I recently fell victim to FOMO. You know — “Fear Of Missing Out.” The anxiety that an exciting or intriguing event is happening elsewhere. This recently occured for me at SXSW Interactive. This wasn’t the first time I’ve experienced FOMO, however, this was the first time I’ve experienced repeated blows of FOMO within a short time period. These series of events all transpired within close proximity over the course of five days.
SXSW began in 1987 and has notoriously become an annual right of passage in Austin, TX to take part in film, interactive tech and music festivals. The line-up of speakers and events at gorgeous venues makes SXSW much more special than just your run-of-the-mill conference. I, along with 72,000 other attendees, came to uncover new trends, engage with entrepreneurs and experience new technology. But attending everything I wanted to wasn’t easy — it was actually impossible.
It grew harder to stay focused. Herds of techies heading toward the convention center, a line down the block at the Gatorade Fuel Lab, the smell of delicious food from street vendors and raucus noises from the Four Seasons patio could send almost anyone into sensory overload. I’d constantly find myself going off script and walking into venue after venue. I also grew exhausted by seeing posts on social media and websites about incredible panels I wasn’t able to attend because of another interesting panel I was already sitting in. These were panels right across the hall from each other! I felt vulnerable and unproductive.
“Vulnerability is not weakness.” — Dr. Brené Brown, SXSW Keynote Speaker
I gradually learned that SXSW is as much about managing FOMO as it is about immersion in innovation. Making the most of everything, forgeting about a pre-planned agenda and just living in the present can lead you to just as many positive interactions. I wound up at an amazing VR showcase across town by introducing myself to a random person on the street corner. I generated leads at a bar because someone indentified the shirt I was wearing. People, whom I’ve never met, genuinely wanted to learn more about what I did and how they could help. I’m not sure where else this could happen. When you show up to a venue and introduce yourself, you are delivering an opportunity to create collaboration. You allow yourself to open many more doors than just pushing a service or product.
This was my first journey to SXSW and I look forward to returning every March. I connected with a lot of talented entrepreneurs, absorbed best practices from other accelerators and met companies I wouldn’t have met in my own backyard. (It’s kind of incredible that I traveled all the way to Austin to meet influencers that work down the street from me.) Although I would’ve liked to attend more events than I did, it’s still better than missing the whole festival. The chance to see more is already tugging at me to go back. That’s the genius of SXSW — FOMO.