South By Southwest (SXSW) – Part 4 & Final Thoughts

The last day of SXSW, I decided to attend a couple of sessions and the keynote featuring Brian Ek from Spotify. The first session, held at the Hilton, was a panel that featured David Meerman Scott. The session was very interesting and insightful. I took some notes and participated in a brief discussion with the panelist from Newell Rubbermaid.

David Meerman Scott - SXSW

David Meerman Scott

We headed over to the Austin Convention Center for the keynote speech, featuring Daniel Ek, CEO of Spotify. The keynote room was packed. We were able to secure a couple of seats near the front.   Mr. Ek started out with a brief overview of his company, Spotify.  Spotify is a music application. He walked through a live demo on the screen. It seemed like a cool app, so I decided to download it and install it while he was talking.

To my surprise, the app doesn’t work in the US. It only works in certain European countries and you have to be invited to use it. What a disappointment!

I immediately lost interest in the conversation and the speech and decided to leave and grab some lunch.

Milena and I walked over to Chapala Mexican Restaurant, where we had lunch the day before. To our surprise, there were new, leather menu covers. They looked pretty cool, so I took a picture of one of them (see below). This time, I had the Portobello Mushroom tacos. They were spectacular! Milena had the Chile Verde (Pork) plate. She wasn’t too impressed and didn’t finish her meal. That was ok, we planned to join @katebuckjr and @theJenATX for dinner at the Oasis Restaurant at Lake Travis later that evening and wanted to keep an appetite.

Chapala Leather Menu

New, leather menu cover. Pretty cool.

After lunch, we hightailed it back to the Hilton to catch a panel featuring Paula Berg formerly of Soutwest Airlines. The panel was pretty good and worth our while.

We decided to head back to the hotel to rest for a little while before heading to Lake Travis for dinner.

We met @katebuckjr, @theJenATX, and their husbands @chefmorrisbuck & @bwoj for dinner at 7 pm. @jbtaylor joined us later. The drive to Lake Travis from Austin was pleasant. The surrounding area featured posh homes and exclusive neighborhoods. Milena and I were intrigued and wanted to learn more. When we arrived at the Oasis, we were amazed at the size of the restaurant. Kate’s husband, Morris, is the Executive Chef there and he informed us that the restaurant can seat approximately 3,000 people in one sitting!

The Oasis Restaurant - Lake Travis 2

Beautiful view from The Oasis

That’s large, even by Vegas standards. The menu at the Oasis is Tex-Mex and the décor is an art deco that I can’t really describe. You’ll have to experience it for yourself. Milena and I took few pictures on the patio, but forgot to take pictures inside. There are many different rooms there and spectacular views of Lake Travis. We are seriously going to look into purchasing a second home there. It’s that cool.

The Oasis - Lake Travis 1

Milena & I at The Oasis Restaurant (Lake Travis)

After a great dinner and conversation with our friends, we headed back to the Renaissance Hotel and packed for our return trip to Vegas.

FINAL THOUGHTS

After spending 6 days and 5 nights in Austin, TX for the SXSW interactive festival, here are my final thoughts:

Pros

  • The city is a fun, eclectic place with many entertainment options, especially for live music.
  • The festival attracts many forward thinking, bright individuals.
  • There are some very cool new product/websites on display.
  • The food in Austin is great, and the prices are pretty good too.

Cons

  • For a newbie, it is very difficult to find your way around the festival.
  • To my surprise, the sxsw.com website was a terrible resource compared to the print catalog for the show schedule. This is ironic considering the interactive portion of the festival features some of the newest online technology out there.
  • It was extremely hard to figure out what the party schedule was and how to RSVP to the event. Apparently, you had to do that in advance of the festival and if you waited until the festival started, you were out of luck. (That would be me) Additionally, how to get in as a VIP was also a mystery. At least in Vegas, you could buy your way in. Not here.
  • I was disappointed with the selection of sessions and panels.  I was told that they are selected via crowdsourcing.  I think it is a mistake to have 100% of the sessions crowdsourced.  It should be 50% crowdsourced and 50% setup by the organizers.  The sessions were very valuable for a small business owner or independent person.  However, for a large business, many of the sessions lacked “punch” and “depth” for larger organizations.
  • Many of the people on the exhibit floor did a poor job selling their products/services.  It was very frustrating to try and get information such as pricing and value from these people.  I was beginning to wonder if they were there to make money or to hang out.
    • In one case, I waited for 20 min while a salesperson was talking to a customer.  Not once did he say “I’ll be right with you”….or “Can you come back in 30 min?”…he didn’t even acknowledge me!  I wonder how many potential clients he missed out on?  He should have paid attention to the 5 W’s on his display (see pic below).
Sysomos - SXSW

I waited for 20 min to talk to the salesperson. I finally gave up.

Overall, it was worth my time to go to SXSW.  I will give it another try in 2011.  If it doesn’t improve, I’m not sure I will return after that.

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