Oh hello there….as I sit in my apartment and type this at 4pm on a Wednesday, there are literally thousands of people drinking, smoking, going to parties, going to industry panels and listening to one of 110 bands playing AT THIS MOMENT……40 feet below my feet.
This is called South By South West (SXSW).
It’s a festival/conference that takes over Austin, TX. in a major way every year during March.
100,000+ people visiting in a city of less than 900,000 people adds a certain “crunch” to the system. Not to mention pretty much EVERY ROAD downtown is closed for events, so driving becomes a joke in certain parts.
SXSW is 3 main parts:
Interactive Festival = This where all the nerds from around the world come to talk about technology (my fav). This is where you’ll seen Tim Ferriss or Elon Musk just walking around.
Film Festival = All the movie industry people from around the world geek out about making movies. This is where you’ll see Quentin Tarantino or Steven Spielberg chillin at a party.
Music Festival = This is where every band, musician, and people-who-wanna-see-bands-and-musicians come into town. This is the largest part people-wise. This is where you may see Snoop Dogg or Lady Gaga hanging out.
I happen to live next door to the Austin Convention Center which is the epi-center of all the action…and everything else is within a 4 block radius. AKA…..it gets crazy around here.
With that craziness said, here are my March 2014 goals (which have been interrupted by SXSW so far):
The first part says “SXSW rent place and stay healthy”.
I ALMOST rented by apartment out for over $3,000/night, but tried to ask for a little more. After taking off to Thailand for a while and other work stuff, I listed my apartment almost before the start of SXSW, so the prices plummeted (oh…and there’s also thousands more apt/condos/hotels in downtown Austin this year because of a big building boom here).
So I didn’t rent out my place unfortunately, but I did stay relatively healthy through SXSW! I still worked out, I didn’t eat late night crappy food, I did drink but far less than normal. Overall I stayed reasonably healthy considering the unreasonable amount of free food/liquor shoved in your face for free during SXSW.
A few days before SXSW started I sent out the last 25 NevBox’s I had:
Here’s a bunch of the international ones going out (those are way more expensive and kinda a pain):
I bought a dog shirt:
We had a “Creative Writing Session” from the pool. Here’s Abel from Fat Burning Man (#1 podcast in the world!) working out of my pool:
I knew SXSW was starting when outside my window I saw 4 electric BMW’s being unloaded for promotion (companies spend ABSURD amounts of money to get promotion during SXSW Interactive):
I rented out the guest suites in my building (both on the ground floor), one for my friend, one just to have parties in. One room had 4 big windows on the ground level like this, 1 block away from the convention center:
So this past weekend I attended a conference for financial bloggers called FinCon.
I honestly didn’t know this existed until a friend said he was going. So at the last minute I decided “what the hell” and tried to go.
The idea of a bunch of nerds who blog about their finances online getting together at a conference made me laugh. FREAKIN LOSERS!!
Then I realized I was one of the first people online to publicly list his finances online……
And that my blog is literally named “Neville’s Financial Blog”……….
So I started to make some plans for headed to St. Louis for it, but FinCon was already sold out, and every hotel within 1.5 miles of the conference center was sold out! (apparently the St. Louis Cardinals was in the finals and the stadium was right next to the event).
Fortunately they had a “ticket exchange” and a “roommate exchange” for late stragglers like to me, so I scalped a ticket and found a roommate to split a room with.
Now I’ve actually been to a lot of conferences over the years, and it’s pretty clear the same thing happens each time:
You get a certain amount of value out of the speakers and events, but you get the MOST value from just meeting other people at the conference.
So if Lazy Larry stays home and watches every speech online and takes notes….he’ll come away with some good nuggets of information.
But if Friendly Freddy actually goes to the conference, and even misses a few of the sessions because he’s hungover……he will still get more out of the conference than Lazy Larry because he’s at the conference mingling, making friends, going out to breakfast/lunch/dinner with all the other nerds at the conference and building up a network of like-minded people.
Anyhow……soon after arriving I realized FinCon is the ONLY place where it’s appropriate to walk up to a stranger and ask “Hi, what’s your blog??”
Even more interesting was that you’d usually have heard of the persons blog.
A conversation begins.
Interesting things are shared.
Friends are made.
Enough babbling, here’s some of the trip in pictures:
A selfie of me on the train (I didn’t know St. Louis had a decent train)? I’m jealous.
This was my roommate Romeo, who was more responsible than me and made proper room plans ahead of time!
Pretty quick you meet people you sort of know already through their blogs and make friends:
Billy and Steve…..I’m taking a wild guess they’re probably talking about blogs:
Pat Flynn was such a cool guy. I’d read his stuff before, and it was great hearing him talk and getting to know him better.
The St. Louis Arch. I saw it 20 years ago with my family. The building on the left was the Hyatt where everyone stayed, and the arch was LITERALLY right out the window, a very cool view!
Naturally I took a handstand picture under the Arch:
On Friday night there was a party at the Hilton in this super-awesome rooftop club/restaurant thing they had. It had complete panorama views of the city, the Arch, and overlooked one of the final games for the Cardinals.
It was so cool to hear/see the roar of the crowds from above!
This next picture won’t mean much to anyone else, but I’m including it here so I remember this: Derek Halpern waived his speaking at the conference and instead told them “I’ll speak if you spend all the money on an open-bar closing party.” After that party was done, a group of 30+ people were trying to get cabs to a different place, and logistically it wasn’t working out very well.
Out of the clear blue, a big-ass party bus pulls up, opens the door, and a woman holding a giant can of Budweiser gets out and goes, “Need a ride??”
We all pile in and get a ride to the bar we were trying to go to.
I ASSUMED the woman worked for Budweiser and this was some promotional stunt. Turns out it was a church bus and the driver was just trying to make extra money! It was just one of those funny moments where you think, “That couldn’t have worked out ANY better!”
Then Patt Flynn showed us that he can dance really well….
And then some of us had a fancy-chmancy Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse dinner (get the filet):
And that was FinCon! Sincerely, Neville Medhora
P.S. While I learned a lot from going to the sessions, the main benefits of these conferences comes from making new friends and hearing stories you otherwise wouldn’t just sitting behind a computer.
Now I wish there was some more time for me to hang out in Austin, but this weekend (Oct. 24th – 27th, 2013) I’ll be going to vegas for a small copywriting conference.
It’s going to be between 50 and 80 people, and some of the copywriting legends like John Carlton and Joe Sugarman will be there. THIS is a huge opportunity to hear some of the really big-time guys speak….but more importantly……hang out with them for the whole weekend on a personal level.
I also happen to be taking one person WITH me to the conference for free. If you wanna be that person, register here: (Monday is the last day to enter, I’m picking the winner Tuesday morning)! http://www.kopywritingkourse.com/vegas/
————————————————————– 2nd NOTE: There’s a video at the bottom when you’re done reading
HOW TO CRASH A PARTY:
There was a point in college where I was making money running small businesses on the side, but I wasn’t rolling in piles of money either (plus I was extraordinarily cheap back then too).
At the same time, I’d also find out about all these fancy parties that rich people went to. Well….I wanted to be a rich person one day, so I figured going to these parties and being AROUND other rich people would help.
The problem was these parties were always fundraisers for whatever charity….and that meant you had to buy a ticket that would go to charity. Often times this was $300 or even $1,000+ for ONE ticket!
As a cheap college student, that kind of money made my eyes pop out. There was no way in hell I’d pay that.
