Hey guys! So I was one of the lucky winners to spend some time with Ning down in Austin, and I just wanted to drop in to give some feedback from the perspective of Creators.
SXSW is billed as a Tech Conference, but it's really a Festival. I think what that means to Creators is the following...
This is aimed towards those who are interested in making money via your network, and feel ready to do that (big audience, big traffic, unique segment of a market). I know that's not everyone, but I feel like it'd be one major agenda that might drive you to consider going to SXSWi if you haven't been.
- Industry People: Austin is all about people. Everyone is there. Bloggers, Company Founders, marketing teams, PR people, advertising people, and thought leaders. There's lots of educational and non-profit conversations happening. If you wanted to meet them, hear from them, or pitch them (in a non-pitchy way), Austin is a great opportunity. I'd build a list of hopeful meetings, reach out beforehand to set a few coffee chats up, and then spend your time there using Foursquare/Gowalla/Twitter to track down the one's you don't have on your schedule.
- Feedback: The early adopter crowd is there in full force. They're willing to hear your ideas, your community dynamics, and your story. Literally everyone there has a story, and is open to share it in exchange for yours. There's no reason to be shy, because rather than criticize or shoot you down, you'll get valuable feedback and insight into what else is happening in your space.
- Promotions/Marketing: I was really underwhelmed at the 'buzz building' tactics in Austin this year, despite the opportunity. With 15,000 early adopters/open minded geeks walking around, all carrying with them an audience of interested parties, you can really make a bang with very little COST. It's more a matter of doing something really innovative. Perfect example: the Ning team hands out free pie slices during their 'office hours'...and they were not only gone in short time, but generated buzz that I heard for the next 24 hours at parties and via twitter.
- Parties: Parties are a big, big part of the agenda down there. Problem is that they're expensive and exclusive, generally. Thing is, the best ones happened off the radar. If you want to bring people together to talk about you or your community, do that in a social setting 'off campus'.
I'm sure there's more, but that's a lot. If anyone has questions, just let me know...I'm happy to share!