5 Highlights and 5 Lessons of my First SXSW
I’m just getting home from Austin from my first SXSW Interactive Conference and I had an amazing time! So much fun in the 5 days I was there and I also learned some lessons while there. Saddown and let me share them.
5 Highlights of SXSW 2013
Meeting awesome people
The best part of any conference experience really happens outside of panels and that’s connecting with new folks, reconnecting with old friends and just sharing the experience with them. I met great folks like JBrotherLove (whose voice would be awesome for radio), Lynne d Johnson (who I’ve been wanting to meet for years. I admire her work in this digital space), Matthew Inman of the Oatmeal (one of the funniest websites of the interwebs), and Allison Peters (Kerry Washington’s Social Media manager. And my fellow panelist). They are just a handful of the dope folks I got to hang with. Shoutout to everyone in the “SXSW Peeps” GroupMe too.
We had a mini-driveby flash mob in our hotel room and took the picture above.
Hosting the BiT reception and awards
I MCed the Black in Tech’s Top 10 Innovators of 2012 Awards to kick off the festivities of the weekend and I didn’t expect to have as much fun as I did! My co-host was Will Hatcher (aka King Willonius) and we had the crowd cracking up for the two hours. He is hilarious and so willing to take risks and act a fool and I loved it.
It also rocked that one of the awardees was Kathryn Finney, my mentor and friend. Her speech was so moving, because she talked about how technology is the reason why her family was able to move out of the hood. Her father lost his factory job, learned how to code at the age of 35 and rose through the ranks in some major tech companies because of it. She’s a testament to the power of tech and that’s why she created digitalUNdivided.
I was hella inspired by her and other honorees, like Kimberly Bryant of Black Girls Code and Heather Hiles. WERKKKK!!!
Oh, and I wore an #alphet appropriate for the occasion. My shirt said “Black Nerds Unite!” Indeed! Thanks to Oyinhandmade for the shirt. Twas PERFECT!
Getting Powered On by Samsung
Samsung basically slayed SXSW this year with their engagement and all’at. I switched from my Blackberry to a Samsung Galaxy SIII in October and I LOVE my phone. And then I got to Austin and found more reasons why I made the right choice over an iPhone. Samsung had a lounge (well 2) where anyone could go and get snacks, a soda/ice cream float (with liquor if you like) and listen to music. We rolled in there two different times to take advantage of their offerings. Even the folks without Samsung phones were impressed. MMHMM, admit it. I mean, even the chicken they served was delicious. Samsung did chicken right. Chile, they got my heart.
But coolest thing was the fact that Samsung had this #PowerOn thing going where if you tweeted that hashtag saying your phone’s battery was dying, they’d tweet you back to ask your location and send someone to drop off a fresh battery that was fully charged. How much cooler could it get? Right before one of my panels, my phone was dying so I tweeted them, 20 minutes later, a Samsung messenger rolled into the room with a ziploc bag full of batteries and switched mine out. BOOM BOOM POW! That’s how you do it!
Speaking on a couple of panels
Over at the Blacks in Techs portion, I was on a couple of panels. “Make Your Brain Twerk: Using Creativity, Humor and Tech” and “Scandal: How Television’s Hottest Show is Fueled by Social Media.”
There’s already a writeup on the Scandal panel on Black Enterprise. It captures it so well so check it out! Here’s the pic of us from after the panel.
Rock the Red at SXSW
One definite highlight of my time in Austin was the Rock the Red event. BiT partnered with The Red Pump Project to have a fashion mixer in honor of National Women & Girls HIV/AIDS Awareness Day on March 10! And it was sooo nice. It happened at the UpperDecks, with sponsorship from SHRM and help from TOOMBAS jeans. It was so cold that night but people came out and supported my organization and that meant the world to me. Thank you to everyone who was there or donated money. And many thanks to BiT for handling this event and partnering with Red Pump for it. Great time was had by all!
* If your hotel is right by convention center, don’t buy the shuttle pass – Our hotel was literally a block away from the Austin Convention Center, where most of the SXSWi stuff was happening. We absolutely did not need to pay the $60 we did for shuttle passes since we were in the middle of all the action. AND there were hella other free options we could take to get places. Like the Chevy cars, which were all over and we could flag down for rides anywhere we were going. And we coulda taken pedicabs places for the free (since I have a Samsung Galaxy and UBER struck a deal with them). But even most important, we didn’t need those shuttle passes because we walked EVERYWHERE. Which brings me to my next lesson.
* You will walk your ass off – Bring comfortable shoes with you to SXSW because you will walk like you’re taking pilgrimages. My goodness! We did A LOT of walking. At least 2 miles on a slow day. And for lazy bums like me, that’s a lot. I’m against walking and other forms of exercise so I was out of my element there. But thankfully, I brought flats (and only one pair of heels). I had been forewarned. So this was my shoe game:
I admit that the walking wasn’t so bad. Well, until it got cold and then it was terrible. Speaking of…
* It gets cold in Texas – I was really looking forward to going to SXSW cuz it was gonna be another getaway for me into warm weather. Chicago isn’t that kind to me right now because of this chill so I was all “YAYYY, TESSIS!!!” and got ready to get my heat on. Except Austin wanted to be a hater. It was in mid-60s for most of the time we were there (if you were standing in the sunlight) but a couple of days there, it was like 40s. I did not appreciate that one bit. On Monday morning, Chescaleigh, Afrobella and Scott headed to a brunch around 10am. When we got outside and the cold slapped us in the face, we were not pleased. WHY WAS IT 40 DEGREES??? COME ON! Womp!
* There’s a lot of free booze but very little free soda – There were countless parties at SXSW and most of them had free liquor of some sort, wine and beer especially. This is the conference for techie lushes. However, if you don’t drink alcohol much, you’ll be spending money on regular stuff like soda and water. You walk up to the bat and they give you all these liquor options but when you say “I just want a coke” they’re all “that’ll be $3.50.” No justice, no peace for us boring people.
* You cannot do everything – SXSW is the biggest conference I’ve ever been to and it’s a techie’s wet dream in every way. So much happening. The best thing to do is to not pressure yourself to do everything. Yes, you can create a schedule but odds are, it will change A LOT once you arrive. Don’t even expect to do half of what you had planned because things will come up that might be more interesting or the people you roll with might get passes to something dope. Either way, go expecting to be spontaneous.
Anywho, such good times!
We had a blast! Can you tell? And this is why my voice sounds like that of a teenager AND a grown man at the same time. It’s cracking and when it isn’t cracking, it’s super husky. All that talking and laughing from this past 5 days got me outchea bogus. Good times indeed.
Anyone thinking of going to SXSW 2014?