Everything’s bigger in Texas (especially the conferences)
I signed up for South by Southwest (SXSW) on a whim in September 2011 when a number of awesome people I met at a conference in the Napa Valley mentioned they were going. I didn’t know much about SXSW, but I figured these guys and gals knew what they were talking about so I bought a Platinum pass, booked some flights and a hotel, and next thing I knew it was March and I was on my way to Texas!
I got in a few days early to visit some mates – the lovely Nikolai and Lindsey – in Houston. Apart from letting me play with their three Labradors all day (bliss!), they bettered their hosting performance last October which featured Saint Arnold’s brewery on a Saturday morning – tough to beat – by taking me to bingo and to eat the hugest, most delicious chocolate cake I’ve ever had. Everything really IS bigger in Texas. Thank goodness Uncle Daryl’s chocolate cake is only available at The Chocolate Bar in Houston and not in Australia, or I would be the size of a blimp!
Thoroughly pampered, I bid Houston and my lovely hosts farewell on the Friday and headed to Austin, 3 hours drive away. The city was already in lock-down for the conference, and I was shocked to have to queue for 45 minutes to pick up my badge. Turns out I was lucky – if I’d arrived an hour later, I would have had a 3 hour wait to look forward to! Tip 1 for new players: pick up your badge on Thursday evening if possible, before the rush begins.
I’ll stop there with the SXSW event details (see my next post for my take on the best sessions, tips and traps for an SXSW first-timer to be aware of) but suffice to say that everyone is right: you cannot hope to attend all the sessions you want to. Even with perfect organization and programming, simple physics defies you to get to every session on time. I averaged 5 sessions a day during the interactive section and was knackered by the end of the week. Pace yourselves, people. It’s the only way to survive! That, and a solid breakfast…
Apart from having my mind blown several times at the conference, I did all the things one does in Austin when they’ve already gotten blind a few times on 6th Street: I ate at the famous Ironworks rib joint – needless to say it was the only meal I ate that day. I danced at Dallas nightclub… that is to say, I watched the beautiful Bethany dance while Chris and I got drunk. Of course, the highlight of the whole thing was catching up with some fantastic people I’d met in 2011 who either lived in Austin or were visiting for the conference. I even got to watch a couple of them speak at the conference (which they did brilliantly. Well done Gene Kim and Chad Mureta!)
After nine seriously exhausting but incredibly rewarding conference days, I was ready for the long haul home. 12 months should be sufficient time to recover, so I’ll pencil in my return for next year’s SXSW.