After a week of SXSWEdu and another of SXSWi and even a few music shows just for good measure, it is safe to say my brain was a bit fuzzy. It took a few days to recover…okay it’s possible I still haven’t recovered yet, but I also had the most amazing week of my life. So, I’ve got that going for me.
Prepping for SXSW
Getting the opportunity to attend Edu was kind of lifesaving. At the much smaller conference, I saw how popular panels could be, how badly a well designed schedule was needed, and that leaving the Convention Center was essentially out of the question. With that newly found knowledge, I braced myself for the onslaught of Interactive.
At the end of my time at SXSWi, I compiled a video of people describing SXSW in one word. Not surprisingly, overwhelming kept coming up time and time again (But most entertainingly by a German that pronounced his W’s like V’s, thus saying “overvhelming). I certainly cannot disagree with that sentiment. There is so much to see and do in those 5 days, that it could easily consume someone.
Thankfully, my time at Edu had prepared me a small amount for Interactive. I built a very extensive schedule, first adding any panel I thought might be interesting and then checking those panels to see what was in the Convention Center or the Hilton. Fortuitously, almost everything I wanted to see was in those two buildings and I only had to venture to the Driskill one time.
Say Yes to Everything
On the first day of Interactive, Hugh Forrest, the director of the conference, gave a talk about how to maximize your experience at SXSW. One of his key points was to embrace serendipity, and go with whatever opportunity presented itself to you. Ironically, I wasn’t in the room for these words because I had been invited last minute to a taco lunch and was standing outside the event trying to get in. This was how I treated my SXSW experience. During the video I made for surviving SXSW, Gaby DeLeon, a project coordinator for Edu, gave the advice, “Say yes to everything.”
Those were the words I would live my SXSW by. I went out every night and met new and interesting people. I met a guy who built a fusion reactor in his basement. We had dinner together. In what other world could that happen?
The Power of Twitter
SXSW wasn’t just about the people I met and the fun I had, even though I had quite a bit. I also learned a lot. I developed my own sort of track which focused a lot on politics. I attended multiple panels discussing the Wendy Davis filibuster from the previous summer. I saw people from the Texas Tribune, activists, and political operatives all discuss the role that media, especially digital media, played in the activism during the special sessions of the Texas Legislature.
As an outspoken advocate of the power of Twitter, even some of the entertainment panels I attended had valuable lessons. A panel on Twitter humorists and a panel with Seth Meyers both talked about the importance Twitter plays in new job markets. Writing is an essential skill, and quick, sharp writing on Twitter is quickly becoming a new test for entertainment employers.
I also got to witness the personal power of Twitter as I live-tweeted every event I went to (including donating blood). It was a wonderful experience to interact with people and watch other people’s reactions to panels as they unfolded. I was even a part of one back-channel that had turned sour on the misleading title of the panel that was being presented.
I can’t imagine not going to SXSW from here on out. There was a moment during Edward Snowden where I seemed to find all of the answers I have been searching for. Where suddenly I felt like I had a clear direction and path to take. It was a moment that I had heard others talk about, but was surprised when it hit me.
I cannot thank Texas State and the SXTXState program enough for this amazing opportunity. But nobody tell any of the other graduate students so I can go again next year.