Hello, I’m moderating this thing. And frankly, I’m freaking out a little bit. Here’s why.
People might actually think Jack and Gary are the ridiculous clichés I just listed. The facts are, Jack has been up to his eyeballs in new economy businesses as an owner and a consultant since he retired in 2001, including starting a tech venture in the education space that’s growing 40 percent a year. And Gary, despite the requisite basketball hoop that greets you as you enter his cubicle-free sprawl, is a “show me the ROI-or-bust” kinda CEO underneath it all. If people are expecting to hear Jack defend the “good old days” and Gary claim, “The only rule is there are no rules,” they’re going to miss the crazy-good things both of them have to say about getting business right today, period.
Jack and Gary might leave us all in the dust. I’ll never forget the time Jack gave a speech in Paris. About ten minutes in, the translator just threw up her hands and stopped talking. That’s because she only understood Normal English – not Boston Accent English, and she was catching about every third word. As for Gary, you know how Gary can work himself into a frenzy when he cares about an idea, and suddenly he is going very, very fast, and you sort of find yourself understanding, that’s right, about every third word? Between these two, tell me this scenario is not moderator hell.
Jack and Gary might run off together. Let me tell you a little secret in advance of the Brawl. Jack and Gary like each other a ton. They respect each other. They enjoy each other. Yes, they disagree on some issues, and on a few strongly. But in the worst-case scenario, if I screw up at my job, the audience will only see a Jack and Gary love-in, culminating in their agreement to join forces and take over the world.
For the first time, our four kids will be paying attention. Look, Jack and I have been out there a lot over the past decade, writing books, going on TV, tweeting. Most of the time, the kids ignore our opining; they get plenty of that (and us) as it is, thank you very much. But right now, our kids are all in their 20s. SXSW is their Valhalla. They can’t believe we’re going to be there; we’ve finally managed to impress them! Now, we just can’t screw it up. The pressure is killing me.
Don’t get me wrong. We are psyched about SXSW. Insanely pumped. (Tweet me your questions for Jack and Gary, by the way, at @suzywelch.) But every now and again, a public appearance strikes a little extra fear into your heart. SXSW is one of them, and maybe just maybe, that’s what makes it so good.