I took the weekend off from most things to spend time with the family, catch up on life and get ready for the week ahead. Being gone a week anywhere will do that to you, but a week at South by Southwest will really do it to you! My main focus for the week was to find new business. The Advance Guard wants new clients and I wanted to meet new people who we could work with on projects, who could become clients or who were involved with technology that we might want to use on a project.
I met people in all three of those areas, so it was a worthwhile time in Austin from that aspect. I was good this year and spent my first day back following up on every business card I was given to be sure to continue those conversations beyond the hallways and streets of the conference.
I also spoke on a panel about building your brand using Web 2.0 tools. It was weird because people kept dropping off the panel so right up until we started I wasn't sure who was going to be on it. The room was packed, everyone was asking questions right from the beginning and I hope people got a lot out of it. You can look at some of the twitter conversations here from the session. (Above photo by Keith Burtis)
I opted not to go to most of the overly packed, wait in a line, type of parties. I learned last year that they were just not my thing. Instead I opted for smaller dinners, breakfast business meetings and hang out with old friends and new. I took in a couple of movies including a midnight showing at the famous Alamo Draft House Theater which was a lot of fun. I did go to one large scale gathering at Mohawk and I'll go on record as saying I think this is the best venue in Austin that I've been to.
The panels were hit and miss as usual. I don't know how they could fix it, but there always seems to be blocks of time when there is nothing I want to go to and then when I do find something of interest there is usually more then one panel at the same time that I want to attend. During my speaking slot there were two other awesome panels that I wished I could go to. I know it's a scheduling nightmare, but I wish there was some way around this.
SXSW is something that you can't fully appreciate until you actually go to it. The shear volume of people and activities is unlike anything else I've been to. I stick by my recommendation that if you can only attend one event in this space that it is the event to make the time for.
In the end, after a few days to think about it all and reflect, I can safely say that it was worth the time, energy and money for me to be there. More people now know about The Advance Guard then before the event. I made some great new contacts, formed new friendships and got some substantial leads on new business. I managed to catch up with friends that I don't get to see that often face-to-face and have business meetings among the chaos. I wanted a balance of fun and business and I found it.
I can't wait for next year. I better start saving up the sleep now. *laugh*