Early stage startup marketing & community management + the great outdoors.

SXSW Bound: Rookie Style #SXSWi

This will be my first year heading to SXSW and I have little clue of what to expect.  I’m fortunate in that I have a few friends who are veterans of the sport and willing to let me tag along.  Even with that network it’s certainly an intimidating event – everyone seems to be “in the know” or the “who’s who” of tech.

In full disclaimer, I probably couldn’t care less about the music or film festival aspect of it.  I’ve been to three concerts in my life and the last movie I saw in the theatre was probably Titanic.  That’s not a joke – the joke is that my concerts were the Lemonheads (twice) and Tori Amos.

Everyone posts “First Timers Guides” but they all seem a bit cryptic or simply too esoteric to learn much from.  I’ve found a few (listed below) that have some good, digestible advice.

While it may be the anti-culture of SXSW, many threads seem to ignore, or even shun, the topic of illustrating an ROI of SXSW.  Most companies will have a hard time justifying an expensive trip to Austin in the name of ‘personal branding’ or ‘networking’.  To offset this (and my own concern that the party:work emphasis is off) is to create a Google Doc of events.  I’ve color coded the events to make sure I have a mix of sessions, events, and parties.  I don’t expect I’ll be able to maintain the schedule once I get there but, so far, it has helped in keeping me focused on what I should be looking out for.

Here’s the best practical advice I’ve been told or found out;

  • Book your hotel early and get it as close to the Austin Convention Center as possible – most hotel review sites(Like TripAdvisor or Kayak)  allow you to sort by proximity to the center.  Also check out  If you’re going with a group, this might be a great bet, even though pricing increases 2-3x for the duration of SXSW.
  • Cell phone reception is spotty as AT&T’s network gets crushed by the tech mob.
  • Connect with your friends on Foursquare and/or Gowalla.
  • Buy a cell phone battery extended.  Jim Storer mentioned he uses the $22 Kensington Mini Battery Extender, which I also ended up buying after some comparison shopping.

If you’re looking for more details, also check out;

  1. Aaron Strout’s Field Guide to SXSW
  2. Quora thread on “Must Do” SXSW Activities

The single best advice I’ve read yet was Dave Delaney (via Aaron Strout).  It’s quick and concise and has some great information.  I particularly like the idea of saving a #sxsw Twitter search within 15 miles of Austin.  The full slide show is available here:

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