Parties & Panels Pale Next to an Hour of Happiness at SXSW

Sloane Berrent, Stefanie Michaels, Cathy Brooks, and Heather Meeker enjoying happy hour at Fogo De Chao.
Sloane Berrent, Stefanie Michaels, Cathy Brooks, and Heather Meeker enjoying happy hour at Fogo De Chao.
Shannon Cottrell

The plethora of panel sessions that take place at SXSW can be overwhelming for some. The ever-growing number of parties can be pointless for others. This year, many tech influencers, tastemakers, and early adopters are in agreement that the happy hours are where the magic happens.

For the last few days, different corporate-sponsored happy hours have been watering holes for entrepreneurs, investors, content creators, and journalists to talk more in depth about the business side of SXSW Interactive, while being social. And as we all know, SXSW is primarily about the socializing.

On Saturday, raconteur Cathy Brooks and Nokia kicked off an invite-only ongoing happy hour on the rooftop of the Brazilian BBQ restaurant Fogo De Chao. The space is limited and alcohol is of course involved. That being said, on paper the meet-up may not seem like the best setting to promote products or make deals. However, the intimate atmosphere and relaxed vibe at this event have sparked more than a giant margarita buzz.

"One of the jokes of the stage sessions is, 'Oh wait, there are conferences at SXSW?!'" shared Brooks. "In order to accomplish something substantive you have this window of opportunity in the afternoon and into the evening when people are sober enough and not doing a million other things."

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Brooks opines that by the time 10:00 at night rolls around the parties are "useless for business."

"How much mileage did Microsoft really get out of sponsoring the Techset party the other night?" Brooks pondered. "I mean it's great that they did it, but when their sign is hanging on a wall in the dark and people walk by it, what's is actually the value for them? In the case of Nokia, we've identified ways to gather small groups of people so they can have real conversations and make key connections."

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