Wednesday, March 18, 2015

SXSW 2015 Recap

The 2015 SXSW Interactive Festival has come and gone.  This was my 9th year participating in this epic event, and while I have seen South by Southwest change over the years, I still find it to be one of the most relevant and inspiring events for those with an entrepreneurial spirit.  

While some might describe the focus of the Interactive Festival as "technology", I think it goes beyond that label.  Tech used to mean "tools", but now it is integrated into our lives, and thus I find the the whole message of the conference to be about innovation.

Some say that the event has lost it's luster as the numbers have grown and the corporate sponsors have joined the fun (even McDonald's has a presence at SXSW these days).  I disagree with the naysayers, who do not like how large the event has become.  While it is true that the lower attendance did have a more intimate feel, SXSW is not just a conference, it is an experience.  Real experiences are not like painting by the numbers, and thus must change or they become stale.  The best event professionals I know are always seeking to enhance and change their meetings, not simply replicate them year over year.

The changes have come both organically and with well-thought intention from the organizers.  Over the years I have seen them morph the focus of the topics, style of the keynotes, and the flow of the event.  The addition of the new JW Marriott to downtown Austin has provided a new large venue and that changed some of the feel of how the event played out.  In some ways the "vibe" felt more like it did years ago, and so those who might have complained recently (and did not come this year) missed out on what they had been wanting.

My experience at SXSW this year was very positive.  My panel, "Mastermind Construction Zone", was fun and the audience seemed to like the discussion.  It was special to share the experience with two of the people from my own Mastermind Group (Jessica Pettitt and Gerry O'Brion), and to be part of their first experience with SXSW. 

I enjoyed the casual feeling this year, and even with over 30,000 participants, never felt the lost in the crowd.  I was sorry that the marketing sessions were held across the river at the Hyatt, as I tend to stay in the area of the Austin Convention Center, and never took a shuttle (the rush to get to a far off venue is not worth it to me). 

While I missed some great marketing sessions, I went to many other topics that helped me to think bigger (and discovered topics I might have otherwise missed). I attended sessions that inspired me in my own entrepreneurial efforts and took nearly 50 pages of notes.  My next step is to review and extract the most important nuggets of information and to take action.

I also interviewed several people who I met in the trade show or at a roof-top party for an upcoming episode of "Cool Things Entrepreneurs Do" - and got a good variety of other insights into the festival, entrepreneurship, and life.  (Look for that show to post on iTunes on March 24, 2015)

The real power in attending SXSW (or any event) comes from the people.  I met amazing folks who contribute to society in a variety of business, government, and philanthropic endeavors.  In spending time with those who hold different points of view and have lived interesting lives, we can all discover personal growth. 

I over heard a conversation about how those who live in the suburbs can learn from the artists in places like SoHo, but if they artists never attend a family dinner with those in the suburbs, they are missing out.  I like that.  It is good to remember that the benefits of diversity runs in all directions.  Don't prejudge others, and seek for ways to learn from everyone.  That is what I did at SXSW, and I am am very excited about the future.

If you have never been to SXSW, start planning now for 2016. 

Have A Great Day

thom singer 

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