No, I’m not going to SXSW and here’s why

SXSW 2011
Photo credit: Shashi Bellamkonda

One of the perennial questions I get every year is whether I’m going to SXSW. The answer, unsurprisingly, is no. It’s not because SXSW isn’t a great show, one of the largest, with lots of incredible people at it. There are plenty. It’s not because it’s not fun – it is. The reason I don’t go is because I don’t work very well in the SXSW-style environment. It’s not because of the show, but my own personal shortcomings and perspective.

What environment is that? It’s a very busy, very attention-grabbing environment. When you pack hundreds of thousands of people into one area and a good chunk of them are either media or marketers, everyone tries to stand out really hard, shouts really loud (both metaphorically and literally), and tries to be seen. Nothing wrong with that, but that’s not an environment that I do particularly well in.

I don’t love large crowds in general (and after watching Apollo Robbins, you might not either), but I especially don’t work well in an environment where you have to initiate lots of surface random connections. That’s just not my style. There are plenty of people who do, who thrive in that sort of social butterfly situation, and for them, attending SXSW isn’t just a good idea, it’s also probably one of their most favorite events of the year.

So no, I won’t be at SXSW this year and haven’t ever been. For those who are going, I hope you have a wonderful time, meet lots of new people, be safe and smart, and enjoy great success from the event. It promises, as always, to be a legendary event.


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Awaken Your Superhero: Hubspot Bold Talks

At this year’s Hubspot Inbound 2013 conference, I had the privilege to share a 12 minute talk on awakening your superhero with the power that sits in the palm of your hand. You have superhero powers. You have opportunities aplenty to change the world around you. Do you have the motivation?

You have the power to change the world. Will you awaken your superhero?


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Build a better marketing tradeshow booth

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Walking around the floors of Dreamforce, I’m constantly astonished at how bad sales and marketing demos still are by many companies. This is supposed to be the era of 1:1 marketing. This is supposed to be the era of customization. Yet far too many marketers are demonstrating products and services with the same kind of mass demonstration.

Walk by the majority of the booths on the conference floor and you’ll experience religious marketing: spray and pray, in which booth staffers shout about the benefits or the features loud enough and hope that it catches the interest of a passerby.

By contrast, the best booths and the best demos all start with a simple question. The sooner you ask this question, the better the experience is for the average trade show attendee.

“What questions can I answer?”

Or, for the particularly bold, “What questions can I answer, or are you just here to grab a piece of tradeshow swag? It’s totally fine if you are, we’re rather proud of ours.” I heard that once or twice and acknowledged the booth staff for their selling skills. By the way, “what questions can I answer” is a better sales question than “do you have any questions”. If you are trying to elicit feedback from someone, you want to make sure to ask questions that do not have a binary yes or no answer.

Finally, the very best trade show pitchers know when to stop. They know when to stop when the prospect is not interested, but more importantly, they know when to stop when you are ready to talk to a salesperson. I had that positive experience yesterday at the Domo dashboarding service booth. I said quite clearly, “I am interested in your solution and want to talk to a salesperson”. The booth employee, whose name I did not catch, didn’t try to force me through a script or a prerecorded demo, she just sent me along to the sales consultants immediately – and that was exactly what I wanted. No fuss, no muss, no hassle.

Building a better tradeshow booth isn’t about the carpet, or the swag, or the flashy demo. Building a better tradeshow booth is about training your staff to do better, to ask better questions, and to recognize different selling situations almost immediately.


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