An Insider’s Guide to SXSW

An Insider’s Guide to SXSW

[vc_row type=”in_container” scene_position=”center” text_color=”dark” text_align=”left” overlay_strength=”0.3″][vc_column column_padding=”no-extra-padding” column_padding_position=”left-right” background_color_opacity=”1″ background_hover_color_opacity=”1″ width=”1/1″ offset=”vc_col-lg-11″][vc_column_text]Besides being our good friend, Eric Swayne is VP of Product & Marketing at MutualMind, Co-Founder of DrawAttention, and Founder of DataNarrate, a marketing data consultancy.

This year I will attend my fifth SXSW Interactive. I’ve experienced SXSW as both a general conference attendee and as a presenter; I’ve attended dozens of parties (as a VIP or otherwise), and one year I even threw my own little party. It is easily the most mind-blowing week of the digital world, and still one of the most relevant events I have ever attended.

My favorite way to describe SXSW is with the phrase “Of course they are.” Let’s be honest, after you’ve been to as many of these as I have, you learn to expect the unexpected. For example:

  • FX is promoting a show by converting a vacant lot into an interactive napping capsule spa? Of course they are.
  • Microsoft is hosting a midnight party to launch Titanfall, complete with a life-size mechanical statue? Of course they are.
  • Nest painted a fire truck blue and is giving away free hand sanitizer (among other things) at a “relaxation tent”? Welp. Of course they are!
  • Instagram is hosting a secret concert with Snoop Dogg (ahem, Snoop Lion) where you have to post a wild image to some crazy hashtag just to win the chance to get into the lottery to get in? Of. Course. They. Are.
And that’s just what happened last year.

If I may, let me suggest a few tips, tricks, and gadgets to help you navigate this year’s craziness.



SXSW is about population density. Take advantage.

Yes, SXSW means Austin gets completely overrun with techno-hipsters, and anything resembling normal infrastructure crumbles under its enormous presence. But the reason I keep coming back isn’t the parties or the presenters or the installations: it’s the people.

This is the only time you can have eight meetings with companies from all ends of the digital industry in just one week. This is also one of the few times you can meet someone in a bar who turns out to be that awesome person who built that thing you love.

So, since you’re in such a rich environment, use it. Introduce yourself to everyone. Listen to their stories before you share your own. Make a connection over some wacky story or common love or unique idea, because you’re going to probably want to keep that connection for the rest of your life.



Avoid the insane badge pickup lines by going satellite.

On Thursday and Friday this year, SXSW will let you pick up your badge at the Palmer Center, and there are always far fewer people there than at the main Convention Center pickup. The first time I attended SXSW, I went to the Convention Center and waited in line two hours to get my badge. Last year, I went to the Palmer Center and it took 15 minutes. Take a cab or walk, just trust me.



Plan your schedule in advance to ward off FOMO.

I’ve used the official SXSW mobile app a few times, but I just can’t say it’s ever been quite what I need. I highly suggest checking out the unofficial app from the kids at SCHED, they’ve just released their 2015 SXSW Schedule.

When picking my sessions, I just skim through SCHED and highlight anything that looks even remotely interesting. I always prefer a session on a topic that I know nothing about, because I’m guaranteed to learn something. A panel on social analytics (my field) is probably gonna just bore or frustrate me; but “neurolinguistics”? IN.

SCHED has a neat feature where they publish all your highlighted sessions into an iCal feed. That way, you can check your calendar at any time and see what’s going on — and see what you’re missing. If what’s right in front of you is more interesting than what’s on your schedule, feel no fear my friend. You are where you need to be.



Party for the experience, not the name.

Everyone loves a good party, and lest you doubt, I do too! But instead of trying to get into the parties for this hot startup or that music artist, focus on the ones that will give you an awesome experience.

Case in point: the IEEE (That’s the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, homes) party. Sounds boring, right? WRONG. Last year’s party included a robot bartender, a human-sized trackball, a laser maze, hacked retro games and more. Experience? Check.

