The inaugural SXSW V2V is purposefully smaller and more focused than the legacy SXSW in Austin each March. With the focus toward innovation and startups and a smaller footprint, there are significant benefits the fledging spin-off is offering attendees this week:
- Intimate networking and more collisions: With only 1500 attendees, you not only could meet new people more easily, you would see them again the next day. And the next. The sponsored boxed lunches each day enabled attendees to stick around the convention hall and strike up conversation with strangers while munching generic turkey sandwiches. Of note, the Twitter buzz was also extremely manageable to track and follow. Gee, this sure reminds me of the SXSW’s I attended six and seven years ago.
- Accessibility of speakers and SXSW staff: Although the speaker line-up mirrored the same hit and miss quality of the big conference, it was much easier to catch high-profile speakers like Steve Case in the hallways (who by the way, was hanging out in the hallways, talking to attendees and watching sessions the past two days). The staff has also been omnipresent and highly engaged in chatting up attendees, soliciting feedback and even (gasp) enjoying the sessions themselves. Truly a unique experience for event planners.
- Lack of lines: No giant queues making it prohibitive to pop into a panel late or switch panels mid-session. No lines for keynotes. Plenty of chairs in most sessions. No constant line at the men’s restroom. This is indeed a smaller event, AND Vegas is set up for conferences of this caliber.
- Downtown Vegas: If your opening keynote is Zappos’ Tony Hsieh talking about The City as a Startup, you better get folks into the city and let them experience it firsthand. The Energy and focus around (and free shuttles to) the Downtown Project were inspiring and a real-world example of an interactive community walking the walk.
- Party equality: The true value of the SXSW experience extends beyond the programming and is truly centered on the community itself. Evening parties complement the programming and help facilitate the collision encounter mentioned above. This week there were no RSVP’s required, no Eventbrite tickets to manage, and no VIP area at each venue. Everyone enjoyed the same access to same parties, films and music showcases without fear of missing out (FOMO) setting in.
In short, the caliber of the SXSW community — whether in Austin or a smaller, spin-off conference in Vegas — continues to be extremely high and unrivaled by most events. The programming has ranged from adequate to engaging. Las Vegas is actually set up for conferences. The entrepreneurial and innovative spirit is contagious in Downtown Vegas. And although I miss the barbecue, breakfast tacos and overall Austin-style we’ve come to expect from SXSW, I will gladly come to Vegas for Year #2 of SXSW V2V. And you can bet I won’t miss SXSW Interactive in Austin, either.
See you there?