Go to Austin, Texas, they said. Go to SXSW, they said. Go and find out how the best of the best are doing it these days. And bring back some business, would you?
I’m winging my way this week to South by Southwest (South By, as the kids call it), one of the largest creative, marketing, tech, film and music meet-ups on the globe. This year, there’ll be about 4000 speakers and performers, 80,000 attendees and over 500 music acts, spread over a 10-day orgy of creativity. Years ago, the White Stripes got their break here. So did Bon Iver and Haim. And James Blunt (there’s hope for me yet).
Big noters head there. Spielberg, Zuckerburg and AllBirds. This year I’m angling to meet Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Priscilla Chan and Henry Winkler (Fonzie!).
SXSW began in 1987 and has blossomed. Austin gets overrun by it, providing inspiration to small cities the world over. They’re all keen to attract the Creative Class on the basis that cool can be found anywhere – not just New York or Cannes. In fact, Wellington is getting its very own twist on theme with WGTN-X in September. Founder of WGTN-X, Terri van Schooten will be in SXSW, along with 30-odd Kiwis from business, film, music, government and education circles. Apparently there’s a bar we’ll be meeting in at some point.
There’s a lot of ‘apparentlies’. Apparently there are queues so long you need to sneak in to the event prior, or maybe two, and hog your seat. Apparently you need not buy food or drink as there’s a 24/7 roster of street activations. Apparently there are parties that I haven’t been invited to. Apparently it can be overwhelming. And apparently all my carefully laid out schedule (there’s a spreadsheet, if you will) should allow for some serendipity to happen. Serial attendees say you have to embrace opportunity as soon as it presents itself, which I fully intend to do. But my hot five are not negotiable and I’ll find my way to these sessions come hell or high water:
- Brene Brown, whose TED talk and books on vulnerability will blow your mind (and heart)
- Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez the left-wing, Latino sensation turning conservatives on their ears in Washington DC
- The Daily Show with Trevor Noah.
- Malcolm Gladwell on the future of cars
- And New Zealand @ SXSW featuring a line-up of bands I’ve yet hear (that’s what it’s all about)
Best laid plans of mice and men, eh? I’ll let you know how it goes.
Vincent Heeringa is executive director at Anthem and the former publisher of Idealog and Stoppress. Follow his SXSW journey on this very blog or on Twitter @vheeringa and @anthemnz.
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