30,000 People Are Descending On Austin Right Now: Why SXSW Interactive Is So Important
In less than 24 hours, hoards of journalists, technology enthusiasts, and conference regulars will descend on Austin, Texas for South by Southwest (SXSW) Interactive. Recognized as one of the largest festivals for technology and digital trends, the annual five-day event has grown tremendously and is expected to have over 30,000 attendees from around the world. But is SXSWi on your radar?
It wasn’t on mine, honestly, until a colleague told me about this emerging part of the festival a few years ago. At the time, I was just starting to cover the tech space and vaguely knew SXSW as a congregation for music execs, artists and film buffs — not a gathering for tech innovators and entrepreneurs. Clearly, I was mistaken. In fact, shortly after the industry’s yearly consumer electronics event, the Consumer Electronics Show (CES), in January, the question was always: Will you be at SXSW?
I’m happy to say, I’ll be joining the crowd of techies heading into town this year.
Whether you follow technology closely or consider yourself a newbie, are a trep (short for entrepreneur), an analyst or developer, or just ready to launch your product within this tech hub, SXSWi has something for you. I’d be lying, though, if I said several factors could prevent many people from attending (ahem, the reason why it’s taken me two whole years to get here), including the cost to attend and securing housing and transportation. But there are so many more reasons why you should come, such as the insane number of networking opportunities—yes, that includes the charging docks and open bar fêtes—and the great lineup of panels and meetups.
“It’s an unparalleled gathering of tech enthusiasts and creatives to which one would not have this type of access to information, the network and the experiences,” said Kimberly C. Ellis, Ph.D, widely known as Dr. Goddess.
This year will be Dr. Goddess’ fourth year attending and every year something else attracts her to the conference. “I have learned so many new skills, met so many great people and had such a wonderful time in Austin. I’m committed to coming as often as I can.”
For those who want to put SXSWi 2015 on their calendar, here are three quick tips that’ll save you time and lots of money:
1) Chat with a SXSW regular. They’ll definitely tell you all that you need to know like where not to stay, what you should sign up for, and how to save big. Had I not spoken to several seasoned attendees, I would’ve been out of a few Franklins.
2) ‘The early bird gets the worm.” Add the hotel and great flight deal to that as well. Hotels get full as early as October, so you want to make sure you book your room as soon as you know you’re attending SXSW. Registration opens up in August, so aim to book at that time. You can always find hotels that are not listed on the SXSW website, which may be a bit pricier, so call around and tap into your social networks to see if anyone has any leads.
3) Get smart with the badge. If you can, don’t pay for it. Position yourself to be a speaker on one of the numerous panels or schedule a time to talk with your boss about possible company sponsorship. If you can convey why this would be of value to the organization, it can save you the thousand or so dollars for a badge. Also, consider available volunteer opportunities with SXSW.