SXSW Continues to Have Tons of Value

Tamsen, Kristin and C.C. at SXSW 2013

Fresh back from a long weekend in Austin, TX I know that my inbox and voice mail will be filled with the question of “Was SXSW worth it for you?

The answer is yes.

It is worth the money, time and energy I spent to be part of it and I plan on buying a ticket for next year as soon as they go on sale.

People who focus on “the next great thing” or “the breakout app of SXSW” are missing the point of the conference and have bought into the hype. They’ll most likely leave disappointed and I’m sure we’ll see plenty of complaining posts in the coming hours.

In my mind, SXSW has always been about exposing people from all mediums to different ideas. Bringing together people passionate about all things online, music and film means you are guaranteed to have an eclectic mass of people in one place.

It is also the single best place for business networking for someone who makes a living the way I do. If you work in the online space and create content of any sort, SXSW is a must attend conference.

I went to SXSW this year with the following goals:

  1. Promote Amazing Things Will Happen
  2. Talk to as many people as possible about The Cleon Foundation to get their feedback and to inform them what the plans were.
  3. Find new partners to hire me for content creation and other projects
  4. Spend quality time with Friends
  5. Meet new people and learn new things

Looking at my notes and thinking back, I hit all of them as best I could. Thankfully there were only a few friends I missed seeing, but that is always the case.

A special thank you to the team at Vocus who sponsored and organized a perfect brunch to celebrate my book. Being able to spend time with so many of my friends and fans in the middle of all the chaos was an oasis of happiness for me.


Hallway magic continued to happen around every turn. The variety of people I met is truly amazing and some will become new friends and others new clients. There was a perfect mix of business and quality time.

Sessions were packed and everyone I talked to had ones that they couldn’t wait to see.

I know I missed many that I had planned to attend and look forward to the recordings being posted so that I can hear what I missed.

Being part of the team who helps judge panel submissions, I can say that I was impressed by the variety and the final selection of panels. I hope they continue to add to the diversity in the coming years.

There was a noticeably different vibe this year that I can’t place my finger on yet.

At times it felt smaller, yet there were people everywhere. There didn’t seem to be as many huge brand take overs and yet everywhere you looked there were companies of all sizes pimping their wares.

You get out of conferences what you put into them. My time in Austin was busier than I had planned for, but I don’t regret how I spent any of the time there.

I won’t know if the conference fully pays off for me or not until contracts are signed and work is completed, but I do know I received a ton of value from my fews day there.

Thank you to the Hugh and the entire SXSW team. I can’t imagine how they pull off something on this scale, but they do it every single year.

  • Absolutely my takeaway as well, CC. Oddly, last year seemed like nothing clicked and the year before it was Attack of the Giant Brands. But as you say, the brands are still here. Just in a different way. And it did feel smaller despite it being bigger. I saw many people I new and made some good, new connections. And, as always, it was great to see you! Until next year…

  • Great post CC. I’m sad I missed SXSW this year, but it’s been interesting to follow everyone else from afar. Hope to see you before next year’s SXSW!

  • Nailed it. It’s like you plucked this post directed out of my brain.

  • Hate that we didn’t get to see you this year, but glad you had a great time.

  • Bang on CC. I skipped the most recent two SXSWs. And when I returned this year, it was much different from what I remembered. In a good way. More diverse and better session topics and speakers who really delivered (Go David Weinberger and Douglas Rushkoff!) But the best thing about the conference was the serrendipitous moments with old friends that I may see once or twice a year. Lots of content. Lots of friends. And a good part of my world converging in one city.

  • Last year was overloaded with BRANDS BRANDS BRANDS and I decided to bow out this year. I’m glad it works for you, I *may* give it another go next year if I can swing the money. It costs me about $4k just to show up and get in, and that is a really big expense for solo folks (you are too, so I know you ‘get’ that part).

    I have yet after all these years figured out how to properly navigate and benefit from ginormous events like SxSW. Attending last year I didn’t know anyone to get ‘in’ to any of the super-secret and beneficial small dinner party type of gatherings so I was stuck attending the big (drunk) events.

    People that I knew from before the event as well as people I would have liked to met all seemed too busy to want to talk or grab a drink because they were chasing bigger fish than me. Being at the bottom of the food chain *sucks* at SxSW because everyone is looking for that ‘big break’. When someone like me attends (unlike you that is pretty famous because of your work and your books) – I get lost in the crowds. **Easily**.

    In general I have a very low tolerance for drunken debauchery and since that generally is present 24/7, I honestly get stressed and anxious in that environment.

  • Glad to hear about the vibe this year, C.C. As someone who represents a brand, it’s been interesting to watch how things have played out and how brands are figuring out how to coexist with attendees at SXSW.

    Because so much of the value of SXSW is driven by hallway conversations, networking, reconnecting with old friends and just observing, it’s kind of a hard sell within a brand to say that I have to be there, with all of the other things going on. Maybe I’ll reprioritize next year and see how I can make it happen, thanks to your insights.

  • Having taken the last two years off this year certainly felt bigger than before. I also felt a different vibe.

    It’s funny, three of my favorite memories from this year involved you. I sincerely thank Vocus for throwing an AMAZING bash. I also thank you C.C. for always connecting and inspiring me. You are a great friend. Now move to Nashville already!

  • Good to know CC, thanks for the review! Glad you enjoyed and got a lot out of your time in Austin!

  • Absolutely agree, C.C.
    As with everything, it’s what you make of it. I love that you say “hallway magic continued to happen around every turn” – that’s certainly what happened to me too (I even ran in to you and Scott Stratten – the highlight of my trip!!!)
    Thanks for taking the time to talk to me, and giving me advice on my book. Even though I ruined last year’s interview 😉 You’re the best!

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  • Thanks to the advice you provided in this blog on getting ready for SXSW I have to say I really got lots of value out of it.

    Different to other years I got to meet people at a deeper level and I was successful at explaining what I do for a living with the possibility of them hiring me.

    It was great to chat with you and bump into you a few times. Can’t wait for next year.

  • I was one of those that had to miss your book party (due to an event I had to cover for my sponsor). It was great to see you at AllHat and talk during the week. We’ll see you later this year!