It’s that time of year again. No, not time to spring ahead… well, actually, it is time for that on Saturday, but I’m referring to the annual nerd pilgrimage to Austin for the mega-conference SXSW Interactive (eh hem… Spring Break for grown-ups, disguised as an interactive marketing conference). This will be my third trip to the conference and while I’m no longer an SXSW virgin, I’m hardly giving lessons yet. However, I am entitled to an opinion, so here is my list of the top 10 things I love about SXSW:
1. The Energy – there is such a good vibe at this “conference”. Maybe it’s the free booze everywhere – but I’d prefer to think that the people who go share a passion for learning, and they realize that comes from meeting and talking with people.
2. The Friends – there are people I run into at SXSW that I can’t manage to catch up with within Atlanta or San Francisco (where I spend most of my time). Despite my efforts the past few weeks to broadcast my intentions to attend SXSW this year, I know I’ll see a dozen or so people there that will surprise me. I can’t wait.
3. The Content – if you can’t find sessions you’re interested in at SXSW, you shouldn’t be going. There are always three things going on at the same time – the conference forces you to make tough decisions every hour.
4. The Surprises – there’s always something unexpected around the corner. Maybe it’s a game of Foursquare with Foursquare’s founder. Maybe it’s a close-up look at the Chevy Volt. Maybe it’s getting filmed by Ashton Kutcher outside a Mexican restaurant (a story for another time). “Prepare to be Surprised” could be a good motto for the show.
5. Launches – SXSW is a platform for launches. Whether it’s a tiny standout start-up like Twitter or a battle royale for the title of the best new start-up in a category (Foursquare vs. Gowalla was fun while it lasted), expect to have something NEW to talk about when you head back to work next week. I personally think this will be the year of mobile payments (you heard it here first folks). You’ll be able to pay with your phone more – and you’ll probably hear a lot of buzz about new mobile payments services (that’s my day job these days if you didn’t know).
6. The Parties – really though, I’d be lying if I left the parties off the list. I could do without the lines (to get in, and to get to the bathroom), but hey, it’s the price you pay. Follow the crowd for the official stuff, then find a local for something more chill when you need a break from the madness (well, I’ve never done that, but I hear it’s a good tip).
7. VIP – as an extension of #6, if you’re lucky enough to get into the VIP events, it’s way more fun. I’m not an A-lister (more like a G-lister), and I look nothing like Pete Cashmore, but get to the parties early and be really nice to people and you never know, you might get lucky. Then again, you might end up standing in the rain for hours, only to never get in because some celebrity is in the place and nobody wants to leave (#whiner #shouldhavegotthereearlier).
8. Texas Bar-B-Que – you don’t have to trek out to The Salt Lick to get your Bar-B-Que fix (though all the cool kids and Far Far Away badge seekers are doin’ it). Mmmm. That’s all I have to say about that.
9. The Gurus – or super nerds as I like to call them. I love running into the entrepreneurs and ‘experts’ I’ve grown to love over the years. People like @briansolis, @garyvee, and @dmscott to name a few that you’ve heard of. Be sure to check out the book signing schedule – it’s a great way to meet some of the speakers outside of the swarm that follows their presentations.
10. The T-Shirts – it’s lame, I know. But seriously, I am a nerd, and nerds like t-shirts (well, and sweatshirts – but nobody gives those out). I’ve been to 100 different marketing conferences and I can tell you that SXSW boasts the best quantity (and quality) t-shirts out there. Get to the exhibition center (and every party you attend) early. You’ll have enough new clothes for the rest of the year. PSA: If you don’t like a t-shirt (or it doesn’t fit), consider donating it to charity. There are people without clothes out there.
11. Yep, 11 – what top 10 list would be complete without 11? You are 11. I love our readers. If you are planning to be there this year (or you’re there, reading this), let’s connect. Twitter is best (@jeremyporter @journalistics).
So that’s my list. Total stream of consciousness of course. It’s way past my bedtime, but I consider it practice for this weekend. I fly out in the a.m. and hope to meet some of you that have read this post. Feel free to reach out and say “hello.” Cheers!