2010 SXSW Notes from a Newbie

By Jason Cormier     |     March 16, 2010

After flying into Austin and checking into the Hampton last Thursday night, I looked over downtown from the 8th floor, then pathetically tweeted about how lonely and hungry I was.

Within seconds, Emily tweeted back to me recommending Iron Works BBQ – and Kit Seeborg called laughing. She said, “Listen carefully. You now must leave the hotel. Walk out, take a left, then a right to the convention center. Get your badge tonight to avoid lines tomorrow. Leave the convention center, taking a right until you hit 6th street. Then, fly and be free little south-by birdie.”

Meet me at the legos - SXSW

I followed these instructions carefully, and soon found myself with a juicy Texas steak and glass of cab at the Iron Cactus. When I checked in with Foursquare andGowalla I realized that I was not alone in this. I caught a quick tweet which I cross-referenced with Foursquare to learn that Jeremiah Owyang was two blocks from me. Seconds later, Brian Solis tweeted that he was in the same location. Seriously? If this wasn’t an open invite, I was going to make it one.

I walked into the Driskill like a groupie, and Jeremiah greeted me with a cold glass of Guiness. Within 15 minutes I was introduced to Charlene Li, (happily reporting to her that Groundswell is mandatory reading for our employees). Brian Solis poured me a glass of champagne, and we discussed his new book release, Engage.

Later that night, I talked with JR, founder of lunch.com, met the Altimeter team,Steve Hall of Adrants – then spread into other conversations with a contingent of Amsterdam fans (@Marlooz) and smart LA women including Melissa Rowley and Sherry.

Growing weary of my name dropping? Hopefully the point of it all is coming through:SXSW offers unparralled accessibility to the thought leaders, founders, speakers, researchers, colleagues and best-selling authors in the social media space.

From little known to well known, these are the people who are shaping and transforming our space everyday. I was blown away.

Additional Highlights
The best speakers and panelists were amazingly transparent and unselfish in their advice giving. My favorite sessions were those that lead me to the next best thing. Here are a few examples:

I asked Chris Brogan and Julien Smith during their insightful panel “I Don’t Trust You One Stinking Bit” what their best advice was (how ironic) for writing a book. They referred me to two people who helped them, Tim Sanders and Nick Morganwho I quickly met and spent an hour with the same day. Wow.

  • Peter Shankman‘s presentation on self-promotion (tip: the key is NOT to self promote, but help others so they promote for you)
  • Charlene Li’s discussion of her new book, Open Leadership, available to the public May 24th (thanks Charlene and Ellen for getting me an early copy)
  • Social Search Panel, featuring one of the smartest researcher on the topic I’ve ever had the pleasure to meet, Brynn Evans (More on her in my next post)
  • Meeting Gary Vaynerchuk and David Meerman Scott – with whom I actually had the pleasure of doing a podcast on this blog for his most recent book,World Wide Rave.
  • Robert Scoble‘s late night check-ins on Gowalla

South by Southwest is a must attend if you have never been. If you aren’t into geeking out with the interactive part, go for the movies, music, food, parties and good Austin atmosphere.

I’ll close this out with a quick note about Gary Vaynerchuk, since he left such a lasting impression. This guy is the real deal, having built a $50 Million wine business using social media – long before he ever started making money talking or writing about social media. Rare.

Peter Shankman and Gary both shared a similar, simple message. Caring is under-rated. “Companies mostly suck at showing they care.” Each of us in this industry must accept that we are in the customer service business… and this is the thank-you economy.

Thanks to you all who took the time to meet with me over the last several days, answer questions and care. Thanks also to the Room 214 crew for working hard (and also caring) so I could take the time to enjoy SXSW as I did. We are all blessed.

About Jason Cormier

Jason is a co-founder and leading strategist at Room 214. With a rich history in information architecture, user experience and online marketing, Jason contributes to the social media and digital marketing efforts that help brands create online communities, tell meaningful stories, and gain more customers.

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