A Kiwi guide to surviving and thriving at SXSW

This year I was lucky enough to be part of a panel at SXSW– a massive music, interactive and film festival held each year in Austin, Texas. And when I say massive, I mean massive. It’s like the madness of the RWC opening ceremony – but for nine solid days. Official attendance numbers for SXSW 2012 haven’t yet been released, but there was talk of between 30,000 and 50,000 people in total. In that throng were a handful of Kiwis, but we need more to add to the contingent!

If you are into any or all of the three streams, then I would definitely recommend heading along next year and joining in the madness. This is not just any conference. Be prepared for a huge amount of networking, partying, ideas and celebrity spotting. Business is done at food trucks, new apps are launched, rumours run wild and some of the smartest people in the industry share their ideas.

If you are a SXSW virgin, here are some tips to help make the craziness a bit less crazy.

1. Book your accommodation early. Places to lay your weary head are in short supply during SXSW. I heard rumours of hotel room rates rocketing as high as $2,000 per night – and that is USD we are talking! I was fortunate enough to be on a SXSW panel which meant I had access to SXSW booked accommodation. I was right across the road from the Austin Convention Centre (the hub of SXSW) which was fantastic. If you can’t get into the central city, then there are plenty of options in the ‘burbs and SXSW runs a shuttle service to collect and drop off attendees every day. One of my friends was staying in the Auckland equivalent of Hamilton (literally in the next city) and transport options were reduced to taxis (which were expensive). The flip side of that is one guy I met who turned up on Sunday and walked into the Hilton next to the Convention Centre and was given a room without any booking at all! Other options include renting an apartment or checking out Airbnb and Craiglist for rooms to rent.


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SXSW is now one of the global digital technology brainstorming and networking events of the year. Simone McCallum captures the excitement and also the hassles!

This year I was lucky enough to be part of a panel at SXSW– a massive music, interactive and film festival held each year in Austin, Texas. And when I say massive, I mean massive. It’s like the madness of the RWC opening ceremony – but for nine solid days. Official attendance numbers for SXSW 2012 haven’t yet been released, but there was talk of between 30,000 and 50,000 people in total. In that throng were a handful of Kiwis, but we need more to add to the contingent!

If you are into any or all of the three streams, then I would definitely recommend heading along next year and joining in the madness. This is not just any conference. Be prepared for a huge amount of networking, partying, ideas and celebrity spotting. Business is done at food trucks, new apps are launched, rumours run wild and some of the smartest people in the industry share their ideas.

If you are a SXSW virgin, here are some tips to help make the craziness a bit less crazy.

1. Book your accommodation early. Places to lay your weary head are in short supply during SXSW. I heard rumours of hotel room rates rocketing as high as $2,000 per night – and that is USD we are talking! I was fortunate enough to be on a SXSW panel which meant I had access to SXSW booked accommodation. I was right across the road from the Austin Convention Centre (the hub of SXSW) which was fantastic. If you can’t get into the central city, then there are plenty of options in the ‘burbs and SXSW runs a shuttle service to collect and drop off attendees every day. One of my friends was staying in the Auckland equivalent of Hamilton (literally in the next city) and transport options were reduced to taxis (which were expensive). The flip side of that is one guy I met who turned up on Sunday and walked into the Hilton next to the Convention Centre and was given a room without any booking at all! Other options include renting an apartment or checking out Airbnb and Craiglist for rooms to rent.

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