Rookie Recap: SXSW Interactive 2015

If you live in Austin, South by Southwest (SXSW) is a big deal, which can mean anything from you hate it to you love it to you can’t live without it. I’ve always been a bit indifferent. Yes, it brings THOUSANDS of people to Austin, all the hotels are booked and you can’t seem to go anywhere downtown without waiting in line, but it brings in hundreds (thousands) of amazing artists each year, and the free events around town - which often include free music, food and booze - are endless. And if you really aren’t in the mood for it, it’s not really that hard to avoid.

This year I got to attend as a badge holder for the very first time.

What does that mean? It means I’ve participated in some free events around town (minimally) in the past but have never attended the festival as an official registrant. Let me also clarify, SXSW is not just music. It consists of 3 main parts: Interactive, Film and Music. I only attended Interactive.

Something I didn’t know: the Interactive portion of the festival is bigger than the music portion, official attendance-wise. Attendance according to Wiki (I'm guessing 2014 #’s) was:

SXSW Music: 28,119
SXSW Interactive: 30,621
SXSW Film: 16,297

That’s more than I even knew.

I will say, being an official registrant and attending the actual conference/education portion (not just city-wide free events) was very eye-opening, humbling, interesting, etc. It really made me appreciate living in Austin even more and made me more considerate of the visitors in town (at least the Interactive peeps). Because though I now live here, I was basically just another SXSW tourist for five days straight.

The experience was both incredible and exhausting. There were HUNDREDS of conference sessions a day, which took more than a couple of hours and strategic planning to get through, and dozens/hundreds of exhibits, events and more. And yes, I experienced it all – educational sessions, celebrity interviews, exhibits, new food trucks, a Will Ferrell run-in, happy hours, music, Jimmy Kimmel Live, etc. On a nerdy level, I was actually surprised how inspiring the conference was outside of the formal sessions, in many different topics and areas relating to work and life. Top-notch, tech-savvy companies and promotional ideas were everywhere to help with that.

For the sake of not having to turn this blog post into two or three blog posts (and then never doing them), here are many photos to recap the event, including some pretty cool celeb interviews and sightings. I will be doing a separate post later on my tips to attending and surviving SXSW as a newbie.


Featured session with Charles Barkley: How to Stay Relevant in Today’s Digital Age
(though he’s not on social media, go figure)

Fonts!!! I attended two back-to-back Adobe hosted sessions. Let me first note that they had coffee and a make-your-own trail mix bar. I can’t explain how clutch that was for energy survival. Secondly, they won me over on the idea of Creative Cloud, which includes an awesome video editing software and access to dozens of cool Typekit fonts that can be used in all programs and for any purpose you like. Major brownie points for cool fonts.... and representing Kitsy Co, wut wut!

Jimmy Kimmel interview. Was really fun to see HIM being interviewed, instead of the other way around, in a casual setting outside of a tv production. His shirt had two Texas Capitols on it, sent to him by a local vendor – hilarious.

Interview with Jessica Alba and Brian Lee, co-founders of The Honest Company. When I first learned of Honest a couple of years ago, I actually didn’t know she was the co-founder. The interview really was about the company – how she had trouble getting anyone to fund her idea, streamlining the idea, their values and mission, future expansion, challenges, etc. Random note, it was actually Brian Lee’s birthday that day AND mine. I went to the mic to ask a question: “Who gets to design the cute diaper patterns?” I then followed with, “Happy birthday, Brian. It’s actually my birthday as well.” For the record, Jessica Alba publicly told me “Happy Birthday!” Wasn’t able to get a photo opp, though, as I was hoping. #winsomelosesome

For the featured sessions, a company called Image Think (from the NY area) graphically recorded the conversations in real time. Amazed me every time.

Inspired by the Image Think graphic recording artists, my notes (and Tweets) started turning out like this. The right one was from a very informative social media session with Guy Kawasaki and Peg Fitzpatrick.

Editor in Chief of Lucky Magazine, Evan Chen, and social media pioneer Michelle Phan using the most talked about new social media app at SXSW, Meerkat, which lives streams to your Twitter followers. (You can tell how eager I was at the end  of SXSW to sit up front during the featured sessions.)



The registrants lounge provided an easy-to-get-to break throughout Interactive.
Left: photos with MoFilm (who sent that picture printed to me via postcard).
Right: Representing the company I work for, Weaver, holla!

One of the MANY interesting exhibits all over the city. This one specifically was sponsored by 3M. There were all kinds of product features and activities within, including the Post-it Plus app on the right (check it out for more info).

Spotify House. Phone charging stations on the wall. Trivia while you wait.

Mashable House: Windex selfie station, 360 camera action, picture on a lion, cat interviews (wish I had a pic)...


One day I was walking down 6th to my next session (after free tacos thanks to Peached Tortilla), and low and behold, it was Will Ferrell  and Kevin Hart. They were doing Man on the Street interviews for Funny or Die. I snapped my photos, stepped far away from the crowd so I could share a photo, AND THEN,  they moved interview spots and walked right passed me. One of the body guards shoved me out of the way with a, “Move Back,” but let me point out that I was technically in that spot first. This was definitely my most giddy, star-struck moment of the conference.

Left: Bates Motel replica by A&E. 
Right: Sir Mix-A-Lot sighting outside of a hotel. (Confession, I didn’t recognize who he was and had to ask someone… and of course then I snapped a photo. I know his lyrics, but had no idea what he looked like.)

The last day did not start out so well for me. I was exhausted, which didn’t help. Without going into my three times as long story, I decided to catch the SXSW ferry across the lake to my next session because (a) my feet were tired (b) I hadn’t been on it yet. I was the only passenger. When we arrived at the dock on the other side, the driver jumped off to secure the boat, missed his grab, and the ferry floated out of reach from the captain and the dock… with just me on it. With the captain’s direction, I tried to rescue myself by driving the boat toward the dock, but I think I just made it worse, and was ultimately stuck in the bank brush with no way out. Of course there would be no swimming for either of us, so the captain had to get someone from the neighboring water sports rental  place to drive their little man boat over and tug the ferry back to the dock. The driver was mortified (despite my efforts to lighten the scenario); the rescuers seemed irritated; and I was late to my session only to find out it was full... and needed to walk back across Town Lake for my next one. #fail



SouthBites food truck court.

Left: KitchenAid craft cocktail happy hour. Liquid nitrogen cocktails courtesy of Qui staff.
Right: 6th Street day 1... before the madness.

6th and Congress. Elle King (left) opening for Shakey Graves (right). Didn't know of Elle King before then - killed it.



And on the last night, I attended Jimmy Kimmel live, featuring Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Robert Rodriguez, Spoon and Gary Clark, Jr.

Gary Clark, Jr., with Cleo and the Cletones... and some non-interesting talent on stage while we waited.

Performance by Spoon.

Check out that .15 seconds of tv fame!!! (And thanks to my Dad for his diligent DVR efforts.)



Don't forget to visit my shop, Kitsy Co!

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