I returned home this week after 5 packed days in Austin at SXSW. It was my first year attending the event and everything I'd heard about in the last couple of years was true.  The event is huge; loaded with celebrities, parties, free breakfast burritos, and long lines.  Attending sessions reminded me of my college days where I had 30 minutes to race across campus to get to my next class except campus in this case was an entire city. Logistics and distractions aside, as an analyst focusing on emerging media, attending this event is downright necessary.

Once you set aside the parties and free swag, the event is really about networking and the content. It’s quite rare that you have so many marketers, innovators, thought leaders, and enthusiasts in the same place at the same time. The conference hallways and bustling streets were abuzz with all matters interactive and that’s what makes the event so special. The folks that attend are passionate, trend seekers, and starving for content and demos. 

I focused on the emerging track sessions, which covered everything from How to Hack Microsoft Kinect to Integrating Brands into Social Television.  And for sessions I couldn’t attend, like Virtual Gets Physical: The Future of Installations, I looked up the session hashtag on Twitter to review nuggets of content shared by attendees in the audience from their smartphones and iPadsSoLoMo was a hot topic this year, but it’s still largely focused on the check-in. Privacy was also hot, but there’s still a conflation of privacy and security going on. Senior Forrester analyst Fatemeh Khatibloo led a great discussion on personal identity management and why it matters to a full room of marketers and technologists. 

In reflection, this is what I noticed: The truly innovative conversations were happening at the Hilton for the Tech and Emerging tracks and not at the Brand and Marketing track at the nearby Intercontinental. Attendees were keenly focused on keeping up with what’s new and what’s next. More importantly, they were curious and fascinated.  In my opinion, this is a very exciting time in marketing.