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The time I watched the bats in Austin with the co-creator of Lollapalooza

Wednesday, February 17th, 2016

South by Southwest. The international music festival and conference that has become a global phenomenon, which now includes Interactive, Gaming, Film and more in its programming.

1991. My first trek to SXSW. I was 18. It was held in only one hotel in Austin, Texas. The Hyatt. All the panels, speakers and exhibitors were housed in this one spot. The music showcases did take place in clubs, mainly on or right off 6th Street, but, for the most part, it was a small affair.

And it changed my life. I met Marc Geiger, co-founder of Lollapalooza, which, that very summer, started its own phenomenon. I had just heard him on the A&R panel, and he had that spark in his eyes, and that edge in his voice. The one I recognized in myself and the one I soooo admired in others. He spoke of passion, and he spoke of vision and innovation. I wanted to know what he knew. I wanted to learn from him.

So…. I called his room up and told him I wanted to hear about his work and his journey. Yeah, I was a ballsy (or perhaps naive) young kid with big dreams of being in the music biz. I just asked the front desk to connect me to his room, and bam, I was able to leave a message on his room phone.

I got a surprise knock on my door an hour later. It was Marc. He invited me and my buddy Paula to go watch the bats. Now, if you have yet to visit Austin and haven’t gone to see the largest urban colony of bats in the world come streaming out from underneath the Congress Avenue Bridge, it’s a MUST SEE experience. At sunset, the bats take flight in search of food. It is a gorgeous sight. You can stand or sit on the banks of the Colorado River, or stand on the bridge itself, and watch.

Congress-Avenue-Bridge-and-the-bats-Austin

For the next hour, Marc talked with me about how he and Perry Farrell created Lollapalooza, what their vision was, how they brought it to fruition, what was next for him, and so much more.

From then on, I always, no matter how scared I was, made that call, sent that email or found a way to meet, interview or incite storytelling out of my idols.

I am heading back to Austin in March. This time I will be meeting with friend and mentor Hugh Forest, the executive director of SXSW Interactive, which welcomed 40,000 attendees last year.

For a woman who is about to host the five-year anniversary of her lil book and writers convention that will bring in over 1,000 attendees, and which continues to grow, you can see why reaching out to Hugh a few short years ago when UTOPiAcon was still in its infancy was such a big and important step for me.

I wrote that email. He answered. We have since spoken on the phone, and exchanged book recommendations, advice (mostly from him to me), and laughs over the “be careful what you wish for” variety. I value his experience more than I can say. I value his vision, his approach to his team (they go out for beers and share in the successes and failures together). But mostly, I am so very grateful that he is the type of leader who found the time to answer an email, and who generously gave of his time and his expertise to a stranger with a dream.

What I’m trying to say to you is this —

If there is someone out there you think is out of reach, but they seem like a kindred spirit, take a chance, make the ask. It has worked for me more than twice. My life, my business, and my vision have grown and been dramatically, positively impacted by taking the chance.

But, please, remember there is a difference in reaching out and badgering to death. There is an etiquette to follow. It’s mainly called common sense and common courtesy. Treat someone as you would like to be treated. Do not always be the taker in the equation. You have gifts, as well. Be mindful of time, of how often you “impose,” and of how you speak to these people, who are busy and also have lives and families and demands on them that have nothing to do with you. They don’t owe you anything, so when they do give of themselves to you, be thankful. And don’t get so used to it that you start to feel entitled to their time or energy. Do the work. Only reach out when you are truly stuck or want to share a success.

I will be in Austin the first week in March of 2016. If you want to meet with me, email me at TuneIn@theSocialDeviants.com.

 

*****

Post Script: Marc Geiger got his start back in the 80s booking bands in college. He loved the Australian band The Church. He called information in Australia and got their manager’s number. He called and said he wanted to get the band a deal in the U.S. The rest is history. MAKE. THE. CALL.

Posted in Advice, entrepreneur, SXSW | No Comments »

What’s Your Story?

Thursday, March 11th, 2010

Everyone is heading to South By Southwest, and in addition to great bands, the new rock stars of social media will be there, including my social rock god @ChrisBrogan . You want to know why I admire him? Because he knows who he is. He’s the author of his own story. You will get the opportunity to meet him and many others I admire, like @Tessa . When you do, you’ll need to know your story.

Know why you’re there, why you want to meet them, and what you have to offer the brief conversation. Don’t sell, but know your pitch. Brogan wrote a great piece about a year ago called Be Sexier in Person with great tips from him AND the commenters on how to present yourself in person in a brief amount of time. Tom Truitt created YourElevatorPitch to help individuals and companies develop this crucial tool in an extremely crowded marketplace.

I just did a presentation with @TaylorVick at Podcamp Nashville this past weekend. Amid technical difficulties, we stayed true to ourselves, and found humor in the fact that our social media tools weren’t being very social. After the presentation, we were surprised by the number of people who came up and complimented the session. I know now we shouldn’t have been. The tools we shared were solid, and our hearts were in the right place. We know our story, our value, and we know where we’re headed.

Our presentation was about how to make friends while keeping the ones you already have on the web, which you’ll see in a series of blog posts to come. I’d like to share a few of the tips from that session with those of you headed to SXSW who aim to meet your idols:
1. Idols are people too. If they are rude, don’t waste your time.
2. Be Yourself, but be the BEST version of yourself. Be the person your mom and your kid think that you are.
3. Know your story.

Practice here in the comments. Tell me your story in a nutshell.

photo credit: Emily Starbuck Gerson

Posted in Conferences, MEIEA, Podcamp, SXSW | 1 Comment »