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Hey Far Away Haters, Here’s Why I Enjoy SXSW
Over the past couple of days, there have been some people hating on SXSW from far off lands. I’d like to share why I have enjoyed SXSW both last year and this year. It’s important to remember that this is a general interactive conference, not a developer-focused conference. Designers, developers, marketers, PR, anyone involved in the interactive space are welcome to attend and participate.
By environment I mean Austin. I find Austin to be completely relaxing – the pace is a bit slower, the air is freaking clean, and there is a welcoming nature for the locals. I’ve lived in cities before where x event takes over the city and normally the town fights it, but here they seem to welcome us with open arms. And then there’s the birds.
Many conferences today run $2,000 and higher for 2-3 days, here you can attend for $325-400 for what’s nearly a week of sessions, keynotes, an expo and networking. I’ve always judged conferences based on price/results and this one is the best hands down. Almost anyone can afford this event allowing for a greater diversification of full-time to indies.
This is the game changer for SXSW. Walking around the 10 football fields from one room to another, every person is approachable. No matter how big the name or what they’ve done in the past, everyone is willing to chat openly and honestly. I had a chance to chat with so many great people including: Kevin Rose, iJustine, Gary Vaynerchuk, Hugh MacLeod, Tris Hussey, Stowe Boyd, Chris Saad, Jeremiah Owyang, the whole Rocketboom gang, and hundreds more great people. I even saw Larissa Meek today but didn’t get a chance to chat with her.
This is not to mention the networking that goes on during the event. I have a good number of new contacts and Scoble keeps saying that the best conversations are those going around in the hallways.
The atmosphere at SXSW is also like no other. People come as they are, no suits, no dress slacks, no wing tips. Lots of tshirts (this year with phrases on them no brands except Digg), shorts, jeans, sneakers and even one guy in a kilt. Some tell me that there’s a family dynamic at SXSW. I think it’s more of a, "hey, we’ve chatted online for a year, it’s great to meet face-to-face!" dynamic. It’s almost like I know everyone at the conference just because we’ve connected in one way or another over the past year.
The sessions at SXSW are decided on by the audience and that helps to bring the best ones to Austin. Are they all great? Of course not, but compared to most other conferences, they are on-par or above average.
The conference organizers do a good job of bringing in a variety of thought for the keynotes. What shocked me is just how many flashbulbs went off during the Mark Zuckerberg keynote. I was in the third row and there were at least thirty photographers down on the floor during the entire event, not including the hundreds of cameras in the audience popping pictures throughout. You’d think he was a huge rockstar or Britney!
So far I’ve heard the best reaction to the first keynote with Henry Jenkins and Steven Johnson. Three people said that the discussion was very inspirational.
Those are my reasons why I enjoy SXSW, why do you enjoy (or not) SXSW? (leave a comment or send me a link from your blog)