The 2019 XOXO Festival was last week, and I’ve been chewing on it since then. I wouldn’t say I’m done thinking about it, but it’s time to start putting some thoughts into words.Continue reading “XOXO 2019”
So, you just attended an event that was revelatory and cathartic and emotional, and now you’re a jumbled up pile of feelings and thoughts and have no idea where to even begin. You had these amazing experiences and conversations and you’re feeling excited and drained all at the same time. What do you do? Here’s some gentle suggestions:
- Give yourself time. (But not too much time.) There’s a lot your subconscious is still figuring out, and it’s okay to give yourself the time, space, and permission to let things process. That said, if you take too much time, the mental thread gets lost, and the energy wanes. Give yourself a week to regain your bearings.
- Actively process. Meditate, journal, discuss with a trusted friend. Think about what about the experience felt revelatory and energizing, and what you can do to extend and act on that feeling. Give your subconscious a leg up by being active about how you process it all.
- Keep in touch. You met amazing people and had amazing conversations. Keep those conversations going. Reach out. It takes effort to keep communication going (especially when shifting mediums like from in person at an event to online), but this is how you form community, and how you’ll keep that energy for your New Idea™.
- Write down your ideas. Your mind is running a mile a minute right now, and there’s all the people to talk to and all the things to do, and so many new ideas and new projects. That’s great! Write it all down while it’s fresh. A lot of the bigger ideas are going to take more time and energy than this hyperactive sugar-rush of feelings will sustain, so write it down. Process your feelings, then come back to the idea when you’re able to sit down and think about how to actually get from Point A to Point B.
- Cherish the moment. Even if you go to the same event again, you won’t necessarily have that same energizing experience, and even if you do, these sorts of events tend to be only once or twice a year. So savor it while you’re in it, and try to remember that feeling six months down the line, when you’re feeling stymied or blocked. (Keeping in touch with others helps remember this feeling, too!)
- Forgive yourself. At the end of the day, when the event is all over, it’s easy to feel like you could be doing more or should have done more, or have your impostor syndrome come back and double down. (And, worse, when the event rolls around again next year, you can find yourself discounting the work you’ve done, and thinking about all the things you wanted to do after the last time.) It’s okay. You had the experience you had, and it’s going to be a different experience than anyone else had. Some people maybe even had a similar experience, but come off more eloquently when they talk about it, and you feel like you should have had something more. But they’re not you, and while it can be useful to think about things you’d like to do differently, don’t dwell on it.
These are things I’ve found useful to remind myself when in these sorts of experiences. I hope it helps.
The 2016 XOXO Festival just wrapped, and I’m still processing it all. This post may be a bit long, fair warning. Continue reading “XOXO, XOXO”
While I’m not making it to the talks, I’m still super excited to be attending XOXO this year. (And yes, this means I’ll be in Portland this weekend if you want to come say hi!)
As a follow-up to last week’s post about the XOXO Festival, it’s worth noting that a few days later, they officially announced the next one. Tickets are not yet on sale — it’s more of a “Save the Date” card at the moment — but do keep an eye out. Wicked good event, well worth attending.
It’s been a few months since the XOXO Festival happened, and it’s been written about to great effect in a number of places. The recordings of the talks are now up and available to the public, even. All of this means that it’s probably time I sit down and share my own thoughts about it, as well.
A little background: the XOXO Festival was a conference conceived of and planned by Andy Baio and Andy McMillan, funded through a Kickstarter drive, targeting creators and makers. The goal wasn’t technical discussions of How to create, so much as exploring Why we create, the process we take to make it work in our lives and our culture. It was held at the YU Contemporary in Portland, Oregon, in mid-September, 2012 (a great time to be in Portland). The event was a rousing success, and there are a number of factors why:
By funding the event through Kickstarter, they were able to keep the focus of the event where they wanted it, rather than needing to kowtow to corporate sponsors. That’s not to say there weren’t corporate sponsors — there were three — but there was never a point where it turned into shilling a product or service (they were thanked on the website, in the program, and at the opening and closing. That’s about it). It felt refreshing, and allowed the focus of the event to stay where it belonged.
Establishing the Social Contract
In the opening talk, Andy Baio made a point of calling out that everyone there was a peer, and that all should feel welcome to come talk to anyone else. By doing so, he established a social contract among the attendees and staff. It explicitly demolished the social inhibition of joining what appears to be an established group or discussion, and it felt like the attendees took it to heart — there were no cliques that I could see, and the amount of commingling and interaction was fantastic. I’ve been to a fair number of conferences, un-conferences, conventions, meetings, and other events, and I cannot think of any other occasion that was so committed to openness and communication. It felt great. I’m not alone on feeling like this — it was a recurring observation while chatting with people during the after-party.
A lot of events could basically be held anywhere. XOXO, however, had a distinctly “Portland” flavor, and attendees were encouraged to get out and enjoy their time in the city. The opening party was Thursday night, but the talks didn’t get started until Saturday — Friday was used to host social events for the attendees around town. Panic graciously opened their offices for an ice cream social, while Wieden+Kennedy held a rooftop cocktail party, and Ground Kontrol opened their doors for an attendee-only “free play” afternoon. As the day rolled into the evening, this was all followed by the “Fringe” portion of the festival, with music and an indie arcade set up within walking distance of each other. To top it off, half a dozen food carts were invited to set up directly outside the event, providing a wide range of incredibly delicious food. They even brought in Stumptown Coffee to provide fresh coffee (as a volunteer, I particularly appreciated that the baristas decided to hook staff up with coffee for free).
Also? The talks didn’t start until 10-10:30am. People had time to go have a good breakfast, or sleep in a little, so no one felt rushed or harried. It’s amazing how much giving people a bit of morning time can help set the pace and mood of an event.
Keeping it Focused
It’s easy to try and ratchet on a bunch of extra topics and themes to an event like this. Instead, the talks were targeted to creatives (and more specifically, creatives who were involving in Doing something, the folks who took something they were passionate about and made it work), and the surrounding events were likewise very specific. It even applied to the schedule itself — there was only one track, so speakers didn’t have to feel like they were competing with others for attendance, and attendees didn’t have to weigh which talk to go to next.
The whole event was like this. The vendor area was curated — it wasn’t just anyone who wanted a table, it was groups that the organizers felt made something genuinely interesting and crafted with care and intent. The food carts outside were all explicitly invited and carefully chosen as some of the best Portland had to offer. The Fringe portion of the festival highlighted specific independent games and musical artists — again, curated with an eye towards craftsmanship and the quality of the experience.
When there is that sort of clear attention to quality and aesthetic taste applied, people pick up on it. They are more likely to try something new, because they feel they can trust the taste of the curators. That all leads to an event where everyone is interested in trying everything, and makes for an amazing participatory experience.
I’m really glad I was able to participate in the XOXO Festival, and I sincerely hope I’m in a position to participate again whenever the next event happens. It’s had a pretty lasting effect on me, causing me to seriously pause and consider what I’m doing with my life, and what direction I want to go now.
- Reflections on the XOXO Festival (Willamette Weekly — Ruth Brown)
- Loving the Creators (Razorfish Blog Scatter/Gather — Rachel Lovinger)
- The Dream of the Internet is Alive in Portland (The Verge — Ryan Gantz)
- XOXO: Maker Love Not Thwart (Boing Boing — Glenn Fleishman)
- XOXO Fest, An Experimental Tech Conference, Gets Under Way (New York Times — Jenna Wortham)
- XOXO Festival: What It’s All About & Why We Loved It (W+K Blog — Dan Hon and Renny Gleeson)