SXSW: closing thoughts

Overall, I was very impressed with SXSW Interactive 2006 especially given the event is mostly a volunteer effort. After the initial confusion with signs and registration on Friday, everything else ran incredibly smooth as far as my experience. My goals for this event were to learn and gain new ideas, to get some creative and business inspiration from the panelists and attendees, and to essentially recharge my batteries. The more I talked to people at the conference, the more I realized how much weâ??re all still working in a vacuum despite the Internet and all the communication tools at our disposal. Even those working in technology hotbeds like Silicon Valley and Austin, need to interact with their peers face-to-face at events like SXSW. From all the conversations and interactions, you really begin to acquire a better sense of how much is going on in the industry and hopefully cross pollinate ideas.

I also had some interesting observations of the crowd and the conference. The dress was very casual â?? jeans and t-shirts were predominant. I liked this as it was very low key. Even the panelists and speakers were dressed casual. There were Mac laptops everywhere. Honestly, I think over half the crowd had their laptops out while the panels were in session and my best guess would be that 70% of them were Macs. I knew there was a good population of web designers there, but it was still surprising to me. I probably stood out with my shiny new Dell laptop!

There were large crowds for most of the panels and keynotes, especially for the popular ones such as Jason Fried of 37 Signals. The content of the panels was fantastic. There was only one panel I attended that I left and went to another. Since there were four to five panels occurring simultaneously, there was never any boredom and I honestly couldnâ??t get enough. It also helped that the panels were the right length â?? one hour each. Even if a panel wasnâ??t great, it would be over soon enough. Iâ??m not really a note taker, but I took copious notes during each of the panels and keynotes I attended.

On a business note, I especially loved the fact that when meeting people I could give a much simpler description of EvolvePoint and what we do with RSS. I usually have to preface the pitch with a brief description of what RSS is all about. At SXSW, everyone was Internet and new technology savvy.

The evening after-parties were fun to say the least. How can you complain about free food and free beer? Need I say more?

SXSW 2006 was a very productive conference. I canâ??t recommend this event enough for someone working in the Internet/web/new media industries. Iâ??ll definitely be back next year.

Tom currently works in developer relations for IBM Watson. A serial entrepreneur, he's been the founder of numerous startups including Investify and StatsMix, a Techstars alumni company. Tom lives outside Boulder, Colorado and in his free time he's an avid rock climber, skier, and trail runner.

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