If you’re new to SXSW, you’re in for one of the most unique experiences of your life. This year, SXSW (pronounced South by Southwest or just “South By”) is March 11-20 in Austin, TX. That’s 10 jam-packed days of music, comedy, film, conference sessions, and networking. I know, it’s a lot. But here’s how you can make the most of it (coming from someone who’s got the credentials of one of the premier Austin event photographers after a decade of photographing SXSW).
Set a goal
Before you buy your badge, you may want to pause and ask yourself what you’re hoping to get out of SXSW. (I mean, yes, for all intents and purposes, please go!) Is your work making you go? I say making in jest, because *you definitely want to go*, and kudos to your work for covering it. But just because you’re going on the company’s dime doesn’t mean you can’t seek out sessions that interest you. Are you going solo and hoping to catch the comedy shows and do a bit of networking? Hoping to see a high-profile keynote speaker? Whatever it is, find your why. Time flies at SXSW and many things are happening synchronously, so setting your goal is key to keeping you feeling grounded and prepared to make the most of it.
Pick the right badge
My two cents: If you’re going to pay about $1,400 each for the Film, Music, Interactive, and Edu badges, you may as well splurge the extra $300 for an all-access Platinum badge. Ballin on a budget? The online pass will run you $450, that’s significantly cheaper than the other badges, and a solid choice if travel isn’t possible for you. Remember, the closer to March 11 we get, the more tickets cost, so secure yours as soon as possible. Check out group and student rates, too. If you’re unsure of which badge to pick or track to follow, take the Badge Quiz on the SXSW site.
Make your wishlist
Even if you get the all access badge, there’s simply no way to make it to every single session your heart desires. That’s why it’s crucial to make a wishlist. Prioritize sessions that are musts, ones that are nice-to-haves, and the “if there’s extra time”. If you’re feeling adventurous, include an “outside my comfort zone” list. After you register, check out the schedule and favorite your musts.
I’ll be there again this year as an Austin event photographer, photographing some of my favorite bands, hanging out with some of my favorite people, and soaking up all Austin has to offer—I love Austin (down to the point that I rescued a dog simply because he was named Austin). If you want to chat more about my experience, are interested in an Austin event photographer for your installation, or want to meet up at SXSW, drop me a line. If you want to find more Austin gems to visit while you’re in the coolest city in Texas (seriously y’all, it’s an oasis of cool in a state that is uncool), then head on over to this post I contributed to at the Redfin blog about Hidden Gems in Austin, TX.
Want to consume all things SXSW? I have plenty of other coverage from former SXSW events here.