A Newbie’s Tour of SXSW Interactive

March definitely had its low points. But before that, something fun and cool happened. Thanks to Pfister, I got the awesome opportunity to attend South by Southwest Interactive in Austin (aka SXSW Interactive or SXSWi). Here’s what I did while there and some tips for other SXSW Interactive newbies.

SXSW Interactive, Gaming Expo SXSW Interactive and the Gamers.

The conference takes over the entire city and sessions and events happen in various buildings all around town. I spent a lot of time being nerdy at the gaming expo. What’s a gaming expo? An ENORMOUS room filled with booths featuring the latest and greatest in video games and board games. I, of course, had to make a stop at the Mayfair booth to snag some Settlers Swag. I loved the fact that there was a huge section set up with tables for trying out board games. Also, there was new technology to watch and try out — like the guy in the top left picture playing a live version of one of my childhood favorite, Paper Boy. There was even a life size Mario Kart track, where you could drive go-carts and shoot shells at other drivers!

SXSW Interactive, Ernie Cline SXSW Interactive and the Sessions.

The sessions and talks at SXSW were really diverse, ranging from technology to gaming to feminism to business to politics and more! My favorite of the sessions I went to was with Author Ernie Cline. Phil and I listened to his first novel, Ready Player One, on audio book during a long road trip, so when I saw he was talking about his second novel, I made sure to attend that session. I liked that this session was small and informal. Ernie rambled on telling us all about the inspiration for his novels, how he had a screen play turned into a real movie, and all about the Delorean he owns.

SXSW Interactive, Food Trucks SXSW Interactive and the Foodies.

There are fun food trucks all around town, and I definitely recommend checking them out. There is a huge food truck park just southwest of the main convention center with lots of delicious options. My favorite was Chi’lantro, a mix of Korean and Mexican and the creator of the delicious Kimchi Fries on the left above. I also tried Paul Qui’s food truck, East Side Kings, where I really enjoyed the brussel sprouts, but the chicken shown above wasn’t my favorite. For dessert, a donut fromĀ Gourdoughs is a must. In fact, it was so delicious I ate it all up before I could even take a picture.

Tips for SXSW Interactive from this Newbie.

1. Plan out your sessions. There are tons of different sessions to attend. And they are all across the city. Take some time to look through the guide, and decide what are your “must-see” sessions. All of the expos and lounges are open all the time, but the sessions only happen at specific times.

2. Plan for time to get places. The events are all across the city. So remember to leave time for travel. There are free buses, bikes to rent, even bicycle cabs! But the conference brings a lot of traffic, so the buses can be kind of slow getting through the city. You can also walk in between locations, so bring good shoes if you plan on doing that.

3. Go with friends or coworkers. I ended up crusing around alone for most of the trip, and I think it would have been more fun to have a friend or coworker along with me. SXSW Interactive is definitely a great place for networking, if that’s your style.

4. Make sure it applies to you. Shelling out for a ticket to SXSWi is not a small expense, so make sure you’ll get value out of it. I think SXSWi is most valuable for: start-ups and entrepreneurs, tech-y people, web designers, people who know about coding and computers, those interested in cutting-edge technology. Some events and sessions are free and open to the public, so you can attend those even without a ticket to the conference.

 

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