I’m sitting here on the floor at Austin’s South by Southwest (SXSW) Interactive conference, waiting f0r the next panel discussion on my schedule to start, but as I sit here I wonder a bit what the point of coming to these conference really is. Sure, there are a lot of smart people here, and for the most part the panels have some great ideas… but are they ideas I couldn’t have acquired by simply reading sites like Mashable, Internet Retailer or other tech blogs and news sites? The answer here is pretty clearly “no.”
So what is the point here? For many its to network – to find like-minded game-changers who you can learn from or work with to help build their next big application or web site. For others, especially at SXSW it seems to be mostly to drink and party. But for myself, the one benefit I get is that when I’m listening to the right presentation a spark ignites into a lightning storm in my head. Most presentations fail at this, but for the few that do, they get me fired up in an internal brainstorming session that basically gives me the opportunity for insight – or in rare instances, genius (I never said I was modest).
So are the conferences worthwhile? Looking at each individual piece I’d have to answer with a pretty adamant “no.” However, looking at the one or two instances where ideas are triggered, or even simply reassuring us me that we’re on the right path, those instances are extraordinarily valuable.
The bigger question I ask myself now is this: if I forced myself to disconnect from daily routine and instead take time to look at things from the outside, would these ideas still arise? Or do I need to fly halfway across the country to listen to a bunch of people talk about in five days what I could read online in a few hours to enable this process?
I’ll be thinking about this for sure while I’m here. Still have almost four long days to go yet.