Image by Scott Beale
The first ever “How To Not Be A Douchebag at SXSW” session went incredibly well! Violet Blue, John Adams, and I led a Core Conversation this year at SXSW Interactive with the hopes that we would raise awareness and help with douchebaggery reduction. We had a full room with mostly newbies, but a few SXSW veterans and even some reformed douchebags showed up. The core conversation was the perfect format and really encouraged discussion and some debate.
You can listen to the talk or download it.
In preparation for this session, I realized that a lot of being a douchebag could be boiled down into three realms:
Douchebags generally act like they are entitled and that the world should stop for them because they are so important. Take a second every now and then to reflect on how you may be acting. Don’t be that self-entitled douchebag arguing with the doorman, “Don’t you know who I am?!” Douchebags also have an “undue sense of accomplishment” that they think entitles them to something even though they’re just riding coattails.
Common sense manners are huge! Please, thank you, don’t cut in line, etc. Oh, and the biggest thing when we’re guests in Austin? TIP! Tip your waitresses, the bar staff, and especially those working open bars. Not only is it nice, you never know when it might come back around and help you out, i.e. quickly getting drinks for that important business client. Treat the volunteers well and thank them for their hard work!
Check your motivation when interacting with people. Are you genuinely interested in them and what they have to say? Or are you just trying to gauge whether or not they are worth your time? According to Google we’ve come up with a new term: “badge surfer”. A badge surfer is someone who is constantly checking people’s badges, even before getting introduced to them to see who they are and what company they work for. It’s fair to check badges later when you may have missed a name or something, but don’t use them as a measurement of whether you should talk to someone.
I think if you keep these three things in mind (EMM), then you can avoid a lot of douchebag behavior at tech conferences like SXSW. But that wasn’t all we covered in the conversation. Some other great points were brought up:
- Douchebags use terms like expert, guru, ninja to describe themselves and have “MAS“
- Douchebags hand out unsolicited business cards before engaging in the conversation with someone. Respect someone’s approach to business cards. Some people love them, some hate them. Also respect that not everyone wants to instantly hand out their contact info.
- Douchebags are allergic to transparency
- Douchebags use their sexuality to sell you a product. (“There’s a thin line between douchebag and booth babe”)
- Don’t game and cheat on social media. In a douchebag move, Adobe had claimed several mayorships on Foursquare at SXSW.
- Douchebags lack empathy. Many rules are meant to be broken, but in a way that doesn’t screw anyone over.
- Know what you’re talking about when trying to pitch your product or service. Admit when you don’t know what someone is talking about.
- A douchebag act doesn’t instantly make you a douchebag. Make an effort to politely call people on douchebag moves, but respect that some douchebags might be beyond saving.
- If you’re going to take a picture or video, ask someone first!
- When asking questions at a panel, don’t pitch your company/service. If you want to promote your own company, do your own panel to share your knowledge.
- Don’t start off with “This may sound redundant” and don’t monopolize the microphone.
- Try not to monopolize people’s time after panels. Make a personal connection and pass on your contact info. Email a panelist after the craziness of SXSW to reconnect.
- It’s acceptable to ask Twitter and friends for invites to parties, but don’t overdo it and spam your followers.
- Don’t anonymously be negative on the backchannel at sessions. If you see chatter on the backchannel that’s not being addressed, stand up and bring it to the panelist’s attention during questions.
- Don’t tweet every other sentence at a session. Highlights are good, but constant chatter is useless.
- Don’t do multiple check-ins at the same place. Don’t connect everything (Foursquare, Gowalla, Twitter, Facebook, etc). Duplicate information cross-posted to multiple services is annoying.
- Don’t tweet at the urinal. Don’t take calls in the stalls.
- Let people know you might be tweeting at a higher rate than normal while at SXSW. In the past TwitterSnooze was handy but they’re down. It looks like Muuter might be a good solution. Other’s have expressed success using lists.
- When trying to get a personal introduction or someone to make a blog post about your stuff, overwhelm them with your passion and recognize that you’re asking someone to use their social capital for you.
- “It’s South By Southwest, not Girls Gone Wild”
- Be careful when talking with someone you’re trying to make a more personal connection with. If you’re asking for contact info they may think it’s for business.
- You can’t have a real date at SXSW. There’s too much going on, people have work and networking to do. Try to grab coffee or lunch.
When we got done discussing douchebaggery we handed out some buttons and stickers. (Big thanks to Snarky McF for making the buttons!) It was great to do this panel on the first day as we got to see all sorts of impact over the rest of the week via Twitter and blog posts:
“Finally, I think I understand not only what a douchebag is, but why douche bags flock to the tech and media scene. I am writing from the blogger lounge at South by Southwest (Interactive) 2010, where people laugh at the pin I’m wearing: “Not a douchebag.” Thanks to a pivotal panel I attended the first day of the conference, I am a proud owner of this pin.” (Read Bernice Imei Hsu’s full post: I Am Not THAT Douche Bag (And Other Related Blurts))
Barry Moltz shared some of the things covered in our session in his post How Not to Be a Douche Bag at a Trade Event
And even Robert Scoble chose a “douchebag” pin when I gave him the choice:
image by Rod Begbie
All in all we had overwhelmingly positive feedback from people and it was brought up several times over the week. I’m considering doing this again next year and would love to hear people’s feedback (both positive and negative) on the session. I know next time I’ll remember to introduce us and what we do (*facepalm*) and will try to keep things more SXSW specific.