A Few Takeaways from SXSWi 2016

SXSW Interactive 2016 was a whirlwind and I’m worn out! Between jumping from great session to great session, hitting some fantastic events, and being completely bombarded with branding and marketing at every turn, I have a few valuable takeaways that I want to share.

Schedule and get to your top sessions early…I’m talking an hour (or more) early.

As SXSWi continues to grow, the session attendance does as well. This year, it was out of control.  Many panel sessions had standing room only, as well as lines out the door, with attendees waiting to get in.  The main keynote speaker sessions had lines that began 2 hours before the session started, and without guarantee of entry. It would be awesome if SXSW would develop some sort of organization in schedule planning before next year, so they would know if a session is going to be super popular or not.  That way they would be able to choose an appropriate sized room for the crowd, but so far, we’re not that lucky, so just plan to get to your top sessions super early.



Communication has become very digital focused – it’s time to go back to some of the basics of…marketing.

One of the first sessions of SXSW2016 that I attended talked about how the most clever communications are handmade. While that might sound like a “duh” statement, it really got me thinking. When I receive a handwritten note in the mail, you can bet I open it – curiosity gets me every time. And, moreover, I actually remember what the note says and it typically makes a much stronger impact than any email I read.

The point is not to say (to sales and marketing folks) that all communication needs to be handwritten, but rather, to invest in handwritten communication when it makes sense – when you want a greater impact.

Holacracy can work, but it can also turn into hola…crazy without the proper execution.


John Bunch from Zappos and Jason Stirman from Medium (who helped implement Holacracy while at Medium) shared stories from the trenches of working in a “bossless” system. (FYI: Medium decided to abandon holacracy recently and Jason Stirman now runs a new startup, Lucid, which chose not to implement holacracy). They covered some key things to know about holacracy like the fact that it’s not truly a “bossless” system –titles like “manager” aren’t prevalent but there ARE clear leaders responsible for leading people and getting things done.

It was recommended to implement small pieces of a holacracy system at time.  “The holacracy constitution” is a 40-page pdf that contains the Holacracy legalese.  This document can be difficult to understand but even more difficult to implement, if attempted all at once. One of the more difficult parts of holacracy, as stated by John Bunch, is allocating time. Without bosses, or a structured leadership team, telling you how to prioritize what needs to be done, it becomes difficult to decide what priorities get your attention. Zappos created an internal tool to help them address this difficulty, but it’s not clear how much it positively impacted the issue.

Overall, I think in the right company, holacracy (or parts of it) could work very well, but it’s definitely not for everyone or every company.

SXSW 2016 was a great time for Eureka Software – we all had some fantastic takeaways (and recommendations, of course, that would make it even better next year!) and look forward to beginning the planning process for SXSW 2017 very soon!