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PLENARY SXSW Interactive Q Research: Heat From the Middle Seat


(SXSW) continued from page 17


in 1987. The goal was to deliver conference and festival events for entertainment and related media-industry professionals. In 1994, the confer- ence added a film festival and interactive-media components. Fast forward to 2011, and the three events converge to form a 10-day extravaganza of all things cool in film, music, and technology. SXSW is open to the public, and more than


36,000 people officially register, with tens of thousands more spilling into Austin just to soak up the atmosphere. And it’s quite an atmosphere. From tech geeks, to film students and indie movie directors, to famous and up-and-coming musicians, there is a mix of people unlike any- thing I’ve seen. They’re all here to connect with one another, see and hear what’s new, and have fun.


High-Tech and High-Touch —I pull into the only spot left in the parking lot, gather up my belongings, and head up the street to the con- vention center to register and pick up my badge. I had heard that SXSW attendees were casual, cool, and hip. I soon will learn that I’m not any of those things, but I try to fit in with the casual atmosphere as best I can. Walking into the convention center, I imme-


diately sense the energy of thousands of people. More than 14,000 attendees are expected for


20 pcma convene May 2011


SXSW Interactive, and I get the feeling they’re all here. This place is rocking — all sorts of people dressed in all sorts of ways, but mainly they look comfortable. I find registration in one of the convention


center’s exhibit halls. While it’s not fancy — think of a maze of three-foot-high pipe-and-drape leading to a standard registration counter — it’s extremely efficient. A very friendly volunteer calls me up, asks for my pre-completed contact-in- formation card, and tells me she is going to take my photo for my badge. Apparently this badge is one hot item; it’s for me and no one else. I do what I’m told, and the whole process takes 10 minutes. I’m now on my way with a badge, a registration bag, and a conference program. What is very clear from this experience is


that registration is not where SXSW conference organizers want their attendees to be. This is a place where you pick up your badge and move on, because there are too many things to see and too many people to meet out in the conven- tion center and surrounding hotels to waste time on anything else. My first stop is the press suite to get orga-


nized; I’m on assignment for Convene, and I don’t have time to fool around. But first, I check out the merchandise stand. It’s reminiscent of a rock-concert booth. T-shirts, hats, posters — all available for purchase to commemorate your SXSW experience. I pass up a cute t-shirt and


RESEARCH


How do U.S. air travelers feel about their airline experi- ences today versus a few years ago?


ALTITUDE LOSING


or substantially better.


13% 38%


feel slightly ✱ feel slightly


or substantially worse.


SOURCE: Heat From the Middle Seat: The U.S. Consumer Perspective on Air Travel, PhoCusWright


(www.phocuswright.com) www.pcma.org


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