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SXSW is my favorite week of the year. It is spring break for geeks. It is a place where some really smart people get together and talk about where things like social media, the web, design and lots of related topics. And there might be a drink or two involved. 

This was my third year at the event and it is amazing how my experience has grown.Three years ago it was just about absorbing as much as possible. I was a sponge soaking up everything that I could. I remember there was only one session I could find on using Twitter for business. It was so full that a group of us made our own session in the hall. The group comprised of people from HootSuite, Southwest Airlines, Oracle and people who where just figuring out what Twitter was.

Last year I ended up hanging out with the ad agency sub culture and attending some good sessions. It was a little bit of a slower year because of the economy but it was fun because we ended up hanging out with the team from Foursquare most of the week as they threw various parties and meet ups.

This year I had a plan. I had some great sessions mapped out that I wanted to attend. I feel like I have my feet under me in the social media world and I know what I want to do in the upcoming year. One of the raging topics in social these days is influence, and it is one that gets me fired up so I was looking forward to these. There were quite a few sessions on the subject that I wanted to take in, and I wanted to build some relationships with some of the bloggers that I have followed for some time. I had a plan.

That plan went to crap on the first night and I could not be more happy that it did. I decided I would check out the #140 party on Friday night before I went over to the another party. I was really just killing an hour or two before that party. Little did I know that the #140 party would set the stage for the rest of my week.

After talking with a few people for 30 minutes or so I was on my way out when I met @RedHeadWriting. We got to chatting about what each of us do and she was nice enough to introduce me to @Merredith and @ShellyKramer. My plans changed and I ended up with a group of people that I did not know an hour before and I had a fantastic night. The conversations of that night led to a week of new friendships that have lasted well beyond a week at SXSW.

So many of us live in the world of online interactions that we forget that the tightest bonds are created when we have face to face interactions. I know that the relationships I forged at SXSW will be ones that will carry on for years to come. Some of these have already proven to be deep friendships that were worth the price of admission. The most interesting thing to me is that because I built some real relationships with a few people it has opened up a world of introductions and relationships that I would have never had from a casual, passing conversation.

So as you head off to your next conference don't forget to talk with the people around you. Take the time to find out about people and you might just be surprised at the value you leave with. While my week did not turn out the way I had originally planned, I could not have planned a better trip.

Thanks to all the fantastic people that made my week what it was - @ShellyKramer, @Merredith, @RedheadWriting@slrevare@danieleagee@KatherineMeyer@Eppy2010, @Andergard and @waveposition. 

Did you get a chance to head down to SXSW?  How was your trip?