In the early 2000’s, just a couple of years after starting Plank, I learned that one thing that people who run companies do is go to events. Once I figured out it was something I was supposed to be doing, I started to do some research on conferences that I’d like to attend. After months of research, I decided to travel all the way to Austin and learn about this thing called “networking” at SXSW. I enjoyed the experience so much that I attended again in 2003, 2009, and finally in 2011.

When I last attended, seven years ago, I was confident that I would never go back again. SXSW was then, and still is, one of the most important technology and culture festivals in the world, but it was getting bigger and bigger, while I was looking for more personal connections.

In 2002 and 2003, the interactive attendees felt like a family that had a shared experience over the 3-4 days we spent together. But when attendance grew from around 3,000 people to almost 20,000, I decided to call it quits and put my efforts into smaller events.

Chart shows SXSW attendance grow from roughly 1,000 in 1995 to almost 40,000 in 2016
Source | Source | In 2017 SXSW stopped tracking data per stream and only offered the total 70,696 attendees from Music / Film / Interactive combined.


Fast forward to 2018 and, thanks to the encouragement and generosity of the Quebec Government, I’m heading back to SXSW. So what made me change my mind?

First, over the past seven years, my needs and expectations from events changed. SXSW was initially a place to be inspired and, if I’m honest, enjoy the “Spring Break for Geeks” atmosphere. While I still hope to gather up some inspirational moments in Austin, I’m heading down to Texas 100% in my role as President of Plank. I’m going there to meet people (aka network) and find some impressive work for my team. We like to do high-quality digital design and development work for festivals and cultural industries, and I can’t think of a better place to meet those people.

Second, being accepted to a Quebec trade delegation made the decision that much easier. While I’m more than capable to navigate SXSW and make the most of the event myself, I’m thrilled to have a home base and the support that “la mission Québec @ SXSW” offers. I’m looking forward to getting to know and deepen my relationships with other local businesses. I also hope that I can provide some help with more recent attendees. And, honestly, their financial support has made attending this conference much less of an investment that it would have been. Take a look at the cost of a hotel room during SXSW, and you’ll understand what I mean right away.

Finally, I also wanted the opportunity to go back to and explore Austin, of which I have many great memories. I remember riding a mechanical bull and being bruised for a week (an experience not likely to be repeated), eating some of the best tacos ever at Torchy’s, and being inspired by some of the best speakers I’ve ever heard.

If you're curious, check out some other team members’ experiences at SXSW:

Steve meets some heroes (2010)
Patrick reflects on SXSW (2010)
Emerson at Spring Break for Geeks (2011)