Our time at SXSW may be over, but we’re continuing to feel the excitement from our six days in Austin and are still full from all the queso and margaritas we indulged in! We all had a great time at SXSW, had the chance to show off our rain boots (it never fails to rain at SXSW), and were able to get a lot of great take aways and not to mention, meet some awesome people!
One of our favorite sessions was the Mashable Variety Show with Pete Cashmore, which kicked off with this great video! The session was all about the future of the Internet, memes and the value of photos over links on Facebook to drive engagement.
John Mackey, CEO and co-founder of Whole Foods, led another one of our favorite sessions where he discussed his controversial views on big business with the SX crowd. Yes, large companies have provided people with jobs and helped to shape communities, but they can also be breeding grounds for greed and a culture that doesn’t truly care about the little guy. Mackey created the Whole Foods business model on equality (their cashiers and upper management have exactly the same benefits), which was inspiring to hear. While he’s clearly a believer in big business, he also believes in giving back, and understands the importance of corporate social responsibility, which was an interesting combination to hear about from a business owner.
A third favorite panel was Shaq’s. We were not expecting to be overly enthralled by this session, but we all ended up falling in love with Shaq’s loveable personality. He’s pretty smart (something he credits to his business partners, lawyers, and staff) and loves nerdy tech stuff. He even called himself “the tallest geek in the world.” He was one of the first investors in Google too, before it is the monster conglomerate it is today, which was fascinating to learn. Shaq has all the money in the world, but is smart with his investments, and hearing about his ups and downs with his ventures over the years reminded us why it’s sometimes important to put yourself out there and take a professional risk. (And no, there will not be a Kazaam 2.)
Lastly, Rachel Maddow’s keynote session left us with amazing insight on the state of the military and how disconnected most American’s are these days. She explained how many people don’t “feel” the war at all unless they are in the military or in a military family. It was very interesting to hear her view on these matters. Also, she answered the questions that our very own Jenny Selber tweeted to her!
We really enjoyed being in Austin and getting to take in everything the city has to offer. We all shamelessly enjoy people watching, and there’s no better place to spot hipsters, celebs and old friends than Austin. We hung out in the Four Seasons lobby between panels one day to decompress and try to catch a glimpse of someone famous, but sadly, never saw anyone noteworthy. On Monday night, we were able to attend the Houston party, which was a great networking event that also allowed us the chance to catch up with a few of our favorite reporters.
One of the most valuable lessons w learned at SX was the power of a good old-fashioned, face-to-face conversation. Sure the festival is all about social media trends, online communication, blogging, etc., but we had so many genuine, interesting conversations with total strangers during our time in Austin. SX reminded us to never stop thinking outside the box and to always be authentic.
While SX can feel super overwhelming (Allie credits “panel FOMO” as a real issue at the festival) our favorite memories are of us just walking around chatting and bonding as a mini team! We all learned a lot this year, and after we forced ourselves to stop Tweeting, Facebooking and Instagamming long enough to really take in the experience and realize what an exciting time we are living and working in, we felt so appreciative that we could be there together.
For more on our time at SXSW, you can view our Tumblr page!