Is SXSW 2014 worth it?

Yesterday it started.

The Facebook posts and tweets about how much ‘better’ SXSW was in the ‘olden’ days. Frankly I find those statements  tend to come from the same people who insist on announcing that the ‘the book was so much better than the movie’; meaning that most of these people want you to know that THEY READ THE BOOK (or attended SXSW before it was big) more than they really believe what they are saying. And of course a lot of the naysayers are bitter due to ticket prices and hotel challenges. Which are valid. And yes sometimes the book is better than the movie. But SXSW is not a bad movie. SXSW still ROCKS.

But wait Marcy, are you saying SXSW is better than it was?

No.

Well not completely.

What I am saying is that SXSW has evolved. It has changed. It has become something totally and completely different than when it was a book, er…I mean the original concept. It is inarguably bigger, and for a lot of people they feel bigger means diluted. But the reality is that the content and programming quality has actually increased. Is bigger overwhelming and harder to navigate? Oh heck yes. SXSW is no longer an event where you buy a ticket, show up and without much effort learn stuff and have fun. Nope. It isn’t the county fair.

I think of SXSW as a week at college. And like college it is my responsibility to determine what I want to learn. I pick sessions that add value to my work and I have a daily strategy to be sure if a presentation isn’t what I expected, I can move on to another option. And since SXSW ‘campus’ is spread out all over an entire CITY you need a plan.  One that literarily includes a map. Yes, it is that big.

But also like college you need to get engaged with what you find in front of you. So saying yes to the party invite, or stopping by the popular Blogger Lounge and making eye contact with your fellow ‘co-eds’ is important too. Be present and be in the game. That said- if you drink too much or party too hard the next days ‘classes’ are totally going to be regretful.

Let’s talk about hotels for a minute shall we? Yesterday I used 3 computers to try and break thru the mad rush to buy a ticket and book a hotel room. It wasn’t fun. I have been asked numerous times about the way SXSW actually buys every single hotel room in Austin- and then only makes them available to those who purchase a ticket. Lots of first timers don’t believe me- but call an Austin hotel right now and try to book a room during SXSW and you will be told what we are all told- HELL NO. It is both frustrating and genius. It is the greatest way to be certain Mr. CEO doesn’t only get a room while Ms. Start-Up Tech misses out.

 Everyone - no matter what is on your business card-  has to go thru the same painful hotel process.

Also as conferences are more and more concerned about outboarding* (unsponsored) events by brands and those coming to only network the town- this maneuver helps to at least be certain that they are receiving revenue for just about anyone in Austin. Because unless you buy a ticket- you are very unlikely to find accommodations**.

So there you have it….. I believe SXSW Interactive  is still the greatest educational event of marketing, business, branding & technology industries. And I think it is wildly different than it’s origins. Because sometimes things can go from great…… to greater.

Remember, if you are going, and you see a redhead running from session to session please say hello.

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More info on SXSW 2014 can be found here: SXSW.com

 

 
*outboarding: events planned in town, on same dates as an event- but no fee is paid to the conference organizer.
** some people rent houses or rooms in homes or beg friends in the area to put them up.

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(These thoughts are my own and do not reflect
the sentiment or opinions of my awesome employer)

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