and such, it makes it much easier to pitch someone (or just chat with) you’ve met. You never know what will come of it later.

    So anyway, welcome home, my best to your daughter, and great job. πŸ™‚

    cg (another one)

  54. Hey Chris,

    It’s a great post, but I agree with Charlie: I don’t think you sucked in Austin. I enjoyed hanging out with you in the 3-4 different spots we ended up meeting at.

    In terms of ROI and a couple thousand bucks / quid, I agree it’s hard to measure in a traditional way, but whenever I think of partnerships and such, it makes it much easier to pitch someone (or just chat with) you’ve met. You never know what will come of it later.

    So anyway, welcome home, my best to your daughter, and great job. πŸ™‚

    cg (another one)

  55. Hey Chris, another great post. It is refreshing to always find some very open and honest posts on here rather than the “trying oh so hard to prove I am the best blogger on the planet..” rifs you can find on other blogs.

    From your little video clip it seems that bringing a Mac should also be standard fair and no complaints from me on that one πŸ˜‰

    As for conference tips and networking, I have always been of the belief that one or good connections well made (i.e. real conversations) are worth so much more than the grab-200-business-card-dash that so many seem to participate in.

    The addition I would make to your suggested approach is to follow up with those you met at the conference.

    Real partnerships and friendships take an investment of time and effort.

    A thank you card, post, tweet, email, etc, goes a long way to establishing those connections on a permanent basis.

    AJ

  56. Hey Chris, another great post. It is refreshing to always find some very open and honest posts on here rather than the “trying oh so hard to prove I am the best blogger on the planet..” rifs you can find on other blogs.

    From your little video clip it seems that bringing a Mac should also be standard fair and no complaints from me on that one πŸ˜‰

    As for conference tips and networking, I have always been of the belief that one or good connections well made (i.e. real conversations) are worth so much more than the grab-200-business-card-dash that so many seem to participate in.

    The addition I would make to your suggested approach is to follow up with those you met at the conference.

    Real partnerships and friendships take an investment of time and effort.

    A thank you card, post, tweet, email, etc, goes a long way to establishing those connections on a permanent basis.

    AJ

  57. Yes! The words “totally” and “awesome” keep coming out of my mouth even though I’m back home now. πŸ™‚ But I can say this with all honesty: it was totally awesome hanging out with you at SXSW.

    It’s true that there are always “circles” that you want to be a part of and so on, but I think you handled yourself really well. I honestly didn’t know how you felt because you seemed very comfortable and confident to me. πŸ˜‰

    Plus now I’ve got so many great memories and shared stories for us to laugh about at the next conference. Oh, and good luck on your move! πŸ™‚

  58. Yes! The words “totally” and “awesome” keep coming out of my mouth even though I’m back home now. πŸ™‚ But I can say this with all honesty: it was totally awesome hanging out with you at SXSW.

    It’s true that there are always “circles” that you want to be a part of and so on, but I think you handled yourself really well. I honestly didn’t know how you felt because you seemed very comfortable and confident to me. πŸ˜‰

    Plus now I’ve got so many great memories and shared stories for us to laugh about at the next conference. Oh, and good luck on your move! πŸ™‚

  59. Chris, I’m so glad your daughter is doing okay. That’s a really hard thing to be carrying around with you all week. πŸ™

    I meant to try to say hi at some point, never ran into you! Plus you’re totally one of the cool people to me…

    Anyway, thanks for posting this. I broadly loved SXSWi, but I knew that there’d be a few first-time mistakes and a bit of a learning curve. I should’ve stayed downtown — like you, I found the hotel shuttles were handy and good value, but not really useful for just popping back for an hour or two. I also should’ve put a bit more thought into what I could get out of SXSW (will take business cards next time, at least!) And I was a bit overwhelmed by the scale of the event, and nervous about travelling (first time flying alone, first time in the States)…

    Sounds like you had some “hmm, I’d do this different next time” type experiences too? That totally doesn’t mean you suck, it’s just a first-timer thing.

  60. Chris, I’m so glad your daughter is doing okay. That’s a really hard thing to be carrying around with you all week. πŸ™

    I meant to try to say hi at some point, never ran into you! Plus you’re totally one of the cool people to me…

    Anyway, thanks for posting this. I broadly loved SXSWi, but I knew that there’d be a few first-time mistakes and a bit of a learning curve. I should’ve stayed downtown — like you, I found the hotel shuttles were handy and good value, but not really useful for just popping back for an hour or two. I also should’ve put a bit more thought into what I could get out of SXSW (will take business cards next time, at least!) And I was a bit overwhelmed by the scale of the event, and nervous about travelling (first time flying alone, first time in the States)…

    Sounds like you had some “hmm, I’d do this different next time” type experiences too? That totally doesn’t mean you suck, it’s just a first-timer thing.

  61. Nice post sir. I have to say that I am the same. I need to recharge my batteries from time to time and enjoy being alone, but I guess if you travel across the pond you almost have to hang out. Hope your daughter is feeling better!

