The Afterglow of SXSW: Observation

musicians singingBy Glenn Spillman-

I originally planned on calling this post, “Has SXSW Gotten Too Big for Its Britches?” but I thought it had a negative connotation and my Southby experience was anything but negative. There’s a few things I wasn’t down with and plenty of things I enjoyed, but on the whole it was the most productive conference ever attended – that I didn’t help to organize.

SXSW parties

First and foremost, I don’t attend SXSW to party. I know many of my peers do, and that’s OK if it’s their thing, but it’s not mine. So if you’re looking for a rundown of parties and places to see and be seen, I’m not your guy. I come to SXSW to network, meet new people and not the same old crew, hang out with my friends, and, yes, even conduct business.

With that said, I did attend two parties – the Wiley party, because they just signed me to write “Online Community Management for Dummies” and the SOBC on party because Liz Strauss and Terry Starbucker are my friends and I believe we need to support our friends.

My problem with these parties is that they all start out great. Something to eat, something to drink, chit chatting with old friends and making new friends….but then they get so big and crowded and it’s hard to hear anything after a while. I usually stay for the first half of a party but leave once it gets too noisy to carry on a conversation.

Still, if it was partying you were after, SXSW had plenty. Every day hailed a different list of events: Breakfast parties, lunch parties, dinner parties, and parties for the sake of partying. Many people never even saw the inside of the convention center which meant a world of missed opportunities, but if they came for parties they weren’t disappointed.

SXSW networking

I spent most of my Southby in meetings. I had really wanted to attend some sessions as I think it’s important to know what the trends are (among speakers) and find fresh voices for BlogWorld, but meetings and networking kept me away from most of the sessions this time around.

I set up many meetings in order to talk to potential speakers, track leaders and folks with some good ideas. I also received many speaker pitches, and some people, especially Lizz Strauss, introduced me to some extremely smart and talented people who may be a good fit for our conference. The BlogWorld team was there in full force and if we weren’t huddled around a table in the Blogger Lounge, we were attending meetings, meetups and tweetups and especially shaping the content for BlogWorld East.

This year was the best ever for networking and I returned home with a suitcase full of business card that aren’t being tossed in the can.

SXSW people

Let the name dropping begin… (Yeah, I hate it too. But I really do like to mention the people who made an impression on me so that you can look them up and let them make an impression on you too! Isn’t that what these things are all about? Networking and sharing? )

And in regard to the host planet, the locals were always courteous and friendly, and even the drivers, well-mannered. Considering the traffic backups, it’s a true testament of their character and this friendliness is one of the reasons Austin will remain one of my favorite cities.

At the end of most days, one of my best friends, Andy Hayes and I often met for nightcaps at Champions, (which is very quiet in the late evening), in order to decompress and relax before calling it a night. Andy is my regular conference pal and though he didn’t have a pass this year, we still managed to get together quite often and compare notes and share ideas.

Is SXSW getting too big for its britches?

Although I had an incredible time this year, I have to wonder if SXSW is getting too big. There are too many parties to attend, a helluva lot of people in the street, and so many sessions they have to bus people five to ten miles away (in which case, attendance can be rather low because no one wants to travel that far), to find a spare conference room. Don’t be surprised if they start having featured sessions at Rudy’s Gas Station (located on Austin’s fringe), not that it would be such a terrible thing!

I had issues with a couple of parties or events that were so far away it was difficult to find taxi service back downtown because all the events have spread out of town in order to fit everything in.  BlogWorld colleague, Patti Hosking and I managed to take our lives into our hands a few times with the pedicabs but they were the best way to get around town.

I prefer other similar conferences but I love SXSW! Those chronic conference goes that have also witnessed SXSW will understand this statement. With the other conferences I get to see and talk to everyone. At SXSW I missed so many people and events, it was a little frustrating. There’s just no way to take it all in.

The question many are asking now is, “When will it all become too big for Austin?



Posted by at March 24, 2012
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