What I learned at SXSW – The Not So Official Version

Photo credit: Dave Delaney

I just returned from South By Southwest (also known as nerd Spring Break). This is where nerds of all areas of nerd-dom convene in Austin, Texas. This is where new products and apps are launched, the fancy nerd people come to rub elbows (this year brought the likes of Ashton and Demi, PeeWee Herman, Mike Tyson, Danny DeVito etc.) and get their geek on, or watch movie premiers or perhaps just for an ego boost. The conference has three parts: Interactive, Film and Music.

This was my second SXSW and I felt much wiser. The whole thing can be quite overwhelming. There are really cool events happening from 8am – 4am and if you could, you would want to hit them all. You have no idea when a walk turns into an interview with Brad Womack, when a panel has a celebrity guest appearance or when your next big client or business partner is in line with you to get coffee.

With all the content, activities, giveaways, iPad drama and celebs you learn things in different ways than you expected. If you want an official search of takeaways from the conference – sit tight, I am sure those will fill the interwebs by the thousands soon. This is my not so official version of what I learned at SXSW.

  1. Real, in-person relationships mean more than any online relationship – I have met some really cool people online. We have shared thoughts, ideas and jokes. You almost feel like you ‘know’ them but there is still no replacement for an in-person relationship. Some people you know from online aren’t as great in person and some people in person are way better than they are online. Sites like Twitter have a lot of noise. Great for meeting people but if you really want to get to know them, don’t forget to take the relationship from online to offline.
  2. It doesn’t matter what the nerds think in business as much as it matters what everyone thinks – I had a lot of good conversations about tools and apps that are out there and that are being launched. In the nerd world, we are constantly trying to out-nerd the other nerds. The tools we have created are too complex, have too many features and that isn’t what businesses and users want. If you want to succeed (like make money, not just be nerd famous) you need to find something your average Joe from Maine or Minnesota or West Virginia wants, not just what the nerds want.
  3. If you have a good story people want to tell it for you – Friends of mine launched the beta version of their app, Pathcrosser, at SXSW. The hosted an awesome party (that wasn’t too in your face) and spent the week fluttering about meeting this person and that. No major marketing roll out, just connecting. Their app is smart, the audience they are trying to reach is real and they are good guys. People WANT to tell their story. They want to introduce them to influencers and get them interviews. They didn’t dress up in Chipmunk costumes to be noticed but they did get interviewed for Read, Write Web, talked to traditional media outlets and won for buzz on the street.
  4. When you are not in New England you can’t say you are from Portland and expect people to think Maine – This is pretty self-explanatory, but I got awfully tired of letting people down by telling them I was from Maine and not Oregon.
  5. Some things are just supposed to happen – Especially at SXSW where almost everything you do has major potential, you can’t try too hard. Some things are just supposed to happen for some reason or another. I know a few girls who were part of a major promotional campaign, things didn’t go as planned and the original goals were not met but both of these groups of girls came out with something life changing that has altered their course in their lives and careers. I also had a dream about Gary Vaynerchuck and the cast of the Jersey Shore. I tweeted about it, Gary laughed and an hour later, I was in a small room and he walked in. Not too shabby of an ice breaker to connect about a hysterical dream. We had a good laugh and I was lucky enough to get a copy of his new book. That introduction wouldn’t have been the same if it wasn’t for Ronnie being such a jerk in my dream.
  6. Glasses for fashion bother me – As a girl who had to wear glasses or contacts her whole life (until recently) I get upset when people admit they are wearing glasses just to compliment their nerd outfit.
  7. Only having the internet makes you disconnected – The night I arrived in Austin, there was the terrible earthquake in Japan. I was actually awake when it happened and we saw it all over the news. The internet can make you feel so connected to other people but it can also make you disconnected. While at SXSW most people are armed only with their iPhones, iPads or laptops. The whole tragedy in Japan seemed removed without being to connect with the people you care about most on how this makes you feel.
  8. I don’t consider myself a blogger – On my second night at SXSW, I was at an event that was off the traditional SXSW routine. It was for a group of people who work more in the fashion arena. This event was primarily for fashion bloggers. One very nice woman asked me ‘so are you a blogger too?’ I told her I wasn’t. The question stuck in my head the rest of the week. I currently write for 6-7 blogs regularly and I don’t call myself a ‘blogger’. I call myself an internet marketer and blogging is just one piece. I just thought that was interesting.
  9. I am a pretty lucky lady – My life is pretty ok. My husband is fantastic. He even registered me for Beach to Beacon because I couldn’t do it from SXSW. He also really makes me laugh. My family is amazing. My mother finally got her cowboy boots after some inspiration from my photos at Allen’s. I have also got to surround myself with some pretty smart and motivated people (I attribute a lot of that to Rich Tucker and the Social Fresh Cruise). I am home with a full brain, full notepad, some great pictures and an even closer network of people I am lucky to get to talk to, laugh with and pick eachother’s brains.

So that is it. That is my first impression, unofficial version of what I learned at SXSW this year. I haven’t unpacked, I haven’t gone through business cards or the notes I took but these 9 things are what I have already taken away from this conference. I look forward to seeing what other opportunities and relationships come from the people I met this week and the things I learned.

23 Replies to “What I learned at SXSW – The Not So Official Version”

  1. Amanda –

    As I was reading this, I kept thinking to myself how cool it was that we’d discussed many of your SxSW insights on the last evening… and then I got to #9 & seriously teared up.

    #1 is so true. Those who I have seen gain the most from social media are those who use it as a catalyst to meet others who share common interests face to face. Making those relationships even stronger when you see them multiple times a year or when you share a lifetime experiences like skydiving or a vacation.

    The real friendships that I’ve gained thanks to Twitter and especially Social Fresh Cruise will last a life-time. I’d say I’m a pretty lucky guy too.

    Thank you for making day!

    1. I think it is safe to say that last night was this post coming together in my head. Thank you for everything Rich. Glad I did my part to make your day.

  2. Great summary and I love the story about your GaryVee dream. But people really need to understand that Portland *MAINE* is much better, even if lesser known 😉 It was great to meet you, albeit briefly, at SXSW.

    1. Thanks so much Rachel. The Gary thing was SO surreal that when he came in the blogger’s lounge, I was confused if I was still dreaming. It was just missing Snooki. It was great to meet you at AllHat.

  3. Thank you for writing this. It is one of the most dead on reviews I’ve seen for SXSW and you really focused on what DOES matter rather than what too many people want to bitch or complain about.

    I’m also happy that our paths crossed more than once and that I didn’t have to wait until I come up to Portland (the one in MAINE!) next month.

    1. Thanks so much and it was great to see you too!
      Was pretty excited to dig into Content Rules on my plane ride home. You and Ann should be proud.
      See you next month.

  4. What a great way to sum it all up!!
    It really is about the people isn’t it? Glad you were part of my “people” this year Amanda – and yeah, I attribute that to Rich Tucker too – more great people I met because of SoCruise.
    The Gary Vee dream is a hoot though!

    1. Thanks lady! It was a pleasure to be part of you “people” this year.
      The Gary dream was one of the biggest takeaways of the whole week. Such a weird dream and weird day.

  5. Great insights. Thank you for the nice PathCrosser shout out. We might not have been the loudest company there, but we succeeded in our mission for the weekend. We felt it was better to connect with a few smart people then try to broadcast ourselves to the masses.

    Thank you for all the great feedback.

  6. Great summary of Southby!

    And, of course you’re a blogger : )

    Also, I had to wear glasses all my life as well and don’t get people wearing glasses for recreation either….

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