Karly Gaffney is a Manager on the Content and Community team at Social Media Group.

After years of envious tweets and serious SXSWi FOMO, I finally made it. 2012 was my year! I scoured the schedule for days before stepping on the plane to Austin, eagerly added every single nerdy Foursquare meet-up/event to my calendar and created a ‘how-to’ list for each SXSW/Austin-specific Foursquare badge. (I do that with every new city I visit. #nerdalert)

After Day One was complete, I was somewhat disappointed.

I think at one point I was certainly the SXSWi target audience, but 2012 was all about mass appeal, big companies and bigger sponsors. Opinion: SXSWi is no longer a hotbed for cutting edge new ideas or a small group of big thinkers. It’s a huge group of people looking to learn more (just like so many other marketing/interactive conferences.)

SXSWi 2012 was bigger than ever. According Austin360 the festival said its official paid attendance count for 2012 was 24,569, up from 19,364 in 2011 (nearly 27%) and 14,251 in 2010. (This isn’t surprising considering the over-crowded halls at the Austin Convention Center and the 3.5+ hour wait in line to pick up my badge.)

Pros:

Cons:

  • None of the sessions I attended that directly related to my day-to-day work provided new insights or takeaways. I had no “Eureka!” moments, no inspiring “I can’t wait to try that!” moments, not even an “Oops, I’m doing it wrong” moment.

Maybe I missed out on the really valuable sessions. At any given time, there were three or four sessions that I wanted to attend and had to choose but one. Maybe I chose wrong.

I have a friend who found great value in the mentor sessions and networking events and friends who had a blast at the parties. (Something that was lost on me because I’m sorta lame and need my sleep.)

Verdict: I’m not sure I’ll go back. If I do attend a future SXSWi, I think I will focus on networking, mentor sessions and the big talks/keynotes. I may not come away with huge learnings that apply to my field, but I’ll likely end up with some valuable new connections and perhaps a touch more inspiration than this year.

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2 Comments

  1. Neil

    I knew it.

    The whole idea of everybody physically gathering in one building listening to panels about how everything is going digital and virtual rubs me strangely.

  2. The whole idea of filling out my online registration and uploading a photo months ago….then being handed a pencil and paper on-site to once again provide my personal details annoyed me in ways you can’t even imagine Neil :)

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