Highlights from SXSW 2009
This is my site Written by Alora on March 17, 2009 – 11:24 pm

SXSW 2009Well, I have officially wrapped up my first SXSW experience. So, true to my project manager DNA, here are my lessons learned and highlights. First, the Highlights:

The person I wanted to meet most was Penelope Trunk. Penelope is probably the only blogger I read for entirely personal reasons on a regular basis (I guess it sounds weird to say I read a career blog for personal reasons, huh?).

She is also one of the few people who tends to give advice that I bears any resemblance to the type of work environments I’ve had in my life (tech startups, largely); and we have a number of other things in common, such as being the primary breadwinner for our family (and the associated sense of pressure and/or responsibility), being a reasonably a slightly bitchy and extremely sassy ENTJ who doesn’t really make any bones about liking to have things go her way; she has an inclination towards being a workaholic that has not always been helpful in her personal life; and her direct approach to damn near everything makes her an anomaly among her peers. She is also one of the only people who writes about finding and building relationships with mentors in any kind of tactical way.

Not only did I get to see her on a panel (full of men, of course) where she was routinely trying to bring up points that were too tactical for their taste, but the next day I got to spend a few minutes with her to do an interview that I’ll be writing for SCM tomorrow.

The ‘entertainer’ or bigger “social media celebrity” I wanted to see was Gary Vaynerchuk. Mission accomplished. As always, he was awesomely entertaining and tremendously energetic. Thirteen hundred people bounded out of that auditorium after he was done speaking on a high simply because of his contagious energy. Aside from being extremely enjoyable, it was an awesome study in the importance of presentation style and crowd interactivity.

From a business standpoint, the person I wanted to see was Tony Hsieh, CEO of Zappos. He’s a little shy and a little nervous and a little uncomfortable on stage, but it’s been a really, really long time since I felt inspired by a CEO and I really needed that. I needed to hear a leader talk about something that was meaningful and compelling and touchingly human. His difficulty entirely relaxing in front of a crowd just made him more authentic.

Intellectually, the person I wanted to hear speak was Chris Anderson (Editor-in-Chief of Wired Magazine, author of “The Long Tail,” and author of the not-yet-released book “Free”). I love hearing what smart people think. And so much of my current study is directly supported and implicitly explained by much of his work, so it’s always a shot in the arm to know that I’m not totally off my rocker.

In the ‘getting great ideas from smart people’ category, the list is too long to count — but the panel highlights for me were:

Socially, I was delighted to see my old pals Morgan and Ryan, from my JetBlue days. Ryan is now with WMG, so Morgan is the only one of us left at JB, but it was great to even just get a few minutes with them to see what’s going on in their lives and hear some of the cool stuff they are working on. It was a great reminder that, despite the fact that I in no way miss New York, I do miss my friends there.

And that’s not even starting in all the people I got to meet face-to-face after reading their blogs and/or emailing with them. All very cool.

Now, Lessons Learned:

Happily, I followed all the advice and not only wore comfortable shoes, but the first two days I wore my sneakers with my inserts. Amazingly enough, my feet were really pretty good all four days.

Room A in the Austin Convention Center is about 86,000 miles away from the hub of Interactive activity on the 4th floor. You have to walk through Montana to get there. It takes forever.

Whoever designed the elevator/escalator/stairs situation at the Austin Convention Center needs to be shaken until his teeth rattle. Seriously, dude, were you on crack?

There is no good solution for the electronics situation at SXSW. They provide machines at several public stations, which is nice. (Though, they only have them at ACC and not at the Hilton, which is not as nice.) But if you are a writer, you really need your own. But when the battery dies, there aren’t enough plugs to go around. All in all, we were all struggling with the same problems. No real resolution unless someone builds a 16 hour battery.

Food options are great if you’re not ridiculously broke from trying to get a new business off the ground. If you are, then eating shredded wheat out of a ziplock bag in your purse has to make do.

If you arrive at ACC before 9:00 a.m. each day, not only do you get rock star parking, but you get plenty of time to get some coffee, get settled, catch up on email, and re-do your schedule for the day for the 12th time.

So, that’s all of the direct stuff. I’ll spend the next couple of days distilling several of the things that came up in more detailed posts. My mind is racing, but my body is wiped.