From time to time I feature a guest blogger, this is one of those times.
South by Southwest (SXSW) comes but once a year in March and social media practitioners and fans are drawn to it like addicts to free heroin. Except SXSW isn’t free and the range of excuses for not attending is starting to resemble a dictionary of denial. Were Yogi Berra commenting on it, he’d surely say, “Nobody goes there anymore. It’s too crowded.”
[pullquote align=”left|center|right” textalign=”left|center|right” width=”30%”]“Nobody goes there anymore. It’s too crowded.”[/pullquote]But I digress into fun quotes and my own grapes of wrath. To be clear, lots of people still attend SXSW, and their reasoning is widely varied. The festival (and that’s really what it is) seems to be less about valuable networking these days and more about getting drunk, being seen with celebrities (or micro-celebrities of the social media world), and creating some content so you can convince your boss to pay for your trip.
Before you think I’m the fox lamenting his inability to get a reward, realize that I’ve been to SXSW repeatedly and actually have been paid to attend. In these visits I’ve made valuable business and social contacts that have sustained my food and tech-toy habits well beyond the five days in March during SXSW. I’m not attending the conference this year because of three reasons. Let me know if you’re staying home or going and what your reasoning is.
No SXSW this year – and here’s why…
1 – There’s no All-Hat!
A big component of SXSW is networking. Whether you sit in the Austin Convention Center hallway and meet folks as they walk by, or attend two parties each night to shout over loud music and free booze to solidify your relationships, SXSW is about meeting people. The best event within the event for doing so is All-Hat. Take a look at some photos from a recent All-Hat brunch meeting in Austin and you’ll see faces of genuine, helpful and intelligent people from all over the world. This year, All-Hat is on hiatus and that’s reason one for not attending SXSW.
2 – Nobody is paying my way!
Past years have been financed by large technology companies, news outlets and even some brands that wanted to have me on the streets of Austin sharing content for them. This year, the budgets are tighter and the need for quality content has subsided a bit. Therefore, the big name companies that might have paid my flight, hotel and expenses at SXSW didn’t reach out in time to get me to attend. Perhaps they’ll move faster for SXSW 2015.
3 – I’m too busy to attend.
If the goal in attending a conference is to make connections and find work, then you don’t need to go if you’ve got other obligations. My speaking schedule this spring is such that I’m in that boat. While I could use a bit more content creation work and a few keynoting gigs, the work I do have is directly in conflict with the SXSW 2014 calendar. I’m speaking five times in four weeks and a few of those are actually during the festival. Perhaps next year the stars will align and set my work up on the weeks AROUND SXSW so I can attend.
That’s it. If you think SXSW has jumped the shark and isn’t relevant, I’d love to hear from you. If you think the show is still as important as it’s ever been, I want to hear from you on that too!
Thanks for reading.
Jeff Cutler is a content specialist who regularly trains people on the use of social tools to share their message(s) and reach audiences. Jeff has written for NPR, The NY Post, Technology Review, Gatehouse Media and others. Find out more with a quick click on his site http://jeffcutler.com – connect with Jeff via SocMed (links at the top of his site).