In particular, one mentor of mine at the time was the one who knew about all these parties, and had friends that attended them too.
I’d hear all about these parties, and the cool people he’d get to mingle with in casual situations, and I was very envious and wanted to go.
You see…..I would go to all sorts of speeches made by rich & famous people all the time in college…..but since these were public speeches, there were always TONS of other people vying for their attention at the same time. At most you’d get to have a Q&A session with someone, but not much more.
Being able to casually chat with a rich or famous person was WAY more appealing to me. So these parties became a thing of intrigue.
Eventually the same mentor who told me about all these parties tipped me off about a very exclusive private party at the Four Seasons Hotel in Austin….with entertainment by the singer Elton John.
I wasn’t really an Elton John fan at the time…..but I was told A LOT of very wealthy people would be there. I believe the crowd was limited to about 200 people that night….so this was a very exclusive guest list.
Out of the blue, this mentor called me up around 6pm and said, “Wear a tuxedo and get your ass to the Four Seasons right now!!” He would try to see if he could sneak me in.
Even if I was willing to pay the high price of admission….it wouldn’t matter. This was a strictly invite-only affair and there were no tickets simply for sale.
I immediately dropped everything I was doing and started changing into my tux…..oh wait…Non-existent tuxedo!
This was early college, and I still didn’t own any really nice clothes.
I put on a plain black dress shirt and a pair of khaki pants. Both of which were large and baggy on me….and headed over.
The first indication that I didn’t belong at the event was when everyone in their Mercedes and Porsches were being directed to the valet parking area….and I balked at the $7 price and immediately KNEW I wasn’t gonna pay $7 to park!
I self-parked and walked into the hotel nervous as hell.
“What if they kick me out?”
“What if they know I’m not invited?”
“What if they ask me for a ticket?”
…..these thoughts ran through my head. But then I remembered the advice of my mentor…he told me, “Just walk in like you OWN the place, and they won’t say a thing.”
This comforted me a bit….until I got in the hotel, and it was a bunch of tall, older white men with impeccable tuxedos, and a bunch of white women with very expensive gowns and dresses on.
I gulped a bit….because in walks this small Indian kid dressed in un-ironed baggy khakis a plain black shirt.
I looked like the help!
In fact, “the help” was dressed better than I was!!
For a second the striking difference between me and the rest of the crowd made me nervous……but alas I kind of pulled through and said, “FUCK IT. What’s the absolute worst thing that could happen here?? This is just a private party….I’m not breaking into a bank or federal building right? At the ABSOLUTE MOST they’ll ask me to leave.”
I stuck my head up in the air like I was King-Fucking-Charles and charged past the checkin line where everyone was getting their tickets checked and getting their seat numbers.
I pretended I was in a hurry, not worrying about gently shoving people out of the way.
I could see the security guards eyeing me down….but my hurriedness and sheer balls of pushing my way through the crowd made it APPEAR that I belonged!
It worked! No one said a thing!
I realized the security guards were likely getting paid $10 an hour….and if this stupid little kid was someone’s son, or part of Elton John’s crew…or whatever…..they weren’t going to risk physically stopping him.
I WAS IN!
…and I was thrilled.
Now the hard part came. I knew NO ONE. ::gulp::
The tiny guest list ensured that only 200 or so people would be there…and it seemed they ALL knew each other.
Immediately I knew that this would be fly or die…..so I decided to fly….and meet some people so it looked like I wasn’t some loser who crashed a charity event (which of course…I was).
I saw a guy (who was tall, white, and wearing a tuxedo of course) standing alone briefly as he left conversation and I said something along the lines of, “Ahh….it feels good wearing the penguin suit in summer right?”
…..he laughed…..and I immediately started saying, “Yeah, I said screw it this time…it’s too hot!” (referring to my less-than-appropriate attire).
He laughed again….. I then asked, “What line of business are you in?”
I still remember this years later…..he said, “Carpet!”
My lame conversation starter and NOT so-subtle cues that “I totally belonged there” worked!
His business piqued my curiosity and we started having a cool conversation about how he built up a carpeting empire.
Fortunately I ran HouseOfRave.com (a drop shipping company) and a few other small businesses at the time….so I had something to talk about on my end which fascinated him too.
….of course I never let him know exactly how SMALL these companies were :-)
From the conversation he probably thought I was some young tech entrepreneur that made millions in the tech bubble.
That was good at the time….this was my first time hanging with so many high caliber people….I wanted that misunderstanding on my side!
Fake it till you make it baby!
Anyhow….I made sure to get this guys name so I could at least fall back knowing SOMEONE at the party.
I then hit up another person, and another.
After a while, I was walking through the cocktail room saying, “What’s up John! Hey Tim! Did your wife reach yet??”
This was schmoozing at it’s finest! And I’ve gotta say….it worked like a charm.
With all my “friends” there….Anyone viewing from the outside would’ve definitely thought I belonged.
It was also at this party that I discovered a remarkably effective “friend-pickup” technique for these particular types of parties:
The bar line.
You see, at all these charity events the booze is free….and flowing.
Whatever you want, it’s all there, and 100% free.
I guess they do this for two reasons:
Reason 1.) You already pay a pretty penny just to get into these parties.
Reason 2.) They wanna get you nice and tipsy for the upcoming auctions. The drunker you are…the more you spend!
Anyhow…back to the free booze.
Usually at the cocktail hours that’s always before the main event, everyone is lining up for drinks at the bars.
At this party there was always at least 5 to 8 people waiting in line. I would simply stand in line behind someone, and immediately strike up a conversation with the following line, “Oh man a line….I need my booze now. Next time I’m bringing flask!”
They’d laugh and remark about the lines the whole night too. I’d ask them, “So whatchya getting when our number is called?”
….and they’d say something like, “Oh me and my wife always drink Gin & tonic (or whatever)”
….at which point I’d say, “Good choice….you come to these often…I’ve never seen you around?”
Doesn’t matter how lame…the point was staying in conversations!
I’d also make it a VERY strong point to introduce myself quickly after, so I could get their name also.
Also the “what line of business are you in” question would pop up quickly so I’d have something else to know them by.
My bar line trick was very effective….because by default you’ve got a minute or two to spend chatting with this person, and they’re usually not gonna be a complete douche because they’re basically stuck with you.
I was building up my arsenal of friends at the party one-by-one……and then it would SNOWBALL.
For example, I’d be talking to someone named John….when out of the blue he’d see a friend of HIS named Bill.
John will call Bill over and say hello, and then introduce ME to Bill! Now this Bill guy thinks I somehow actually belong….and not to mention I’m talking to a crowd of people who appears to know me, which is always good for the party planners to see so they don’t get suspicious.
Now just shortly after entering the room knowing NOBODY, I’m engrossed in conversations, saying hi to people everywhere and working the room!
Everything was going great until dinner was announced. It was a PACKED house and every seat in the ballroom was taken.
I went around from friend-to-friend to scope out if they had a seat, but all their tables were 100% packed to the limit.
I kind of panicked and left the ballroom. I retreated to the cocktail area and “pretended to be on an important business call”.
Eventually I found some other people hanging out there during dinner and struck up conversations.
A fortunate break was when Elton John started playing in front of the guests, a lot of people got out of their chairs and stood up towards the front for a better view. I was in luck! I simply stood with everyone else and enjoyed pretty much the most mind-blowing performance I’d ever seen.
FYI….I never really cared or knew who Elton John was (other than the Lion King song), but after that day, I’ve been an Elton John fan ever since.