That said, here are some of my favorites:



My SXSW Essentials

Now that you know what to do at SXSW, let’s go over what you should bring. If you’ve been to a conference like SXSW before (lots of walking!), you know that the key is to bring exactly what you need, and nothing more. I’m going to assume that everyone knows to bring their smartphone (it is SXSW, after all), so here’s the other essentials I keep on hand:


  • Mophie Juice Pack Air – I still carry an iPhone 5, but this is always on it. It provides another full charge once your phone’s internal battery is done. Plus, you can charge it separately from your phone, so when you get back to the room you can have both going at the same time.
  • Pocket-Sized External Battery – There are always 2 or 3 of these on me at one time; the one linked here is a great $15 one on Amazon, but if you’ve been at a tech conference, you probably have a couple of these laying around too. They’re perfect for giving your phone a quick boost while it’s in your pocket at a party.
  • Travel Power Strip – When the outlets are full (and they usually are), you can easily make some new friends by offering to use your power strip to share the electricity wealth! This one is often used as a giveaway, but I love it because you can either unroll its short cord or lock it all together as a wall unit.
  • Moleskine Art Plus Sketchbook – Kids, it just doesn’t get any better than the classic Moleskine. I have tons of these (brand name and knockoff), and I use them liberally. I prefer blank pages because it gives me space to sketch as well as write: sometimes you just gotta draw something!  And if you’re incredibly artistic, you can be awesome like Mike Rhode and do Sketchnotes.
  • Retro 1951 Deluxe Stealth Tornado rollerball pen – You guys, I’m in love with this pen. The weight is solid and balanced, and the look is just classic. If someone needs a pen and you lend them THIS, they will know you know your pens. Also, if you have any business meetings, you need this pen — you don’t want to pull out a cheap plastic freebie in front of an important client!
  • iPad Mini with Logitech Hinge Case – iPads are perfect for SXSW. They’re big enough to show off a site or app, small enough to carry around all day, and they have a fantastic battery life. I have an iPad Mini and this case is a perfect all-in-one cover and stand.
  • Lightweight Messenger Bag – Once you leave your room for the day, you’re probably not coming back until late, so you’re gonna want a bag to carry all the stuff. And, if mine just happens to highlight the awesomeness of Studio Ghibli that’s just even better, isn’t it?


I hope these tips will serve you well during the marathon that is SXSW!
If you’re there, feel free to reach out to me on Twitter.


The Ultimate 2013 #SXSWi Party List

The Ultimate 2013 #SXSWi Party List

It’s that time of year again. The time where every tech geek, nerd, marketer, social “expert,” digital strategist, account exec, and agency intern will go mobile and embrace their inner weirdness. It is time for SXSW Interactive 2013.

Whether your days are filled with keynotes on SnapChat or exploring the Startup Village, you will be amazed with the amount of entrepreneurial energy there. Our piece of advice is this: know that sessions can be hit or miss, and not every one will be for you. So when filling your SXSW schedule, make sure to look for a session with a talented speaker or a known panel of people, versus focusing on the title (which their creative team probably spent countless hours creating).

But once you have your fix of sessions and panels, it’s off to the parties! This is where the real networking happens, make no mistake. Our ultimate list is below. In addition, keep tabs on twitter for @GaryVee’s #secretwine party, AMEX Sync concerts, and trending at the Driskill Hotel.

Take a look at that list, and let us know in the comments if we are missing any good ones! We’ll add them if you highly recommend them.




ATXCrawl SXSW Party

What: SXSW Startup Crawl 2013 presented by Rackspace

Where: @ Capital Factory (Omni Hotel)

When: Thursday March 07, 2013 — 4:00 to 10:00 pm

Register: RSVP Here



feedbytwitter SXSW Party

What: #FEED Powered by Twitter: SXSWi (Five-Night, Four-Day Event)

Where: @ AMOA-Arthouse at Jones Center

When: Friday, March 08, 2013 – Tuesday March 12, 2013 – All Day

Register: RSVP Here



CafePress SXSW Party

What: CafePress SXSW Shindig

Where: @ Bourbon Girl

When: Friday, March 8, 2013 from 4:00 to 7:00 pm(CST)

Register:RSVP Here


#SXspredfast 2013 Party

What: #SXspredfast Bash

Where: @ Speakeasy — 412 Congress Ave. – Austin

When: Friday, March 08, 2013 — 6:00 – 9:00 pm

Register: RSVP Here


StateofNow140Conference SXSW Party

What: State of NOW (#140conf) SXSW Cocktail Party 2013

Where: @ Lanai — 422 Congress Ave

When: Friday, March 8, 2013 — 7:00 pm to 9:00 pm

Register: RSVP Here


Ignite Social Media Party, in partnership with Expion

What: Ignite Social Media Party, in partnership with Expion

Where: @ Molotov — 719 West 6th Street

When: Friday, March 8, 2013 — 7:00 pm to 10:00 pm

Register: RSVP Here


#Nightcap 3 with Edelmen Digital

What: Nightcap 3 with Edelman Digital!

