AUSTIN -- For many people, Friday marked the beginning of spring break. For many techies, journalists, and self-proclaimed nerds, Friday meant the beginning of what is quite possibly the highlight of their year – the South by Southwest (SXSW) Interactive conference.
Now in its 18th year, SXSW Interactive is expected to draw a record 14,000 people to Austin.
Known for being the discovery spot for social media game changers like Foursquare and Twitter, many festival goers are on the lookout for “the next big thing” in addition to chances to network, learn, and share ideas.
“I hope to learn how to write effective, short messages for my company,” Phaedra Barlas of Rail Europe in New York said as she waited for one of the panels on social media to start.
As a first time SXSW Interactive attendee, I was pleasantly surprised with my experience on day one of the five-day conference.
My initial task – wade into the registration line. However, I found it significantly less intimidating and terrifying than it looked. With 17 badge pick-up booths available, registrants were herded through like cattle. The process worked well, as I was in and out of line in less than 15 minutes.
“This actually isn’t that bad,” I heard the registrant behind me say. “Last year we started in the hallway.”
As opening day of SXSW Interactive continued, I happily found food and information stations easily accessible; two must-haves in order to stay fueled and on time throughout the conference.
The interactive portion of SXSW lasts through Tuesday, March 15. The interactive, film, and music festivals are all expected to bring in about $100 million to the Austin economy.