Conversations are King, or is it Content errrr…SXSWi Wrap-Up
The SXSWi Conference is coming to a close and while “networking at SXSWi” (aka non-stop schmoozing and parties) continues to dominate the news outlets that are here, there have been a few key areas of conference improvement and one telling sign that is worth pointing out. As those who have attended the conference in the past or as first timers this year, everyone has come to know the panels are usually just okay and the networking events tend to be where the real value lies. Well, after participating in SXSWi for the past four years, I believe that the majority of the panels and sessions have gotten better, but still have a way to go to deliver the same or greater value that comes from event networking.
The keynotes might have been a bit more obscure this year and there wasn’t really “the next big thing” buzzing (except maybe the weirdness that has gripped location-based gaming and the block-buster line at Apple's iPad 2 popup store), but overall the SXSW conference coordinators have done a stellar job this year. For the most part, panels were engaging and very informative, and the lackluster ones clearly suffered from a lack of speaker coordination and were a bit of a waste of time. But the middle ground of ‘just okay’ programming seemed to disappear and we think it’s a step in the right direction.
The conversation has seemed to shift from being about the individual trying to figure out how to brand themselves and make a living doing that on the company dime, to truly understanding how to “humanize your business” – thank you Gary V. I’m stepping away from the conference this year with a greater understanding of the importance of end-users and using a larger community to generate original content to benefit our clients.
This was the first year that the SXSW Interactive Conference had to branch out by necessity to include 12 other venues such as nearby hotels, and while I was skeptical at first, after spending a majority of my last SXSWi day in the Hyatt next to the famous Congress Ave. bat bridge, – this was a smart move. I was able to digest information more easily without feeling overwhelmed and pressure to have the coolest tweet out first. Other new trends were several distinctive new promotions, including free food and soft drink trailers. A growing list of companies sponsored almost every networking event, and pop-up parties, restaurants and other happenings could be found on nearly every corner of Austin’s 6th Street and Warehouse districts adjacent to the convention center.
Unlike anything in the tech industry, SXSWi continues to explode in popularity, with a reported 30 percent increase in registrants this year (to about 14,000), the sheer size of the conference felt more like it doubled over 2010. While we are still trying to filter through all the noise and find out the real and lasting value and relationships we acquire by attending, it would be interesting to know what other companies and individuals feel about what they gain from coming to SXSWi, how they plan to put this value into practice.
**Rich Teplitsky also contributed to this post.
(Credit: Caroline McCarthy/CNET)