I’m writing from Austin, Texas. Home of the weird, home to “that other part of Texas,” and home to SXSW, where spring break meets techno-art-music-film. Being here has helped me sharpen my lens on the future of virtual vs. physical events.
Physical events are an ineffective way to take in information.
Treks between doses of usable information are long, as you march from session to session, exhibit to exhibit. Flights, accommodations, and the endless search for “Wi-Fi and a charge” earn you warrior status but little concrete information.
Physical events do give you the gestalt of the world. At SXSW it was easy to see an awakening of social conscience and an emerging belief that building the metaverse and NFT ecosystem is a warrior cry. The NFT crowd at the show was supportive, incredibly loyal to the cause, and happy to be reveling with other believers.
But physical is good for impromptu conversations and cross pollination. The big benefit of an event at SXSW is that you can get up to speed on everything from carbon capture to the creator economy. Even the “overheards” on the street are enlightening. Digital art, music and interactive were less ghettoized and more conjoined.
After two years of being a digital-only event SXSW continues to commit to live streaming some of the sessions. It’s come to relish the wider audience who can’t make it to Austin. And, at $500+ per ticket, there’s an increased revenue stream.
Of course everyone was lining up to go into VR which made you wonder if next-gen conferences will look more like this: