Why to Reconsider SXSW: A Smarter Guide


You’ve heard the complaints. They aren’t going to SXSW anymore. The event has become too big, too loud, and too corporate. And the lines? Forget about it.

As I write this on the airplane ride down to my 4th tour of SXSW duty, I’m thinking hard about why I’m going in the first place. Is it worth being away from my wife and children? What about the disruptive business week that’s unavoidable?

That said, I move forward into the night. Why?

Whether you’re a first-timer or a seasoned veteran, let me share a few points of interest:

1 – Yogi Berra isn’t always right.

In case you didn’t catch the reference, famed baseball player Yogi Berra used to be fond of saying, “Nobody goes there anymore. It’s too crowded.”

Sure, SXSW is huge. Adweek reports an estimated 28,000 tech denizens will descend on Austin this year. And many of these people are going for the wrong reason. You’re not going to network in a standing room only bar with a 2 hour line out the door. You probably won’t make friends elbowing your way into a 1,000 room occupancy keynote with thousands more waiting to get in. You’ve got to be smarter than that. If you haven’t spent double digit hours figuring out what to do before you reach the city limits, pray that serendipity will be your friend.

2 – Bring the gear.

Comfortable shoes are obvious here, but there are a lot of more specific time and life saving keys. Water is
essential – especially with the heat, beer, and coffee you’re going to flood your system with. More on tech gear in a minute.

3 – Have a haven.

Find a base of operations that you and your team can call a home away from home.

4 – Get a hotel / house super early.

Being 10 miles out and waiting around for the shuttle kinda defeats the purpose in being there. Try to be a speaker and get a good room.

5 – Load your phone with the key apps.

Eventbrite, Cardmunch, the official SXSW app, and your favorite location app (Foursquare still works, you don’t need most of the other crap in this space).

6 – Power. Lots of it.

Unless you plan on penning the next great novel, do yourself a favor and get a portable charger. This year we brought an Mycharge mobile charger that’s got built in ports (no more wires!) and can support 3 devices for 11 hours.

7 – Internets.

Don’t count on anyone to have good Internet. Unless you’re hardwired in somewhere, you’d better bring along something reliable. This year, we’re putting the cradlepoint router to the test, courtesy of Verizon Wireless.

Bonus: Come tell me another point.

If you’ve stuck with me this far, we should totally meet up. Come see me speak (they tell me the session is booked but track me down after) Monday at the Hilton from 3:30-4:30pm.

We also have a booth at the trade show (which opens Sunday this year) – booth #241 right next to Next Stage. I’ll be there with Ashley, Alex, Jenna, and Kristin. Say hi! We’ve got some cool gifts for you.

What’s your favorite SXSW tip? Please let us know in the comments.

1 Comment

  1. Gigabiting

    Food rules at SXSW.
    Last year food tweets outnumbered tweets about performances, events, and panels at a rate of three to one.  Food themes are scattered liberally throughout this year’s conference sessions tackling topics like the niche food blog, the culture of ‘pop-ups,’ product branding for artisan producers, and the ways that technology can enhance the food shopping experience. A strong line-up of keynote speakers includes the founders of Whole Foods and Panera, and the provocative New York restaurateur Eddie Huang who will headline a panel titled The Social Media Chef.