I’ve been back from South by South West Interactive for a few days now and am slowly recovering from the jet lag. All in all it was a pretty amazing experience to attend SXSW – I had a lot of fun and learned a lot. As I didn’t get to live blog during the event I thought I’d sum up the week with 10 random reflections for those of you that have been asking how it went.
1. Meeting Other Bloggers is Good for the Soul – The thing that I enjoyed most about SXSW this year was the chance that it gave me to interact with other bloggers. The more I meet bloggers the more that I find that many of us are lonely souls (to some degree). We sit alone in our home offices/livingrooms/beds etc and often feel quite isolated and at times misunderstood. Coming together can be an experience that is quite wonderful and a reminder that we’re actually part of something larger than ourselves.
2. The Chitika/ProBlogger Beer Bus Rocked – My trip to SXSW was sponsored by Chitika who pulled together a private little party for 40 bloggers (minus a few who couldn’t make it at the last minute). The trip was a lot of fun and drew together a great bunch of people, many of whom I’ve been interacting with for years but have never met. Thanks to Chitika for getting me to Austin and for a fun afternoon. Ryan Travis from Chitika is already talking about a bigger gathering on a boat next year! (PS: Ryan, no pressure to do it with me again next year but I do have a couple of photos that could persuade you :-))
3. Some so called ‘A-list’ bloggers are incredibly…. snobby. I hesitate to include this point because I know it’s difficult for a popular blogger to be accessible to everyone – however I couldn’t help but feel at times that there was an inner and outer circle among top bloggers. Perhaps it comes from the opportunity that many of the top US bloggers have to interact with each other personally over time – but on numerous occasions I felt and saw others feel a little on the ‘outer’.
4. Networking Leads to Amazing Possibilities – I went to SXSW with no real agenda or outcomes that I wanted to achieve. While I think next time I’d be a little more intentional having an ‘open’ approach led to some amazing conversations and connections. Out of these emerged some great opportunities to work with some gifted people on many levels.
5. Sessions – Sessions on the whole were a little more ‘beginner’ than I was expecting. Perhaps it was those that I chose to attend but I would have liked to see more intermediate to advanced sessions for bloggers. Perhaps next year I should get my act together and run one myself.
6. Panels – I’ve never really been a huge fan of panels. The majority of sessions that I saw at SXSW were panels and perhaps this is where some of my frustration came from with the ‘beginner’ level stuff. I find that panels tend to easily become sidetracked and can end up being quite broad in terms of topics. An hour is a short time really and to get depth it needs to be focussed and well moderated (luckily the panel I was on had a good moderator).
7. Frank Warren Rocks – My Twitter Followers will know that a highlight of the conference for me was Frank Warren’s keynote. Frank from Post Secret basically filled his keynote with stories and reflections from his time editing the Post Secret blog. It was a session that aimed at the heart more than the head and which I think touched a lot of people. Inspirational session. I briefly met him at the end (tough as he was very popular) and hope to feature an interview with him on ProBlogger in the coming months.
8. The b5media team are Crazy! – the other main highlight from the trip for me was to spend a week living with a significant number of the b5media team. While I’d met most of them before it was great to spend extended time with this nutty group of people. I said at one point along the week to someone that we’ve hired a very eclectic team at b5 with a real mix of personalities. It was wild to almost a week with them. Once again – it’s good to spend time in person with people you spend with ‘virtually’ every day.
9. Party Party Party – before I left for SXSW I knew that the parties in the evenings were going to be good, however I totally underestimated them. Each night there were 5-10 parties around Austin, some were official and others were not. With 8000 people attending the Interactive part of SXSW there was plenty of people to meet. I only wish we’d been staying closer in to downtown so that we’d have been able to get to more of them.
10. Twitter – I’ve been using Twitter more consistently in the last couple of months realize over the week at SXSW just how much potential it has when you’re in a place with thousands of others using it. Both in sessions (where it seemed every second person in some rooms was twittering/backchatting about the session) as well as in the evenings when reports streamed in about the parties and where everyone was. My only problem was that I could only twitter from my laptop.
Notes to self for next time:
- brush up on bowling skills before SXSW next year (geek bowling party was fun)
- take DSLR not point and shoot – it’ll be worth the extra weight
- pack less shirts and more t-shirts (it’s the most casual conference I’ve been to)
- take video camera and produce a series of video interviews – so many amazing people to tap into the minds of!
- get phone that I can twitter from next time
- take more healthy snacks – while we ate some great meals while away the serving size and amount of fat in so many options was overwhelming.
- break up the trip on the way home – spend a couple of nights in LA instead of going straight through to Austin – 24 hours on a plane and in airports is too much.
PS: I’ve uploaded a handful of photos from SXSW here – although didn’t take a lot of shots over the week. Instead I’m relying more upon the images that others took over the week to document it visually this time around.