How An Influencer Got the Most out of SXSW by Not Attending

The trendy thing to do this year was to not attend SXSW. SXSW stalwart attendees like Dennis Crowley of foursquare and Bond’s Andy Ellwood opted out of this year’s interactive, film and music #shitshow. Social media writer and SXSW regular Jeff Cutler decided not to attend, but tried to uniquely experience the event by posting content from previous years and participating in online conversations. I caught up with Jeff virtually after his (non) return from Austin.

SM: Jeff, you had a very unique way of attending and logging this year’s SXSW by recycling content from last previous year’s events. Could people discern this year’s content from last?

JC: My decision to not attend and yet still attend SXSW this year was based on my speaking and work schedule. I experienced a dramatic jump in conference speaking requests for March and April, so I decided to take a paycheck instead of ruining my liver and rubbing elbows with many social ‘gurus’ in Austin Texas. To your question about my methods and response: past years have allowed me to capture 3000+ photos, videos and other relevant content. I used this content to share my SXSW with readers/viewers/followers. It’s amazing that about 74% of my audience didn’t realize that this content was from 2013 and 2012. Also, a majority of people at the festival had no idea that I wasn’t drinking, going to sessions and attending parties throughout Austin. The conference is so big that nobody goes there anymore.
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A photo of the 2013 @mbloomstein talk was a crowd pleaser in 2014

SM: What weren’t some of the highlights of SXSW 2014?

If I had to list three things that didn’t happen to me (or likely anyone who didn’t attend SXSW2014, they would be: I didn’t spend $2571 on flights, hotel and badge; I didn’t go to sessions that were essentially chosen by a flawed panel picker (it’s a popularity contest, not based at all on value to attendees); I didn’t get rained on while standing in line to get into a party where I had to pay for my own drinks.

SM: What were your favorite parties that you were unable to attend?

JC:  I’m sad to have missed the Ctrl-Alt-Delete party, the Wiley Author’s Party (as I have many books that are underway and I need a publisher) and also the All-Hat event. *All-Hat didn’t happen in 2014, so everyone is sad they didn’t attend this party.

SM: Did you have any of those meaningful serendipitous SXSW moments that everyone talks about? Tell us about them.

JC: The real value of having an open schedule during SXSW is leaving yourself capable of forging new relationships with people everywhere. I had at least a dozen MAJOR meaningful interactions during SXSW. The bulk of these were with folks who requested that I come to their party, visit their session, meet them for a beer tasting and come to collect my free iPad. The real value here was offset by dashing the hopes and dreams of people who wanted to connect with me in Austin IRL.
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Thanks to Jeff, @tamadear made an appearance at SXSW 2014 – as did the All Hat party which was left off the agenda this year.

SM: Where is the best BBQ not at SXSW?

JC: All BBQ is good BBQ. Great BBQ happens in a geographic location, not a timeframe. So, if you want great BBQ, visit Franklin BBQ on dates outside of festival time. You’ll save $$$$, you won’t have to stand in line, and you’ll probably not get caught in the way of someone Instagramming your brisket.

SM: Are you looking forward to not attending next year? Where won’t you stay?

JC: The SXSW 2015 plan is similar to my SXSW 2014 plan…with one caveat. If the folks at W2O Group or any other company on planet Earth want to underwrite my attendance expenses, I would gladly attend and be fully ensconced in the Austin SXSW scene. Further, if the dozen or so companies bidding for my time as their brand ambassador can come up with an equally beneficial contract for services with me, I’ll attend the festival on their behalf.

SM: Any words of advice for those looking to not attend SXSW in the future?

JC: Be open-minded. Don’t feel that SXSW is the only thing going on during early March. There are plant shows, ComicCon in parts of California, HubSpot probably has some training sessions, and this past year Huffington Post urged folks to unplug for a week – oddly during SXSW.

SM: How can people reach you when you’re not going to conferences like SXSW?

Just visit JeffCutler.com. Even when I find myself at various events worldwide, I check my email and site regularly. Or just Tweet me where you’ll be and maybe I’ll put you on my GroupMe page for folks who aren’t at conferences. It’s a select group.

Comments

  1. says

    Thanks for the write-up Mike. I’m trying to find ways not to attend a bunch of NMX events, BlogHer and maybe Head of the Charles in the coming year. Best,

    Jeff

  2. socialjulio says

    Great post, and I had a great time not driving around with you in Austin. We need to do this again!

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