It was just one man and a piano…..and that room was just FILLED with unbelievable music.
ANYHOW….I enjoyed myself, got to see a mind-blowingly great performance….
But more importantly is….I was mingling in a group full of WEALTHY people whom I admired. That was the goal.
Normally I didn’t have access to this kind of environment……but as with a lot of things in life, if you want it bad enough, you have to go out and get it.
Now since this first party, I’ve crashed MANY parties I wasn’t invited to, or just flat out couldn’t afford. Some methods of getting to these parties or events were borderline illegal….no….wait….let me correct that statement….some methods of getting into these parties or events were DEFINTELY illegal.
…and I’ve got criticism for that.
People would say, “All these people are giving to charity…and you’re sneaking in, eating the food, drinking the booze….all for free, at the expense of a CHARITY.”
Hmmm….in that light I really look like a monster.
But I look at it this way:
There’s people at these events I want to be like…..and currently I am NOT like them. In reality, I didn’t have access to those things…..and couldn’t afford to pay the price to get in. But making certain connections, learning certain things from the people there…can HELP me become more successful in the future….and at some point hopefully be able to buy full tables at these events.
But at the time….I couldn’t. So I had to get in some other way.
A lot of people in the beginning of successful careers did things that were not completely legal or ethical…..but it was how they scraped by in the beginning.
In middle school I used to illegally download music and software and burn it onto CD’s for paying customers.
Richard Branson of the Virgin Music empire used to drive a van full of new records back and forth between countries in Europe to avoid paying taxes on them.
The founders of Apple, Steve jobs and Steve Wozniak….made their very first product in 1971….and it was a device that exploited the phone networks and let you illegally place calls for free.
Las Vegas in it’s early days was a hangout for pimps, thugs, prostitutes, drug dealers and mobsters……but over time grew up into a proper tourist attraction.
Often out of the ghettoness and scrappiness, emerges something more refined.
And that was my justification.
Through crashing parties I’ve got to meet people like Lance Armstrong, Michael Dell, Elton John, Andy Roddick, Paul Mitchell and a bunch of other non-famous business people (there’s a list of them at the end of this post).
I’ve also got tons of advice from people at these parties, and learned a lot about various businesses.
But let’s re-focus here….and show how YOU can crash parties too……if you’ve got the balls.
STEP #1.) Finding a party is by far the hardest part.
You have to live in at least in a moderately good sized city. I lived in Austin, TX. this whole time….and honestly I never thought a lot of fancy charity events and parties happened here….but I was really wrong.
The mentor that told me about most of these parties taught me to keep a spreadsheet of all the parties I’d hear about or attend….and usually the parties would happen at the same time every year.
I had about 50 webpages booked marked that I’d go through each week. They were the big charities websites, and I would keep their EVENTS pages book marked and tracked on the spreadsheet.
I’d also read those high society magazines about the Austin area. You can find them at nice spas or rich area grocery stores. They usually have lots of pictures from high profile events in there….and I’d write down the event, so next year I could crash it.
I always had bookmarks of ALL the events pages around Austin…especially the University of Texas speakers that would come in town.
It’s not only high profile events you can crash….but lots of university private things.
A friend once tipped me off that Michael Dell would be speaking at her law school class (apparently his brother taught at the UT Law School for a while). I crashed that and it was an awesome talk.
So step #1 is finding out about parties. Start keeping tabs of what’s going down. It involves doing research every week, but it’s the only way to find out about all this stuff unless you’ve got someone on the inside.
Step #2 to crashing a party is:
BUY A TUXEDO! This one’s for the guys. Girls can usually get away with having a decently nice dress…..but in my experience it’s better to go alone, because the point of these parties is to force yourself to MINGLE. And if you have a date with you, you could get complacent and just hang out together without getting out of your comfort zone.
Anyhow….buy a regular old black tuxedo. It’s always OK to be over-dressed….but you don’t wanna show up to a black-tie event (which means TUXEDO’S for guys), and get turned away due to dress code.
I bought mine at K&G Men’s Warehouse for $150. They’re really not that expensive when you consider it usually will cost at least $300 just to attend one of these events.
If you show up overdressed, you now have your tuxedo as a great conversation starter!
I’d say my tuxedo has paid for itself MANY MANY MANY times over by now!
It’s funny how simply wearing a tuxedo gives you automatic status…..it works so well I find it absolutely hilarious.
One really cool event we crashed was on a FREAKIN MILITARY BASE AT NIGHT. That means you had to drive to this very specific location at night, on a military base…..and even though I didn’t have a ticket…..the fact that I showed up at the exact private location IN A FREAKIN TUXEDO let the people working there know I belonged.
They didn’t even question for a moment. But if I had waltzed in with jeans and a t-shirt, it may have been a different story.
Step # 3 to crashing a party:
Keep old name badges and wristbands from different events. Almost every time when you check in with a ticket, they will give you some sort of identification that you belong.
Almost every time it’s a lanyard you wear around your neck, a namebadge to put on your shirt, or a wristband.
I have a collection of these….and when I go to an event, I bring a bunch of em. I scope out what everyone is getting, and put on the closest thing.
At events that I’ve crashed, it’s almost always a lanyard with a name badge at the end that everyone wear around their necks.
Since I’ve already got a couple of these, I pick the lanyard that looks the closest, wear it around my neck….
And the trick is….
You tuck it under your suit.
This way it appears you’re wearing the lanyard, but they can’t see the badge you’re wearing. By sheer assumption, everyone presumes you’ve just accidentally pulled your suit jacket over the lanyard. Whooopsie ;-)
I would attend entire conferences like this!! Even if the lanyard color was different! They would just presume you had a different type of badge than they did.
Step #4.) Press badges:
In college I had my blog NevBlog.com, and I also published three articles in the University of Texas newspaper (which happens to be the #1 college newspaper in the country)…..so I would sometimes just make up shit and say I was covering the event as press!
This works SURPRISINGLY well.
Think about it, every event likes press coverage….and I was a quote on quote…“member of the press”!
One of the really neat-o things I found out about press access….was that the press almost always has it’s own table at a lot of events! This means you’ll always have a spot for dinner (although it’s better to mingle and sneak in with other people if you get the chance).
You can also sometimes get into exclusive press conferences with press access. At one event I crashed, I got to meet the Prime Minister of Malaysia.
I won’t go into details about that, because the methods used to crash that event were HIGHLY illegal…..but the short of is: I had press access, yadda yadda yadda, got to be in a room with only 25 people, half of which were big-ass security guards, and the Prime Minister of Malaysia giving a press address 5 feet in front of me. I then politely asked one of his assistants if I could take a personal picture with him (I didn’t DARE approach the guy myself with the level of security he had)….and I got the picture!
You can Google Image the term Prime Minister of Malaysia Neville to see the photo!
Step #5 to crashing a party: Do your research at the venue beforehand. Almost always you can find alternative entrances to enter the party.
One time me and a friend had no luck getting through the main entrance of a party at the Hilton Ballroom.
So we went up to the hotel’s 17th floor (randomly). Picked out a room number to lie that we were staying there….then found the service elevators.
We were both in tuxedos.
We went down a few floors, and a maid got on the elevators. We made a joke that our room was close to the elevators and we were too lazy to walk to the real elevators.
She smiles, laughed, and got off a few floors down (I don’t think she understood what we were saying….or cared).
