SXSW Tips: On The Cheap

Left: Downtown Austin tonight –great sunset now that the rain is gone

SXSW isn’t about the panels, why? the best ones are going to be blogged and put on slideshare. What matters here is the networking, as the social web assembles as a collective community in person, true magic happens.


[The savvy traveler can attend SXSW and parties at $50 a day]

The networking IS what the social web is about, and I’ve met many social media strategists from different brands (had lunch with HR block, Uservoice, Dell, Seaworld, and beyond) consultants, vendors, and influencers. I’m hearing that many are here to find new jobs, I’m hearing that corporate folks that have true social experience are planning on going independent and will be finding better opportunities (more news on this, there’s at least half a dozen job changes coming this week), and those that are unemployed were smart to make it out here as an investment.

Here’s how to do SXSW on the cheap, even if you’re unemployed:
If you do this right, I think you can live at SXSW at $50 a day, plus airfare, here’s how.

  • Fly out here, airline tickets are cheap. I saw many that trekked here even from Hawaii.
  • Share a room at an inexpensive hotel, I know there are some folks that are splitting hotel rooms with others. You won’t be there that much anyways, so getting a room with two double beds is the way to go.
  • You don’t need a badge to attend the parties, which are often corporate sponsored.
  • I went to a Dell BBQ this afternoon, and food was provided, most evening parties have snacks and food provided.
  • Drinks at most evening parties are free, there are over half a dozen parties each night scattered around the city
  • Next network with others, try to get in Brian Solis’s pictures, he’ll make you look good. Collect lots of business cards and find out who’s hiring
  • Most of the events, sessions, and parties are on the weekend, you could be here and miss either a Friday or Monday of work, just don’t call in sick and update your Facebook profile with your drunken pictures with Zuck.
  • learn to suck up! Cozy on up to a CEO or make friends with Digg and Facebook founders.
  • Now if you can afford a badge, you should certainly do it, as some parties require a badge, and you may also want to get into the blogger lounge or a few sessions, but it’s not required. The pictures are printed on the badge, and since folks know your name, you won’t be able to be part of the ‘loan a badge’ program. I was able to get one of my friends a conference pass, she’s an official blogger for the SXSW program –can’t beat that!

    So how’s the conference doing? I talked to Hugh Forrest this morning, the coordinator of SXSW and he tells me the interactive portion is up around aprox 20% while the film and music stayed even. Shows where the attention and money is going right now.

    Tell me what you heard?

    • http://www.web-strategist.com/blog/ jeremiah_owyang

      Here’s a few tips

      @jowyang a friend of mine is staying at a hostel in South Austin for the week. Only $100. Best deal in town. It can be done.
      http://twitter.com/NoahGK/statuses/1333832112

      @jowyang – @driveafastercar is doing a whole blog on SXSW on the cheap, surviving a week on under $200
      http://twitter.com/dberkowitz/statuses/1333808969

      @jowyang yes Re: $50 a day… been bunking w/ @kenekaplan
      http://twitter.com/bryanrhoads/statuses/1333789432

      @jowyang agreed — one could live off the mini Luna bars and Mountain Dew alone!
      http://twitter.com/perryhewitt/statuses/1333788180

    • http://marchmadness.hubdub.com/ Nigel Eccles

      Another thing you should consider if you are coming as a group is to use Craigslist to find a house to rent. We’re paying about $275 a night for a house split across 6 of us. That’s less than $50 each.

    • http://www.twitter.com/bobduffy Bob Duffy

      Cool, got my actions for next year. Luna bars, Mountain Dew, bunk with @kenekaplan and hang with @driveafastercar

    • http://www.thedetailperson.com Pat Scherer

      Arrange to stay with someone who lives in Austin; invite them to the parties.

    • http://www.web-strategist.com/blog/ jeremiah_owyang

      I’d also add that many of the events and parties are on the weekend, so they don’t interfere too much with your work week.

    • http://www.oneseventeenmedia.wordpress.com Amy Strecker

      Austin also has a really effective bus system, so stay further away from the downtown/campus area and take the bus downtown to events. The ride is pretty cheap — definitely better than a taxi or trying to find a parking spot; it was always free when I was a UT Austin student, so I’m not sure of the exact cost. Also, check out Craigslist. I’m sure locals will rent out rooms for the event.

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    • http://www.blagica.com Blagica

      Hi Jeremiah,

      Agreed that sxsw can be a pretty economical trip – complete with valuable meetings, networking and knowledge sharing.

      One thing I wanted to note, however, are the panels. I attended panels, was a panelist and met up with colleagues in the hallways. I found quite a bit of value in the panels – much of which can’t be replicated from SlideShare or an audio recording.

      There is a dynamic between speakers that you can’t duplicate in a recording and if those speakers attend a conference where no one is expected to attend the discussions- why go through the trouble of panel pickers, getting speakers, etc?

      Balancing both aspects is key and I’d hate to see future sxsw have less and less panel discussion opportunities…else they should switch up the format and have a room with video cameras, a few chairs and keep the public out. Then again – that format could work and keep the focus on the networking in the hallways and Blogger lounge.

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    • http://www.twitter.com/bobduffy Bob Duffy

      Cool, got my actions for next year. Luna bars, Mountain Dew, bunk with @kenekaplan and hang with @driveafastercar

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