SXSWi 2011. Day 1. BPM @ SXSW

Scott Francis
Next Post
Previous Post
Day 1 is over.  For me.  For many people at SXSW interactive, 11:30pm is just midway through the evening. But Day zero was interesting too.  We attended a tech happy hour on Thursday night.  Surprisingly, I ran into an ex-IBM consultant who is starting a BPM practice at an IBM partner.  Small world!  You don’t often run into people you don’t know, who are doing BPM, I’ve found.  Especially unusual at a non-BPM related event… Day 1 started frenetically.  Wake up early, teacher’s conference for our daughter, coffee, get the office and get contracts, paperwork, bills, emails, and a dozen other things done as soon as possible … to make sure I could get down to the first SXSW session at 2pm. (Update: Photo Gallery by Austin360) Things started off right.  I found parking in the convention center garage, no crazy antics required.  $9 for all-day parking.  Cost of business.  As I exited, I realized I was only one block away from Hashable‘s sponsored free taco stand.  Coincidentally, my wife‘s company, Red Velvet Events, is helping them out with a few planning/logistics items during SXSW, and we had the good fortune of having met a few folks at Hashable at a happy hour earlier in the week.  Trusting that they wouldn’t have a crummy taco truck, I walked over.  GREAAAT taco.  And Jane Kim (VP Business Development, Hashable), and Elliot Loh were there. Elliot and I went to school together at Stanford and both worked at the same company out of school.  It was a nice reunion to run into him.  The three of us wandered over to the convention hall and then split up to three different sessions.  That worked pretty well because Elliot tweets the goings-on in his sessions like a mad man so I could follow his session, and at the same time follow my own. First session:  Conference Startups.  The format was a “core conversation” where the room and chair arrangement is concentric and intimate to foster spontaneous, but still centralized, conversation.  The moderators were great, and the conversation moved smoothly from one topic to another, almost as if the audience was in on the script. I was interested in this session, despite other strong sessions in this slot, because we have previously hosted the bpmCamp unconference and have intentions to do it again in the near future.  With that in mind, I hoped to get some new ideas from the conversations. A shotgun sampling of advice I heard:
  • Get a clear yes or no from sponsors.  If you don’t get one, you haven’t asked clearly enough for what you want.  “You haven’t really asked if you don’t get a no”
  • Find the experts, and then find out who you could bring to your conference that would blow their minds.
  • Market the conference.  Presumption is that it takes 7 times before someone acts on hearing about a conference.
  • (At this point, I noticed this session was standing room only … unreal )
  • Mizzou School of Journalism was represented – looking for ways to foster more participation in the community in Columbia, Missouri.
  • Discussion of Ignite and TedX – you can lend your brand to other regions, cities, and venues… you don’t have to own every one of them.
  • People like great speakers, and conversations – but they don’t often like panels.  People want to be engaged in the conference, not just talked to.
  • Food and coffee are more important than you think.  No really. They’re more important than you think.
  • Some discussion of tools – lanyrd, eventBrite, etc.
Ultimately, people still want a live connection, face-to-face. Session 2:  Time for comic relief.  I headed back to a VERY crowded Austin Convention Center (they set up a book signing right across from an info center booth, right in front of the entrance to one of the main Ballrooms.  Suffice to say, TRAFFIC JAM and poor positioning of obstacles go hand-in-hand.  Made it to Battle Decks.  Got a coveted seat at the end of the row (making it easy to bail on the session if it sucked).  It was a huge room, big projection screen of slides.  The presenters don’t know the slides in advance.  They just have to adlib their presentation based on what comes up.  This comedy is not for the politically correct or faint of heart.  The very first word out of the emcee’s mouth might have been an F-bomb.  The presenters were judged on coherence, comedy, and sexual innuendo.  Enough said.  Sadly, the slides were funnier than the presenters.  I gave up after 2.5 presenters weren’t making me laugh enough. Decided to check out the pop-up Apple store – and get coffee at one of the dozens of coffee stands on the way out of the convention center (pro tip: no line, because everyone was still in session).  Checked in on foursquare, and won tickets to the Big Boi concert on Monday night.  If you don’t know who that is, then you’re probably in my demographic and so now I have to figure out if we’re going to go or not! Ok.  Stopped at 4th and Trinity to meet Elliot for the walk to the Apple store.  Ran into fellow entrepreneur Aruni.  Also, ran into two guys dressed as super heros to promote their website.  Yes, we’re at SXSW.  Elliot pings me: he’s at 6th and Trinity. All right. We meet at the Apple store. Pretty amazing mini-story. They lease the place on Monday.  An empty store front at 6th and Congress – a very important intersection in Austin.  Wednesday morning the black drapes go up and the construction begins.  Friday at 5pm, the drapes come down and an apple store nearly as nice as any I have seen opens up – wood floors, wood tables, ipad2’s EVERYWHERE.  But also a healthy supply of demo machines and phones. Ok.  The line was around the block, around two corners.  We walked back to the Convention Center to listen to Clay Shirky talk about the various online events surrounding the events in Egypt, and other countries in the Middle East.  He really went in depth about the history of the movement to oust Mubarak.  There was more to it than a spontaneous rally a few weeks ago.  Years of groundswell support led up to that moment.  It hit especially close to home because one of our very good business partners is based in Cairo, Egypt, as well as one of my close friends from school (who lives there with his family).  Incredibly informative talk, and the Q&A session brought China and other countries into the conversation in really interesting ways. During the session, I realized that none other than Clay Richardson of Forrester is here, tweeting about the talk.  Or rather, he realized I was sitting in the room making snarky comments on twitter.  We met up in person for the first time.  A second BPM connection at SXSW.  Two more than I made when I came last year.  We had a great mini-meetup and then split up to find our various dinner commitments.  Met a fellow entrepreneur, Tony Chen, for dinner at a good sushi restaurant downtown. After dinner, we thought, “hey, surely the line at the Apple Store has died down by now!” and walked back over there (quite a few blocks).  Sure enough. The line looked reasonable.  Ten minutes later, chatting amiably with Apple store staffers, we were buying iPads.  The staff were brought in from all over Texas – Texas all-stars.  It showed too – all the good things about Apple retail employees were even more apparent with these folks. Happy Happy Happy.  Helpful. Interested in what business I was in and how we use iPads (um, figuring that one out!)  Painless process.  Unlike phone activation. Hint: Apple, stop activating phones on opening day. The lines would move SO much faster and you could actually blow out your opening day sales numbers. We then walked down the street back to the parking garage like rock stars, constantly being asked if we had just bought an iPad2 at the pop-up Apple store.  (One wonders what else we would be carrying in Apple bags and Apple boxes of that size.  Still, it was a nice conversation starter).  On the way back to the garage, we passed a cross-dressing band (playing good music…), and a group of people changing costume (not sure from what or into what – they were in a slight state of undress) – ooops!  And then passed a fleet of pedi-cabs offering to give us rides to wherever.  Tony headed out to some of the night time party activities, I headed home to rest up, and write this blog post! (Well, I might have had an interest in setting up my new iPad2 as well… )    

Tags: