Five Key Takeaways From Gary Vaynerchuk's SXSW Keynote

This was not Gary Vaynerchuk’s first rodeo at the SXSW Conference. “Self-esteem is the ultimate drug,” the digital marketing influencer, entrepreneur extraordinaire and social media guru preached to a jam-packed ballroom of over a thousand hyped-up attendees for his #AskGaryVee keynote at the Austin Convention Center on March 10th.

“Gary Vee” is a marketer of the people and immersed himself in deep crowds of selfie mayhem with superfans up until the final minute before his talk when volunteers had to pull him away from his choir of admirers. It was his 10th SXSW and he admitted to feeling like a fish out of water when he first attended.

Photo: Blake Van de Graaf

His straight talk mantra of passionate confidence was on display every second, including when an attendee thought he was being clever by asking Vaynerchuk what question he’d like to be asked because he must be sick of the same old. “That is the worst type of question I get,” Vaynerchuk said, adding he’d rather answer the same thing repeatedly if it continues to help people accomplish their goals.

During the hour-long session, Vaynerchuk referenced playing pickup hoops hours before with some of his fans, used Mike D'Antoni-inspired basketball metaphors about a great offense in marketing beating any defensive scheme and shifted into a heavy-hearted warning about the stress young professionals face. Here are our top five highlights:

1. “Insecurity is a killer.” Gary Vaynerchuk said he prides himself on having a best-in- class business culture and building his teams with constant positive reinforcement. However, the reason some people don’t succeed is because they don’t believe they can. While speaking about the subject, it felt the entrepreneur had a heavy heart while recalling specific employees he had let go.

Photo: Blake Van de Graaf

2. “You need to be more selfish because your happiness is the start of you being good to other people.” Think about. Be good to yourself, work your tail off and everything else will fall into place. 3. “People are being held back by other people’s opinions.” Keep your circle tight and make sure you’re making them proud, but don’t listen to the noise from everywhere else. Negative people have taken over social media and it’s scaring the positives amongst us into silence, Vaynerchuk said. Take chances, share your stories and don’t let negative win. 4. “There's never been a time when value is predicted by how much it costs.” When discussing banner ads, Vaynerchuk scoffed at marketers bragging about how little their cost per impression was while completely ignoring the real return of investment (RIO). A $20-million Super Bowl ad is a steal and would still be worth running at $200 million. Facebook Ads still are a great value, but Vaynerchuk said he won’t cry when it becomes overpriced. Be prepared for the next digital marketing bargain. 5. “Losing is attractive to thoroughbred entrepreneurs.” Some people who attended the SXSW Conference 10 years ago have committed suicide and Vaynerchuk spoke very candidly about the pressures young people with big dreams face in today’s market. Embrace self-awareness. This is the greatest time in history to be alive. Being at SXSW is a hell of a lot better than dealing with the Black Death bubonic plague, he said. It’s all about perspective.

Photo: Blake Van de Graaf



Peter Armstrong has more than 10 years’ experience in digital marketing and currently works for Accessible Media Inc. (AMI) as their Manager of Digital Content. He’s developed a passion for and expertise in accessibility while working with people with disabilities during the last five years. Prior to joining AMI in September, 2015, he worked with the Toronto 2015 Pan Am/Parapan Am Games Organizing Committee (TO2015) where he was responsible for accessible website, social media and app content.

Peter proudly volunteers in a digital strategy lead role with the Invictus Games Toronto 2017 Organizing Committee to help honour servicemen and women who suffer life-changing injuries, both visible and invisible, while serving their countries. He has presented about website and social media accessibility subjects at Social Media Week Toronto and the inaugural YouTube Accessibility Summit. In addition to accessibility, Peter is interested in sustainable food and is a huge basketball fan that’s happy to chat about standup or wheelchair basketball any day of the week.

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