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In which I attempt to recap SXSW.

A week ago today, I was on my way to the Austin Convention Center to do some final rounds of networking and maybe catch a panel or two before hitting the road back to Illinois. I had my car mostly packed, and the plan was to go to the convention center, grab breakfast, hang out in the blogger lounge, and stick around for Gary Vaynerchuk’s presentation about his new book, “The Thank You Economy.”

I am SO GLAD I stuck around for his presentation.

For now, I’ll leave it at the fact that Gary’s talk was amazing and by far the best speaker presentation I attended. And in case you missed it or weren’t able to be there, the audio for his session is here. I have a signed copy of “The Thank You Economy” that I will be giving away when I post my review of the book, so stay tuned for more info on that.

So, starting at the beginning:

A big part of SXSW for me was this whole coming full circle thing. I took two groups of virgin skydivers out to Skydive Temple on Thursday and Friday before the conference really kicked off. This was a great moment for me because I was able to reflect on how far I’d come since last year, as well as introduce a handful of people to the sport I love so much. Big thanks and congratulations to Chris Hoyt, Jenny DeVaughn, Wesley Faulkner, David Spinks and Andy Kaufman for coming out and making their first (Wesley’s second) skydives. I also had the chance to meet Josephine Dorado, who is also a licensed skydiver, and was reminded of just how small our skydiving community is, as she knew several people from my dropzone.

Chris and David, in particular, were extra pumped about the experience. When Chris landed he said “okay…. that’s my new hobby” and he proceeded to bring five more people out during the conference. David was inquiring about what happens after your first skydive. Hopefully both of them get licensed and I’ll have two more friends in the sky!

I made it back to the convention center on Friday, just in time to snag my badge and venture upstairs for “The Steroid Culture of Social Media: You Use?” starring my buddy Kyle Flaherty, Tim Walker, Troy Nalls and Laura Beck. And what a kickass way to start SXSW.

The panel was all about people taking shortcuts in social media, and each speaker had a different view about what is okay and what’s not when it comes to said shortcuts. The audio for the panel is here. I encourage you to listen, because the speakers were ROCKIN. My favorite part of attending this panel, beyond the heckling, was the chance to talk with Troy Nalls. Everything he was saying about his approach to life and business was really resonating with me. He’s one of those people that fall into the camp of completely and totally awesome and one of those people you just want to be around for all of eternity because their energy is ridonkulous.

I also have a mindcrush on Laura Beck. She’s fucking brilliant and when she was talking about why she left agency life to start her own thing I was like that one guy in the back of the church service yelling “YES YES YES” to everything the preacher is saying. She has a theory about finding 100 true fans for your brand versus a cajillion, which she outlines in the panel (SERIOUSLY LISTEN TO THIS SHIT, Y’ALL), and I think she could flip the world upside down with the words that are coming out of her mouth.

One of the highlights of my trip was snagging some much-needed face time with Jenny Blake. We have been chatting back and forth for almost three years now, had finally met in person at SXSW last year, and were able to enjoy an entire brunch together this year at Moonshine. We talked about life, love, work, fun, boys, our friends in the blogosphere (Hi Jamie!) and enjoyed a delicious breakfast. Like, wicked delicious. As in, if you’re ever in Austin on a Sunday and you’re hungry – go to Moonshine and rock their brunch scene. Amazing.

In case you are living under a rock, Jenny is the author of, which is now, (YAY!) a book, also called “Life After College,” that you can hold in your hands, doodle all over, and call on when you need some of her incredible wisdom. Jenny was kind enough to send me a copy of the book before it goes on sale, so I’ll be posting a review of it here in the next few weeks.

My panel with Aaron went well, I think. We had a bunch of super smart people in the audience and there were some amazing questions about all things mentoring. Doesn’t hurt that we started our morning at the AllHat3 party, hosted by David Armano and Richard Binhammer. A couple margaritas will make any conversation flow a bit better.

The rest of SXSW was a blur of hanging out in the hallways, eating awesome BBQ and networking my face off. I created new relationships, caught up with some people I hadn’t seen since last year (if not longer), and did some business.

So, some of my favorite people I was able to have an actual conversation with, catch up with, or  who I met for the first time this year, in no particular order: Lisa Grimm, Erika Napoletano, Gary Vaynerchuk, Jenny Blake, Andrew Norcross, J. Money, Amber Naslund, Craig Comeau, Jason Falls, Sara Davidson, Colby Gergen, Teresa Cantwell, Becky Johns, Andy Drish, Elysa Rice, Tiffany Monhollon, and a bajillion other people that I forgot to list here.

If you went to SXSW, what was your favorite part? If you weren’t able to make it, I recommend checking out the audio from the panels I listed above as well as SAVING MONEY NOW so you can go next year! 🙂


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