Wednesday, March 18, 2015

SXSW 2015 Recap

The 2015 SXSW Interactive Festival has come and gone.  This was my 9th year participating in this epic event, and while I have seen South by Southwest change over the years, I still find it to be one of the most relevant and inspiring events for those with an entrepreneurial spirit.  

While some might describe the focus of the Interactive Festival as "technology", I think it goes beyond that label.  Tech used to mean "tools", but now it is integrated into our lives, and thus I find the the whole message of the conference to be about innovation.

Some say that the event has lost it's luster as the numbers have grown and the corporate sponsors have joined the fun (even McDonald's has a presence at SXSW these days).  I disagree with the naysayers, who do not like how large the event has become.  While it is true that the lower attendance did have a more intimate feel, SXSW is not just a conference, it is an experience.  Real experiences are not like painting by the numbers, and thus must change or they become stale.  The best event professionals I know are always seeking to enhance and change their meetings, not simply replicate them year over year.

The changes have come both organically and with well-thought intention from the organizers.  Over the years I have seen them morph the focus of the topics, style of the keynotes, and the flow of the event.  The addition of the new JW Marriott to downtown Austin has provided a new large venue and that changed some of the feel of how the event played out.  In some ways the "vibe" felt more like it did years ago, and so those who might have complained recently (and did not come this year) missed out on what they had been wanting.

My experience at SXSW this year was very positive.  My panel, "Mastermind Construction Zone", was fun and the audience seemed to like the discussion.  It was special to share the experience with two of the people from my own Mastermind Group (Jessica Pettitt and Gerry O'Brion), and to be part of their first experience with SXSW. 

I enjoyed the casual feeling this year, and even with over 30,000 participants, never felt the lost in the crowd.  I was sorry that the marketing sessions were held across the river at the Hyatt, as I tend to stay in the area of the Austin Convention Center, and never took a shuttle (the rush to get to a far off venue is not worth it to me). 

While I missed some great marketing sessions, I went to many other topics that helped me to think bigger (and discovered topics I might have otherwise missed). I attended sessions that inspired me in my own entrepreneurial efforts and took nearly 50 pages of notes.  My next step is to review and extract the most important nuggets of information and to take action.

I also interviewed several people who I met in the trade show or at a roof-top party for an upcoming episode of "Cool Things Entrepreneurs Do" - and got a good variety of other insights into the festival, entrepreneurship, and life.  (Look for that show to post on iTunes on March 24, 2015)

The real power in attending SXSW (or any event) comes from the people.  I met amazing folks who contribute to society in a variety of business, government, and philanthropic endeavors.  In spending time with those who hold different points of view and have lived interesting lives, we can all discover personal growth. 

I over heard a conversation about how those who live in the suburbs can learn from the artists in places like SoHo, but if they artists never attend a family dinner with those in the suburbs, they are missing out.  I like that.  It is good to remember that the benefits of diversity runs in all directions.  Don't prejudge others, and seek for ways to learn from everyone.  That is what I did at SXSW, and I am am very excited about the future.

If you have never been to SXSW, start planning now for 2016. 

Have A Great Day

thom singer 

Tuesday, March 10, 2015


Each year there are dozens (if not hundreds) of blog posts written on the topic of how to maximize SXSW.  The South by Southwest Festival is an amazing series of events (EDU, Interactive, Film, and Music) that bring tens of thousands of visitors to Austin, TX each March. I could easily produce a top ten list of suggestions that would be useful, but this event (and all other conference) come down to one thing.  The people.  

The investment of time and money to attend SXSW is steep, so everyone who attends wants to make sure they get the most out of each day.  The festival kicks off each morning with speakers, panels and a trade show, but the fun goes late into the night with hundreds of official and unofficial parties taking place all over Austin.

