I’ve been attending library related conferences for the last 16 years – mostly ALA. I attend to connect with colleagues, contribute to the associations, or attend programatic activities. Recently I attended SXSW Interactive in Austin, Texas and I came away with many ideas on how to improve the conference going experience. SXSW Interactive was five days long at The Austin Convention Center, the Hilton, and the Radisson – so relatively small if compared with the American Library Association events, but not if compared with ACRL National Conference, LITA National Forum, or Internet Librarian.
Let’s start with registration. I registered online about six months before the actual event. It was intuitive, easy, and clear. What was different? They integrated a social network tool. Every registrant became part of a community where you could add friends and share short Twitteresque messages. I could search for other conference goers based on geography, business, interests, etc. Totally awesome networking tool. Secondly, as part of registration we were encouraged to upload a photo that would then be included on our attendee badge (if we forgot or didn’t take this step, a photo was taken upon arrival). For the record, early registration was $395.