SXSW: How Do We Define Success?

Was SXSW Successful? I’ve been hearing this question thrown around a lot.

Jennifer Kane got me thinking. Her wonderfully well-written take on this year’s SXSW Interactive was definitely on point. However, I’d like to take you on a trip from my POV in what this place does to you.

credit: Caroline McCarthy/CNET

SXSW surprisingly teaches you a fair amount about yourself. Not a self-reliance trip like Burning Man might, but more about your limits (dehydration + walking + drinking + no sleep = SXSW every 2 years), as well as how you define success. Quite rightly, Jennifer talks about the mass over-consumption that bigger is better and hey, let’s all throw exclusive parties! Naked! With dancing electric chickens!

Look, there’s nothing wrong with partying. Just don’t pretend that it’s a business trip.

Maybe I don’t spend enough time at the panels, but I feel like I really don’t get much from them. The keynote/popular ones usually get mobbed before you can get there since your over ADD enhanced reality can’t take it anymore to just walk a b-line to the conference room (which by the way, was in more venues than ever).

You don’t necessarily need conferences to get good at what you do.

You need to learn how to work your ass off and never stop learning. Don’t expect a 1 hour panel to show you more than that. So I think Jennifer’s points are valid. Getting the inside tracks of info behind the panels rock. And you build rapport with people over time.

For me, I was able to get the things I needed to get done for the most part, and that was to reinforce relationships I’ve been building for some time.

Success suddenly seems hard to quantify. We live in a success driven world. But what is success? Checking a bunch of things that you had on your to do list? Doing tasks for the sake of getting them done?

I think not.

Refocusing is important. I went through a stretch where I slept 9 hours over 3 days. Part of me was saying “but there’s so much to do!”

You’ve got to stay focused. Yet, SXSW certainly has given us the opposite of that. it is physically impossible to get everything done. There’s always that one more meeting, one more check-in on Foursquare. One more party.

Less is more. When you stop trying to “get everything done” and embrace that you’ll notice you would actually get nothing done in the pursuit of everything.

By staying focused on a few key areas, I felt that this event was a success:

1 – Helping our clients with created new and develop existing connections. You can’t expect everything to be the next Twitter overnight. Twitter sure didn’t.

2 – Meeting a number of people that I’ve known for a while online but never met in person. Having real face time and meaningful conversations rocks.

3 – Meeting people I’ve never met and spoken to. this is a certain realm of when all our “careful planning” efforts meets serendipity and some really cool stuff happens. I had a chance to go to the show floor and see some great, some not so great technology. I met lots of great people when going to places I hadn’t planned and that was a wonderful feeling and result.

You’ll notice that sleep didn’t make the list.
That comes now. 🙂