Every March for the past 20 years, movie buffs, music connoisseurs and tech nerds have taken over Austin, Texas. To some, the 20,000 extra people swarming the streets would be overwhelming. If you look past the lines, crowds and lack of sleep, however, you begin to realize that you are in a world where being called a “geek” or “nerd” is cool and everybody surrounding speaks the same language as you, and that language is Tech. What you experience for that week is nothing that you have ever experienced before or will ever experience again.
South By Southwest (SXSW) is focused on developing and expanding on innovative ideas for new products and services and because the main focus is technology, no two years are the same. With the rapidity at which the tech world advances, the things that were important this year may be considered archaic by next March.
According to the conference website, “SXSW’s original goal was to create an event that would act as a tool for creative people and the companies they work with to develop their careers, to bring together people from a wide area to meet and share ideas.”
Walking through the trade show in the Austin Convention Center, I stopped at booth after booth and asked for a quick pitch of whatever the company was marketing. Although I was somewhat overwhelmed, a lot of the things that people presented to me blew my mind. I kept finding myself thinking, “Oh my gosh, Client X would love this!” or “This would be totally great for Client Y’s next launch party.”
As I pushed my way through the crowds, waited in endless lines for free food (like Do.com’s bacon truck where I tried pickles wrapped in bacon) and did my best to meet all the people around me at any given time I realized something. Even though just about every single booth had some sort of swag, the companies that did the best with regards to being noticed were those that really knew how to reach their demographics. Sure, they may have handed out a sticker or a pin (or five), but what really caught my attention was when a representative from the company would ask me a question and alter their sales pitch to cater to my specific interests/needs.
Even though I flew back to San Francisco with a severe lack of sleep, three new canvas bags for my groceries, a foldable water bottle for my purse and about 23 branded t-shirts (why do they even make SXSW shirts to sell? If you just walk into the Convention Center you get a lifetime’s supply for free!), some of the companies I remember most (even just two days out) are the ones that I walked away from with only a business card and a handshake.
Check out the slide show to see some of the pictures I snapped while making my way through the streets of Austin: