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SXSW Interactive: A Technology Conference About Connecting With People

Editor’s note: This year One Degree was delighted to have a correspondent at South by Southwest, the premiere interactive conference in the U.S. Over the next few days, Adele will be filing her reports and observations from SXSW – these are her initial impressions on returning from the conference.

The South by Southwest Interactive festival is one of the biggest technology events of the year, bringing together those who create web technologies with those who use technology to create. Bloggers, podcasters, social media marketers, PR folk, developers and techno-geeks of all stripes mashed and mingled for five days in Austin, Texas. 

I went to SXSW Interactive with a plan of attack, a full schedule and meetings lined up. The session list was amazing, far too much for any one person to absorb. In fact, scheduling became so difficult that many people turned to online calendars, wikis and social networks to help them stay organized and connected.

And then, shortly after I arrived, I threw it all out. Why? Because once I learned that all of the panels and keynotes would be recorded and available after the festival for download as a podcast, my focus shifted to the elements of SXSW Interactive that could only experienced in the moment: the people.

One of the key places where people congregated, apart from the conference sessions, was the BlogHaus. Making its debut this year, this meeting room was sponsored by AMD intended for bloggers to plug in, recharge and update. However, BlogHaus quickly took on the role of meeting place and social central, so much so that by the end of the week, it was quieter to work in the corridors. This video from Laura Fitton (a.k.a. Pistachio) sums up the energy in BlogHaus. Clearly putting so many social media content creators in one room created a chaotic, yet happy, smorgasbord of blogging, photography and streaming video.

The conversations that went on in BlogHaus, in the hallways, at dozens of parties, in spontaneous meet-ups, on the tradeshow floor and immediately following conference sessions were vital to feeling the pulse of the future of technology and social media. SXSW Interactive attendees had the opportunity talk directly with technology developers and see first-hand how they could use new platforms to communicate and engage in conversation with their audience.

For many who were at SXSW Interactive, the ability to meet face-to-face with their peers was powerful. In my case, as well as making many new connections, I met people whom I’d only ever known online via Twitter or through their blogs, and I was able to deepen those relationships, making my world just a little bit smaller. Although, I’ve been back from Austin for several days, there is a sense excitement that still resonates in me, more so than any other conference I’ve attended. Wondering if I was alone in this in this feeling, I appealed to those on Twitter who had attended SXSW to sum up their experience in one word:

@cc_chapman  Hallways
@newmediajim  energizing!
@Pistachio  overwhelming
@davedelaney  Awesome
@OracleJulio  Basic
@philcampbell  exquisiteness
@gdruckman  excellent!
@jstorerj  creative
@nathantwright  Ass-kicking
@ranajune  exhausting
@mikeneumann  Friends
@astrout  networkingpartyfest!
@vero  enlightening

Clearly, I’m not alone in my enthusiasm for this event. And, although I did attend some good sessions, meeting and sharing time with my peers was far more rewarding personally and professionally.

Tris Hussey from b5media summed SXSW Interactive up best when he called it “a week of cool people, good times and geek spring break.” Sadly, spring break has come to an end, and as I work my way through stacks of collected business cards, catch up on email, write blog posts and fight the illness dubbed “plague” that has beset many attendees, I’m already planning next year’s trip to SXSW Interactive. No schedule required.

If you attended SXSW, please feel free to trackback or leave a link to your own coverage in the comments!