Then the elevator stopped again, and a freakin SECURITY GUARD got on with us. Damn.
The security guard was a young black guy (he actually kind of looked like the singer Usher)….and we immediately laughed and said, “Sorry man, we’re in room 1716 and were just too damn lazy to walk to the regular elevators!”
He responded, “You guys look like a million bucks! Where ya trynna go?”
We told him the big ballroom downstairs, and pretend to play dumb, “Can we just get out on the 4th floor and go there?”
He said “No way…this is the service area, I’ll take you to the ballroom!”
So we all got off on the 4th floor, and the security guard was leading us through a maze of service area halls. We ended up coming out to a back entrance of the ballroom where another security guard was standing at attention. Our security guard said, “These guys are with me” and let us through into the party!!
We were laughing our ASSES off that we first got kicked out of line for having no tickets….now we had our own little police escort INTO the party!!! HA!
This was all thanks to simply knowing the venue a bit before arriving.
Step #6 to crashing a party:
The trick, is to OWN the room.
Before you walk in, literally tell you brain that, “I own this joint….these motherfuckers work for ME.”
The air of confidence (or arrogance) you give off will discourage people from stopping you.
In fact, I’m going to give you my NUMBER ONE NO-FAIL method to getting into a fancy party:
Step #7 – the last-resort-works-every-time-method: If you use all the tips I’ve given you…and couple it with this last one….you’ll DEFINITELY be able to crash almost any party. Here’s how you do it:
Wear your nice tuxedo, bring a plain wine glass (one dollar a piece at Wal-Mart), a cocktail napkin, a cell phone, and a flask with red wine in it.
Right before you walk in the venue, pour some of the wine into the wine glass, and wrap the cocktail napkin around it.
You’re ready to walk in.
Start talking on your cell phone, holding your wine glass and cocktail napkin (so it appears you were already inside)…..now start power walking through the door.
If someone has the balls to stop you and check you for ticket, you just simply SHUSH them as if you’re annoyed (since you’re talking on the phone) ….and you keep on walking!
This has worked for me EVERY SINGLE TIME.
Here’s a brief illustration of how you do it:
Checkout out that “DON’T HASSLE ME BRO” look!
Think about it….the person checking people in is probably making $12 an hour, or is a volunteer…..they don’t want to risk being mean to the “rich person” walking inside in a hurry (who CLEARLY has been inside because he’s holding a half-full wine glass).
The way you look with a wine glass, cell phone, hurried walk and tuxedo attire….is an almost guaranteed admission inside if you pull it off correctly!
SOOOO there ya go. That’s how to find and crash parties.
Most people reading or listening to this will never do this…..it takes a lot of balls and determination to try something like this….but in the end, it was totally worth it.
The people I met, the stories I got, the things I learned, and the pictures I got from these parties were amazing.
I definitely think it was one of those things that’s helped drive me…..and if nothing else, provide some damn interesting stories and fun times :-)
This is Neville Medhora. Goodnight.
Here’s some other posts about parties I crashed:
As you may (or may not) know, I’ve become a semi-famous copywriter in the last 4 months….and this event brings together some of the top marketers (many of whom started by writing sales copy) from around the world.
Naturally I learned a lot stuff in the seminar parts of the conference, but the real value is NOT JUST GETTING TO MEET the greats in an industry….
….but getting to hang out with them in lots of different personal settings.
THAT is where the real value sets in.
I was all excited to meet Joe Sugarman again at this conference, because since I heard of him I’ve:
Read everything by him
Studied his work
Copied the style of some of his work
Used the principles he teaches to make money for myself and others
Watched every YouTube video about him
Downloaded interviews etc….
His work has actually added a major element to the way I work….and it’s exciting to meet a personal hero of yours.
HOWEVER it’s getting to sit next to him on a 45 min bus ride to a restaurant, or go boating with him, hanging out at the pool, or simply sitting next to him at meals and getting to ask stuff you don’t hear about in his work. This is where the networking happens…..because it’s not just “networking”…it’s actually becoming friends with someone.
Allllrriiigghhttyyy…..so here’s some of the highlights of the conference (well….the whole thing was a blast):
Here’s Joe Sugarman up on stage giving a talk:
Me with the great Joe Sugarman (and my Kopy shirt):
The first day of the conference, all 80+ people got on a big boat and went cruising around Lake Travis…complete with full indoor seating area, lunch buffet, three full-time jet skii’s and a wake boarding boat (not a bad day at a “boring conference” right?!):
Hanging out on a boat while Joe Polish goes tubing:
Hahah….Joe had a “tubing war” with a “hefty” Brit…..and judging by this picture I’d say he’s about to win!
We got treated to Joe speaking several times through the conference:
….and of course I got my obligatory picture:
I love all these pictures….but it’s more gratifying to hang out on a personal level with some with some other industry greats (some not so publicly-well-known) like Michael Fishman:
While hanging out at a restaurant by the lake I got a random shot of John Carlton and Joe Sugarman talking…..and with a little cropping and making the picture black & white it looks like they’re total badasses (or they’re asking “Why the fuck are you taking a picture of us?“)
Later on everyone got to hear John Carlton speak. He had a lot of cool ways to come up with a definition of your bid-nazz as well as other advice:
…and of course, the obligatory picture with one of the greats (who was good friends with Gary Halbert….another idol of mine):
The final speaker for the whole conference was Bill Phillips. I honestly don’t know toooo much about Bill other than he’s a HUGGGEEE figure in the fitness industry. I’ve heard this a lot in the past….and could tell everyone was genuinely excited to meet him.
Apparently he just had major surgery on both his knees, and up till last week was confined to a wheel chair. He can now walk a bit….but only with these massive full-leg braces. They kept calling him The Bionic Man :-)
….and what did you expect….a PICTURE with him of course :-)
I also made sure I brought my copy of “Advertising Secrets of the Written Word” by Joe Sugarman to get it signed….here it is!
The reason I sound like a 13 year girl is that next week I’m going to a marketing conference at the Lakeway Marine (here in Austin fortunately, so I don’t have to travel far).
Some of the main draws are the speakers, several whom I already highly admire:
…..to non-marketing people these names won’t ring a bell. But to someone like me….
…it’s like a doctor getting to meet the famous Dr. DeBakey
…or a bicyclist meeting Lance Armstrong
…or a murderer meeting Charles Manson
It’s very exciting :-)
This event after registration, hotel, and extra spending will run about $2,000.
However it’s a really cool conference. I went last year, and they did “sessions” from only 9am till noon. THAT’S IT! The rest of the time is spent yachting around, jet skiing, wakeboarding and mingling (part of the big draw).
3 hours of sessions is about as much as a dummy like me can realistically absorb in one day. Simply packing in 8 hours of sessions would just be a snooze-fest (and when there’s a lake, pool and jet ski’s waiting for you outside….it’s REALLY not cool to spend all day indoors)!
The event is also pretty much invite-only, so there’s no newbies asking you, “Ummmm…so how do I make money online cause I hate my job cause my boss suckss bllahahh blaaahh blaaahhh.” You get to hob-knob with all the big names out there. I believe last year attendance was capped at 85 people.
That’s neat, cause you get to hang out with the big guys in a personal, social settings…..not some massive conference where you can’t really talk to them.
Last time I was there I got to meet Joe Polish and Joseph Sugarman (I didn’t know Sugarman at the time)….. I love this picture:
….after that conference I bought everything I can find written by Joseph Sugarman, and have learned an IMMENSE amount from him.