  62. Nice post sir. I have to say that I am the same. I need to recharge my batteries from time to time and enjoy being alone, but I guess if you travel across the pond you almost have to hang out. Hope your daughter is feeling better!

  63. Chris, It’s actually refreshing to realize I’m not the only coward. As much as I would love to attend an event like this – I have always been painfully shy in person. I always travel better in teams. There was a girl I worked with years ago who was SO outgoing and fun. I fed off her energy and made that “job” work and work well.

    Since I’ve been on my own, it’s been difficult to find that feeling of “team” that would take me to the next level.

    I’ll have to keep this experience in mind for next year or the next πŸ™‚

    Glad you enjoyed yourself

    • @Chris – Yeah I think relationships are the real benefit and where the big fun comes from πŸ™‚ Great to meet you in person!

      @AJ – Good tips πŸ™‚ I could see on the plane to Austin that SXSW was going to be full of geeks – lots of macbooks and iphones everywhere πŸ˜‰

      @Nathalie – Thanks, the move is in motion as it were so will be hopefully going through very soon!

      @Ali – I think from the tweets I just missed you a couple of times :/ ah well, next time!

      @Henri – I think you inspired this post with a question IIRC? πŸ™‚

      @Gayla – Getting your own DebNG really helps (not the actual Deb though, I am not sharing, heh) πŸ™‚

  64. Chris, It’s actually refreshing to realize I’m not the only coward. As much as I would love to attend an event like this – I have always been painfully shy in person. I always travel better in teams. There was a girl I worked with years ago who was SO outgoing and fun. I fed off her energy and made that “job” work and work well.

    Since I’ve been on my own, it’s been difficult to find that feeling of “team” that would take me to the next level.

    I’ll have to keep this experience in mind for next year or the next πŸ™‚

    Glad you enjoyed yourself

    • @Chris – Yeah I think relationships are the real benefit and where the big fun comes from πŸ™‚ Great to meet you in person!

      @AJ – Good tips πŸ™‚ I could see on the plane to Austin that SXSW was going to be full of geeks – lots of macbooks and iphones everywhere πŸ˜‰

      @Nathalie – Thanks, the move is in motion as it were so will be hopefully going through very soon!

      @Ali – I think from the tweets I just missed you a couple of times :/ ah well, next time!

      @Henri – I think you inspired this post with a question IIRC? πŸ™‚

      @Gayla – Getting your own DebNG really helps (not the actual Deb though, I am not sharing, heh) πŸ™‚

  65. You are very wise because instead of trying to fake it and pretend you are a social butterfly, you let everyone know you’re an introvert, so people see you being a bit quiet and they understand completely.

    Like Charlie, I thought you were great. πŸ™‚

    This was my second SXSW and I think I go entirely to talk to people. Which means 1) no panels, 2) no official parties (too loud). I used Twitter and texts to set up breakfasts, coffees, lunches & dinners, and that worked out to be exactly what I wanted. Met a few new people, solidified my relationship with a bunch of folks I already knew.

    Coming from the States, though, SXSW is actually not too expensive for me (especially as I don’t get a conference pass).

  66. You are very wise because instead of trying to fake it and pretend you are a social butterfly, you let everyone know you’re an introvert, so people see you being a bit quiet and they understand completely.

    Like Charlie, I thought you were great. πŸ™‚

    This was my second SXSW and I think I go entirely to talk to people. Which means 1) no panels, 2) no official parties (too loud). I used Twitter and texts to set up breakfasts, coffees, lunches & dinners, and that worked out to be exactly what I wanted. Met a few new people, solidified my relationship with a bunch of folks I already knew.

    Coming from the States, though, SXSW is actually not too expensive for me (especially as I don’t get a conference pass).

  67. Totally agree – I thought the quiet meals and one on one conversations were very valuable.

    I am still laughing that we had to fly to Texas to meet.

    “Totally”
    πŸ˜‰

    -A-

  68. Totally agree – I thought the quiet meals and one on one conversations were very valuable.

    I am still laughing that we had to fly to Texas to meet.

    “Totally”
    πŸ˜‰

    -A-

  69. Sir, you rocked like a rock star. You did not seem off your game, even though I’m sure you were worried about your daughter. It was pleasure meeting you and the fact that I got to just hang out with cool people like you, Deb and Andy totally made SXSW so much better than it could have been.

  70. Sir, you rocked like a rock star. You did not seem off your game, even though I’m sure you were worried about your daughter. It was pleasure meeting you and the fact that I got to just hang out with cool people like you, Deb and Andy totally made SXSW so much better than it could have been.

  71. I take exception to your (repeated) use of the words “coward” and “cowardice” here, Chris! Many of us who choose to work online are the sort who draw energy from a quiet idea-exchange with a few “kindred spirits” rather than from the mad mosh pit of the typical large conference. My guess is that (a) some people were afraid to make the first move to approach you because you are, indeed, one of the cool kids; and (b) those who did spend time with you gained greater calm and strength to help them plunge back into the crowds. If you suck, my friend, then I can only hope to learn to suck just as much. πŸ™‚ Hugs to the kid!

