It's been exactly a week since I returned from SXSW. I would have written something sooner, but this delayed post is a great representation of where things stand in life for me these days. Writing for "personal" purpose takes a second seat to direct business building and running which is ironic because that was kind of the vibe at SXSW Interactive and that's not a bad thing.
Don't get me wrong, there are still plenty of parties at SXSW and a lot of late nights and some blowing off steam. As always, the panels are hit and miss, but even the misses can still be good for business. I attended a session that was essentially an ad for the mobile start-up whose CEO was giving a talk. However, his start-up was solid in premise and I'd heard about it before. And it's on my radar and now I'll be looking for strategic partnership opportunities around it.
It's been my sixth year going to SXSW. Here's how I spent my time:
Client Meetings & Events
Regardless of your business (platform, brand or agency side) SXSW is a great way to connect and engage with clients. In addition to dinners and One-on-ones, this year I co-hosted an intimate salon with Jeremiah Owyang in Edelman's Austin office where brands such as Samsung, PayPal, Kellogg's and others traded case studies and engaged in meaningful dialogue around the work they were doing and the challenges/opportunities they were engaging with. And we weren't the only ones hosting private client events—a quick chat with an Adweek reporter verified that it was kind of a "thing" this year.
One On Ones
In order to make SXSW productive in any sense, you shouldn't go there without scheduling one-on-ones in advance. I had some great conversations with industry peers, some who were running really cool activations at SXSW, to emerging start-ups and the occasional conversation that turned into a more in depth meeting. SXSW is noisy, so finding some quiet places to talk shop is a great use of time.
There's a lot of brand activity going on at SXSW and it's impossible to catch it all but worth seeing what the brands are doing. Oreo's 3-D printed cookies were hard to miss and Mastercard's partnership with the Mashable house was an interesting tactic compared to American Express who paid for a more traditional sponsorship. Meanwhile PayPal (client) hosted web celebrities and celebrities alike at their blogger lounge.
Yes, these still happen too. But like I said, this is my sixth year at SXSW—so parties are now part fun and a whole lot of networking, meeting and greeting and re-connecting with industry friends and colleagues. Parties are great for informal recruiting and in more simple terms—putting faces to names.
For what it's worth—this year SXSW seemed a little smaller (confirmed)—but I noticed that the trend of more senior people attending is still on the rise. During one lunch with an editor of a large publication, I looked over and saw a table full of top executives from a leading digital agency—right up to the CEO. And this wasn't an isolated case. SXSW = big business now, so if you haven't yet gone you might want to adjust your expectations and book on time because it's not getting any easier to attend.