When you get the smartest people in technology to distill a year’s worth of knowledge into hour-long talks and minute-long chats, the less informed masses are brought up to speed. Rather than wait for the past to proliferate, SXSW lets the crowd grasp today so tech’s leaders can focus on tomorrow.
Not everyone can see the future, and that’s okay. Tech needs soldiers — growth hackers, designers, developers, and even PR who work tirelessly to push their companies forward. These people gain from what SXSW gives.
Without it, knowledge of new models and best practices could stay bottled up in select circles of tech’s elite. That retards innovation. If this knowledge is not dispensed, those with the crystal balls spend their days dragging everyone along instead of leading the charge.
It’s like math. The truly creative and fun part is at the edges. You have to know the basics before you can start to experiment. SXSW raises the bar for the common denominator. It helps us to answer and therefore stop asking some of the big questions about where the industry is going and what works.
If you’re going to SXSW to gain new users, you’re missing a lot of the point. As the conference has grown, the influence of the average attendees has dropped. And anyways, scoring 10,000 downloads through expensive stunts won’t make you win any more. Yes, SXSW is marketers marketing to marketers and zombified cross-town walks staring at your phone on the way to the next brand money bonfire. But if you come to SXSW, you should be coming to learn.
That doesn’t mean all the education happens in the convention hall. It’s also in the beer line, on a rickshaw, or in a hotel lobby. That’s because SXSW imparts that the default conversation should be about what’s new. Small talk is what’s the latest app you fell in love with or the startup you’re inspired by.
People say SXSW is over, but really its audience has just changed. While it’s still about two-way sharing of information, it’s maturing into a broadcast platform that ensures insights are trickling down. It’s gone from a handful of tech’s generals to almost 30,000 of its grunts. Because that’s what we need right now. If tech is going to disrupt every industry and take over the world, it needs an army.