I had hoped to blog a lot more about my experience at SXSW Interactive this year but barely had time to breathe, let alone document all that happened in Austin. I will say this though, it lived up to (high) expectations and more – I’ll definitely be going back next year.

Since getting back life has been all about catching up on emails, running ridiculous errands and shaking some nasty jetlag. But I want to take 5 minutes to relay the highlights of the trip to encourage you (referring specifically to the more South African, social media-oriented among you) to find ways to get to events of the quality and calibre of SXSW, if at all you can. If you work for an agency or company like Allan does, convince them of the benefits of the trip, like Allan did. Contact him for persuasive tips 🙂

Probably the biggest thing that came out of the trip (for me) was the importance of being seen. That as opposed to seeing all the “big names” in social media, which I guess I expected in advance would be the major benefit of being there. Sure, meeting Guy Kawasaki, Jeremiah Owyang, Hugh MacLeod, Peter Kim, Maggie Fox et al was downright cool, but I felt the bigger benefit was being able to tell them about what was happening in South Africa and Africa. I was proud to share examples of the mobile growth, social media developments and entrepreneurial efforts springing up across our continent.

The other thing I committed to doing, especially considering I’ve been really bad at this at the past 3 international tech conferences I attended, was networking properly. Ok, let me rephrase. I networked unashamedly. I did the groupie thing, but only because I knew once I’d made the intro and started the conversation I was worth speaking to. And 9 times out of 10 the person on the other end of the conversation was humble, kind, accomodating and generous in their conversation.

Part of the allure of SXSW, I’m convinced, is the fact that it happens with a film and music festival, in the so-called home of live music in the US, Austin. Austin is a bizarre little (little relative to New York or LA that is, pretty darn large by SA standards) city, and believe me, when SXSW rolls around, the festivals own the city and the freaks come out. Big time. Whether it’s the dodgy nerds of social media, the musos of the music festival or the arrogant film buffs, not to mention assorted freaks who rock up simply to be a part of the vibe (read: 65-year old tranny, joint in hand, on street corner), you’re guaranteed to meet some very interesting people.

I’ve collected a few videos from the last few days that might give you a small sense of the magic surrounding the conference. To get a sense of the content check out www.sxsw.com and download a few of the podcasts and videos. Next year Allan and I will definitely be going back and hope to take an SA contingent with us. Please let me or him know if you’re serious about attending and we’ll start doing some investigations into group discounts 🙂