South by SouthWest (SXSW) is coming to an finish, however for me, it’s already over. I’m at present on the Schipol airport in Amsterdam, ready for the connecting flight that can take me again to Italy. And since I’ve some hours to spend, I believed it might have been good to inform you some ideas I had about my expertise at SXSW this 12 months.
This has been my second 12 months at SXSW: 2022 was the primary time I’ve attended SXSW. I had there among the best instances of my life with my colleague Maud Clavier: numerous enjoyable, numerous new associates, and good enterprise. I couldn’t have requested for extra. That’s why this 12 months I made a decision I completely needed to come back again, and along with me there was not solely Maud however three different colleagues (Lapo, Bastien, Florian). Actually talking, I went there with gentle expectations. Final 12 months’s version went so nicely for me, that I thought-about it an exception: it’s a bit like when it occurs that one night you exit with associates and you’ve got a magical evening collectively the place every thing is ideal… and nicely that no matter you’ll do to attempt to replicate it, it gained’t occur once more. It has been one in every of a sort. So I went there with no expectations of replicating final 12 months, as a result of I already knew it might have been unimaginable.
And actually, I’ve discovered this 12 months at SXSW a bit completely different. However nonetheless very cool. It was an amazing pleasure to see that the identical chill environment of final 12 months was nonetheless there. It’s one thing very typical of this occasion… perhaps it’s due to town, perhaps as a result of it’s an occasion that mixes know-how individuals with inventive individuals… perhaps as a result of it is stuffed with events… I don’t know the rationale. However I do know that at SXSW everybody has a smile on their face and is able to meet new individuals. All the opposite occasions usually are not the identical: in Austin, you possibly can actually go to a very random individual with the SXSW badge across the neck and begin talking with this random stranger and grow to be pal with him/her… and perhaps begin to have enjoyable collectively. Otherwise you meet a pal of yours, and he introduces you to a accomplice of his, after which if you find yourself talking collectively, one other individual joins the group and also you meet this new individual, too. It’s cool for networking, and every thing occurs so naturally. Simply to make an instance: on the final day I used to be in Austin, we simply entered the conference middle a couple of minutes to purchase some souvenirs for our associates… and there I noticed a pal of mine, greeted her, and he or she launched us to an individual from a really cool massive firm, in order that later we’ll join together with her on Linkedin to judge collaborations. It’s identical to that on a regular basis.
There have been nonetheless a variety of events… each evening we had to decide on the place to go amongst many various alternatives: some have been formally organized by the SXSW, and plenty of others have been organized by different attendees or establishments. Events are an integral a part of the expertise: they’re a great place the place to have enjoyable after a tough day of labor, but in addition a pleasant place the place to fulfill new individuals, too. As I’ve mentioned final 12 months, you by no means know if you find yourself working and if you find yourself having enjoyable. It’s all an enormous combine… you dance, you then see somebody with the T-shirt of an organization you need to collaborate with and also you go communicate with him and so that you join. It’s a mixture of enjoyable and work. If I look again on this week I’ve spent there, I don’t really feel like I’ve labored. Then I take a look at the lengthy checklist of individuals with whom I’ve to observe up on Monday and I’m like “how the hell have these alternatives occurred?”.
By the way in which usually I felt this 12 months SXSW to have had a bit much less vitality than in 2022. I don’t know methods to say it… it’s like there was a bit much less enthusiasm, and likewise barely fewer alternatives, no less than for what I used to be in search of. I thought of it and located two doable explanations:
- Final 12 months was the primary bodily SXSW after the lockdowns: individuals actually needed to have their life again, to have their enjoyable again. Everybody actually needed to have a variety of enjoyable. This 12 months, we’re already used to going to bodily occasions, so it was not so particular anymore. Let’s say we’re again to straightforward ranges of vitality
- The present tech panorama isn’t in its finest second ever: all the large firms (Meta, Microsoft, and so forth…) are shedding individuals. And it’s tougher to seek out alternatives when firms and traders are extra cautious about their spending.
The variety of attendees appeared larger to me, so perhaps there was much less vitality, however extra individuals to fulfill.
I additionally observed that this 12 months there was a lot much less meals provided at no cost. Which for me is completely unacceptable: why ought to I am going to an occasion if there isn’t any free meals? It’s the idea of my participation in occasions. A number of the events have been additionally a bit much less enjoyable than final 12 months. However anyway, I had my shiny moments, too: for example, KPMG organized a beautiful dinner for XR individuals the place I ate as if there was no tomorrow. And relating to the events, I bear in mind a really enjoyable evening with a DJ set organized by the French Tech trade… or an evening on the Empire with good hip-hop music.
XR and the M-word have been one of many foremost themes of the convention. It was nice to see that there was nonetheless nice consideration to immersive realities even when now the metaverse hype has deflated and everybody on Linkedin has grow to be an AI skilled. I had the nice pleasure to be a speaker on this 12 months’s version and to talk along with my colleague Maud in regards to the classes that we’ve got realized whereas creating our social VR platform for stay occasions and concert events. The speech went nice (thanks everybody to your help). There have been many different associates (e.g. Caitlin Krause, Tony Parisi, Charlie Fink, and so forth…) having talks as nicely. It was cool to see so many talks about XR, however the one drawback was that lots of them have been in parallel, so I had to decide on each second which talks to observe… and it was for me a bit like when a child has to decide on between his mom and his father. All of them had cool titles and featured associates of mine talking: it was very exhausting to decide on.