    • @Sonia – Was lovely to see you again – hopefully soon I will be traveling down from the true north so won’t be as expensive or as big a logistical nightmare. I should be able to do a few more of these things and the smaller, less intimidating ones, instead of only the big ones πŸ™‚

      @Andy – You were and continue to be totally awesome, dude πŸ™‚

      @Thursday – Was a pleasure hanging out with you, even if I think I called a couple of people Thursday who, um, weren’t πŸ˜‰

      @Rebecca – Hug transferred to kid with thanks πŸ˜‰ I hope nobody was afraid of approaching, that is kind of the catch-22 of introverts meeting introverts isn’t it? :S

  72. I take exception to your (repeated) use of the words “coward” and “cowardice” here, Chris! Many of us who choose to work online are the sort who draw energy from a quiet idea-exchange with a few “kindred spirits” rather than from the mad mosh pit of the typical large conference. My guess is that (a) some people were afraid to make the first move to approach you because you are, indeed, one of the cool kids; and (b) those who did spend time with you gained greater calm and strength to help them plunge back into the crowds. If you suck, my friend, then I can only hope to learn to suck just as much. πŸ™‚ Hugs to the kid!

    • @Sonia – Was lovely to see you again – hopefully soon I will be traveling down from the true north so won’t be as expensive or as big a logistical nightmare. I should be able to do a few more of these things and the smaller, less intimidating ones, instead of only the big ones πŸ™‚

      @Andy – You were and continue to be totally awesome, dude πŸ™‚

      @Thursday – Was a pleasure hanging out with you, even if I think I called a couple of people Thursday who, um, weren’t πŸ˜‰

      @Rebecca – Hug transferred to kid with thanks πŸ˜‰ I hope nobody was afraid of approaching, that is kind of the catch-22 of introverts meeting introverts isn’t it? :S

  73. You did not suck!

    Well, except for the cupcake part. Rule #11: Never Malign the Cupcake.

    But otherwise! You were thoughtful and delightful and wonderful and other -ful words. I was glad to have met you. I also had no idea that you were preoccupied so heavily, which says a great deal about your ability to be sociable, and even more about your strength of will. All my best wishes to her.

    I think SXSWi is one of the places where introverts unite to pretend they aren’t introverts for awhile. We were saying that the difference between an introvert and an extrovert is that an introvert likes being social, but needs alone time to charge up, whereas an extrovert is the other way around. At Southby, there’s a bunch of introverts who are having a great time initially, but by Day 3 haven’t gotten the alone time they need to feel centered.

    Good thing we know how to solve this problem: beer and cupcakes, and a bunch of introverts chatting in low voices with one another, knowing that everyone else is feeling like they’d kind of like to curl up quietly with a book too.

    Just to make everyone happy, I give you: the beer cupcake. Which I will bring to next Southby. From my little local cupcake shop. So that the introverts can rejoice.

    http://a0.vox.com/6a00e398b7d0fd00010110164fd140860b-500pi

  74. You did not suck!

    Well, except for the cupcake part. Rule #11: Never Malign the Cupcake.

    But otherwise! You were thoughtful and delightful and wonderful and other -ful words. I was glad to have met you. I also had no idea that you were preoccupied so heavily, which says a great deal about your ability to be sociable, and even more about your strength of will. All my best wishes to her.

    I think SXSWi is one of the places where introverts unite to pretend they aren’t introverts for awhile. We were saying that the difference between an introvert and an extrovert is that an introvert likes being social, but needs alone time to charge up, whereas an extrovert is the other way around. At Southby, there’s a bunch of introverts who are having a great time initially, but by Day 3 haven’t gotten the alone time they need to feel centered.

    Good thing we know how to solve this problem: beer and cupcakes, and a bunch of introverts chatting in low voices with one another, knowing that everyone else is feeling like they’d kind of like to curl up quietly with a book too.

    Just to make everyone happy, I give you: the beer cupcake. Which I will bring to next Southby. From my little local cupcake shop. So that the introverts can rejoice.

    http://a0.vox.com/6a00e398b7d0fd00010110164fd140860b-500pi

  75. Hey Chris..I can totally relate. I am much more outgoing online than in person, unless I’m forced or made by a friend to be social. lol

    And when I attend events, I’m always the quiet girl, too shy to introduce myself to anyone, much less the cool kids. (Although I must say I’m improving, yay me!)

    Thanks for sharing your blunders, it’s nice to know even some of the bigger boys get a little nervous and unsure in a crowd. πŸ˜€

    Warm regards,
    Cori

  76. Hey Chris..I can totally relate. I am much more outgoing online than in person, unless I’m forced or made by a friend to be social. lol

    And when I attend events, I’m always the quiet girl, too shy to introduce myself to anyone, much less the cool kids. (Although I must say I’m improving, yay me!)