I’m not sure if many people know, but apparently in the last 4 months or so I’ve become a semi-famous copywriter (thanks much in part to this same conference last year)…..so Joe Sugarman and John Carlton are now heroes of mine.
I made this shirt to take pictures with them:
…it should arrive right before the conference. I have a course coming out soon called KopywritingKourse…..and for some reason like spelling “copy” with a “K”.
I purposely didn’t write “KopywritingKourse.com” on the shirt since I’m looking to blatantly plug my stuff….rather just honor the greats in my own way.
This will be a GREAT time…and hopefully I’ll pull a lot of great connections and notes out of it :-)
If you don’t know what SXSW (South By South West) is…you’re probably not a nerd, film or music person.
It’s also the reason I didn’t release the HouseOfRave Behind The Scenes product earlier…since I got only 1 day of work done in two weeks.
It’s a gigantic festival/conference here in Austin with an economic impact of over $120 million per year….so it’s pretty damn big.
There is one part of the festival called the “Interactive” portion. It essentially means “anything technology related.”
Every year I go to SXSW activities for all the free stuff, but have never bought the badge. This year I bought a $700 badge that’s good for just the Interactive portion
I had such a blast!! …but I also have a bad memory….so in order to remember this experience I’ll document parts of it here:
First of all I had to go pickup my badge for the event. You can always spot a fellow SXSW’er by the large badge around their neck. This badge cost me $675 at the time I bought it:
Since this is the Interactive event, it’s all internet dorks like me…so all the people you follow on Twitter or read their blogs…are most likely at SXSW also.
To illustrate this point, Adam who has a blog called Magical Penny reads my blog. He actually emailed me a few days in advance saying he’d like to meetup. Surely enough, as I’m registering to get my badge (along with THOUSANDS of other people), the guy next to me asks, “Are you Neville?” ….turns out it was Adam!
I randomly get the “Hey-are-you-Neville-I-read-your-blog” thing pretty often, but it was funny that it happened RIGHT as I got there (not gonna lie…it felt a little celebrity-ish) :-)
This was on Thursday before SXSW started.
That same Thursday a good friend of mine who owns Smiley Media was throwing a “little” pre-SXSW party which was part of a long list of “SXSW Pub Crawl” parties. They named the party “The Smiley Media Penthouse Party” which sounded pretty cool compared to the other parties at small bars. Theirs was being held in their 28,000 sq. ft. office at the very top of the Omni hotel in the heart of downtown.
Originally they called it the “Penthouse Party at Smiley Media” but figured that might draw the wrong crowd (aka strippers and douchebags) because of the Penthouse Magazine association.
Somehow this little party went viral from a small Facebook invite they sent out to employees. Soon there were 1,200 RSVP’s and 1,500 people that showed up!
Here’s some of us playing one of those dancing games on the WII at the office:
My friend Michael Cummings took this photo when I was standing by one of the painting at the office….I am:
1.) Wearing glasses for the first time in months
2.) Looking like an Indian IT professional
This is one of the Smiley Media conference rooms called “The Nest”. Their office had this cool time-lapse video made of their build out:
In terms of the sheer number off people who showed up, this was possibly one of the largest SXSW parties behind a few of the REALLY big guys like Microsoft.
The next day SXSW actually started, including all the sessions. There were sometime up to 25 talks going on at THE SAME TIME every hour. It’s sometimes difficult to choose one with that many options. Fortunately a lot of the small ones suck, so that makes it easier.
One of the cool parts about walking around the SXSW Convention Center is randomly meeting REALLY cool people only tech nerds would know. For example, I wouldn’t REALLY care if I got to see and meet Angelina Jolie (although I sure as hell would take a picture to prove it!)…but I was very excited to bump into people like Tony Hsieh, the Zappos.com guy:
You are simply walking around with cool people…..and then when the parties start, EVERYONE there is generally cool, interesting and slightly nerdy (all of which I like).
That was one of the BEST parts of SXSW. Simply turn to the person next to you and introduce yourself….almost every time you’re having a great conversation immediately!
A lot of the sessions were hosted by people who’s blogs I read. For example, Tynan was speaking about how he travels the world without holding down a job…cool to finally see him in person (even though we’ve always had lots of mutual friends we both know really well).
There was sitting room only in the back (and then they wouldn’t let anymore people in because it was too crowded).
Another thing that goes on at the convention center is the SXSW booths where people can advertise their stuff. A lot of big players like Google, Microsoft, Monster etc show up to promote.
There was even that Matthew Lesko guy with the question marks suit on those infomercials I so vividly remember as a kid! I love this picture!
A lot of companies were simply promoting stuff….for example, the new Chevrolet car “The Volt” was being hardcore promoted through the whole convention center. They BY FAR had the absolute coolest “booth attraction” of them all.
They had this giant round rig setup with 30 cameras positioned around it. When they press the button, all the cameras click in unison and take a picture. Here’s mine….but this is only one frame:
Click the image above to see the full 360-degree “Bullet Time” Matrix-style picture!
The rig looked pretty impressive on it’s own…and you stand inside and take a picture. They have all sorts of props you can use, and even if you stand still, the end result still looks EPIC because of the Bullet-Time effect:
Even though there’s parties going on all day, most of the really big parties start happening sometime around or after 6pm. One of the most elaborately decorated (and I’d say by FAR most expensive) parties was the Microsoft Internet Explorer 9 party.
They rented out the ACL Live venue in the W Hotel which can hold upwards of 3,000 people….they DECKED IT OUT and had all sorts of great bands including Passion Pit playing. Open bar the whole time, any drink you want, as much as you want….plus all the cool nerds you can talk to! (actually…pretty much EVERY SXSW party has free open bar…but Microsoft allowed you to get ANYTHING, not just well drinks):
This was the very-surreal setup they had…it was all moving with virtual birds flying around it, it looked INCREDIBLE! This event was actually at fire-capacity, so they weren’t even letting Microsoft employees in. Fortunately we found a route through the W Hotel to go backstage and pop out the front (with some clever name-dropping peppered in of course) ;-)
That 80 foot column thingy was AWESOME looking….two of us hopped on stage right as the band was finishing to get a picture. As expected, we got kicked off immediately :-)
Another noteworthy event was the Nikon and Vimeo party which was held at an abandoned power plant close to downtown. When we got there, the line had several hundred people in it….so of course we pretended like our asses BELONGED there and barged through the VIP entrance.
…it worked beautifully ;-)
They gave us earplugs (we soon found out why) and walked in. We could hear the booming bass from far away. The whole power plant looked awesome from far!
My buddy got a picture at the front:
Mine didn’t turn out quite as well…I look like an obnoxious drunk guy:
Turns I may have been obnoxious for hopping the line…oh yea…and possibly drunk!
P.S. checkout the camera-shirt I was wearing in honor of Nikon! It LOOKS like camera around my neck :-)
Inside the lighting looked AWESOME and music was THUMPING:
The music was so loud they handed out earplugs to everyone that walked in! I don’t know why they just didn’t turn the volume down a little instead…
Anyhow, checkout the sound system, and realize the sound is contained within a giant concrete bunker. THAT’s how loud it was.
Even though I own a rave company, I’ve never been to a rave….THIS might have been the closest thing so far!
In typical SXSW fashion we’d go to great parties with great people all night, then wake up early in the morning to hit up the convention center and speeches.
