If this year was your first time attending SXSW in Austin, Texas, you were among all of those overwhelmed with long lines and the hundreds of options of things to do at any given time. But South by Southwest will in the end always be what you make and want it to be. I planned, I organized and I failed, but when I looked back at everything I learned, I have to say you will definitely find me there in 2016.
Confession #1: I Hate The Lines But I Love The Lines
Although the long lines were overwhelming, boring and annoying, there were some hidden surprises in the science of lining up in a single file. Not only did I meet several interesting people who work in the same industry and I will stay in touch with, but I was also provided the luxury of stopping and doing nothing for a couple of minutes. Not to mention I was forced to engage in conversation, make jokes and observe interesting people along with others waiting in the long, serpentine line.
Lesson learned: With bad things come good things and boy, are there interesting characters at SXSW.
Confession #2: If You Say You Didn’t Get The Bang For Your Buck You’re Lying
Yes, many say the conference is oversold and overpriced, but with a multitude of freebies (including food and drinks) and unlimited opportunities to learn, I found it hard to feel dissatisfied.
Lesson learned: Can you really put a price on learning?
Confession #3: I Wore Tennis Shoes 100% Of The Time And My Feet Still Hurt
Walking, walking, and more walking. Even though I was one of the smartest people at SXSW and decided to wear tennis shoes no matter how nerdy I looked, the walking still got to me – I can’t imagine how the girl wearing high heels felt.
Lesson learned: Make sure you are well aware of lounge area locations (providing refreshments) and free rides given by advertisers such as Mazda (found out about this on the last day I was there unfortunately).
Confession #4: My Favorite Sessions Had Little To Do With My Industry
Sometimes the best sessions were the ones that opened my mind to different creative outlets and possibilities. For example, the session titled “Infinity And Beyond: Pixar And 20 Years Since Toy Story” although not directly related to advertising, taught me that if you don’t have the tools to make your idea come to life you’ve got to find a way to make them. Not to mention I sat in the same room as the creators of Toy Story, hearing from their experience how the first animated film in history was able to come to life.
Lesson learned: The most valuable lessons come from unexpected places.
Confession #5: I Only Downloaded 4 Apps That I Will Probably Delete
I only downloaded Lyft because they were giving a $5 discount, but the reality is I am already brand loyal and used to Uber. Similarly, Gyft crept into my phone for the cost of a free t-shirt and although the concept of buying gift cards is interesting, I personally hate giving gift cards because it undermines my creativity (plus I did not like the fact that they were kind of ripping off Lyft’s branding, are they made by the same company?). During the panel titled “Stories Asunder: Tales Of The Internet Of Things” I was intrigued by the idea of telling stories based on your location using Bluetooth and beacons, but as gorgeous as the Asunder app is, there is not content in it yet for my home city. However, I will keep the concept and design in mind for my future projects. Last but not least there’s Meerkat, a version of Snapchat combined with Skype where you can stream live videos to your friends in real time – sorry my life’s not interesting enough (yet) for my friends to see live. I can definitely see this working for brands and celebrities in the future though.
Lesson learned: Download, explore, remember, delete.
Want to know what else I experienced at SXSW 2015? Check out the Agency Entourage blog for continuing updates.