March 16, 2010

SXSW, where geeks feel like rock stars

Posted: 11:30 AM ET

South by Southwest is a BIG event. There are some 17,000 festivalgoers milling about downtown Austin’s convention center this week on their way to back-to-back-to-back conference sessions. With that many people packed in a single (albeit gigantic) building, there’s no dawdling in getting from Point A to Point B.

So when you’re presenting at one of those conference sessions, and you’re expected to be on stage at a certain time, the conference organizers don’t mess around. They give you very explicit instructions, in bold 30-ish-point font, in a special panelist envelope that you pick up with your registration badge.

This was my first panel at SXSW. It was on Sunday at 12:30, and as per the big-print instructions, I showed up in the green room exactly an hour before I was scheduled to speak. I had to walk through some black curtains and show my special “panelist” badge to get in. All of which, to be honest, made me feel kind of like I was about to be on Late Night with Conan O’Brien. Except, well, yeah.

My fellow panelists – Pete Cashmore of Mashable, Randi Zuckerberg of Facebook, Jason Rzepka of MTV and Joe Kingsbury of Text 100 – and I found a table waiting for us, literally with our names on it. (Thank you, Randi, for snapping a photo!) We wiled away the next 45 minutes chatting and taking pictures until a nice fellow named Caleb in a SXSW T-shirt came to pick us up.

Caleb led us single-file down a series of outdoor staircases and dank corridors that eventually led to our panel. You know that moment in your favorite 1980s music video when the band walks slo-mo through the dark hall out to the throngs of screaming fans? It felt like that.

The panel discussion itself was fantastic – crowd-sourcing the news,  you can read the notes on Twitter by searching #crowdcontrol – but the moment I’ll etch into my memory is the slo-mo, rock-star trek to the stage.

My head knows it’s all just logistics, but my heart chooses to believe that someone behind the scenes at SXSW is trying to make all us geeks feel like stars.

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Filed under: SXSW Interactive

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Are you a gadgethead? Do you spend hours a day online? Or are you just curious about how technology impacts your life? In this digital age, it's increasingly important to be fluent, or at least familiar, with the big tech trends. From gadgets to Google, smartphones to social media, this blog will help keep you informed.

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