We arrived at SXSW late Friday night and being a foursquare user, I immediately checked in. The first thing that popped up was a new badge (yes, I am one of the people who like the whole gamification of foursquare) SXSW Virgin. Of course I was excited, new badge, lots of points the usual gamey things that I enjoy about foursquare. What I didn’t realize is really what that badge meant, but by early Saturday morning, I truly understood what it was to be a SXSW Virgin.
All Good Things Come to Those Who Wait
We arrived around 7:30am on Saturday to register with plenty of time to get the logistics handled and get to our first session at 9:30. Registration didn’t open for another hour and the line was already wrapped around the convention center hallway. But the long line was just the beginning of all the great conversations. The group in front of us was a local design agency in Austin attending to pick up all the latest in web design and behind me was an entrepreneur who traveled every year from Japan.
The Lean Approach
The first session I attended was with the Eric Ries, author of the Lean Startup. I hadn’t heard of the book before, so I was definitely interested. But what really pulled me in was less the topic at hand and more the interactivity that was happening in the room. The author was at the front of the room telling the audience about his new approach to building a successful start-up and as expected at any interactive conference, people were tweeting throughout. About 20 minutes in, Eric called upon the ones in the audience who had not fully bought into the idea and asked them to not just tweet about it but share their views. I loved the debate and energy in the room and I knew this was going to be a great three days.
I Got Way More Than the T-Shirt
Sure there were t-shirts to buy and other souvenirs but what I took home had much more value.
The value of a clear and articulate pitch - regardless of if it was during the networking or in a session, the event was filled with cool entrepreneurs with great ideas. We met so many great people and you have little time to make your mark. Having a clear and articulate elevator pitch will cut through the noise.
Passion is a key ingredient when making an idea a reality - the startup bus is a contest where people roadtrip to SXSW and launch a company on the way. The passion and enthusiasm these people showed was inspiring.
Rules should be broken - I’ve attended a lot of conferences and I sit through dozens of best practice sessions and then at the end am disappointed that I didn’t learn anything new. At SXSW, I attended many sessions that steered the conversation away from the norm and tested boundaries; now that’s the stuff that motivates.
Don’t judge a movie from the first 20 minutes. While I was at the event to immerse myself in the interactive sessions, we did take an afternoon to see a movie screening. KingKelly was a statement around how self-absorbed society has become because of all the new media and to demonstrate the entire film was shot with an iPhone. Now, if it makes it to theatres, the first 20 minutes can be a bit uncomfortable but in the end I thought it was a really well done commentary.
So as I wrap up my thoughts on this year’s event, I’ve already gotten the email for next year’s registration. Who’s with me?