The first day of Austin’s SXSW Interactive festival was dominated by wet weather and complaints about long lines at the registration area. Rushed to get from my hotel to the Austin Convention Center to pick up my badge in time to see a former colleague present about the need for companies and other content producers to quickly make adjustments to online video content in response to immediate audience feedback, I found myself initially piling on the complaint train. But over the two hours I waited in line to get my badge, I changed my tune.
Digital technology provides immediacy. We share our thoughts in real time through popular platforms like Facebook and Twitter, get the latest news on handheld devices before stories are fully developed, and connect with the world in an instant, 24 hours a day.
Such luxuries afford convenience and the ability to multi-task. Many festival-goers huddle in hallways between panels to report back to their colleagues at home, bang out blog posts, and perform their normal job functions remotely. It’s a new way to work and learn, but it’s not without its tradeoffs.
As the company’s pseudo-community manager at the festival last year, I left feeling unsatisfied. Rarely looking up from my laptop or smartphone, I Tweeted quotes from speakers, read through others’ thoughts on the event, and shared my coworkers’ blog posts. What I failed to do was actually connect with people…in person. And isn’t that the reason so many smart, talented people travel from across the world to gather at trade shows like SXSW Interactive?
With this simple realization in mind, I didn’t mind the wait. It gave me a chance to chat with the people next to me in line: a business development manager at an Austin marketing firm, someone from a company that’s facilitating the development of mobile health applications, and a couple of guys from a large server company. The camaraderie and interesting discussion were enough to make the time go by quickly, let alone the possibilities to do business together.
I’m sure our Austin office could benefit from a connection to a local marketing firm when they lead integrated campaigns for clients. One of our Seattle clients hopes to increase awareness around its role in the mobile health industry this year. And, as someone who spends much of his time doing business-to-business PR, I never mind meeting people from companies in that space. These are connections I wouldn’t have made sitting in a conference room staring at my laptop.
So don’t worry about the wait, SXSW. Take advantage of it.