    Thanks for sharing your blunders, it’s nice to know even some of the bigger boys get a little nervous and unsure in a crowd. πŸ˜€

    Warm regards,
    Cori

  77. I’m sure you’re being over-critical with yourself, sounds very familiar with how I feel after some conferences. Must be that English upbringing or something….
    I’m sure many people feel the same about themselves but others probably didn’t notice anything at all.

  78. I’m sure you’re being over-critical with yourself, sounds very familiar with how I feel after some conferences. Must be that English upbringing or something….
    I’m sure many people feel the same about themselves but others probably didn’t notice anything at all.

  79. Chris, if YOU were sucky, you wouldn’t have 42 comments on your post. (DOH! 43 comments.) RAWK on!

  80. Chris, if YOU were sucky, you wouldn’t have 42 comments on your post. (DOH! 43 comments.) RAWK on!

  81. @Taylor – OMG, beer cupcake? Awe-some. I will concede the cup of cake thing … but still think your avatar should be your face not your butt πŸ˜‰

    @Cori – I think at the next event I should organise a shy social – like a support group πŸ˜‰

    @Joel – Expect you are right to a degree. I read about an experiment where students were asked to wear a Barry Manilow t-shirt, the students felt embarassed but only a tiny percentage of other people even noticed what they were wearing.

    @John – Misery loves company? πŸ˜‰

  82. @Taylor – OMG, beer cupcake? Awe-some. I will concede the cup of cake thing … but still think your avatar should be your face not your butt πŸ˜‰

    @Cori – I think at the next event I should organise a shy social – like a support group πŸ˜‰

    @Joel – Expect you are right to a degree. I read about an experiment where students were asked to wear a Barry Manilow t-shirt, the students felt embarassed but only a tiny percentage of other people even noticed what they were wearing.

    @John – Misery loves company? πŸ˜‰

  83. Hee… totally. Let me know when you do, I’ll totally be there! πŸ˜‰ I’ll be the girl in the back, watching everyone ELSE be social. LOL You might have to make someone be nice to me and strong arm me to talk. πŸ˜€

  84. Hee… totally. Let me know when you do, I’ll totally be there! πŸ˜‰ I’ll be the girl in the back, watching everyone ELSE be social. LOL You might have to make someone be nice to me and strong arm me to talk. πŸ˜€

  85. Debbie Ferm says:

    I actually still like Barry Manilow:) The wisdom that comes from that is that people are far too concerned about themselves to care what others are doing (or wearing)

    Sometimes that works out for the good.

  86. Debbie Ferm says:

    I actually still like Barry Manilow:) The wisdom that comes from that is that people are far too concerned about themselves to care what others are doing (or wearing)

    Sometimes that works out for the good.

  87. Hey Chris,

    I would have liked to make the show to have more to say on this topic. However, it seems to me that it is only your impression of yourself and not of those who know you or met you at the show — this is the case with me as well, judging my insides with another’s outsides (point #4).

    I would also say that you likely still made good friends and future contact by just attending.

    And most importantly, I hope your daughter is doing better.

  88. Hey Chris,

    I would have liked to make the show to have more to say on this topic. However, it seems to me that it is only your impression of yourself and not of those who know you or met you at the show — this is the case with me as well, judging my insides with another’s outsides (point #4).

    I would also say that you likely still made good friends and future contact by just attending.

    And most importantly, I hope your daughter is doing better.

  89. Thanks for sucking so I don’t have to! πŸ˜€

    I didn’t go to SXSW precisely because I had no business goal that matched the event. I am a very small fish at this point. Smaller conferences are much better for me – like NTen in Atlanta, which focuses entirely on non-profit tech,

  90. Thanks for sucking so I don’t have to! πŸ˜€

    I didn’t go to SXSW precisely because I had no business goal that matched the event. I am a very small fish at this point. Smaller conferences are much better for me – like NTen in Atlanta, which focuses entirely on non-profit tech,

  91. Pretty awesome post, I really enjoyed reading it and hope I can remember all the good tips for the next conference. I am shyer in person too, takes a ton more effort for me to be social in person too.

    That’s awesome you got your mugshot with Darren πŸ™‚

  92. Pretty awesome post, I really enjoyed reading it and hope I can remember all the good tips for the next conference. I am shyer in person too, takes a ton more effort for me to be social in person too.

    That’s awesome you got your mugshot with Darren πŸ™‚

  93. Chris, I love your “Don’t Suck = ” equations. I have attended loads of events like this over the years and have sucked big-time myself. These are really useful tips, whether you are attending a big convention like SXSW or a local business mixer with far fewer attendees. My favourite bit of your post though is the diagram with the circle of cool kids and you on the outside. At just about every event I see a circle of these cool kids and wonder what they are talking about and how I might join in – but the fear of rejection usually stops me. I’ll try to remember point 5 in future. Nice one!

