sxsw 2014

I have attended SXSW for last five years and upon each return, lots of people ask me if it is really worth the time and expense. Perhaps this is on your mind too? Should you plan to attend SXSW next year? Here is an honest and personal perspective.

First you should know a little about me. I don’t like crowds. I am not the kind of personal networker who works a room. I prefer quiet dinners with a friend or two. My party animal days are pretty much over.

In other words, I’m not a typical SXSW kind of guy : )

SXSW is expensive, time-consuming, and the crowds are ridiculous. Even after buying a $700 ticket, the most popular sessions are so crowded it is not unusual to be turned away. I sat on the floor more than once. The city of Austin bursts at the seams … one night I had to wait more than an hour to get a cab.

And yet …

SXSW is an important and spectacular global gathering. This is why I go each year …

Out of the bubble. There is probably no greater gathering of digital intellects anywhere on earth. Attending sessions at SXSW jerks me out of the social media echo chamber to learn about what is going on in other worlds. I go to SXSW to learn and always leave inspired and refreshed.

The electricity of new. The hope and optimism of the world’s greatest shark tank absolutely sizzles. It is fun to watch entrepreneurs from around the world pitch what they hope will be the next great thing.

Business connections. I have met the most wonderful new friends who have become collaborators and customers. Even standing in line for food can become an adventure.

Connecting with friends. It’s amazing to connect with people from the blog community. My favorite locale is the blogger’s lounge where I can normally spot some cool folks.

It’s a lot of fun. Many people (purportedly half) go to SXSW without a badge just to attend the round-the-clock parties. There is music, food and booze at every corner. It’s not unusual to run into Hollywood celebrities, famous authors and titans of business around the conference center.

So what about next year? 

Will I attend in 2015? I don’t know. I take things year by year and who knows what will be going on? But I think you should consider going to SXSW at least once in your life if the opportunity arises.

Yes, it’s crowded and maybe even a little exasperating but it is also the World Cup of interactive media and if you want to experience the best in the world you owe it to yourself to give it a shot one year.

If you have any questions or comments about the SXSW experience let me know in the comment section.

By the way, I debuted a new speech on the future of social media at SXSW this year, if you’re interested, here is a re-cap by Geoff Wilson.

Illustration courtesy Kerry Gorgone.

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