My South by Southwest Interactive Experience

I just wrapped up my last day at South by Southwest Interactive.  Lots of people rave about this conference, and it’s regularly referred to as spring break for geeks.  For me, SXSW was a rollercoaster – lots of ups, but also my fair share of downs.  Here’s my quick wrap-up of my inaugural trip.

Uppers

  • People
    Part of the #sachat tweetup crowd at sxsw

    Part of the #sachat tweetup crowd at sxsw

    Not only did I get to log some serious facetime with Rey Junco and Ed Cabellon, I met some amazing new friends including Cynde and Marlena.  Spending time with these folks was good for my soul; they’re my people.  I also participated in an #sachat tweetup

  • My new photo – it’s at the top of this page, do you like it? A slightly different version is on my about.me page.  The photographer taking these photos in the AOL lounge was amazing (Borris, I believe).
  • Warm weather – let’s face it: I’m from Wisconsin.  Texas in March sounds like a great idea, no matter what the reason.
  • Information – Although not every session hit it out of the park, I learned some interesting things about social media and marketing.  I hope to share more details in a few summary posts following this one.
  • Free stuff – If you attend SXSW, you shouldn’t have to pay a dime for food or drinks if you scout the place out and know where to look.  It took me a few days to get the hang of it, but by Sunday/Monday I was in my groove.
  • Personal clarity – I learned a lot about myself at SXSW.  For starters, I learned that I’ve become more of an introvert than I realized.  I was regularly spending time by myself or leaving parties early so I could recharge.  I didn’t used to be this way, but it’s a good thing to know about myself.  I also spent time reflecting on what presentations were resonating with me, and which just seemed like hype.  This is leading me in the direction of doing more research and less practice (not immediately, of course).
  • Entertainment – Last night we wandered into a concert by Atomic Tom.  It was a wonderful surprise, and I plan to listen to more of their music.  There were concerts everywhere, and most of them were free if you got on the right list (which really isn’t hard to do).  I also got to see Ellen Page (Juno) get interviewed on Facebook Live and compete in the Geek Games.

Downers

  • Everyone is selling something – Near the convention center, I couldn’t walk more than 15 feet without someone trying to get me to try out their new product or hear about their new startup.  When you’re already surrounded by thousands of people, this gets annoying.
  • Lines – there were lines for everything!  Sessions, free stuff, restaurants, parties…I eventually declared that “lines are for punks” and refused to stand in line for anything.
  • Scraping the surface – although some sessions totally overwhelmed me, others seemed to simply be scraping the surface of social media, or at least not saying anything that hasn’t been said before by others.  This is a huge conference with a high price tag; I don’t really think there is room for introductory sessions.
  • It’s huge – this might be a selling point for some people, but it’s something that continually wore me down.  I heard someone say there were 20,000 people here, which I don’t think it unrealistic.  To accommodate all these people, sessions were spread out among 10 locations.  This made it unrealistic for someone to catch a session at, for instance, the Hyatt, and then catch a session in the next block at the AT&T Center.  SXSW actually increased my appreciation for smaller events, such as Ungeeked.

So, would I go again? I’m not sure; it depends on the circumstances.  Am I glad I went this year? Absolutely.

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