Beginning SXSW

The night I arrived in Austin my friend Lanie and her coworkers let me tag along to dinner. It was good to gather myself up and pretend to be a human for an evening. Out in public. We walked from the parking garage to the the convention center to get our badges, then to the restaurant. 


What do you call it when you walk past a specific place where you had a specific memory? Or hear a specific song? Or taste a specific wine? Let’s call them ghosts. I saw about three ghosts, heard about six and one or two were mentioned in dinner conversation. I held it together nice and tidy like a champ. I was the valedictorian of post break-up composure. All on the outside, of course. 

The first day of the conference was overwhelming. I read somewhere that 40,000 people officially attend SXSW when it’s all said and done, plus all the extra people in Austin to support the conference. 

So. Many. Peoples.

We had met up with my friend Blake for lunch at one of my favorite Austin spots, Home Slice. Of course it was full of ghosts, too. Loaded. It was where we had watched showcases the previous 2 years. But the pizza was good and the company better.  

This. Is. Perfect.After lunch we headed downtown. We saw a bunny van. I Vined it. I don’t know how to embed Vine…

Once we arrived to the downtown area I realized that the session I wanted to attend in 20 minutes was so far away it required a shuttle that was a 10 minute walk from where I was. And thus began the struggle to actually participate at SXSW. I wandered aimlessly with my head in my phone, scouring the conference app looking for ANYTHING to sit in on. Something that 500 people hadn’t already beat me to (which would turn out to be a common occurrence that week). I stopped to cry behind my glasses then shook myself enough to keep moving and eventually found something to attend that wasn’t terribly far away on foot. It was called, “#ageofdamage: Be the Company You Want to Keep” presented by David Jones, Co-founder of One Young World and author of Who Cares, Wins. With my iPad open I “scribbled” notes and listened to his talk. Some of the nuggets I took away were things related to what he calls Radical Transparency. He said that the Industrial Revolution empowered companies and that we are in the age of a Social Revolution that is empowering people. People don’t expect perfection but they do expect honesty and transparency from companies. He shared a case study of Patagonia that was fascinating. Here’s an article that gives a nice overview: Don’t Buy This Jacket.

 From there I headed over to “How to Rank Better in Google & Bing” where, literally, 1,200 people beat me to a chair. At least. I bounced next door to a presentation from PBS that showcased a crowdsharing video service they had developed. Neat, but not terribly useful for me. A good spot to recharge all of my devices, though…something one always needs to be on the lookout at a technology-heavy conference. From there I missed “Technology, Imagination & Exponential Thinking” but got incredibly lucky upon my return as I learned it was filmed and made available online. Carve out an hour and have your mind blown.

 I sulked at the failure of the day. A year and a half ago when I learned I was coming to SXSW ’13, I thought I’d be storming the castle of awesome. Back to back to back sessions of genius-level techy brain food. Instead, I attended one session that was useful to me. I worried that each day would be like this. 

But they weren’t. They got better. 

The next day I put on my Chucks, went downstairs and pulled a Twitterati move to rescue my peers and I who were marooned at our outlying hotel. 

Then I summoned The Universe for Amanda Palmer. The Universe provided.


Then I attended a session on Creativity and the brain.

Then I went to the Google House and got free food and swag.

Then I went to some other place and got more free food and beer.

A little later I shook the hand of Al Gore.

Then even later I saw Band of Horses at the Samsung Galaxy Experience launch party.

Then EVEN later I pushed past a doorman and three hundred people to join my friend Jessica at the Gary Vaynerchuk secret wine party.


Then I decided not to temp fate. I sloshed through the rain and caught my hotel shuttle at 1:30am, went to bed and slept…hard. For the first time, in a long time, I had a GOOD day.

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  1. The ghosts can be a pain in the ass, but at times the universe can be kind. 🙂

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