I attended the interactive part of SxSW for the first time this year. I had never been to SxSW and it was on my list of things I needed to do during my life, so I spent a few prime days in Austin. For someone who has attended a LOT of conferences, SxSW lives up to its reputation as being very different from any other type of interactive conference. What I came away with is:
- The best part of SxSW is not the presentations. There were some great presentations at SxSW this year – Clay Shirkey, Joi Ito, Charlene Li, and many others all gave great talks. But I got the most value from the people I spoke to outside the presentations. Sitting at the Driskill, speaking with a bloggers, marketers, PR people, agency people, visionaries, and other idea people was the best use of my time.
- That government is listening. No, not in a “Big Brother” kind of way. But in that there were numerous representatives from government agencies and people who are interested in Gov 2.0 who were in attendance, listening to the conversations taking place, and presenting on great ideas and issues. I would expect that there will be even more government attendees next year.
- The conversation is very consumer focused. One thing that I found lacking was any conversation around what the whole interactive space means for B2B. The assumption seemed to be, at least from the presentations and the people that I spoke with, that B2B could just learn it from B2C. I am not sure that I agree on that one. More on that later.
Some additional lessons specific to my experience this year.
- Book your room early. When it comes to rooms, book early and book often. And check Yelp. Unless you are an 18-year-old band member, being over the bars and clubs is not always positive attribute at 2:00 AM.
- Black is the only color you need to worry about. Purchase more black for my wardrobe – t-shirts, hoodies, jeans, etc. Black t-shirts with pictures of Chairman Mao, South American revolutionaries, technology brands, and geek statements are especially appropriate. If you want to be very different and really stand out, wear a suit.
- Be prepared. Bring a SxSW medical kit – Aspirin, Advil, Pepto-Bismol, stomach pumps, etc. Not for you (you would never need it!) but for your friends.
What did you learn at SxSW this year?