    • @Cori – Heh, yeah getting people to talk would be the real trick πŸ˜‰

      @Debbie – Yup, totally. And who doesn’t like a bit of Barry? πŸ˜‰

      @Devin – It all worked out good and yeah my daughter was/is fine which is the best bit πŸ™‚

      @John – It was good that there were so many people in one place, but that was also a downside too. Hard to get quality time with people in that situation, and without a compelling business case as you say …

      @James – Got several mugshots with Darren, it was like the last 5-6 years of missed photo opportunities in one week! πŸ˜‰

      @Keiran – I introduced myself a few times and it never stops feeling awkward, thankfully 99% of people are lovely about it, and those 1% … well, concentrate on the 99% πŸ˜‰

  94. Chris, I love your “Don’t Suck = ” equations. I have attended loads of events like this over the years and have sucked big-time myself. These are really useful tips, whether you are attending a big convention like SXSW or a local business mixer with far fewer attendees. My favourite bit of your post though is the diagram with the circle of cool kids and you on the outside. At just about every event I see a circle of these cool kids and wonder what they are talking about and how I might join in – but the fear of rejection usually stops me. I’ll try to remember point 5 in future. Nice one!

    • @Cori – Heh, yeah getting people to talk would be the real trick πŸ˜‰

      @Debbie – Yup, totally. And who doesn’t like a bit of Barry? πŸ˜‰

      @Devin – It all worked out good and yeah my daughter was/is fine which is the best bit πŸ™‚

      @John – It was good that there were so many people in one place, but that was also a downside too. Hard to get quality time with people in that situation, and without a compelling business case as you say …

      @James – Got several mugshots with Darren, it was like the last 5-6 years of missed photo opportunities in one week! πŸ˜‰

      @Keiran – I introduced myself a few times and it never stops feeling awkward, thankfully 99% of people are lovely about it, and those 1% … well, concentrate on the 99% πŸ˜‰

  95. Chris I mimic the well wishes for your daughter. DUDE I am jealous given that i was only in Dallas and STILL couldn’t make it LOL ‘

    I think this was a VERY real perspective (though I am on the other end of the introvert spectrum LOL)

  96. Chris I mimic the well wishes for your daughter. DUDE I am jealous given that i was only in Dallas and STILL couldn’t make it LOL ‘

    I think this was a VERY real perspective (though I am on the other end of the introvert spectrum LOL)

  97. I heard several people mention Johnny’s business card last week, but I never looked into what it actually looked like. That is some funny!

    I absolutely have to go next year. Seeing all the jabber about it online was too much. I can’t imagine you sucked too much, aside from when Deb’s halo blocked you out of the picture above πŸ˜€

  98. I heard several people mention Johnny’s business card last week, but I never looked into what it actually looked like. That is some funny!

    I absolutely have to go next year. Seeing all the jabber about it online was too much. I can’t imagine you sucked too much, aside from when Deb’s halo blocked you out of the picture above πŸ˜€

  99. Chris, loved reading this post and it reminded me of myself, I suck big time at conferences and events and my networking skills are poor. I blame my height haha.

    I am much more comfortable with a small group of people I know or, hidden behind the monitor.

  100. Chris, loved reading this post and it reminded me of myself, I suck big time at conferences and events and my networking skills are poor. I blame my height haha.

    I am much more comfortable with a small group of people I know or, hidden behind the monitor.

  101. Chris,

    Thank you for your frank recap of SXSW. I couldn’t go this year, but it’s written in Sharpie for next year. I will take your advice and remember it when I attend in 2011. From what I hear, it’s easy to get overwhelmed with it all and, as is the case with most things, having a goal in mind is always smart.

    Thanks for continuing to be one of my favorite bloggers. I look forward to meeting you at Blog World this fall.

    Amber @wordsdonewrite

  102. Chris,

    Thank you for your frank recap of SXSW. I couldn’t go this year, but it’s written in Sharpie for next year. I will take your advice and remember it when I attend in 2011. From what I hear, it’s easy to get overwhelmed with it all and, as is the case with most things, having a goal in mind is always smart.

    Thanks for continuing to be one of my favorite bloggers. I look forward to meeting you at Blog World this fall.

    Amber @wordsdonewrite

  103. Hi Chris, I totally agree, knowing your “whys” is extremely important. Everything starts with an intention. I think you did great, you are being too critical of yourself or if anything the leassons were worth it:)

  104. Hi Chris, I totally agree, knowing your “whys” is extremely important. Everything starts with an intention. I think you did great, you are being too critical of yourself or if anything the leassons were worth it:)

  105. I guess I may have had something do with the emergence of this post πŸ˜‰

    I really resonate with what some of the people said in the comments. I’m not a party guy at all. I’d much rather go out and have breakfast, lunch, dinner or hang out somewhere quiet than party.

  106. I guess I may have had something do with the emergence of this post πŸ˜‰

    I really resonate with what some of the people said in the comments. I’m not a party guy at all. I’d much rather go out and have breakfast, lunch, dinner or hang out somewhere quiet than party.

