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 may 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 yr.
This has been my second yr 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: plenty of enjoyable, plenty of new buddies, and good enterprise. I couldn’t have requested for extra. That’s why this yr 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). Truthfully talking, I went there with gentle expectations. Final yr’s version went so properly for me, that I thought-about it an exception: it’s a bit like when it occurs that one night you exit with buddies and you’ve got a magical evening collectively the place all the pieces is ideal… and you already know properly 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 form. So I went there with no expectations of replicating final yr, as a result of I already knew it might have been unimaginable.
And actually, I’ve discovered this yr at SXSW a bit completely different. However nonetheless very cool. It was an awesome pleasure to see that the identical chill ambiance of final yr was nonetheless there. It’s one thing very typical of this occasion… possibly it’s due to the town, possibly as a result of it’s an occasion that mixes expertise folks with artistic folks… possibly as a result of it is stuffed with events… I don’t know the explanation. However I do know that at SXSW everybody has a smile on their face and is able to meet new folks. All the opposite occasions should not the identical: in Austin, you may actually go to a very random particular person with the SXSW badge across the neck and begin talking with this random stranger and change into good friend with him/her… and possibly begin to have enjoyable collectively. Otherwise you meet a good friend of yours, and he introduces you to a associate of his, after which when you’re talking collectively, one other particular person joins the group and also you meet this new particular person, too. It’s cool for networking, and all the pieces 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 buddies… and there I noticed a good friend 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 along with her on Linkedin to guage 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 alternative alternatives: some have been formally organized by the SXSW, and lots of others have been organized by different attendees or establishments. Events are an integral a part of the expertise: they’re a very good place the place to have enjoyable after a tough day of labor, but additionally a pleasant place the place to fulfill new folks, too. As I’ve mentioned final yr, you by no means know when you’re working and when you’re having enjoyable. It’s all an enormous combine… you dance, then you definately 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 have 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 typically I felt this yr SXSW to have had a bit much less power than in 2022. I don’t know easy methods to say it… it’s like there was a bit much less enthusiasm, and likewise barely fewer alternatives, a minimum of for what I used to be in search of. I considered it and located two attainable explanations:
- Final yr was the primary bodily SXSW after the lockdowns: folks actually needed to have their life again, to have their enjoyable again. Everybody actually needed to have a variety of enjoyable. This yr, we’re already used to going to bodily occasions, so it was not so particular anymore. Let’s say we’re again to plain ranges of power
- The present tech panorama isn’t in its finest second ever: all the large corporations (Meta, Microsoft, and so on…) are shedding folks. And it’s harder to seek out alternatives when corporations and traders are extra cautious about their spending.
The variety of attendees appeared larger to me, so possibly there was much less power, however extra folks to fulfill.
I additionally seen that this yr there was a lot much less meals provided at no cost. Which for me is completely unacceptable: why ought to I’m going to an occasion if there is no such thing as a 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 yr. However anyway, I had my vivid moments, too: for example, KPMG organized a beautiful dinner for XR folks the place I ate as if there was no tomorrow. And concerning the events, I keep in mind a really enjoyable evening with a DJ set organized by the French Tech business… or an evening on the Empire with good hip-hop music.
XR and the M-word have been one of many most important 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 change into an AI professional. I had the nice pleasure to be a speaker on this yr’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 dwell occasions and live shows. The speech went nice (thanks everybody on your help). There have been many different buddies (e.g. Caitlin Krause, Tony Parisi, Charlie Fink, and so on…) having talks as properly. It was cool to see so many talks about XR, however the one downside was that a lot 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 buddies of mine talking: it was very laborious to decide on.
SXSW organizers have chosen a implausible lineup of XR audio system. The one downside I’ve discovered with the conferences is that since I’m already within the discipline, I already knew nearly all the pieces that the audio system have been saying. Perhaps it could possibly be cool to have speeches for various ranges of experience of the viewers: I imply, I might simply go to sleep throughout a chat referred to as “What Is The Metaverse?”, whereas I will likely 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 enormous 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 just a few, however I used to be impressed by what number of cool experiences have been there. There have been additionally different XR corporations that have been exhibiting in the primary Expo, within the Innovation Showcase, or different showcases. Some others had personal 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 assume 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 soar in expertise.
As my good friend Charlie Fink says, SXSW is an occasion that at all times leaves you with FOMO (Concern Of Lacking Out), even if in case you have been there. The issue is that there are such a lot of issues to do, and so many individuals to fulfill, that you may’t do all of them. It’s simply unimaginable. So there are at all times a variety of issues you can be unhappy about not having accomplished. As an illustration, I didn’t handle to strive an expertise referred to as Symbiosis which was very cool, I couldn’t attend the Interactive Opening Celebration, and I haven’t met my buddies of Ristband/Miroshot, Cathy Hackl, or Tony Parisi. I’ve accomplished 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 yr:
- Go there with a pleasant and open angle. Take up the vibes of the competition and be completely satisfied and chill on a regular basis
- Go there to fulfill folks. Don’t go together with a gaggle of your colleagues with the concept of spending the entire day and evening talking with them. At that time, simply arrange a visit with them to a different location and do some staff constructing. In the event you go to SXSW, it’s essential to meet new folks, in any other case, you waste many alternatives. In case you are there with many individuals out of your firm, break up into small teams of 1-3 folks and be open to connecting with others. While 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 folks round me, to see if there could possibly be an fascinating dialog. In the event you don’t know easy methods to break the ice, don’t be afraid: a easy “Hey, I’m Tony, good to fulfill you” works like a appeal. In fact substitute “Tony” together with your title… or hold utilizing it, if you wish to confuse folks 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 folks is good, however being targeted and ready is even higher. See who you need to meet, and attempt to contact them just a few days earlier than the occasion to arrange conferences. If they’re audio system, go watch their speech, after which after it ends, go communicate with them
- Only a few folks learn the Inbox of the official SXSW app. This yr even fewer than final yr. So contact folks by way of all attainable means: SXSW app, Linkedin, Twitter. And because it’s laborious to learn notifications when you’re spending the entire day networking, making an attempt experiences, and partying, it’s higher to contact folks 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 additionally 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 additionally 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 a minimum of. After just a few days, I’m devastated. Nevertheless it’s okay, I loved the complete expertise and now I can sleep in the course of the weekend
- Watch out for the evolution of the competition over the times. The primary days are for the tech, however then at a sure level, all the pieces is about music and films. Which means that probably 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 among the final in tech, you will have folks 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 strains to strive all the pieces, 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 glad about the numerous superb stuff you did.
And that’s it… or possibly not… let me depart you with a final image to make you snigger. 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 compelled to sleep in one of many rooms of the youngsters and this was my mattress…
Okay, now that’s it for actual. I hope to see you subsequent yr in Austin for SXSW 2024!
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