There’s always all sorts of promotions, free food, free drinks, free swag being given out left and right over there. I even saw my friend Phil Dhingra taking 3D Pictures of people. This one is a stereoscopic 3d image (meaning it’s a 2D image that wiggles to look 3d):
One of the more memorable talks for me was definitely Tim Sykes and Andrew Warners speech about “Building a Tribe”. I think they BOTH had much better topics to speak about, but the SXSW people only wanted some certain yadda yadda….
Anyhow, I met Tim up earlier in the week, and he wanted to do his whole speech dressed as a Jewish Indian…or as he called it, a “Jindian”
I think he wanted to be “the cheapest combination of people possible” or a Jew + Programmer….some ridiculous thing like that you’d except out of Tim :-)
He brought some fake Hasidic Jew hair curls and hat, and I brought him a full Indian kurtha to wear:
Immediately offended or pissed off the more conservative people in the crowd.
Looked pretty ridiculous.
Made the talk a hell of a lot more entertaining!
The speech was great, and Tim’s crazy and brutally honest style played well off Andrew’s more conservative and genuine style. After the speech Andrew said, “Since Tim keeps bragging about how much money he makes, let’s go to the lobby and get drinks on his tab!”
About 15 or 20 people came and all had drinks on Tim and Andrew (this venue was slightly further than the SXSW convention area…so no free bars here).
I’d already met Tim, but never Andrew.
Andrew Warner runs a pretty big (and growing fast) website called Mixergy.com. I personally watch all the business interviews he does with successful people….quite often actually. They’re GREAT inspiration and he’s a kick ass interviewer.
I completely forgot to get a picture with him, so I’ll just post a picture of my friend with him:
actually….screw that! I want a picture with him, so here’s me and Andrew Warner (well, at least my Facebook profile picture) ;-)
And finally here’s Andrew and Tim with one of their adoring fans lovingly staring at them (both of them actually have really sizable followings):
I forgot to mention that for about 6 full days I didn’t pay for ANYTHING.
There are so many people during SXSW Interactive that want to give you FREE music, FREE drinks, FREE parties, FREE shirts, FREE swag, FREE this, FREE that, FREE samples…it’s insane! …and I took full advantage of it.
I’d eat breakfast at the convention center because some booths had free food. I’d have free lunch because sponsors were giving away BBQ and other stuff left and right. Alcohol? There’s PLENTY of parties (about 30 each night) that will gladly load you up for free.
Speaking of free…I saw a very clever form of advertising that someone thought of. Remember that Car2Go Austin service I spoke about a little while ago? You can just pick up any car and…well…GO! The maximum they can charge you per day is $65, you can park in any parking spot even if it’s metered.
So some clever person decided to rent a bunch of them, park them in highly-trafficked-by-SXSW’ers areas and slap advertising all over them. BRILLIANT!
The company was HeyWire…I think it’s an app or something, no idea, but it was a GREAT idea. Unfortunately I have only one picture of the car, and it’s being blocked by two jackasses John and Tarun pretending to arrest each other or something:
You can see the big sticker over the door and the QR code sticker. I’ll let them slide because those two also happen to own the largest iPhone app development company in the nation.
So now there’s a very big SHIFT that happens. Towards the end of SXSW Interactive, the MUSIC part starts. In fact, my friend told me this:
“There’s an iconic scene every March 15th when hoards of sleep-deprived and physically exhausted nerds start leaving the Hilton (closest hotel to the convention center) and a bunch of pimped-out cool-looking people with mohawks, chains and shiny shirts start coming in…READY to party.”
It’s a perfect demonstration of what’s happening!
SXSW is still going on, but all the cool nerds I love hanging out with start leaving, and all these grungy/cooler-than-me musician types start showing up from every country on the planet.
The music part gets Austin into an even crazier state. Almost all roads anywhere near the center of Downtown get closed, full of traffic and tens of thousands of people who are NOT at SXSW start showing up to enjoy all the free music.
It’s great for the city, and quite a sight to see….although the crowds would suck if you were driving, thankfully I have a scooter and bicycle (and I live 3 blocks away) :-)
6th Street (Austin’s main party area) turns very grungy and hipster-ish…and it’s pretty significant. The people watching during SXSW Music is incredible! You see all types of freaks everywhere! It’s great!
Anyhow, if you can’t beat em, join em….so we started going to a lot of SXSW Music stuff (after a day of recovery from Interactive). Exactly 30 steps from my door is the French Ligation Museum Grounds which had a constant massive party with free music, so outside my window (where I’m typing this right now) was a constant stream of people walking by.
Then the famous “Fader Fort” started, which is this giant tent city that gets built in a field only 3 blocks from my apartment. We walked or scootered there nearly everyday. They have free music, free drinks, free snacks, free arcade games and all sorts of fun little things.
I noticed inside it said, “Guitar Tune Ups” and two guys fixing guitars. Presuming everything is FREE at SXSW, I inquired who they were fixing guitars for. Their reply:
I thought this was so cool! You bring in any of your guitars and they’ll re-string, fix-up, polish and tune-up the thing for FREE!
They had a little “lounge” area you can just pickup guitars and jam:
I live just a few blocks away, so I scootered back home, strapped on my bass guitar (which is an old and no-name-brand cheapo guitar) and had them fix it up:
The threw away all my old strings, polished the HELL out of the neck and tune-up the electronics. He even replaced one of my janky-ass tuning pegs!
They really went to town…and I thought it was such a cool service. Great job @GuitarCenter !
Funny side story:
As I was waiting for my bass to be finished up, I was playing some bass guitar on a REAL bass amp they had laying down. It was the first time I’d played bass on such a powerful amp…it felt like a different instrument compared to my baby-amp I use at home.
Another guy next to me strapped on a guitar and started improvising something in an E7 scale (which I happen to know), so I started backing him up. Then someone else kicked in on the guitar, and before you know it we were playing in our own little “band”. Then people standing outside started gathering around like we were playing a set!
My brother was over during SXSW and me and him were practicing for our upcoming performance together at a friends wedding. After some drinks and other friends coming over, we decided to have our very own SXSW Music performance and form a little “band” on our balcony.
I remember it being pretty crowded on our balcony with all the instruments, amps and people, so my roommate was hanging out like a cat on the railing:
Then we got the idea to take this awesome color changing light bar from HouseOfRave that I bought and put it outside…to all the people walking by it looked like a real concert (except on a balcony) :-)
That was actually a BLAST!
Then the very next day when I woke up, I thought my roommate was playing music in the morning. No big deal since I could barely hear it, but then I walked in the living room and noticed out my desk window THIS:
Even though there’s the French Ligation 30 steps away, there was an even CLOSER band playing 5 steps out my window!
Apparently it was a band where all the members live in our apartment complex, so some of hopped outside and started watching them….with drinks in hand of course..it’s not like I had to drive home :-)
It was a great start to the morning hanging out in the road with all our fellow apartment people watching a good band on a beautiful day over an AWESOME backdrop! Plus people brought their dogs out to play also:
Hahaha, that’s one photogenic Pomeranian!
During the band changes (there were FOUR bands playing outside my door) we would hop on the instruments and play until the bands kicked us off. Here’s a cool shot of my brother playing the drums (yes, his hair is “slightly” longer than mine):
This unexpected band was the PERFECT way to end the absolutely craziness known as SXSW.
So people who aren’t familiar with SXSW have asked me if I’ll buy an Interactive badge again next year. The answer is:
I saw Herb Kelleher the founder of Southwest Airlines speak again on the University of Texas campus, this time in front of a huge audience of around 800 people.