  107. Derek Curtis says:

    This was my first trip to SXSW and it was all a bit overwhelming. I’ve been to other large conferences before, and even had a session at Mix08, but I’ve never been comfortable at them. SXSW was the first I attended since BarCon back in 2003 that I actually felt somewhat at ease, and surrounded by people that I not only could relate to, but talk with and exchange ideas and thoughts…so much so that I bit the bullet and shook your hand after Liz and Becky’s session (I was sitting to your right during it). Hope it didn’t embarrass you too much, and had I known you had so much going on I wouldn’t have put you out. Thanks for being gracious…

    • @Darren – Shame you couldn’t make it over from Dallas but I am sure there will be many more opportunities πŸ™‚

      @James – Deb’s halo does that, plays havoc with getting my paparazzi on πŸ˜‰

      @Darren – Yeah, I tend to go for the round table sessions, meals, quiet beer, coffee etc. Problem is that doesn’t scale so I have to break out of my comfort zone to see everyone even fleetingly :/

      @Amber – Blog World is going to be even more awesome this year as it is happening right at a hotel, even easier to get back to your room for a recharge that way! Make sure you say hi πŸ™‚

      @Lana – It wouldn’t be me if I wasn’t at least a little critical of myself πŸ˜‰ Glad you liked it πŸ™‚

      @Henri – Me too, and it is over the meals you really get to know people rather than the fake elevator pitches and lame jokes (I didn’t do any of the former but lots of the latter, heh)

      @Derek – I love it when people introduce theirselves to me, saves me doing it in the other direction πŸ™‚ Always say hi if you spot me πŸ™‚ I’m actually getting better at it though, I had some nice conversations in taxis of all places πŸ˜‰

  108. Derek Curtis says:

    This was my first trip to SXSW and it was all a bit overwhelming. I’ve been to other large conferences before, and even had a session at Mix08, but I’ve never been comfortable at them. SXSW was the first I attended since BarCon back in 2003 that I actually felt somewhat at ease, and surrounded by people that I not only could relate to, but talk with and exchange ideas and thoughts…so much so that I bit the bullet and shook your hand after Liz and Becky’s session (I was sitting to your right during it). Hope it didn’t embarrass you too much, and had I known you had so much going on I wouldn’t have put you out. Thanks for being gracious…

    • @Darren – Shame you couldn’t make it over from Dallas but I am sure there will be many more opportunities πŸ™‚

      @James – Deb’s halo does that, plays havoc with getting my paparazzi on πŸ˜‰

      @Darren – Yeah, I tend to go for the round table sessions, meals, quiet beer, coffee etc. Problem is that doesn’t scale so I have to break out of my comfort zone to see everyone even fleetingly :/

      @Amber – Blog World is going to be even more awesome this year as it is happening right at a hotel, even easier to get back to your room for a recharge that way! Make sure you say hi πŸ™‚

      @Lana – It wouldn’t be me if I wasn’t at least a little critical of myself πŸ˜‰ Glad you liked it πŸ™‚

      @Henri – Me too, and it is over the meals you really get to know people rather than the fake elevator pitches and lame jokes (I didn’t do any of the former but lots of the latter, heh)

      @Derek – I love it when people introduce theirselves to me, saves me doing it in the other direction πŸ™‚ Always say hi if you spot me πŸ™‚ I’m actually getting better at it though, I had some nice conversations in taxis of all places πŸ˜‰

  109. Mary E. Ulrich says:

    My gosh, look at this response. Chris you are one of the cool kids.

    For those of us, really really on the outside, What is SXSW? and Blogger World? and what other conferences, conventions and meetups should we know about??????

  110. Mary E. Ulrich says:

    My gosh, look at this response. Chris you are one of the cool kids.

    For those of us, really really on the outside, What is SXSW? and Blogger World? and what other conferences, conventions and meetups should we know about??????

  111. I sucked worse than you πŸ™‚ It was really good to meet you, Chris, after reading your work and learning from you for so long. Large gatherings of people can be taxing even for the most extroverted among us.

    Glad your daughter is 100% fine. That’s the important stuff.

  112. I sucked worse than you πŸ™‚ It was really good to meet you, Chris, after reading your work and learning from you for so long. Large gatherings of people can be taxing even for the most extroverted among us.

    Glad your daughter is 100% fine. That’s the important stuff.

  113. I have some of the same in person social issues. My plan is to bring my wife Jill because she’s good at socializing in person in groups of people. I can just piggy back off her energy.

  114. I have some of the same in person social issues. My plan is to bring my wife Jill because she’s good at socializing in person in groups of people. I can just piggy back off her energy.

