South By Southwest is composed of three different parts: Interactive, Music and Film. SXSW Interactive is the largest attended portion of the conference at over 37,000 attendees compared to 30,000 for Music and 20,000 for Film. But whenever I bring up SXSW, most people first associate it with music, not Interactive. Today, I want to clarify exactly what SXSW Interactive is and why it’s more than just a cool music scene.
Admittedly, “interactive” is a vague descriptor. My job title is “Interactive Producer” and I always have to spend 5 minutes explaining what that means. When SXSW was first started in 1987, it was an event for people to gather and talk about the future of entertainment and media. That’s still the idea behind the Interactive portion of South By, but media sure has changed in the last couple of decades. We’re not limited to three broadcast channels anymore. Not only did the internet catch on, but how we access it and use it has evolved more than a few times. We have fancy devices called iPhones, speakers with artificial intelligence and headsets that alter reality. In 1994, SXSW Interactive was introduced for the first time and it’s been growing and advancing with us ever since.
Today, you can find topics for just about anything digital. There are individual tracks for marketing, design, development & coding, government, health, style, sports, the tech industry and many more. Everyone now uses digital to conduct business and interact with customers. If you use a computer for any aspect of your business, Interactive has knowledge and insider information to offer you.
Community and Access
SXSW Interactive is the premier event for creatives, entrepreneurs and tech enthusiasts to gather, network and share ideas. Over 37,000 people from 82 different countries converge in Austin, TX. Without the backdrop of South By, you would never have access to the type of information, network of people and experiences they have to share. Start-ups, joint ventures and crazy ideas have taken shape and formed all throughout the hotel lobbies’ of Downtown Austin (including Agency Entourage). The idea is for people with different job titles and from various backgrounds and industries to connect, collaborate and create new opportunities.
The sessions also provide access and insight from some of the best minds in the country. Want to learn more about future trends in social media? Great news, you can hear about them directly from people who work at Facebook. What about ecommerce? Employees from Amazon will be speaking too. What about tech and gadgets? Pull up a chair and learn from Google and Samsung. The quality and amount of information is unparalleled.
Walk Away with the Big Picture and Detailed Insight
The most interesting thing about SXSW is the juxtaposition between the macro and micro viewpoints at the conference. On one hand, you walk away with a bigger picture of how tech, entertainment, marketing, media, etc. are all interconnected. You get a bigger sense of your industry and your place in it. At the same time, you also get micro with specific insights from sessions or the new person you just met and connected with on LinkedIn. Everyone walks away with something different at SXSW. The best parts of the experience aren’t what you expected or planned for.
Check out this video and others from the SXSW team to learn more about the conference.