If you recall, Herb is the completely out-of-the-ordinary chairman of a very out-of-the-ordinary airline. The last time I saw him I pre-empted taking a funny picture with him with his favorite things: Wild Turkey Whiskey and cigarettes!
Ended up getting this picture with him last time:
He was a great sport about it, and I thought it was a hilarious and completely unique picture! This time for the photo I tried upping the ante and taking a funnier picture, but it was hard to top the last one. I tried dressing like an airline pilot (using a black suit and an old hat) but it didn’t work so well….it basically looked like I was wearing a black suit and old hat. So instead I got this picture with him:
If you look closely at the enlarged picture you can see he kept the cigar tube on so he didn’t have to put his mouth on the cigar and waste it. He smokes like crazy, but not cigars apparently (Last time I saw him he smoked about 7 cigarettes in one sitting)!
He spoke predominately on the extreme importance of a good company culture, and unfortunately didn’t show the absolutely hilarious “Malice In Dallas” video like the last appearance I caught.
Incidentally the Southwest Airlines Archives JUST posted a short YouTube clip of the Malice In Dallas video (I’m actually quite surprised it’s not fully up on YouTube already):
It’s crazy how precisely the companys attitude reflects its leader. What he seemed to be most proud of was keeping a fun company culture despite being such a large company (something most of his peers said couldn’t be done).
I attend tons of events, networking parties and all that jazz, one thing in common is coming back with a pocket full of business cards.
Some are big, some are small, some are normal, some are fancy. By and large, it doesn’t make a single bit of difference what your business card looks like. I have never once decided to contact some someone back based solely on their business card.
In fact, most of the very successful people I meet have exceedingly simple business cards. Name, contact info and maybe a company logo. Nothing ornate because it doesn’t matter.
What my business card looks like (except a different email address, this was an old photo and I was too lazy to take a new one).
The funny thing is, usually the people with brand new companies which aren’t even making money generally have the coolest/most expensive business cards. I interpret that as a very ominous sign.
Not all cool business cards are bad though. If you’re making good money with the company, then sure, go nuts, although it’ll unlikely make any difference. I like some business card designs that tie into their industry, like some of these which would be great for tradeshows….but for most occasions, a standard personal business card would do fine.
If you’re actually of any interest to a person, it doesn’t matter if your contact info is written on a napkin, they’ll get back to you. If you’re relying on a cool business card to get you a call back, then you’ve probably got some work to do on yourself.
Just remember: You are making the impression, not the business card.
———————————– Random: ———————————–
In 2007 I bought several hundred business cards with a 2007 yearly calendar on the back thinking it would be a good idea. It wasn’t. Now in 2008 I still hand out those business cards and mention, “…and on the back you have a nice 2007 calendar!” which always gets a laugh! However a more timeless card would’ve been preferable.
VistaPrint.com has really cheap and easily designable business cards.
I keep about 3 business cards in my wallet at all times, it really comes in handy.
Sometimes at events I get a person who introduces themselves and nearly immediately hands me a business card *cough* real estate agents *cough* …these generally go immediately into the garbage. Only trade cards if there’s at least a small possibility of you two connecting again.
Even if you don’t have a business, a personal business card with your name, email and phone number would be nice to carry.
I don’t like glossy business cards, you can’t write on them.
It’s helpful when you get home to write interesting information about the person directly on the business card in case you forget. This has helped me several times.
Generally when I get home, I checkout the websites listed on the business cards I get.
You know, I wasn’t quite sure how to write this particular post. Originally I wanted to do a post called “What Would I Do If Google Disappeared?” in which I would describe the various facets of life that Google directly affects my life.
Then recently I wanted to write a post about my trip to the GooglePlex in Mountain View, CA. I just had to see it since I’ve heard so much about it…almost built up to mythical status in my head.
Both ideas seemed good, so I think I’ll just roll them both into one big Google-y posting:
WHAT WOULD I DO IF GOOGLE DISAPPEARED? All the ways I use Google in life.
Boom. Something big happens and every Google service I currently use is gone. The best way for me to think of every Google service I use it by taking it step by step.
DAY TO DAY: I wake up every day, and the first thing I do now is NOT go into the home office like I used to, but stay in bed and grab my iPhone. Almost immediately all my email from several different accounts are downloaded. Two of them utilizing Gmail.
So my day starts off without any spam mail whatsoever, thanks to Google Gmail. I later get up, then start my desktop and laptop…both of them have Google Desktop installed (which I use constantly), and then I soon after load up my internet browser, which is 50% of the time Google Chrome. The other 50% of my surfing is done on Internet Explorer since Chrome is so new and still has a few tiny bugs, but even my Internet Explorer has the lovely Google Toolbar installed on it.
BUSINESS RELATED: I update invoices and many documents through Google Docs which is great. Many times a day I search the internet for something. The search engine I use? Take a guess…
Even though my business email addresses all have their own domains, all the mail is relayed through Gmail servers to filter out the spam.
When I look up videos or host my own product demonstration videos, of course I use YouTube which is owned by Google.
When I look at the analytics for my businesses, guess which service I use? Google Analytics. It’s by far the best website analytics service around, and it’s free.
For making money off websites I use Google Adsense.
For advertising my own products I use Google Adwords.
For accepting money on websites I use Google Checkout in addition to my merchant account.
For HouseOfRave searching, the site uses Google Sitesearch.
…and finally, as I type these very words into my internet browser, I’m using Blogger….ALSO owned by Google!
I’m sure there’s lots of different ways that Google affects my personal and business life that I forgot to mention, but I digress to continue to my next subject:
MY TRIP TO THE GOOGLEPLEX: WOW, so Google plays a hand in almost everything I do. There’s many other companies that do this: Microsoft, AT&T, Johnson & Johnson and the list of big companies goes on…but Google is the most visible character I play with.
Myself and many others continue welcoming Google into our lives because they keep simplifying things for us, making things better and providing great tools.
Now where is all this stuff made, and how do they continue banging out such cool stuff at such breakneck speed? Well, I’m pretty sure my visit to the GooglePlex shed some light on that.
QUICK DISCLAIMER: Google, if I offend you in any way I apologize in advance. I don’t think anything I’m posting here is confidential or intrusive to Google. I might have gotten a few security gaurds on my case telling me to put the camera away, and I always obeyed, but here are the pics I have. Considering the above list of ways I use your services, you probably know EVERYTHING about me, which makes you sort of like God. Please don’t smite me.
Now keep in mind I have pretty much zero experience working for a big company, so I’m not too familiar with how workspaces are setup, but from what I know, Google seems to be on the cooler end.
I quickly realized why they call it the GooglePlex. It’s BIG. Each building isn’t particularly massive, but it’s definitely a large network of separate buildings (hence the ‘plex’). In the relatively small city of Mountain View, CA., Google’s offices hold roughly 15,000+ people and is still growing. It occupies 47 buildings.
At first I thought I was driving through a large business park, but quickly realized that every building I was passing had a Google sign. Some are buildings that existed previously, some were just recently built for Google, and more are in construction, but they’re all Google’s.
So walking through a typical building might look something like this:
Very nice, serene landscaping coupled with the beautiful year-round weather of Mountain View makes a nice combination.
But for the most part, the main attraction at Google is the food. From what I’ve read, I had this weird impression the Google cafeteria would be some crazy Willy Wonka-like wonderland with chefs sliding down poles and food being tossed into your plate by Oompa Loompas, but it was a little different.
