Recently lot of people have asked me how I managed to get a spot speaking at SXSWi and I’ve heard similar questions from people when I have spoken at conferences, universities and workshops. I thought it would be worth talking some about how to get gigs like this especially because the way to do it is basically the same way to get anything you want in life.

I don’t have some secret magic way to get these things. It’s really simple, but most people won’t do the work required. Either they are too lazy, or think they need to more experience, or they think someone is going to ask them once they’ve reached a certain level of notoriety. But if you aren’t getting what you want NOW, your behavior isn’t going to get you there later either. Here’s how I do it:

Short explanation: 1) Identify thing I want. 2) Ask for thing I want…. That’s it. I just ask for stuff all the time. But here’s a longer explanation if that’s not enough for you.


1) Identify the thing you want.

Last year (2011) I met some great people who were in town for SXSWi and I knew that this year I wanted to network and play and go to the cool panels they were speaking at. “In 2012, I’m going to have a badge for SXSWi,” I decided.

2) Identify ways to get what you want.

Method #1 for having the thing I want (a badge for SXSWi) would be to buy a badge. That’s one option, but they are expensive. Are there other options?

Yes. Method #2 would be to speak at SXSWi – because then you get a badge for free. Added bonus of speaking at SXSWi is that it would look great on my list of cool things I’ve done as an expert (or resume, if you prefer).

3) Take actions based on the ways you’ve identified to get what you want.

A very brief bit of googling turned up the official website that explained how to submit a proposal for SXSWi. The deadline was over the summer, so I had some months before it was really time sensitive.

I managed to convince the illustrious Kristin Cerda to be a moderator, and she helped put together an amazing concept for the panel. Then we drafted a list of panelists and she visited their websites and facebook pages and asked them to join me on the panel. Every panelist we asked said yes (who doesn’t want a free badge to SXSWi and to not have to do the work to put the proposal together?). She gathered bios, answered questions and wrote the synopsis of our panel.

We submitted it in Augustish. There was a month where the general public could vote on panels. We started a social media campaign to get our friends to vote.

Then we waited.

In November we saw the first round of panels listed. Ours was not on it. Boo

4) When you fail, analyze WHY so you can fix it for next time AND keep asking for what you want.

So I went back and read some of the stuff I had sort of ignored about what makes a proposal more likely to get selected. For example panels are actually less popular than just one speaker. I also re-read the tips on how to name your panel and I looked through the list of panels that had been accepted to compare ours to theirs.

5) When you win, analyze WHY so you can repeat it next time AND keep asking for what you want.

We found in January that we had been accepted in the second round of selections. That’s awesome! I am still working on picking out the particulars of why we got in (I mean other than that we are awesome), because I want to submit for next year

6) When you win, celebrate!

That part is coming this week at all the badge only parties I’m going to!!!


Share It.