There are so many overview blog posts from SXSW that I almost did not plan to write one up, but then thought, “Why not?”
The event is great on many different levels. The networking opportunities are never-ending. There are so many people there (attendance increase +40% compared to last year) that you run into people that you know (or recognize) on every corner. There are a lot of smart people that attend the event, and I was very happy to network and meet all of the people that I met. This was my 1st year attending, and I will say that it did live up to most of my expectations. I do have 1 complaint that I have heard many people talk about, and I also wanted to add in my .02.
Everyday there are a ton of sessions. The variety of topics that were covered ranged from “Protecting your teenagers online” to “How the porn industry leverages Social Media.” I think that the variety in sessions really displays how important Social Media is in everyday life, both professionally and personally. An increase in variety though, generally means an increase in sessions – which ends up being a decrease in quality and watered down content.
I was only able to attend about 5 sessions the entire time that I was there, but I was also informed by people that have attended the show before that 5 was actually a good amount. To my dismay 2 of the sessions were “iffy” at best and not billed up to what there were supposed to be. I have also read that the Keynote with Twitter CEO Evan Williams on Monday was a disaster, with ~80% of the people leaving before the end (I was not there, but that was the general feeling from the people that I had talked to).
First, let me say that I respect every speaker at SXSW and all of the sessions that were held. It takes a lot to get up in front of any crowd, create a descriptive presentation, present it and take questions. I have done this a couple of times and I still get that pit in my stomach beforehand. Sometimes I am able to walk right through the presentation and everything works out, and sometimes I am off of my game and lose my audience. I get that, which is why I am a professional speaker. I also accept that. You only get better at things through practice.
While I was sitting in some of these sessions, I started to wonder how many times that some of these speakers have ever sat up in front of a large audience and ran through a presentation. How many have ever attended SXSW, sat through a session and thought, you know what, this session could have been better, and here is how. It is very important to experience an event like SXSW before you jump into thinking that you can submit a session, get it voted on and then you are off to the races.
In closing, I really do want to say that I respect all of the speakers at SXSW. It is easy to judge coming from the outside. I just hope that in the future, that we can improve the quality of the sessions.