Party like a rock star, Tweet like a geek. Live off Cold FX, Emergen C, Red Bull, coffee, an assortment of free booze and food. Socialize with the Twitteratti. Never in bed before 2am. Meeting the who’s who of the digital space from Ben Huh of the I Can Haz Cheezburger network to Dennis Crowley of Foursquare to Chris Heuer, founder of Social Media Club House. Come home with a boatload of schwag, a pending cold and sleep deprivation.
When my good friend, blogger John Biehler first teased SXSW Interactive to me last year, I was intrigued. He had just returned from the event and was absolutely raving about the amazing networking opportunities, parties, panels and sheer volume of big players in the interactive space.
“SXSW Interactive is a summer camp for geeks,” he said back in 2010 as he showed me his brand spankin’ new iPad. I knew I needed to listen to him.
Lo and behold, a few weeks later I’d managed to convince my boss (over beers) that sending me to this event was the right thing to do for my company.
And last night as SXSWi came to a close, I found myself at the Serverbeach Geeky Beachy party wearing nerd glasses with tape wrapped around the rim and a pink t-shirt that said “I Love Geeks.” It was summer camp good bye and electro funk solo artist Neiliyo was sporting Harvard-chic geek attire as he sang us out of one of the most fun and dynamic conferences on the planet.
A large contingent of Canadian digital space players descended upon Austin, TX for the 5-day conference/festival hybrid. Michelle Leroux and I were proud to be the only Whistler representatives. Canadian media outlets, and companies like Radian 6, Hootsuite, tech start ups, as well as prolific bloggers and photographers, social media managers, public relations professionals and other le geek so chics were in attendance. The Maple Leaf Lounge – sponsored by the Government of Canada’s economic development ministry – rented out a space on Trinity Avenue to provide a haven for Canada’s digital community to hang out, participate in panels and meet potential clients.
SXSW was everything I hoped for and more. Thankfully staying at the very central location Courtyard Marriott Downtown saved us a 30-minute drive into the city each way and we were able to do quick wardrobe changes and drop off gear before the evening party sessions began.
The beauty of SXSWi is the inclusiveness and the meeting of great minds. It’s OK to bury your head in your Android or “check in” at a Foursquare venue because you’re among your people and they’re doing it too. In fact, if you’re not wired in at all times – you feel impotent. If you’re not wearing your big old SXSWi badge, you feel uncool.
My biggest take aways from SXSWi 2011 were:
1) the game layer is here and it’s bigger than we ever imagined, as per SCVNGR founder, Seth Priebatsch
2) there is a place for anonymity on the web, according to 4Chan Founder Christopher “Moot” Poole
3) Gamification giant Foursquare is where you want to play if you’re a brand
4) Group texting is the latest big thing (GroupMe)
5) Watch for Hashable
6) Giving is not only heart warming, but it’s also profitable (Tom’s Founder, Blake Mycoskie).
I can’t wait to return to geek summer camp next year, where I’ll celebrate with my new and old friends in chic le geek style. Stay tuned for more tales from the road. Yes…the Eh Team is still on the Chevy SXSW Road Trip.
Here are some great blogs and coverage that I’ve been reading as a wrap up to SXSW Interactive:
* Book your badge and accommodation early
* Bring extra power converters, plugs, batteries, chargers
* Wear comfortable shoes at all times
* Pre-SXSW do a cleanse
* Post-SXSW do a cleanse
* Pack ColdFX, Emergen C, headache pills
* Leave extra space in your suitcase for schwag and lots of it!
* Buy a US sim card with data if you’re from Canada. You’ll be glad you did
* Bring a portable USB or AA powered charging doc for your phone
* Bring multiple phone batteries
* Take notes at the panels (iPad suggested)