Have you ever been to Las Vegas and eaten at one of those expensive buffets at a nice casino? It was kind of like that.
So the entrance to the main cafeteria building looked like this, with lots of people opting to eat outside:
I personally don’t like buffets too much because there’s just WAY too much stuff to eat. However there’s something to please EVERYONE at Google!
Google provides free breakfast, free lunch, free dinner and free snacks to all their employees…and they’re welcome to bring guests and family often as they wish. Many Googlers feel absolutely no need to eat anywhere else.
They have every type of cuisine you can imagine, and hire some of the best chefs around. From the main buffet area here’s what I chose:
I eat weird things at buffets, and wasn’t particularly hungry, so don’t judge the quality of the food by my diet.
What’s also cool is they have 19 other cafeteria locations, each with a theme. One of them is called ‘Seven’ or something like that….and it serves only foods made from the 7 original food groups. Near the main cafeteria there’s also a fruit smoothie bar that makes smoothies only from fresh fruits, vegetables and other stuff that was harvested practically yesterday.
There was a woman in one of the ancillary cafeterias I saw whose sole job was to grind wheatgrass into juice. It takes a huge amount of wheatgrass to make a little juice, and she puts this concentrated juice (which is supposedly full of stuff that’ll make you healthy) into a shot glass, then puts the shotglass in crushed ice. There’s roughly 20-30 shotglasses on ice full of ice-chilled wheatgrass juice which you can just walk by and drink. As for drinking pure, crushed wheatgrass….it honestly didn’t taste that bad.
Here’s me chillin’ with my Gmeal:
Another cool thing is many of the herbs, fruits and veggies used to make the food are grown on site at Google. In the same outdoor area where people sit to eat, the food is being grown. Fresh food AND locally grown…hard to complain.
Walking along one of the main buildings there was a full scale tyrannosaurus rex, one of the many pieces of funky art dotting the landscape:
Right alongside this garden were meeting rooms. Here’s an actual Google meeting taking place (with the T-Rex in the reflection):
So after taking pictures of a meeting room, I think I got a few uneasy stares and had to chill out with the camera action. In fact while indoors I wasn’t supposed to be taking any pictures at all (hence the lack of the cafeteria pictures).
This was one of the outdoor concourses of the main building. Pretty funky architecture:
Now you see that bike the guy is riding in the above picture? Well there’s hundreds of those around the GooglePlex that anyone can use. Lets say you need to go from building 25 to the building 40…well that’s a long walk. However simply walk outside the building, and you’re bound to see a fleet of these bikes just randomly parked around. Grab one and go!
I thought it was pretty fun just grabbing a bike and going, then not having to worry about securing it to a bike rack…just leave it and go, ready for the next person. By the way, I actually got in trouble for taking the above picture on the bike.
Here’s a bad picture of the visitors center:
On the walls they have several monitors projecting live Google searches from around the world. The monitors quickly scrolled keywords, maybe 1 or 2 per second. From what I understand, they’re filtered for profanity, or else it’d be a very offensive visitors center!
And finally here’s the picture I call my “SEO Picture.” Search optimization at its best, literally on top of Google!
So that was my Google trip. This was one of the first corporate environments I’ve ever stepped in (besides Take Your Kid To Work Day), and I must say one thing:
It reminded me of college.
It was a bunch of smart, young people working hard on projects, riding bikes around, working and playing in the same area and everyone lives close by and you don’t necessarily have to show up every day.
There are however some subtle differences such as you get PAID to be here, they provide everything for you completey free (gym, personal trainers, haircuts, car washing, dry cleaning, good food etc) and everyone is slightly older (but not by much).
From what I understand, this single Google location blows through $1,000,000/week on food alone. That number doesn’t include all the other amenities they provide. But considering the company brings in a billion and half dollars per month, that figure isn’t so crazy.
I definitely see why people would want to work here, and how they attract some of the best talent around. So I guess attracting top talent and keeping them very happy has definitely helped Google become such a strong, global force so quickly.
The only problem I found with Google: …was parking. I find it ironic that I can find the entire text of Moby Dick using Google in half a second, but it takes me 15 minutes to search for a parking spot. Ha! Perhaps they’ll find a solution for that too (update: I’ve been informed they offer free valet parking at buildings 40, 41, 42 and 43)!
Kind of last minute I heard that Bill Gates was delivering a speech at the University of Texas campus to a crowd of only computer science students. I’ve already seen Steve Ballmer speak, so now I wanted to see Gates.
Problem was only current computer science students had admission to this speech, which is bad since I’m neither a computer science major nor a student….but there’s ALWAYS a way around those little rules.
A little recon showed the admission “ticket” was simply an inch wide, hot pink wristband that CS students stood in line for hours to get. They were making this almost TOO easy! After a quick trip to Office Max for some different shades of pink paper and double-stick tape, I was going to cut the paper to an inch wide and double-tape the ends to make a bracelet. However I quickly realized that two standard-sized wristbands put together looked like the real thing. Even easier.
So a strip of scotch tape plus two hot pink wristbands and voila…
…instant fake Bill Gates admission pass!
So I walk in the Texas Union Ballroom, flash the wristband and they let me in. It was a packed house, and I literally had to sit in the LAST seat at the very back.
One of the first things he did was show the (very well done) “Bill Gates’ Last Day at Microsoft” video that’s supposed to be a spoof of “The Office” ….in case you haven’t seen it:
He then gave his speech which was mostly about how software and philanthropy can help each other, it was pretty interesting stuff.
Some stuff I found interesting:
He was actually a really charismatic and good speaker. I was pleasantly surprised by this.
Instead of water at the podium, he drank a Diet Coke.
He never bashed Apple or Google, and in fact spoke very highly of both.
So of course I wanted a picture with him, unfortunately since this was so last minute I didn’t have a great plan to get one. As the richest man in the world, he is probably also the most bothered man in the world, so I knew his security would be really high, and since the Obama/Clinton debate was taking place at UT the following day, the whole campus was on high alert already.
So after the speech I went around the back of the Texas Union where the VIP’s leave from, and spotted his entourage. There were two vehicles which looked associated with him: one red Cadillac Escalade and one black Chevy Tahoe.
Three “normal” looking guys were standing around these cars which were obviously positioned for a quick escape out of the building. The guys were obviously his security detail…all looked tough but were dressed to blend in the crowd. It didn’t quite work, since it was three strong guys dressed in similar, gray North Face jackets. There were also several police officers positioned by the doors where he would exit from. I tried casually walking through the doors several times just to push my luck but was stopped each time.
It was funny because one of Gates’ guards looked a lot like Tim Ferris!
Once his security guys got the word Gates was leaving, they re-positioned the red Escalade right against the stairwell and opened the doors. Right then, Gates and two other guys walked down the stairs together as his security guys stood in a flanked position to block any access to him. I was about 10 feet away from Bill Gates when one of the security guys (who I was chatting up earlier) stopped me. I asked, “Is there any way I could get a quick picture,” to which he replied, “Sorry man, not today.” By the time he finished his sentence, Gates and the two other men hopped in the backseat of the Escalade.
Two of the security guys jumped in the front driver and passenger seats and drove off with the third security guy trailing them in the black Tahoe. Judging by the tires, windows and side-profile of the opened doors, none of the SUV’s looked armored.
I snapped this quick picture right as they were leaving. That’s Bill Gates sitting by that window (can’t really see him through the tint).