The mother load. The conference that rules all conferences (in size). If you are anyone anywhere in tech space, you have to represent yourself here. I can't say much about the panels other than I wish I went to more than 2. There was so much going on at any given moment the best strategy for navigating the panels i heard so far was simply to sit in one of the big rooms in the main conference center. Chances are sxsw people will have booked important speakers in big rooms. Overall this is a conference for networking and partying.
Here are the top 10 takeaways:1. Pacing is the key to the kingdom. There are bound to be 30+ simultaneous events happening, be they sessions, parties, exhibits, films, etc. Let's just say 10 hours after I touched down to Austin, I was already exhausted. Attempting to do everything will only lead you to an early fallout. Next time around I will have to be smarter about scheduling sessions and meetings better together.2. After being there for a while you begin to feel like your company just paid for a $450-750 open bar pass for you. Alcohol is pretty much free everywhere you go. Resist the urge. Day one may have been the most I drank, thanks to the underestimation of the power of the liver of a partnership colleague. You see, the problem is all this is really not true partying. It's actually work in disguise. You are there representing your company. You are there looking for specific people to connect and discuss specific projects or network with specific people because somewhere down the road that could be useful. Given that, the last thing you want to do is pull a full retard and get drunk. I can't say I like this dynamic much but I see the tremendous value. Given that my 2011 resolution is to "professionally network" sxsw played an instrumental role in the progress.3. Preparation and punctuality are kings. Check all events and their lists before hand. Get on every VIP things. Don't go to anything that isn't VIP unless you can get there 30m before event start time. There is no "oh I'll show up here later" at sxsw. You could try to show up here later, if by "here" you mean the long ass line in front of everywhere.4. Talk about others, especially their work and their success. You get more by learning what's out there than to keep tooting your own horns (and there are lots of those running around these types of conference). If you run out of things to say, talk about the future of technology [insert whatever is relevant here].5. Omfg good eats. Everything from numerous food trucks parked at every strategic corners all hours of the night to out-of-this-world great Mexican to the obvious plethora of BBQ. I practically turned Texan-size over the 6 days there. A few spots hit: Ironworks BBQ Ruby's BBQ Kreuz BBQ (best ever) La Condessa The mexican brunch place G'raj mahal Chi'lantro truck Grilled cheese stall in ACC
6. House > hotel. Find one within pedicab zone. Rainer street is the Cutest little neighborhood.7. Don't even think about looking good in heels. Flats, sneakers, etc. This was the best advice I got before coming down here.8. Plan for sxsw early. If you want to stay in a hotel anywhere within 15 miles of the epicenter, get you travels booked by November the year before. I booked all my travel logistics the week before the event. If you find yourself in this predicament, try: Craigslist for a pass. For a $100 fee, you can transfer your pass to someone else. There are bound to be last minute drop outs wanting to recover costs. The transfer process can be done online, making it easy to check every craigslist nationwide. Check the Austin craigslist first tho.
Airbnb.com or homeaway.com has great selection of people's homes for rent for the duration. This is always the cheaper way to go and possibly more fun in groups.
Fly to San Antonio. Avoid high airfares and/or multiple connections and/or clusterfuck at AUS security and just drive 40m more. Note however that the road from SAN to AUS should be avoided during rush hour.
Get a car. It can take you to many yummy restos. Parking is $7/day downtown.
9. Take lots of notes. By night fall you might be inclined to damage those braincells used earlier. You do have to report back to the mothership when you get back.
10. Love your friends. Don't just schmooze with the tech celebs. At the end of the day, your friends are, well, your friends. Nothing beats over eating with them. Well, may be karaoke in an RV could beat over eating with them. And if you've got hook ups, share the love.All in all it was more than fun, more than tiring, and certainly worth the 5 airports to get to and from.