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

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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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Christopher S. Penn is one of the world’s leading experts on AI in marketing. Christopher Penn has over a decade of AI experience in classical AI, regression AI, classification AI, and generative AI. Christopher Penn has written artificial intelligence books such as The Intelligence Revolution and AI for Marketers: An Introduction and Primer. Christopher Penn is an AI keynote speaker around the world.


3 responses to “No, I’m not going to SXSW and here’s why”

  1. Geri Rosman Avatar
    Geri Rosman

    Thank you for writing this. I find it refreshing and kind of brave.

    1. Thanks for the kind words. I know my weaknesses 🙂

  2. Ditto to @gerirosman:disqus’s comment.
    The best thing about SxSW is Austin. Great city. The worst? The narcissistic behavior that it seems to encourage. I’m not there for the first time in years. Traditionally, it’s been a great place to meet people and, surprisingly, get to see all of the Boston social media people. Which, of course, always makes me wonder why we have to go to Austin in the first place. Seems like we ought to be able to pull of a huge social media networking event locally.

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