In our social media crazy world it is easy to be nose to screen much of the time.  Putting your attention toward your phone or tablet is tempting, as there is no fear that your iPhone will reject you.  Checking to see what is said online about the SXSW happenings, and the desires to Tweet your activities to the world can be very strong.  But the power at SXSW resides with the people all around you. Don't miss your opportunity to connect.

Relationships drive the success of an event, not the other way around.  Too often we assume a great event brings networking opportunities, but the truth is the serendipity of conversations with the people you meet makes the event great.

My advice simple...  To achieve the highest level of ROI at SXSW there is only one piece of advice:

Engage in live conversation.

You have to take ownership of instigating conversations.  Say "hello" to people and many will be thrilled to chat with you.  Do not over-think the social contract of being at a conference.... people come to learn and network, and some of the best learning comes from the impromptu "Hallway Conversations".  

So, welcome to Austin and have an amazing experience at SXSW.

Have A Great Day

thom singer

I hope to meet you at SXSW.  Come to my panel presentation "Mastermind Construction Zone" on Saturday, March 14th at 9:30 AM.

Wednesday, March 04, 2015

Happy 10th Birthday to my BLOG

March 2, 2015 marks ten years since I launched my blog. Wow, time flies.

(The first post from 2005 is here.)

I would like to believe that I have come a long, long way over a decade.  It has been a great experience.  This blog has been a major part of my life and has lead to the writing of eleven books, speaking to over 450 audiences, and the launch of the "Cool Things Entrepreneurs Do Podcast".  

At the time I started writing this blog I dreamed of earning my income as a speaker, trainer, and professional EmCee.  Today that dream is a reality, and I have had the honor to speak all over the world, including in China.  

I am very fortunate because of the amazing people in my life: Family, friends, clients, other speakers, etc... all have shared in my journey.  I am enthusiastic about the next decade!

Have A Great Day

thom singer

Sunday, March 01, 2015

Cool Things My Friends Do (Week #124) - Your Nerdy Best Friend (Beth Ziesenis) KickStarter Campaign

Each week on this blog I enjoy highlighting some of the cool things my friends do in their personal and professional lives.

I have a friend who is a speaker and a nerd.  Beth Ziesenis is known as "Your Nerdy Best Friend" and she speaks at association and corporate events teaching people all about the latest nerdy technology apps they can use to make life better.

Beth currently has a KickStarter campaign to raise the money to launch her new book, "Nerd Know How: The 27 Best Apps for Work and How to Use Them".  

Evernote. LastPass. Prezi. Elance.

Maybe you've heard of these tech tools -- but do you know how to use them?

In her newest book Author Beth Ziesenis gives you the what, why and how for dozens of the most critical technology that will help you at work and home. With plenty of screenshots and tons of tips, Nerd Know-How will get you started using the cutting-edge apps that increase productivity, organization, collaboration and awesomeness.

Each of the 27 apps includes screenshots, tips, at-a-glance facts and alternatives. Plus you'll find bonus lists of extra apps that will turn you in to the nerdiest person in the office.

Beth is seeking 200 supporters (she already has raised the necessary money in a very successful campaign... how cool is that?).  For as little as $1 you can support her cause (she is at 109 supporters at the time of this blog post), but at the $15 level you will get a copy of the book, and have YOUR NAME listed in the book!!!  Come on, show her some love!!!  I pledged $15.

Let me tell you more about Beth Ziesenis.... she is a giver and a doer.  Everyone in our extended group of "speaker friends" will tell you she takes action and helps her peers meet new clients.  She tells her clients about other speakers, and is always available to give introductions, advice and moral support. She is the "REAL DEAL" when it comes to wanting others to be successful.  She does not view life or business as a zero-sum games, but instead believes everyone can find their success path.  

She calls herself a "Nerd", but Beth is really one of the "Cool Kids".   I am excited to feature her as week #124 of "Cool Things My Friends Do". (She was also an early guest on the "Cool Things Entrepreneurs Do" Podcast!!! Check it out).

Have A Great Day

thom singer