To say SXSW was a whirlwind would be an understatement. On the plane, my colleagues and I met someone who told us the weekend would be very similar to Inception. As soon as we stepped off the plane, picked up our badges, headed to 6th St., and so on, we would enter a level further down into what would be a non-stop weekend.
He couldn’t have been more correct. By day two I had lost track of day, time and even seemed to have forgotten how bad my feet hurt from all of the walking we had done.
However, I don’t think I’ve ever had a more rewarding experience in such a short period of time. From the moment we arrived in Austin until we landed in Atlanta Tuesday night, we absorbed information, met amazing people and experienced some of the best Austin had to offer.
In retrospect, below are a few of the lessons learned from this great city.
More than a conference. There are a lot of REALLY smart people speaking at SXSW. The trouble is, there are a LOT of really smart people speaking at SXSW. Making decisions on which panel to see and getting there far enough in advance to get in was tough. I didn’t get to see nearly as many as I would have wished, but I did get to hear from some really great people as well such a Dennis Crowley, Jason Calacanis and Andrew Bosworth to name a few.
Digital reality. There were more great digital activations from brands that I could count, everywhere we looked someone was doing something cool, insightful or just plain fun. Photo and video booths seemed to be a big trend this year, but a few really set themselves apart in simple ways. SoBe for instance, hosted an outdoor bar with a virtual photo booth where you could dress yourself up on screen and send a video message. Once it was complete, it revealed a QR code to scan and send your video to friends. Easy.
Who needs sleep. We went non-stop for at least 17 hours each day. No hotel stops, no naps, not even sitting for lunch sometimes (but with so many delicious food trucks, who would want to?). It was exhausting, but with so much going on around us, it was exactly how we wanted to experience SXSW.
Party school. There are no shortage of sponsored parties at SXSW. However, that didn’t mean our nights out weren’t informative. I learned more from seeing what other brands and agencies had put together and spending my nights meeting new and interesting people than I often did at any daytime panel.
Looking to the future. Perhaps the best part of SXSW had to be the general excitement and buzz about everything new and groundbreaking happening in the interactive space. From activations like the GE Solar Powered Carousel to new apps like Hashable and GroupMe, the momentum was endless.
In all, Austin was far more than a few days in a new city, but refreshing and a reminder as to why I love what I do. I cannot wait to see how this week transforms how we all interact with technology in 2011.