Crazy Conference Travel - SXSW thoughts

Posted on March 16th 2007

After a whirlwind trip to far too many events in far too short a time, I'm home safe and sound. I'm going to be posting multiple entries about my various thoughts and ruminations about the events. Here's my first few thoughts about SXSW:

2006 vs. 2007
Someone told me at Community 2.0 that they didn't go to SXSW this year because last year was "nothing but a bunch of kids trying to find money for their Web 2.0 businesses". True enough, but this year many of those same "kids" had real world ideas to report on.

zefrank
So I've found zefrank's videocast quite amusing, but never found (or perhaps made) the time to watch regularly. I met ze both in the hotel lobby and at the bar where he was hosting a party. Fantastic guy, zero ego, and completely willing to chat. My friend Virginia was totally impressed too. Bummer that I finally got into the videocast right before he ends it all. The videocast I mean.

My Panel
I've done a number of panels, and the one I moderated at SXSW was by far the most fun. Lee moderated a similar panel at Community 2.0 a few days later so we schemed for a couple weeks beforehand. With as many cool variations on the theme as we came up with, I ended up using a very simplistic format. It went something like this:

  • Introduced the reason I called the panel "Community Ecology" (2 mins or so)
  • Asked the panelists to briefly introduce themselves - no more than 2 minutes a piece, and with a screenshot of each person's site up on the screen.
  • Introduced the panel format to the audience - basically that they would be challenging the panelists to address various real-life scenarios. Anyone who came up to the mic to present a scenario would have a chance to win an iPod nano, courtesy of eModeration.
  • I started off the discussion with the first scenario while audience members stepped up to the mic.
  • In the last 5 minutes, I asked the remaining people in line to ask their questions even though we couldn't answer simply so they'd be "on the record".

In a matter of minutes, there were 10 people lined up and we ran out of time to answer all the questions the audience had. The funny thing? I was worried that there wouldn't be enough audience participation! (Some live blogging notes here and here)

Kathy Sierra Rocks
I finally got to see one of the smartest bloggers around speak. And it was everything you could hope for. Recap here. My favorite point of her speech was one she just blogged about:

SXSW Interactive had more attendees than ever before. A lot more. But here's the confusing part: the people attending are the same people who create and evangelize the tools that make attending totally unnecessary. I started my keynote by asking if anyone was live-blogging. Hands shot up across the room. Someone yelled "Twitter!" The whole thing was recorded on video and audio. So... if nobody needed to be there, why were they?

[...]

The most underrated benefit of the face-to-face effect of conferences is INSPIRATION.

Next Year
More time spent planning the parties. More time at the event. No panel to sit on, presentations to give, or other reasons to have to leave the parties early. 


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