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SXSW 2014: Been There – Done That.

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Huge London MD Alexandra Mecklenburg on an awesome first ‘real life’ SXSW

SXSW 2014: Been There – Done That.

SXSW 2014 was my first SXSW. To be more precise: it was my first  ‘real life’ SXSW.  Over the last years I followed, like many of us, the evangelised, inspired, slightly cynical and drunken tweets of my friends and all the influencers out there. And every year I wondered what it would be like to be really there, attending the real thing.

Four days later, being back in North London, I am still trying to get my head around the ‘real thing’. All I know so far is that it was intense, overwhelming and - I have to say it - Awesome. With a capital ‘A’ for ‘Austin’. 


Things that I will forever associate with SXSW 2014:

- Grackles. When I first walked downtown from my hotel I heard an insane bird song. My immediate thought was ‘hey, I need Shazam for birds. What are these?’ Later on I learned that these black/blue birds tend to congregate in large groups, popularly referred to as a plague or annoyance. 

- Learning about new stuff. Whether exploring London’s creative start-up scene at Hackney House or listening to Indi music with Berlin’s creative start-up scene at German House. I met some fabulous people.

- My nerd crush for Dr. Neil deGrasse Tyson. Not only does he have an asteroid named after him, he also has the unique ability to make astrophysics sound simple and exciting without dumbing it down.

- Kale, pet pigs and beards. Move over Dalston. Austin is winning one over you in overall kale consumption (especially juiced), pet pigs and hirsuteness. 

- The Midnight Cowboy. The notorious Austin speakeasy was our homebase and HQ throughout SXSW. A haven in an ocean of madness, it provided much needed serenity to catch up with friends, colleagues, brands and press. Not to mention the breakfast tacos in the morning and the exquisite alcoholic beverages.


Sessions I liked:

- I was particularly interested in the ever-growing conversation about workspaces and company culture. Many sessions discussed how to foster and protect an environment of creativity, problem solving and innovation whilst keeping up with the Jones’.  

- The Rackspace session on how to create frameworks to redefine and re-evaluate problems: “the problem is not the problem”. 

- I also really enjoyed the talk of another Huge colleague, Patricia Korth- McDonnell on creating a work environment that supports creativity and innovation

- We already talked about Dr. Neil deGrasse Tyson. Need I say more? 

- Serendipity led me to walk into a panel called #carhack – ‘will hackers and makers save car culture?’ It was about cars and hacks. What, do you want more?


Even meticulous (last minute) planning did not prevent me from missing stuff. Queues, distances and hangovers are impossible to factor in when you make your own SXSW wish list on the flight out there.


Stuff I am gutted I missed:

- TOMS & the future of the One to One Movement. Cannot wait for those coffee shops.

 The Brooklyn Brewery’s Countryfication Party - apparently the perfect combination of barnyard animals, games, beer, and Texas. I so wanted to be there for the “Tiny Tails To You” petting zoo and some gamified animal attractions. 

- The Oculus Rift at the HBO Game of Thrones exhibition. Gutted!

- All the previous SXSWs. I would have loved to be there when there was a little less queuing, less brand exposure and less ‘noise’ and a little more ‘frontier thinking’.


Finally – here is my mental checklist for SXSW 2015.

- Focus on what you really want to see but then let serendipity take over. Plan for the keynotes and panels that are important to you and then take a punt with everything else, especially sessions that are given by people you have met the day before. 

- SXSW is as much about Austin as it is about the events. Take time to explore the city, its wonders and its weirdness and don’t be afraid to miss a couple of talks and panels. It’s ok. Really.

- Find yourself a base - a home. Your mind and your body will be grateful. 

- And lastly it is as much about connecting with old friends and colleagues, as it is to find new ones.  


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HUGE USA, Tue, 18 Mar 2014 16:54:11 GMT