This was the first year I’ve been to SXSWi. What finally convinced me to go? A combination of last year’s overwhelming number of tweets and Peter Kim’s wise council. Peter told me that SXSW is a place unlike any other conference: you get the opportunity to be with a ton of like-minded, smart people in a social environment. With alcohol. Did I mention alcohol?
Peter was right about everything including the alcohol. But to really “get it,” I needed to experience the event first-hand. Here’s how I sum up why I loved SXSW: serendipity. When you are in a place as small as downtown Austin, you could “happen to” run into/recognize people you’ve only known online before, people you admire from a distance but hardly ever get to see, people who do what you do at other companies, people you do business with in Austin, and in my case, even catch up with a high school friend who works in the same field as me. (It turns out if we had been more organized we could have had a small-scale Paly reunion right there in Austin – next year!) When was the last time you ran into a list of people like that all at the same place?
I go to a lot of conferences. It’s been a long time since I got much out of keynotes, breakouts, or panels. To be honest, it’s come to the point where I only attend conferences I’ve been asked to speak at. SXSWi was different though. And I’m glad I went. Go if you want, or don’t go, it’s up to you. If you do go, you might “happen to” run into me there next year.