Early stage startup marketing & community management + the great outdoors.

Follow Up: My Rookie Year at #SXSW

After experiencing my first SXSW I can only say one thing: wow.  Just wow.

If you’re in the tech industry then SXSW is certainly the conference of the year.  Not only do you have the opportunity to bump into various tech leaders all in one evening but everyone attending is simply overwhelmingly ready to converse and share.  In past conferences it’s been very quiet and head down.  Sure, you could break the ice with anyone but it was far from the norm.  At SXSW, it’s the opposite – people expect you to say hi and introduce yourself.

Going into the event I wanted to make sure I was able to extrapolate value for my company – after all, they spent a fair amount of money to send me.  Time after time the preliminary feedback I received from friends was to be flexible and don’t over-plan.  I had a hard time digesting that feedback but did my best and it was certainly the most valuable feedback I received.

Once I landed, my schedule turned into nothing I would have anticipated.  For example, I only attended one full session (Q&A with Google & Bing – which had a 20 minute wait to get in the door) and the 2nd half of some friend’s session on Community Lurkers.  Another unexpected issue was that my average day ended at 3am, with 2am being the earliest and 5am being the latest.

The entire trip, including airfare, lodging, food, and the $600 SXSW badge cost under $2,000.  Not too bad at all considering the duration and intensity of the event.  I was pretty conscious about being thrifty but it’s pretty easy to avoid paying for transportation (#ChevySXSW), food, and drinks.

Overall, amazing event.  It’s great to meet so many new people and amazing to meet so many people I’ve only known as Twitter avatars.  I will certainly go back but do have a few quick tips of what I think I did well and what I would change in 2012.  Derek Peplau wrote a more detailed “how to” (links below) but this is a high level starter of the first things that came to mind.

What would I do again:

  • Moderation (I didn’t party too much, which was key to survival with a bit of a head cold)
  • RSVP to everything that sounds fun
  • Location is key – Hilton is certainly the best location.
  • Not pay for transportation. Chevy had free rides and almost everything is in walking distance.  Plus, the beautiful weather is certainly a nice change of pace from Boston’s cold, dreary March.

What I would do differently:

  • Book earlier
  • Set expectations lower (in that I’d drop any sales pitch entirely in favor of casual conversations)
  • Make sure I have at least an hour or two to myself each day to recharge, eat , check in with the family at home, or catch up on email.
  • Rethink how I’d like to set my schedule
  • Create a SXSW-dedicated email for the RSVP blasts.

For more detail, check out Derek Peplau’s multiple-part posts on his first experience of SXSW:  Part 1: Before You Go followed up with Part 2: Once You Arrive.

For more pictures from 2011, check out Aaron Strout’s, Derek Peplau’s, and David Alston’s #Allhat3.  [The picture above is from Derek Peplau’s Allhat3 gallery.]


The Salt Lick
You can't beat the weather.
Matt J & I found some oddities.

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