A year ago, I was (unsuccessfully) fighting back a cold, but nonetheless excitedly getting ready for my first official trip to South By Southwest Interactive. My iPhone was charged, my sneakers were packed, and I had a stack of business cards shoved into a cheap leatherette case — a recent freebie from my alma mater.
I was ready to be imbued with interactive development wisdom, make a bazillion new contacts, and emerge fully formed with a well-defined career path and tons of new opportunities.
On the way to the airport, I realized I’d forgotten my business cards. And my cold was going from worse to the three biles. I was already rationing my Ricola.
In the end, it didn’t matter. Even at my lowest moment, stifling a coughing fit in a corner and nibbling on Powerbar’s swag, I was making new friends. I attended panels and was wowed by people doing amazing things with work experience very similar to my own. I saw the Gupta brothers give an unforgettable presentation on their Kahani Movement. I rubbed elbows with the best content strategy minds in the country at the Austin CS Meetup. I watched my friends host an amazing party in the old Austin City Limits studios.
Plus, there were the priceless, unexpected moments that happened far from the convention center: late-night Mario Kart through a Robitussin fog, a special St. Patrick’s Day rehearsal/party with my friend Sara’s band (she and her Titanic Dance Band are playing the Choir Pit on March 18), and a tour of the finer food and drink delicacies that only locals know about. Frank’s sausage? Check. Wahoo tacos? Check. Hey Cupcake? Check.
Even though I’m not going this year, the memory is still fresh, and its spirit is strong. Yes, it’s a ridiculously overloaded conference where everyone is trying to out-nerd each other. But it’s also an extremely collegial atmosphere, where you’re never alone for long, nor is your glass empty. It’s not unlike the networking events I frequent around Boston, a small slice of Austin hospitality in an otherwise standoffish city. Everyone could use a little SXSW.