OK – I know, the SXSW Film-Interactive-Music event is an absolute mad house, and many of the locals (and others) avoid downtown Austin at all costs during this annual event. But, let me tell you, you are missing out on the most effective, interactive and entrepreneurial festival of the year. It is hard to explain, but there is no other intense environment that allows one to see and feel what are becoming the new trends in the digital arena.
It can be an overwhelming experience for those who attend for the first time. My first SXSW Interactive event was many years ago. I was moderating a panel on financing during a Sunday morning, 9 o’clock time slot. Who wants to turn up for a panel at that early hour after a party-packed Saturday night? Five minutes before my carefully thought-out five-person panel of experts was to begin, I looked around and noticed only six audience members. Oh well, I thought, perhaps I had miscalculated the needs of the festival-goers. However, within the next five minutes, the room was soon overflowing with more than 80 people–instant crowd! Wow!
I have not missed a SXSW event since. Why? You have the opportunity to meet the most interesting and fascinating people. I recommend that you look at the schedule and decide what sessions you want to attend, but keep in mind that flexibility is important. Listen to what the crowd is saying, and see where they flow. You will be pleasantly surprised by the new ideas and entrepreneurial businesses you never thought possible; or, even some you think you may have thought about a while back, but never pursued.
Every place you go in downtown Austin is filled with new things: someone with a new business, an entrepreneurial idea, a new technology or platform, etc. Be assured you will somehow be touching the future of things to come. For entrepreneurs and innovators, this is both exhilarating and exhausting. For investors, pick your targeted place to be: Start-Up Village or one of the many Accelerator Pitch sessions. For others, watch the crowd and move where they go……you’ll see future ideas, products and businesses. But, more than anything else, enjoy the diversity of thought leadership and innovation, in addition to the after-party events and some fascinating people. Perhaps most important, wear comfortable shoes!