I arrived in Austin yesterday around 5:00 pm, checked into my hotel and headed over to the convention center for my badge. A few people mingled outside the main hall. Carpenters and electricians raced to get displays and rooms ready for this morning. But other than that it was quiet enough to mosey through the halls, figure out where everything was, and to peruse the display of books at the unattended bookstalls.
I met Chad Feehan, the young director of a movie called Wake, making its world premiere at SxSW. He was busy stapling small posters to poles around the convention center. We talked for a few minutes about making movies and what it’s like when all you have in your advertising arsenal is a box of posters and a staple gun rather than Hollywood’s promotion machine. I wished him well. And we exchanged Twitter handles.
Yes, there are plenty of reasons to come to SxSW. Panels on everything and anything from crowdsourcing, to the iPad, mobile technology and social media promise new ideas. Keynotes from Clay Shirky, Jaron Lanier, Gary Vaynerchuk and Ev Williams will surely inspire and inform.
But the real reason to come to SxSW is for the human connection. Face to face conversations with people you meet for the first time as well as those you’ve previously met, but only online.
So much of our interaction these days is via Twitter. We give a few seconds of thought to a point we want to make or a reaction we’re compelled to offer. We may go so far as to write a thoughtful comment on a blog post we’ve actually read or respond to the comments others leave us. But here we can find all those people and actually connect.
My personal encounters continued. I had one-on-one conversations, over beer, with Steve Hall of Adrants and Faris Yakob of TBD. My digital exchanges with Steve typically consist of sending him a link I hope he’ll include in his blog, or answering a quick question he has about a campaign. Last night we actually talked about life, and change, and social media and his moving to Rochester. Being Dads we even asked about the kids.
In Faris’s case, it was our first real-life introduction. I’ve known of him for two years, been reading some of his stuff for almost one year, and interacting with him on Twitter and blog comments for the last six months. We know lots of people in common. We even spoke recently at the same event series on different dates. But until last night we’d never met.
Thanks to Foursquare (another post for later today or tomorrow), we discovered we were within a block of one another and got together at a bar near the Convention Center. We discussed everything from the new agency model, to transforming creative companies, the impact of social media, how to give a presentation without using any Keynote slides, and the financial model that determines whether a book gets published. I shared a few lessons from Atul Gawande’s The Checklist Manifesto as we talked about how CMOs could ever learn to choreograph the many services and platforms needed to market today. He turned me onto Packrati.us as we both shared our challenges with how to filter and organize plethora content that comes into our lives. It was great, adding dimension and depth to all the 140-character conversations we’d had in the past.
My next few days will be pretty full; there are lots of other real people to connect with. If you’re one of them, and I don’t find you, I hope you’ll find me. Thanks for reading.
Image by: photocapy