From the desk of Patrick Ward…
This is the second consecutive year I have had a major client project at SXSW. Last year, I was sort of overwhelmed by the whole thing and got sucked into the vortex of parties, networking and discovery. Last year was also my first as a member of the Advisory Panel for SXSW Accelerator.
In the year between this year and last, I did one really smart thing: I reserved my hotel in March 2011 for March 2012. And I also thought hard about what I get out of SXSW and came to the realization that there are two distinctly different paths.
The first is personal. I love the music at SX. I love seeing old friends and chatting, even if it is more like screaming over house music at some party. I love Austin in general, especially the food. But I can't really justify spending my own money or certainly my clients' budgets to enjoy myself. If it's a happy coincidence, that's one thing, but I can't treat my Austin time as pure pleasure.
So, the other path is professional. There are a lot of interesting panels and the networking is good, but I have plenty of other resources for that. And trying to tackle all of SXSW is like trying to wrestle with Proteus: once you have a hold of it, it changes and you are cast off in a totally different direction. My personal philosophy on SXSW has become to do one thing and do it very well.
This year, we focused on a panel for our client Smartling. We worked really hard to get Foursquare, Spotify and Zendesk as panelists and to get Christine Lagorio, the executive editor at Inc.com to participate. And we worked hard to ensure a filled room. It was very successful. We had a packed house, good social media traffic and satisfied participants. That's a win. And there is a whole team at 104 West that deserves credit.
In a maelstrom like SXSW, it's best, it seems to me, to pick your spots. I don't like those big hotel buffets because I always feel like I left something literally on the table. I used to feel the same about SXSW. If I wasn't trying to suck it all in, I was somehow losing. Now, I just focus and I think I'm more productive.