SXSW organizers have chosen a implausible lineup of XR audio system. The one drawback I’ve discovered with the conferences is that since I’m already within the area, I already knew nearly every thing that the audio system have been saying. Perhaps it may very well be cool to have speeches for various ranges of experience of the viewers: I imply, I might simply go to sleep throughout a chat known as “What Is The Metaverse?”, whereas I will probably be all ears on a speak about “The evolution of the networking stack of the metaverse”. I do know, I’m too nerdy and doubtless I might be the one spectator…
There was an unlimited showcase of XR Experiences, which confirmed many fascinating AR/VR experiences, with additionally some WTF right here and there. I’ve simply managed to strive a couple of, however I used to be impressed by what number of cool experiences have been there. There have been additionally different XR firms that have been exhibiting in the principle Expo, within the Innovation Showcase, or different showcases. Some others had non-public demos offered in lodge rooms (that is how I attempted HoloKit or Contact CI gloves, for example). I did a demo myself to an individual we might collaborate with: I took out my Quest 2 from my backpack and made her strive our VR live performance within the corridors of the venue!
So it was cool to see that XR was nonetheless rocking. As I’ve mentioned, I don’t suppose we’re in a Winter of XR… we’re extra like in Autumn… a second of stasis of the ecosystem, the place we’re ready for a brand new leap in know-how.
As my pal Charlie Fink says, SXSW is an occasion that all the time leaves you with FOMO (Worry Of Lacking Out), even when you’ve got been there. The issue is that there are such a lot of issues to do, and so many individuals to fulfill, that you possibly can’t do all of them. It’s simply unimaginable. So there are all the time a variety of issues you’ll be unhappy about not having carried out. As an illustration, I didn’t handle to strive an expertise known as Symbiosis which was very cool, I couldn’t attend the Interactive Opening Get together, and I haven’t met my associates of Ristband/Miroshot, Cathy Hackl, or Tony Parisi. I’ve carried out rather a lot and nonetheless missed rather a lot. That is so South-By.
It wouldn’t be an article of mine with out some items of recommendation, so let me provide you with some recommendation if you wish to attend this occasion your self subsequent 12 months:
- Go there with a pleasant and open angle. Soak up the vibes of the pageant and be completely happy and chill on a regular basis
- Go there to fulfill individuals. Don’t go along with a bunch of your colleagues with the concept of spending the entire day and evening talking with them. At that time, simply set up a visit with them to a different location and do some workforce constructing. In case you go to SXSW, you should meet new individuals, in any other case, you waste many alternatives. If you’re there with many individuals out of your firm, break up into small teams of 1-3 individuals and be open to connecting with others. If you don’t know what to do, communicate with strangers: Each time I used to be in line to attend an XR expertise, I began talking with the individuals round me, to see if there may very well be an fascinating dialog. In case you don’t know methods to break the ice, don’t be afraid: a easy “Hi there, I’m Tony, good to fulfill you” works like a attraction. After all substitute “Tony” along with your title… or maintain utilizing it, if you wish to confuse individuals about what number of Tonys are on this world
- Plan forward of the occasion who you need to meet: SXSW Social a pleasant on-line software that tells you the names of all of the attendees and the audio system, and you may filter them by firm. The serendipity of randomly assembly individuals is sweet, however being targeted and ready is even higher. See who you need to meet, and attempt to contact them a couple of days earlier than the occasion to prepare conferences. If they’re audio system, go watch their speech, after which after it ends, go communicate with them
- Only a few individuals learn the Inbox of the official SXSW app. This 12 months even fewer than final 12 months. So contact individuals through all doable means: SXSW app, Linkedin, Twitter. And because it’s exhausting to learn notifications if you find yourself spending the entire day networking, making an attempt experiences, and partying, it’s higher to contact individuals earlier than the occasion, as a result of, throughout it, they could not learn your messages
- Attend events. Once more, they’re a part of the expertise as a result of they’re enjoyable, but in addition they provide you new networking alternatives. You aren’t losing time attending to them
- Put together for a marathon: the SXSW expertise could be very cool, but in addition very tiresome. I needed to get up early within the morning, work on the weblog and/or with the builders at VRROOM, then go to the occasion, attend conferences, do networking, then the evening do the events till 12 am no less than. After a couple of days, I’m devastated. However it’s okay, I loved the total expertise and now I can sleep through the weekend
- Watch out for the evolution of the pageant over the times. The primary days are for the tech, however then at a sure level, every thing is about music and films. Because of this essentially the most alternatives for us within the tech industries are the within the first days… however the music brings a variety of cool events. When the music a part of the occasion begins, many individuals arrive: the primary day of music, which is without doubt one of the final in tech, you could have individuals from each ecosystems, so the occasion could be very crowded. You should have a tough time reserving experiences. As an illustration, the VR expo was kinda empty the primary day, was nonetheless doable the 2 days after however was tremendous crowded the final two days. The final two days in tech there have been lengthy traces to strive every thing, so it was unimaginable for me to strive something
- You’ll miss one thing and that’s okay. As I’ve mentioned, there are such a lot of issues to do, that you’ll do rather a lot and nonetheless miss rather a lot. Don’t remorse what you haven’t tried, however be pleased about the numerous superb belongings you did.
And that’s it… or perhaps not… let me go away you with a final image to make you chuckle. Since I misplaced my connecting flight at New York JFK, my colleague Lapo and I have been the final ones to reach on the home booked by the corporate, so we have been left with the worst rooms. I used to be so pressured to sleep in one of many rooms of the children and this was my mattress…
Okay, now that’s it for actual. I hope to see you subsequent 12 months in Austin for SXSW 2024!
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