My SXSW Experience

I had long heard about South By Southwest better known as SXSW; which takes place every March in Austin, Texas. I had never been to SXSW and truthfully didn’t really know too much about it. I just figured it was a tech geek convention although I did know that there was music and film involved too. So when I learned that I would be speaking at SXSW Interactive, I really had no idea what my SXSW experience would be like. I had no idea what to expect.
SXSW badge, Lee Abbamonte, SXSW, Austin, Texas
The biggest misconception about SXSW that I had and what I learned the most thru my SXSW experience is that SXSW is a really, really important event. It is no longer just a nerdfest, although there are a ton of nerds there. It has become one of the most important gatherings of great minds and influential people in the world.
Julian Assange, Wikileaks, SXSW, Austin, Texas
Important and influential people come to speak at SXSW. In 3 days I watched Wikileaks founder, Julian Assange, regale the main conference room with his views from the Ecuadorian Embassy in London. I was up close and personal with Mark Cuban, the billionaire entrepreneur and owner of the Dallas Mavericks.
Mark Cuban, Guy Kawasaki, SXSW, Austin, Texas
I saw Shaquille O’Neal not only speak but also just walk the floor and check out the new gadgets. And of course I saw Edward Snowden talk about cyber security and the NSA from Moscow, Russia in the most anticipated talk at SXSW. These are really important and influential people who chose to speak at SXSW-that says something.
Shaq, SXSW, Austin, Texas
Aside from being exposed to tech and interactive things and people, which normally freak me out, I was blown away by how cool some things were. My SXSW experience was so much more than just my own SXSW talk and a few parties. It was literally taking it all in. And I left before the concerts even started!
Lee Abbamonte, SXSW, Austin, Texas
As for my own talk, it was a big success. I was thrilled to have a really engaged audience in association with my friends at TripIt; which is the only travel app that I actually use. I have to thank them for asking me to do the talk, getting everything set up, getting voted by the public to speak and then they sponsored the event. It was fantastic-even on a cold, rainy day outside in a tent-it was fun.
Lee Abbamonte, SXSW, Austin, Texas
I spoke about how I got to visit every country in the world and gave a few cool and funny stories but even more so, I spoke about how I have turned myself and my brand (me) into a business. I then took over an hour of questions and meetings with audience members. It was excellent and I feel like I really got a lot out of it and I think the audience did too! I really hope to do it again next year!
Lee Abbamonte, Price is Right, wheel, SXSW, Austin, Texas
My SXSW experience started because of my talk and was punctuated by my talk but the highlight of my SXSW experience was being a fan of others and listening to others. I gained a lot of insight into launching partnership websites from Bill Simmons, the Sports Guy from ESPN. I determined that Mark Cuban and I are basically the same person-he just has a lot more money. I realized just how damn big Shaq is in person.
Bill Simmons, SXSW, Austin, Texas
But what I will take most from my SXSW experience was feeling a part of being at something special. Seeing Assange and Snowden was a big deal. I don’t care which side of the fence you fall on what they did and do but it was special to hear them and see them because they chose SXSW to speak to the tech community that truly holds the power to change the world-forget about the politicians in Washington.
travel panel, SXSW, Austin, Texas
I also did a few interviews of note. One with the New York Times and one with Travel and Leisure Magazine along with some other great meetings and potential partnerships.
Austin Convention Center, SXSW, Austin, Texas
SXSW is everywhere in Austin. You will get to know the city well quickly. You will also learn quickly how difficult it is to get taxis after the conference lets out and at night. But that’s all part of the experience. I have to say that for the first time in my professional life at a conference, I felt excited as opposed to being there for work. My SXSW was fantastic and I will go back next year; whether I am speaking or not. SXSW needs to be experienced. Trust me, you will be inspired.

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  1. I was also at SXSW and felt similar to you; that it was a really important event. Nice summary and glad you made it down, hope to meet you next year!

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