A First-Timers Trip to SXSW – Wrap Up

March 17, 2010

9:30 am

I know, I know, I missed day or two here … but let me tell you, it’s crazy out there.  Sunday especially was a hectic day as I attended a day full of sessions, and then we had to get ready for the TECH cocktail Blackout Sunday, which by all accounts was a huge success.  In any case, I wanted to wrap up this little series I started a few days back with a bit of a wrap-up/lessons learned/take-aways from the event.  I still have a few session posts to finish up, as well, but wanted to get this out while still somewhat fresh in my mind. So here we go, in no particular order:

  1. SXSW is exhausting.  There is so much going on, so much to do, you cannot help but get worn down.  As I said before, it takes a lot to be disciplined and stay focused on the task at hand.
  2. Pick a direction you want to take well before you get there.  If you want to focus on sessions and writing, do that, but plan accordingly.
  3. There are too many good panels.  I know this sounds a bit odd, but I literally  found myself wanting to be at three or four panels taking place at the same time.  So don’t be disappointed if you miss one, you cannot be at all of them.
  4. SXSW needs to slim down.  Following up on the previous point, I think it would definitely behoove the SXSW management to take a better look at the panels and scale down a bit, quality over quantity, even though there are so many high-quality ones.
  5. Glad not to have an iPhone.  Even though AT&T fared a little better this year, I still heard MANY complaints of spotty service and dropped calls.  However, with my new Verizon DROID, I had solid coverage all week.
  6. Don’t carry everything you think you will need; you probably won’t need it all.  Every morning I would pack my bag with tons of stuff –  cameras, lenses, cords, etc. –  for that “just in case” moment, but I never had one and it just added pounds to an already-heavy load.
  7. Take a backpack, not a messenger-style bag.
  8. Stay close.  We had a TECH cocktail house that we rented for the week.  It was great, but having to take a cab or bus made it hard after you were already tired to get back to town for a happy hour or party.  Staying close would allow you to pop into our room, collect yourself, and pop right back out in the thick of it all.
  9. As much as possible, try to eat well.  I am guilty of not doing this.  There are few places to eat, and compounded by the fact that 13,000 others are trying to eat at the same time, does not add up to a good situation.  I had several days when the first and only thing I ate was cold pizza upon returning home late at night.
  10. There are a lot of people who take themselves way too seriously.  Honestly, it really turned me off the whole scene to see these people raise the level of self-importance to new levels.  I mean this is Twitter and Facebook people (mostly); it’s not rocket science.  Granted that social media has helped spawn and carry on great causes, but the scenes that I saw of mini-entourages and orgies or self-importance was disgusting, to say the least.
  11. There was not the next great thing many of us were looking for and expecting.
  12. I doubt I will go back.

So there you go, my trip in a nutshell.  I hope you have enjoyed my little journey through SXSW and hopefully you may have learned a tidbit or two based on my experience.  We would love to hear any other tips you all have to offer if you were there this year, or previous years.

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Jimmy Gardner is a Senior Unix/Windows Engineer, a lover of technology and photography. Follow him online at @jjgardner3 and enjoy his portfolio at jjg3photo.com/.

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