The Skinny on SXSW: An Inside Look

Business.com / Marketing Strategy / Last Modified: February 22, 2017

With so much competing for your attention, we’ve created an inside look for what to do, when to do it and how to prepare for SXSW whirlwind.

There are few trade shows that garner as much attention as South by Southwest. With three festivals happening almost all at once- film, music and interactive- it manages to blur the lines of business and consumer, where everyone and everything is equal parts professional and party, teacher and student, innovator and fan boy/girl. 

Though the music and film festival are worthy of fanfare, it's within the Interactive festival that we see the true landscape of media and technology as we know it. Marketers, advertising execs, technogeeks and startup entrepreneurs ascend on Austin for more than 800 jargon-laden sessions, a startup village that's doubled in size since last year and an overwhelming saturation of brand presence.

AdWeek's Tim Leake described SxSW Interactive as "an eye-opening metaphor for the cluttered media landscape that marketers have to deal with in today's world."

With so much competing for your attention, we've created an inside look for what to do, when to do it and how to prepare for the whirlwind that is SXSW Interactive.

Trends, Talks & To-Do's

The trends at this years' SXSW Interactive seemingly follow the overarching trends of the time.

SXSW Session Big DataImage via SXSW

Big Data

To be honest, it kind of blows my mind that we're still so hot on big data. Haven't we been having this conversation for years? The reason being though, is that everyone is still trying to figure it out. Hopefully this years' programming will get us a little closer.

Must-see sessions:

Social Media & Security

Social media has been a hot topic for many years at SXSW, but this year, a big part of the focus is on the digital security of social media in an age where digital security is top of mind. 

Must-see Sessions:

SXSW Session Wearables 2015Image via SXSW

Wearables & Fashion-Tech

Wearables continue to be a major trend at SXSW. This year, it seems, innovation finally meets widespread adoption, and marketers are scrambling to catch up and grab on. Tech has not surprisingly caused some major shakeups in fashion and retail industries, making it another big focus as the landscape shifts. 

Must-see Sessions:

Internet of Things

This topic just won't quit. We're on the precipice of being interconnected in just about every way possible, and the 70 sessions featuring the Internet of Things proves it. Get ready to Internet all the things.

Must-see Sessions:

SXSW startup village 2015 logoImage via SXSW

Startups, Startups and More Startups

As I mentioned before, the startup scene has grown so much in the past year that SxSW doubled the space in the Startup Village, and the programming isn't much different. So what can you find in the village? Via their website: "Panels, Meet Ups, Competitions, Lounges and is home of the SXSW Accelerator startup competition, Startup Spotlight -- all activities geared towards entrepreneurs and startups." Even if you're not in the startup space, there's plenty to learn from this booming entrepreneurial space.

Must-see Sessions (and other stuff):

  • SXSW Accelerator: "A live audience, as well as a panel of expert judges will discover advancements in various sectors of emerging technology. The best part is product demonstrations by the most ambitious talents in the world with the most creative new ideas to change it."
  • ReleaseIt: ReleaseIt at SXSW provides a platform for companies to launch a new and innovative product or service during the festival
  • The Startup Dating Game (Pitch Event) 

Best Practices For a Bad Ass Time

SXSW vets will tell you to do the following:

  1. Don't try to do it all on day one. You'll burn out. Seriously. Get rest, drink water and eat (your mom was right).
  2. Pack smart. Austin's weather can be all over the map, and when you leave hotel in the morning, you could be gone for the foreseeable future. Layers and comfy shoes are a must.
  3. Have a tentative plan (and a plan B).  Know what sessions you want to see, and map out your day-tentatively. Make sure to have a plan B for any time slot since popular talks often get too packed to get into.
  4. Swear by social media. Not will it help you keep track of the amazing new connections you're making, social media (and Twitter, specifically) will help you keep your ear to the ground for free food and parties.
  5. Be prepared. Keep cash on-hand, bring your phone charger, and make sure you are aware of transportation options.

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