Yes, it is now nearly four weeks since the largest South by Southwest Interactive Conference in history took place (nearly 20,000 descended upon Austin, TX). And truth be told, the dog did not eat my SXSW post (I don’t even have a dog). But I have been busy at my new job at WCG so I haven’t had a chance to do as much blogging as I’d like. That and this finishing off my book thing.
However, this is too important an event to NOT write a recap. So as not to be redundant, let me point you in the direction of three blog posts that I really liked. The first is from my colleague, Bob Pearson and it sums up the five trends that the folks at our company, WCG, witnessed during SXSXi. The second is from friend and Statesman editor, Omar Gallaga about five ways SXSWi could improve. The third was a post by Andy Budd passed along by Robert Scoble and it talks about the evolution of SXSWi as a conference and why it’s okay that it has changed.
For starters, personally enjoyed SXSWi this year. I think it was my second favorite (my 1st being my overall favorite). For one, I didn’t over-schedule myself. Second, I took the advice of my wise friend, Chris Heuer, and worked hard to stay focused in the moment. Fortunately for me, I bumped into Chris Thursday night at a dinner at Arts Ribs that my good friend, Jim Storer, and I were attending (hosted by Cathy Brooks and Nokia)
Jim and I were talking with Chris and Jay Adelson when Jay asked the three of us, “what are you guys looking to get out of SouthBy this year?” My knee jerk reaction response wsa, “just to survive it.” As a side note to my “not over-scheduling” comment above, last year was way too over-scheduled and it made for a schizophrenic and much less fulfilling SXSWi for me. Chris followed this up with, “my goal is that where ever I go, to ‘BE’ there.” The three of us kind of chuckled a little and then the profoundness of Chris’s comment began to sink in. I immediately stole these words and put them into practice during the rest of my SouthBy experience.
Note: one of my most favorite moments at SXSWi was during our corporate outing at the Salt Lick where colleague, Colin Foster, rode mechanical bull (pictured below). All that’s missing is the bandana and the cowboy hat.
What I found was that during the even, I had 100 quality conversations with a lot of people that I really cared about versus 500 conversations with a mix of people that I may or may not have cared about. As it turned out, this approach left me with a much more fulfilling experience and deeper insights from people like Dennis Crowley, Tristan Walker, Mark Hendrickson, Rick Calvert, Simon Mainwaring, Chris Baccus, Liz Strauss, Hugh McLeod, Jon Swartz, Rick Wion, Mukund Mohan, Adam Garone, Andy Ellwood and Josh Williams. It also meant that I got to spend quality time with friends, clients and colleagues like Jim Storer, Zena Weist, Mike Schneider, Heather Strout, Kyle Flaherty, Jeremy Tanner, Tim Walker, Mark Wallace, Francine McKenna, Sydney Owen, Mike Pascucci, David Armano, Joe Jaffe, Shawn Morton, Bill Johnston, Matt Solar, Derek Peplau, Rachel Happe, Christine Perkett, Doug Haslam, Cappy Popp, Tyson Goodridge, Laura Fitton, Becky Johns, Ekatrina Walter, Greg Matthews, Bob Pearson, Colin Foster and Paulo Simas. Arguably the biggest win was being able to share the SXSWi experience with my better half, Melanie Strout, who is now working for several different clients in the social media eyes. In addition to spending more time with her rather than leaving her a SXSWi widow, I was also able to view SXSWi through the eyes of someone that had never been before and that was a very cool experience.
While this revelation was personally helpful to me, it also dawned on me that businesses could take a page out of Chris Heuer’s playbook and stay focused on quality versus quantity conversations. That doesn’t mean that brands should ignore anyone that’s tweeting at them or commenting on their blogs/videos/podcasts but rather that more time might be invested in the people that really care about and influence their brands versus the casual bystander.
If I had to pin down the five trends I observed at this years event (borrowing a bit from those three posts I mentioned above):
- Social media has gone mainstream. This was reinforced by the sheer volume of corporate and traditional media participation at the event. By the way, no griping from me. This is what I’ve been dreaming about for a while.
- Location based services were the bell of the ball with keynotes and featured speeches the CEOs of SCVNGR, foursquare and Gowalla.
- There was no “one” technology or company that emerged like Twitter and foursquare did in ’07 and ’09 respectively. Hashable got some pretty good buzz and Plancast firmed up it’s already solid leadership role.
- While QR codes were everywhere, I’m not sure how many people actually did anything about them. I think people ARE doing something about QR codes in places like grocery stores and airports where they aren’t overwhelmed by them but there were just too darn many of them at SXSWi.
- Businesses curating content will win. Samsung did a gorgeous job with their media wall at taking the best of the best from all the tweets, PPTs, checkins and pictures from the conference and distilled them down to a single feed (with a little help from their friends at JESS3).
So what did you like about SXSW? What were your observations? Feel free to share them — personal or professional — in the comments below.