  115. Oy vey. Even Chris crossed over the pond to go to SXSW. I hope that you aim to return next year, as I sucked even more at SXSW by not going at all! Next year, I intend to return. I absolutely want to meet you. πŸ™‚

  116. Oy vey. Even Chris crossed over the pond to go to SXSW. I hope that you aim to return next year, as I sucked even more at SXSW by not going at all! Next year, I intend to return. I absolutely want to meet you. πŸ™‚

  117. Mary – SXSW is a cool geek conference that all the social media people and bloggers like to attend. BlogWorld is a smaller conference that happens in October that is also gaining momentum.

    They’re fun conferences for tech nerds like us πŸ˜€

  118. Mary – SXSW is a cool geek conference that all the social media people and bloggers like to attend. BlogWorld is a smaller conference that happens in October that is also gaining momentum.

    They’re fun conferences for tech nerds like us πŸ˜€

  119. @Mary – Tamar already replied, but SXSW (South by South West) is a huge media conference with music, film and “interactive”, ecompassing everything from movies to video games. Bit too big for me I think. At the other end of the scale is SOBCon which is Liz Strauss and Terry Starbucker’s conference, it is more intimate with everyone sat at tables in one room (mostly), and people really get to know each other. It’s the only event where you get quality time with other attendees and the likes of Brian Clark, Chris Brogan, et al. There it is one big group where everyone talks, no “cool kids clique”. Blog World is somewhere between the two – lots of panels, parties, but not too many.

    @Valeria – You were the opposite of suck, you rocked πŸ™‚

    @George – My wife is the outgoing one in our pairing too, but she is really not into this world and only tolerates it because it pays the bills, heh πŸ™‚ Well, take that back, she thinks some of the people are really cool providing they don’t talk shop πŸ˜‰

    @Tamar – Would love to catch up with you. You must come to Blog World, let’s not wait a year! πŸ˜‰

  120. @Mary – Tamar already replied, but SXSW (South by South West) is a huge media conference with music, film and “interactive”, ecompassing everything from movies to video games. Bit too big for me I think. At the other end of the scale is SOBCon which is Liz Strauss and Terry Starbucker’s conference, it is more intimate with everyone sat at tables in one room (mostly), and people really get to know each other. It’s the only event where you get quality time with other attendees and the likes of Brian Clark, Chris Brogan, et al. There it is one big group where everyone talks, no “cool kids clique”. Blog World is somewhere between the two – lots of panels, parties, but not too many.

    @Valeria – You were the opposite of suck, you rocked πŸ™‚

    @George – My wife is the outgoing one in our pairing too, but she is really not into this world and only tolerates it because it pays the bills, heh πŸ™‚ Well, take that back, she thinks some of the people are really cool providing they don’t talk shop πŸ˜‰

    @Tamar – Would love to catch up with you. You must come to Blog World, let’s not wait a year! πŸ˜‰

  121. We all sucked to some extent. I felt the same way. I thought I should have said one thing or another, but at the end of the day you were there. You took a chance, got out of your comfort zone and interacted.

    I know I enjoyed our conversations. You were insightful and listened very well. A lot of bloggers on your level just blow people off and don’t even try to enjoy the F2F time.

    In my book you got an A+. I’m not sure how they grade across the pond, but you did a great job.

  122. We all sucked to some extent. I felt the same way. I thought I should have said one thing or another, but at the end of the day you were there. You took a chance, got out of your comfort zone and interacted.

    I know I enjoyed our conversations. You were insightful and listened very well. A lot of bloggers on your level just blow people off and don’t even try to enjoy the F2F time.

    In my book you got an A+. I’m not sure how they grade across the pond, but you did a great job.

  123. Chris-

    Brutally honest. Thanks for sharing this experience. I’ll look for you next year should you make it back.

  124. Chris-

    Brutally honest. Thanks for sharing this experience. I’ll look for you next year should you make it back.

  125. Hi Chris

    Wow! Powerful post. Not so much the points about SXSW but the “brutally honest” nature of it (as per Cliff, above).

    I know more than my fair bit about being less than outgoing; it really stunted me for years. Luckily I finally worked my way out of it; it’s still there in the background, but I’m so used to smacking it down by now, that I’d nearly have to go looking for it if I wanted it. But, I still can totally identify with what you describe.

    To me, what is powerful about this post is your transparency & honesty. Knowing that the world is looking on, but still giving such a warts-and-all account of your own performance; inspirational, and you end up coming across as a class act. Well done.

    Sean

  126. Hi Chris

    Wow! Powerful post. Not so much the points about SXSW but the “brutally honest” nature of it (as per Cliff, above).

    I know more than my fair bit about being less than outgoing; it really stunted me for years. Luckily I finally worked my way out of it; it’s still there in the background, but I’m so used to smacking it down by now, that I’d nearly have to go looking for it if I wanted it. But, I still can totally identify with what you describe.

    To me, what is powerful about this post is your transparency & honesty. Knowing that the world is looking on, but still giving such a warts-and-all account of your own performance; inspirational, and you end up coming across as a class act. Well done.

