South By Southwest Interactive

On the Eve of SXSW Interactive

South By SouthwestThe next few days, I’m attending South By Southwest (SXSW) Interactive for the first time. From the time I signed up, it was clear this was no ordinary conference or festival. It wouldn’t be fair to call it an event. It’s already been an experience and I haven’t even hit the road yet.

SXSW Interactive has been donned the “Spring Break for Geeks.” I’m totally down with that. I resemble that. The attire is generally jeans and tees – the funnier and the snarkier the better.

I’m serving on a panel Monday morning titled “Social Media for Social Good – How Digital Charity is Changing Our World.” Of course I’m representing the Make-A-Wish Foundation and am excited to join a panel of real professionals:

  • Charles Porch, marketing for Facebook
  • Claire Diaz Ortiz, social innovation & philanthropy for Twitter
  • Ramya Raghavan, political and social change programming for YouTube,
  • Jake Furst, business development for Foursquare
  • Beverly Robertson, national director of the Pregnancy & Newborn Health Education Center for the March of Dimes

Frank Barry of Blackbaud is moderating the panel.

As soon as I got my ticket, I started getting emails from SXSW, event (ahem, party) organizers, and other attendees. I’ve been provided dozens, maybe hundreds, of suggestions, links to the SXSW social site – where you can search for and send messages to registered attendees – the online scheduling platform, event RSVP pages, and apps to download and use during the…whatever SXSW Interactive is.

There’s #Hashable, which allows you to tweet who you’ve met, share that with others, and make introductions, while helping develop an updated “relationship book” of those folks and see who your friends are meeting.

There’s SXSW Go, which provides access to your SXSW schedule, social connections, and background on the chaos around you.

There’s Bump, which allows you to swap contact information with others with just a fist bump and phones in-hand, so you don’t have to worry as much about business cards.

There’s SitBy.Us, which allows you to share whether the panel you’re in is good or otherwise, hear about other panels, and find out who else is in the same session so you can connect.

There’s Beluga, which offers group texting so your entire posse can holllaaahhh regularly.

Of course there’s Foursquare, Gowalla, and Facebook Places for the location-based check-in inclined.

And a ton of others promising to hook you up with the inside info on the newest sessions, underground parties, and where to find the best barbecue…I already know where it is, but I’m not starting a firefight by posting it.

I signed up late for SXSW and almost didn’t get a traditional hotel room. My travel rep said that there wasn’t a single room to be had in Austin during SXSW. So I went to Twitter and in five minutes I had several options for not only hotels, but houses, apartments, dorm rooms – even tents.

I’ve been organizing my schedule for days and I still don’t feel like I’m ready. But I also understand that you’re never quite ready for SXSW and that the best things happen there when you leave room for them to happen to you. So, here I go. I suspect I’ll be blogging throughout SXSW, but if I don’t find the time, you’ll definitely be hearing from me afterward. Lucky you.