South by Southwest is an annual interactive, film and music festival in Austin, TX. The interactive portion of the event (aka ) is the vertiable motherlode of social media. Twitter was launched here two years ago, and last year’s infamous horrible interview of Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg (and the Twitter backlash) was stuff of legends. This is my first trip to Austin and in the first day I have already made a conclusion that is clear to folks who have been to the conference before. Not sure if this is just a first timer’s phenomenon, but here is my grand insight: SXSW is about connecting with people.
There are tons of great sessions and content scheduled throughout the many days, and of course the parties networking events in the evenings are great ways to connect. While the sessions have great content, I’ve found the informal time in between events and in the evenings is much more valuable. By a huge margin. In my first 24 hours here I’ve connected with more than fifty people who I previously only knew through Twitter or some other online channel (blog, Facebook, etc). It’s refreshing to “convert” those relationships from virtual to physical, and in many instances there have been shared experiences and potential business opportunities discussed. Who knows where things will lead, but I am very grateful for meeting folks and getting the opportunity to build relationships further. Just some quick examples:
- An impromptu late night dinner with Bill Johnston, Chad Crowell and Mike Lewis. Before dinner we realized that Bill, Mike and I shared in common that we had been part of Aaron Strout‘s 45in45 Experts in the Industry interview series.
- Running into fellow Red Sox fan and BigPapelbon.com contributor Kyle Flaherty in the hall and hanging out in the Techset Blogger Lounge.
- Connecting with Steph Agresta in the Techset lounger and realizing some folks from my agency had recently contacted her about affiliate marketing.
- Enjoying hanging out early at the Techset event Friday night with the Radian6 crew of Marcel LeBrun, David Alston and Rich McInnis. It was cool to see Hugh MacLeod sketch on Marcel’s business card.
- Getting to finally meet a few inspirational folks in the social media space like Liz Strauss, Beth Harte and Jason Falls.
There are many more – too many to capture, but these are the highlights and a primary reason for coming to Austin for me. Of course I do need to make sure I don’t miss the good panels and content, but there is a lot to choose from. Are you at SXSWi? Want to meet? You can find me on Twitter most easily to arrange to connect. I’d love to hear what you get out of conferences too.
Photo credit: adrants via Flickr (I also happened to share a plane and cab with him on thr trip down)