Where: @ The Dogwood — 715 W. 6th Street – Austin

When: Friday, March 08, 2013 — 9:00 pm – 1:00 am

Register: RSVP Here


nerds rock sxsw Party

What: NerdsRock III

Where: @ uShip HQ – 205 Brazos St.

When: All Day

Register: Email / Tweet to RSVP



Klout-Afternoon-Delight SXSW Party

What: Klout Afternoon Delight

Where: @ 320 Le Grande Ave.

When: Saturday, March 9, 2013 — 12:00 to 4:00 pm

Register: RSVP Here


Chevy Tweet House at SXSW 2013

What: Chevy Tweet House at SXSW 2013

Where: @ Mellow Johnny’s Bike Shop – 400 Nueces St

When: Saturday, March 9, 2013 — 2:00 pm to 7:00 pm(CST)

Register: RSVP Here

Tech_Cocktail SXSW Party

What: Tech Cocktails SxSW #Startuplife Celebration

Where: @ The Stage on Six

When: Saturday, March 9, 2013 — 7:00 pm(CST)

Register: RSVP Here





What: Copyblogger Presents: Another Indelicate Diversion

Where: @ Buffalo Billiards

When: Saturday, March 9, 2013 — 8:00 pm- to 2:00 am

Register: RSVP Here


Sunday Funday SXSW Party

What: Silicon Beach Sunday Funday

Where: @ Frank

When: Sunday, March 10, 2013 — 10:00 am to 4:00 pm

Register: RSVP Here


Sunday Funday SXSW Party

What: Chevrolet Presents Allhat V: Cowboys & Cowgirls Gone Wild

Where: @ Guero’s Taco Bar – 1412 Congress Ave

When: Sunday, March 10, 2013 — 12:30 pm to 2:30 pm

Register: RSVP Here


The Social Media Monthly SXSW Party

What: The Get #NakedSocial at #SXSW!

Where: @ The Karma Lounge

When: Sunday, March 10, 2013 — 6:00 to 10:00 pm(CDT)

Register: RSVP Here


pointroll SXSW Party

What: PointRoll Presents: Design Throwdown

Where: @ The Belmont

When: Sunday, March 10, 2013 — 7:00 to 10:00 pm

Register: RSVP Here


Nat Geo Celebrated the '80s & Today

What: Nat Geo Celebrated the ’80s & Today Featuring Girl Talk

Where: @ Antone’s – 213 W 5th St

When: Sunday, March 10, 2013 — 9:00pm to 2:00am

Register: RSVP Here


MashBash at SXSWi 2013 

What: MashBash at SXSWi 2013

Where: @ Speakeasy – 412 Congress Ave

When: Sunday, March 10, 2013 — 9:00pm to 2:00am

Register: RSVP Here


SapientNitro SXSW Party 

What: SapientNitro SXSW Party

Where: @ The Parish Austin – 214 E. 6th Street

When: Sunday, March 10, 2013 — 9:00pm to 11:00pm

Register: RSVP Here


Stop Drop and Funk SXSW Party

What: ShareThis Presents: SXSW- Stop, Drop, and Funk!

Where: @ The Belmont Austin

When: Sunday, March 10, 2013 — 10:00pm to 2:00am

Register: RSVP Here




What: Open Web SXSW Pool Party

Where: @ TBD

When: Sunday, March 10, 2013 — TBD

Register: RSVP Here




Mobile Monday SXWI Party

What: Mobile Monday Austin SXSW 2013 (unofficial) Social Event

Where: @ Fogo de Chao

When: Monday, March 11, 2013 — 6:00 to 8:00pm

Register: RSVP Here




Hipstamatic SXSW #MorningAfter Brunch

What: Hipstamatic SXSW #MorningAfter Brunch

Where: @ 509 Brushy St

When: Tuesday, March 12, 2013 — 11:00am to 4:00pm

Register: RSVP Here


Sign up now, while you still can, or at least add your name to the waitlist.