This year I was fortunate enough to attend South by Southwest (SXSW) in Austin, Texas and it’s safe to say it was one of the best events I’ve ever attended. The event being summarized by one person as,” Mardi Gras with education and networking mixed in”, seemed like a perfect way to spend 9 days in the big state of Texas soaking up innovative technology, brand new music, professional connections, and lots of TexMex!
Drawing enthusiasts from technology, gaming, film, and music, for two weeks Austin becomes the hub of the entertainment world. I’ve always heard great things but was wondering what it would be like as a first time attendee. Luckily the event is growing in attendance and new faces. CNN reported that the Interactive portion of SXSW this year “swelled to an all-time high of 30,621, up some 25% from last year” of which more than 50% of attendees were first timers. With this in mind, lots of Korean BBQ Tacos and a sunburn, I headed back to Boston and began to reflect on my week at SXSW. Here’s what I found.
As a Community Manager professional I absolutely loved seeing companies take their brands to the streets and engage with people at the event. Brands like Oreo offered free pedicab rides throughout the event. Chevy let conference attendees take rides in some of their new 2013 vehicles. Samsung was offering discounts and freebies throughout the city to folks who had Near Field Communication (NFC) technology built into their smart phone devices. The theme here was about building your brand offline, not always selling, and creating amazing experiences for attendees!
Another amazing result of SXSW was the opportunity to connect with my online network in real life. Through social media you’re able to ‘meet’ and connect with a lot of folks from all over the the country and the world. Unfortunately, opportunities to meet and connect with these folks face to face are otherwise few and far between…. Except at SXSW! I was able to meet with friends on the west coast, some of my favorite Canadians, and lots of other great people!
There are literally thousands of sessions, events, parties, meetups, shows and get togethers throughout SXSW. One important lesson to remember is to be realistic about what you can attend. My advice? Pick events and sessions you absolutely want to attend and make sure you get there for them early to ensure you avoid the lines, and get in! Other than that, I found one of the luxuries of the conference is the flexibility of being spontaneous, and being able to go with the flow and explore! It’s a great way to fully embrace all that SXSW has to offer.
Twitter, Foursquare and a plethora of other apps can really help you stay connected with what’s going with hot sessions, parties, and showing off your cool photos to your friends back home. That said, I found it nice to ‘power down’ and really enjoy the moment. SXSW is possibly the most technologically stimulating events I have been a part of and it’s easy to get caught up in the online buzz rather than the real thing. Put the phone away and enjoy yourself… that Tweet can wait.
There are thousands of people who attend SXSW every year. They’re all there for the same reason and that’s important to remember, because you never really know who you’re going to meet. As I mentioned above, spontaneity is the name of the game and going with the flow can really help to make or break your SXSW experience. My first day in Austin, I met up with a friend for coffee which led to dinner with his friends and friends of friends… one of which included the founder of one of my favorite websites! He downloaded Dailybreak’s new mobile app, we exchanged contact information and told me to check out their headquarters if I was ever in Southern California. An interaction like that wouldn’t have been possible without getting out of your comfort-zone and meeting new and interesting people.
Want to hear more lessons learned, fun stories and insights from this year’s SXSW? Join me, Wednesday, March 27, 2013, as Fleishman-Hillard and the Community Roundtable host the 3rd Annual “Austin2Boston” with TheCR discussing Lessons Learned from SXSWi 2013. Hear from myself, Jeff Esposito Social Media Manager and recent Community Manager of the Year winner at Vistaprint, Eli Ingraham Head of Social Business at Aetna, Jessica Gioglio Social Media Manager at Dunkin’ Brands and Andrew Soucy VP of Digital and Social Media in the Boston office of Fleishman-Hillard. Sign-up here!
[This post was originally featured on the Dailybreak Team Blog]