Some ideas about SXSW 2023
South by SouthWest (SXSW) is coming to an finish, however for me, it’s already over. I’m presently 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 occasions of my life with my colleague Maud Clavier: a lot of enjoyable, a lot of new buddies, and good enterprise. I couldn’t have requested for extra. That’s why this yr I made a decision I completely wished 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 effectively for me, that I thought of 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 realize effectively that no matter you’ll do to attempt to replicate it, it received’t occur once more. It has been certainly one of a form. So I went there with no expectations of replicating final yr, as a result of I already knew it could have been unimaginable.
And in reality, I’ve discovered this yr at SXSW a bit totally different. However nonetheless very cool. It was a terrific pleasure to see that the identical chill environment of final yr 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 folks with artistic folks… perhaps as a result of it is filled 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 aren’t the identical: in Austin, you may actually go to a completely random individual with the SXSW badge across the neck and begin talking with this random stranger and turn out to be good friend with him/her… and perhaps 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 find yourself talking collectively, one other individual joins the group and also you meet this new individual, 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 heart 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 large firm, in order that later we are going to join along with her on Linkedin to judge collaborations. It’s similar to that on a regular basis.
There have been nonetheless a whole lot of events… each evening we had to decide on the place to go amongst many alternative alternatives: some had been formally organized by the SXSW, and lots of others had been organized by different attendees or establishments. Events are an integral a part of the expertise: they’re an excellent 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 stated final yr, you by no means know when you find yourself working and when you find yourself 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 record of individuals with whom I’ve to comply with up on Monday and I’m like “how the hell have these alternatives occurred?”.
By the best way basically I felt this yr SXSW to have had a bit much less vitality 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, at the least for what I used to be on the lookout for. I thought of it and located two attainable explanations:
- Final yr was the primary bodily SXSW after the lockdowns: folks actually wished to have their life again, to have their enjoyable again. Everybody actually wished to have a whole lot 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 straightforward ranges of vitality
- The present tech panorama isn’t in its greatest second ever: all the large firms (Meta, Microsoft, and many others…) are shedding folks. And it’s harder to search out alternatives when firms and buyers are extra cautious about their spending.
The variety of attendees appeared larger to me, so perhaps there was much less vitality, however extra folks to fulfill.
I additionally observed that this yr there was a lot much less meals supplied without spending a dime. Which for me is completely unacceptable: why ought to I am going to an occasion if there isn’t a free meals? It’s the idea of my participation in occasions. Among the events had been additionally a bit much less enjoyable than final yr. However anyway, I had my shiny moments, too: as an illustration, KPMG organized a beautiful dinner for XR folks the place I ate as if there was no tomorrow. And concerning 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 had been one of many 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 turn out to be an AI knowledgeable. I had the nice pleasure to be a speaker on this yr’s version and to talk along with my colleague Maud concerning the classes that we’ve got realized whereas creating our social VR platform for reside occasions and live shows. The speech went nice (thanks everybody in your assist). There have been many different buddies (e.g. Caitlin Krause, Tony Parisi, Charlie Fink, and many others…) having talks as effectively. It was cool to see so many talks about XR, however the one drawback was that lots of them had been in parallel, so I had to decide on each second which talks to comply with… 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 onerous to decide on.
SXSW organizers have chosen a incredible 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 all the pieces that the audio system had been saying. Perhaps it might 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 might be all ears on a discuss “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 attention-grabbing AR/VR experiences, with additionally some WTF right here and there. I’ve simply managed to attempt a number of, however I used to be impressed by what number of cool experiences had been there. There have been additionally different XR firms that had been exhibiting in the primary 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, as an illustration). I did a demo myself to an individual we might collaborate with: I took out my Quest 2 from my backpack and made her attempt our VR live performance within the corridors of the venue!
So it was cool to see that XR was nonetheless rocking. As I’ve stated, 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 leap in know-how.
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 whole lot of issues you may be unhappy about not having accomplished. For example, I didn’t handle to attempt an expertise referred to as Symbiosis which was very cool, I couldn’t attend the Interactive Opening Social gathering, and I haven’t met my buddies of Ristband/Miroshot, Cathy Hackl, or Tony Parisi. I’ve accomplished lots and nonetheless missed lots. 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. Soak up the vibes of the pageant and be glad and chill on a regular basis
- Go there to fulfill folks. Don’t go together with a gaggle of your colleagues with the thought of spending the entire day and evening talking with them. At that time, simply manage a visit with them to a different location and do some staff constructing. In case you go to SXSW, you will need to meet new folks, in any other case, you waste many alternatives. If you’re there with many individuals out of your firm, cut up into small teams of 1-3 folks and be open to connecting with others. Whenever 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 might be an attention-grabbing dialog. In case you don’t know easy methods to break the ice, don’t be afraid: a easy “Howdy, I’m Tony, good to fulfill you” works like a appeal. After all substitute “Tony” together with your identify… or maintain 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 device that tells you the names of all of the attendees and the audio system, and you’ll filter them by firm. The serendipity of randomly assembly folks is sweet, however being targeted and ready is even higher. See who you need to meet, and attempt to contact them a number of 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 through all attainable means: SXSW app, Linkedin, Twitter. And because it’s onerous to learn notifications when you find yourself 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 offer 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 at the least. After a number of days, I’m devastated. But it surely’s okay, I loved the complete expertise and now I can sleep throughout 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, 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 whole lot 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 might have folks from each ecosystems, so the occasion could be very crowded. You should have a tough time reserving experiences. For example, 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 attempt all the pieces, so it was unimaginable for me to attempt something
- You’ll miss one thing and that’s okay. As I’ve stated, there are such a lot of issues to do, that you’ll do lots and nonetheless miss lots. Don’t remorse what you haven’t tried, however be grateful for the various wonderful belongings you did.
And that’s it… or perhaps not… let me depart you with a final image to make you chuckle. Since I misplaced my connecting flight at New York JFK, my colleague Lapo and I had been the final ones to reach on the home booked by the corporate, so we had been left with the worst rooms. I used to be so compelled 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 yr in Austin for SXSW 2024!
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