Halley's Comet - 1986

Halley's Comet - 1986

Thursday, March 19, 2009

SxSW interactivities

So I'm finally getting around to journaling about my experience at SxSW. It all started about a month ago when my boss Chris called me to tell me that he was going to be out of town and that he was giving me his badge. The moment I said "cool!" on the phone, I had no idea what that cool really meant. All I knew was badge, conference, festival, Austin...I was going!

When I started looking through the schedule I was overwhelmed. There were tons of panels, speakers, events that were about social media, technology, business, communication, art, self expression, and parties! I thought I was going there to learn...little did I know that the party listings I was looking at were only one fraction of the endless number of parties that were being thrown at just about every bar in Austin. This is the one time of year when Austin comes alive to the max!

When I first arrived at the Austin Convention Center (pictured above) on Friday afternoon to attend some panels, I realized...these things are kind of boring. It's a bunch of people boasting about themselves and promoting their latest book or business venture. I also realized that I needed a GPS just get around the building! The ceilings were tall, the elevators only went to certain floors, and if you wanted to get from floor one to floor four, you had to take the escalator to floor three, walk to the other side of the building, go outside to the stairwell, then walk up to four. I must have walked over ten miles this weekend with all the navigating.

I learned on day one of SxSW Interactive that it's not really about seeing the speakers, it's about the people you meet and the conversations you take part in. So from Saturday on...I roamed around, talked to people about what to see, and hung out in lounges where I ate popcorn and people came up to talk to me because they were drawn to the red coolness of the Vivienne Tam mini netbook that I was using. (below is me typing on my VT mini)

I would have to say the best panel I went to was thanks to Peter Shankman, founder of HARO (help a reporter out). We first talked about how the press release is DEAD. I'm so glad that someone had reaffirmed my feeling from about a year ago when I was interning at a PR firm in Chicago and felt that drafting a press release was like conducting some kind of imaginary magic show where you wave a wand and everyone believes what they hear. All you had to do was use some new and exciting adjectives to make something boring into something exciting. I think there are much more valuable ways to use a great writing talent, and bloggers are finding that out all over the world. So, the idea is...why write twelve paragraphs fluffing up some idea, when you could say it all in 140 charactors on Twitter? Okay, this is an exaggeration, but really, it's time for the facade to end, and the excitement to begin. And Peter Shankman is one man who knows how to make things exciting.

I can't even begin to express how enthusiastic he was about what people had to say. For those of you who are new to twitter, you can watch this short clip from the Today Show and find out: http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/21134540/vp/29772038#29756189
But anyways, everyone has their laptops out, they are on twitter, and they are writing their thoughts about what people on the panel are saying as the presentation is going on, and Shankman is up on the stage, reading everyone's tweets and responding to them. A live silent conversation (silent conversation - is that an oxymoron??) was going on while a live presentation was going on above that, and they were simultaneously adding to the substance of the whole thing. It was just insanity. The point is, the insanity of social media has just begun, but it is fun, it is real (you can't ignore it) and it's not about rainbows and butterflies, it's reality happening in realtime, and people all around the world are talking about it 24/7. If you are not in the conversation, then people won't know who you are, and you will be competing with all the folks who are part of the conversation and are saying meaningful things and have listeners all over the globe. I could go on a long time about the ups and downs of all of this, but I want to get back to my story....(pic above of me and Shankman, PR and social media experts)

Some other elements of the story include being part of a video, meeting some awesomely passionate people, going to the ER, and chauffeuring friends around Austin.

My story ends on a Tuesday night, when I met up with a friend who is a music blogger. His text to me read: "I'm on the corner of 5th and congress with sandwiches and sparks on me. what u doing?" So I met up with him, drank a Sparks (combo of energy drink and beer) and got to see some shows that night. It was a totally different crowd Tuesday night. Out with the geeks, in with the hipsters. SxSW interactive was all the cool geeks, and SxSW music brings in all of the music loving hipsters. (See below picture. That's how my brain felt at the end of five days of technology talk surrounded by TypeA personalities, mixed with creative awesomeness, and a dash of margaritas and beer...in no particular order)

All in all, I came away with some great conversations, hopefully some good business contacts, a field trip, and some lessons about social media and where we might be headed.

1 comment:

Peter said...

Great photo! Thanks for the compliments! :) Let me know when you're in NYC!tory