Mar 15

Confessions and Insights from SXSW Newbie

Confessions and Insights from SXSW Newbie

I have a confession: This is my very first blog post. This past week was also my first time at SXSW. To be honest, I was a little skeptical leading up to it. But SXSW was everything I’ve heard it could be—and more!

Here are the top experiences and insights I took away from the festival:

1. SXSW is like a great meal: It’s best enjoyed with others.
Running from session to session or even just checking out the many brands at the fest are not nearly as much fun when you’re on your own. The panels, bands, brands and sheer number of people watching present a wide variety of ways to bond with your team members. Our team (
@defilirs, @martyparty1, @mikepilarz and @gayleforce69) ended up staying at a house nearby the convention center vs. staying in a hotel providing a ton of memorable team bonding experiences.

2. Don’t be afraid to talk to people!
Anyone will tell you I’m no wallflower, but as in years past there were some very notable people attending the fest this year. I’m not going to lie—it can be a little intimidating. For example, I attended a really interesting session on balancing authenticity and projecting the “best self” in the digital world, featuring such notables as @LisaLing, @SusanOrlean, among others. Afterward, I made myself go up to personal hero Ling to thank her for the incredible storytelling she brings to a mass audience via Our America, and at the end, asked her to take a picture with me, which she generously agreed to. That experience alone was worth the trip, and it was a great example of the access that SXSW brings to anyone who attends.

3. Participate! I have not historically been much of an active participant on Twitter (but that is changing—please follow me @ggesmond). However, I made a concerted effort to share my thoughts on the panels and the SXSW experience overall. As a result, I experienced a personal milestone on the platform—@Fastcompany re-Tweeted me when I referenced the 80’s movie The Last Starfighter. I am making the RT into a T-Shirt as we speak. 

4. Authenticity is everything. (Still).
Throughout all of the sessions, the one underlying sentiment that consistently shined through was that authenticity remains the most important part of social participation. It doesn’t matter if you’re sharing experiences from an in-person event with global team members you’re meeting for the first time (shout out to @
mo_lishomwa and @jonathankopp), or if you’re planning a brand’s first foray into a particular social channel. The content/conversation must be interesting and meaningful in order to drive engagement. This photo of a random pillar at the convention center says it all.

What have YOU experienced at SXSW? Tell me what you think in the comments below. For more of my thoughts on SXSW, follow me on Twitter. And be sure to tune in as SXSW Music continues by checking out @ZocaloGroup

Did you miss our previous posts on SXSW?