The SXSW Interactive Festival 2014 in March was the most amazing week of my life, and there is not enough space on this blog for me to list all the ways that it affected me. I got the opportunity to attend it as part of a class that focuses on this conference experience.
On the first day of Interactive, Hugh Forrest, the director of the conference, gave a talk about how to maximize your experience at SXSW. One of his key points was to embrace serendipity, and go with whatever opportunity presented itself to you. Ironically, I wasn’t in the room for these words because I had been invited last minute to a taco lunch and was standing outside the event trying to get in. This was how I treated my SXSW experience. Before SXSW started, I got some advice: “Say yes to everything.”
Those were the words I would live my SXSW by. I went out every night and met new and interesting people. I met a guy who built a fusion reactor in his basement. We had dinner together. In what other world could that happen?
SXSW wasn’t just about the people I met and the fun I had, even though I had quite a bit. I also learned a lot. I focused a lot on politics, and attended multiple panels discussing the Wendy Davis filibuster from the previous summer. I saw people from the Texas Tribune, activists, and political operatives all discuss the role that media, especially digital media, played in the activism during the special sessions of the Texas Legislature.
As an outspoken advocate of the power of Twitter, even some of the entertainment panels I attended had valuable lessons. A panel on Twitter humorists and a panel with Seth Meyers both talked about the importance Twitter plays in new job markets. Writing is an essential skill, and quick, sharp writing on Twitter is quickly becoming a new test for employers.
I also got to witness the personal power of Twitter as I live-tweeted every event I went to. It was a wonderful experience to interact with people and watch other people’s reactions to panels as they unfolded.
There was a moment during Edward Snowden’s talk via teleconference from Russia where I seemed to find all of the answers I have been searching for. Where suddenly I felt like I had a clear direction and path to take. It was a moment that I had heard others talk about, but was surprised when it hit me.
I cannot thank Texas State and the SXTXState program enough for this amazing opportunity. You can see what I and my fellow classmates did at the conference at this website: http://sxtxstate.com/ . The more hands-on experience you can get in your field the better you will be. Whether it guides you in a new, exciting direction, or confirms where you’ve already been going, the best way to experience life is to do it.