    Sean

  127. Thanks for the great tips. I find that even going to a tweetup, I have to set “social” goals for myself. Otherwise, I’m likely to just stand in a corner for the entire evening. I agree with Rebecca that many of us introverts (especially INFJs) are drawn to social media and building relationships online because it allows us to connect with people without feeling overly vulnerable and exposed.

    I also absolutely agree about the hotel issue. I have a couple of physical limitations and willing to pay big money to actually stay at the actual hotel where an event is held. A) I physically need the downtime and B) It allows me to occassionally sneak away for quick mental health breaks when I need them. Last year, when NTEN NTC’s conference was happening in San Francisco, I opted not to get a hotel room and just commute in to the city for the conference and really regretted it.

  128. Thanks for the great tips. I find that even going to a tweetup, I have to set “social” goals for myself. Otherwise, I’m likely to just stand in a corner for the entire evening. I agree with Rebecca that many of us introverts (especially INFJs) are drawn to social media and building relationships online because it allows us to connect with people without feeling overly vulnerable and exposed.

    I also absolutely agree about the hotel issue. I have a couple of physical limitations and willing to pay big money to actually stay at the actual hotel where an event is held. A) I physically need the downtime and B) It allows me to occassionally sneak away for quick mental health breaks when I need them. Last year, when NTEN NTC’s conference was happening in San Francisco, I opted not to get a hotel room and just commute in to the city for the conference and really regretted it.

  129. Charlie Roberts says:

    Great post,and it was a good recap! some good tips for next year, look forward to attending next year!

  130. Charlie Roberts says:

    Great post,and it was a good recap! some good tips for next year, look forward to attending next year!

  131. @cliff – I might well make it back, just be a little bit more concious about what I am able to comfortably manage πŸ™‚

    @Sean – Thanks, I appreciate it. I find that transparency can be uncomfortable in the short term but is the best long term strategy. Plus, trying to fake it rarely works, I mean, nobody would believe I was a party animal, heh πŸ™‚

    @Sue – Exactly, you might save some dollars but when you don’t have the option of escaping for a short while you really miss it.

    @Charlie – Don’t wait for SXSW, come to Blog World in Vegas. There is even a travel blogging track at this years Blog World πŸ™‚

  132. @cliff – I might well make it back, just be a little bit more concious about what I am able to comfortably manage πŸ™‚

    @Sean – Thanks, I appreciate it. I find that transparency can be uncomfortable in the short term but is the best long term strategy. Plus, trying to fake it rarely works, I mean, nobody would believe I was a party animal, heh πŸ™‚

    @Sue – Exactly, you might save some dollars but when you don’t have the option of escaping for a short while you really miss it.

    @Charlie – Don’t wait for SXSW, come to Blog World in Vegas. There is even a travel blogging track at this years Blog World πŸ™‚

  133. 4. Socialize, Don’t Stalk

    Dont criticize yourself, you are always your worst critic anyway. ever heard yourself speaking on an audiotape or mp3 (nowadays πŸ˜‰ ) its so horrible

  134. 4. Socialize, Don’t Stalk

    Dont criticize yourself, you are always your worst critic anyway. ever heard yourself speaking on an audiotape or mp3 (nowadays πŸ˜‰ ) its so horrible

  135. I’ll try, Chris πŸ™‚ Hope to see you then!

  136. I’ll try, Chris πŸ™‚ Hope to see you then!

  137. Dude, you didnt suck that bad! πŸ™‚

    From my perspective … it was nice to meet and chat with you for a few minutes in the bloggers lounge. If you met any other folks like me who were just looking to put a real person with the online presense then you should consider that little piece of the conference a success. Face time is big … and in my case you were the giver in that you didnt have to sit and chat with me. What did I have to offer you? That makes me a fan – see what I’m saying? Relationship building.

    But, you’ve got great points here no matter what my take is.

    Thanks man!!

    @franswaa

  138. Dude, you didnt suck that bad! πŸ™‚

    From my perspective … it was nice to meet and chat with you for a few minutes in the bloggers lounge. If you met any other folks like me who were just looking to put a real person with the online presense then you should consider that little piece of the conference a success. Face time is big … and in my case you were the giver in that you didnt have to sit and chat with me. What did I have to offer you? That makes me a fan – see what I’m saying? Relationship building.

    But, you’ve got great points here no matter what my take is.

    Thanks man!!

    @franswaa

  139. Thanks for sharing your lessons learned.

    Nothing’s worse than being so far away from where you really want to be.

  140. Thanks for sharing your lessons learned.

    Nothing’s worse than being so far away from where you really want to be.

Trackbacks

  1. […] a longer post about what I felt were the do’s and don’t’s of SXSW, but I saw Chris Garrett’s perfect post with what I was going to say and more, and figured I’d just link to […]

  2. […] and crew, RETSO is a top-notch event.Just before I left, I read Chris Garrett’s post, Why I Sucked at SXSW So You Don’t Have to, which I am archiving to read before attending any future conferences.Β  Chris gives some good […]