SXSW 2014: A Powerful Week

When I attended & presented at SXSW for the first time in 2013 it was overwhelming due to the sheer size and ‘newness’ of the experience. This year, I felt quite a bit more prepared and that made it an even more powerful event than before.

Hands down my favorite session was Amy Cuddy talking about “Making Yourself Big: How the Body Shapes the Mind” both because she is a dynamic speaker and the topic is absolutely fascinating. In her presentation she talked about the method of using body language to reinforce more confident mindsets. Listening to her was an affirmation of so many things I’ve experienced as a sex educator focusing on power, that the way you hold yourself has a direct effect on how you feel about yourself. Afterwards I went up to thank her for the presentation.

When I mentioned that I had experienced a lot of what she was talking about as a Professional Dominatrix, she laughed and then said “that’s one of the few places women can express their power openly” which was a fantastic response!

I am now going to read up on everything I can from her!

Another presentation I really enjoyed was Blake, the founder of Toms Shoes. I particularly appreciated when he talked about making a mistake that almost cost him the company, one that he felt was so right that he stayed committed to it even when others in the industry told him it was the wrong choice.

As an innovator, it’s hard to know when you should trust your gut and when you should trust the status quo, it’s a fine balance. Knowing that he had experienced that & has since built his company up to be stronger and more diversified is the kind of come-back story a scrappy start-up junkie like myself needs to hear.

On Friday, by the chance meeting of powerhouse Kalli (founder of Startup Chicks) I ended up going to “Non-Tech Women in Tech Startups: Achieving Success” and I’m SO glad I did. Not only is Kalli herself inspiring & ended up being a perfect example of Southby Serendipity, but the discussion happening was a crucial part of my overall take-away from the event.

So many women in that room were facing the same problem, how to be a strong presence in the workplace while fighting the “bitch stigma”.

I stood up & mentioned my presentation happening the following day and that I offered some techniques for dealing with it. Quite a few women ended up attending and gave me really positive feedback.

On Saturday, after 4 months of working, planning, thinking & practicing…it was fantastic to have such a successful delivery of my own presentation. I recognize that my topic had a major ‘salacious’ appeal, in some ways more than any other topic I saw on the itinerary. I know & use that to my full advantage! The room was packed with people even standing in back, many of whom came in for my 15 minute portion which was the last in the hour long block.

 

I don’t mind using the shock value of my journey to get peoples butts in the seats, but my goal is to leave them thinking about more when they walk out the door.

I feel like that was achieved.

One of the weird/interesting/thought-provoking things that happened because of my presentation was a short back-and-forth with Bill Nye the Science Guy. I hadn’t noticed him in the audience, but afterwards when I came off stage to answer questions a woman I’d met came up and said “Bill Nye the Science Guy is here and he wants to talk to you!” Everyone kind of gave way so he could come up first. Of course my first response was feeling thrilled! While I’m not ‘into’ science I certainly know of him & had recently heard my friends all atwitter about his debate with some religious nut. He’s obviously a smart guy and is held in esteem for good reason. I was flattered he attended my session.

credit @jedwhite

So it was a bit baffling when he walked up to ask his question and “So, how much do you cost?” came out. Not in a playful way, not in an I’m just curious way, but in a derogatory, insistent (he asked three more times “but really, like $100 or $1000 an hour”, even after I’d deflected the question with some humor) sort of way. Afterward, the women who witnessed it (that had remained to talk with me) mentioned they were taken aback by his tone. Also interestingly the men who were around when I had the exchange with Bill Nye have all said that they thought he was “just curious” so it was a very gendered experience.  I have a lengthier more dedicated post brewing so I’ll leave it at that for now, but it was a disappointment that such a smart guy could watch an (otherwise described as insightful) presentation and all he can could up with was what kind of seemed like an attempt at money themed slut shaming.

Other than that small blip though, the day had a very positive response & is resulting in quite a catalyst for me personally (also to be expanded upon in another post!). The synergy of all the discussions I had & witnessed, combined with the presentations I enjoyed with the added other recent changes in my life, equals one very bowled over individual (me!) ready to make some transformations.

credit @carolinechapple

Other Southby Serendipity experiences included meeting Caroline. She introduced herself in the Non-Tech Women class, then attended my presentation and we hit it off incredibly well when grabbing some tea on Sunday. During my presentation she did this fabulous ‘visual note-taking’ and now I’m dreaming up ways to work with her in the future! With my ‘gift of gab’ and her talented hands we’d make quite a presentation power duo!

BedPost Confessions also invited me to participate, so Saturday night, already feeling high on presenters buzz, I went over in the drizzly rain (in my full length leather evening wear!) to share a few stories from my past kinky Vegas escapades. Thankfully the lovely hostesses of the night (Julie & Sadie) were willing to let me ‘shoot from the hip’ so to speak in telling my story, and that’s certainly what I did! While it was one of my more meandering stage shows everyone seemed plenty entertained (thank goodness!) and I am honored to have been a part of the energy of that night. It was a fantastic event, after the storytelling I had an absolutely wonderful time drinking champagne, dancing with sexy ladies & sharing in all the good vibes.

Last year I didn’t make it to any of the evening events but this year I managed it a few nights! Even though I brought 6 pairs of high heels with me (can we say Femme?!) the death traps Austin calls sidewalks convinced me to leave on my flats. If you look at my newly minted Instagram account, you’ll see how much shoes play a part in my world! After BedPost Confessions I went with a few friends to a bar that had one of the best live bands I’ve ever seen (name to come!) where I danced the night away. It was the perfect end to an amazing day. Sunday night though I went to something a bit more #hashtag #trendy & witnessed what many are complaining about sxsw, that it’s getting overly corporate. The Mashable party did have free drinks flowing, but the music was lame, the place was packed full of self-important hipsters and there was smoking inside (yuck). But with a fairly quick exit the night was saved just hanging out with a bunch of friends in a room chatting till the wee hours.

At an event like SXSWi there’s never enough hours in the day to get to everything (I didn’t even contemplate trying to do any of the films this year!) so there were quite a few sessions I didn’t make it to. Some had the problem of standing in line for 30 minutes only to be turned away at the door, things are pretty spread out so it’s hard to get to the 2nd choice in time if the 1st choice doesn’t work out. I wish I had gotten to a lot more of the storytelling presentations, there were quite a few (and were most of the ones I couldn’t get into due to space).

But along with that slight tug of regret is a stronger one of fulfillment. This SXSW was exactly what I needed it to be. Inspirational, connected & successful.

I’m already plotting for next year! See you at #SXSW2015

Comments

  1. Mona Darling says:

    Sounds like an amazing time!! Love Amy Cuddy! Sorry about your science guy exchange though. Jerk.

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