5 Things We Learned At SXSW
As a company based in Austin, we've grown accustomed to masses of people descending upon our fair city to take part in the various activities and entertainment the city provides. There's the Austin City Limits Music Festival, bringing the sweet sounds of music to the green grasses of Zilker Park. The Formula 1 races, bringing pulse-racing, adrenaline-pumping excitement to the mellow roads of Austin. And then there's South By Southwest.
Now let us say one thing first; we LOVE SXSW. No other event in the world offers such an accessible and unique convergence of music, film and technology. With that being said, jamming an overflow of new media, music and movies into two weeks can be utter chaos and if you're not prepared (and, trust us, no one ever is), it's easy to be overwhelmed. For Ticketbud, the chaos is two-fold, as we, on top of attending, also sponsored and, of course, provided RSVP registration and online ticketing for events throughout the festival.
With SXSW 2013 finally over and in the books, here's what we learned from yet another year of madness.
1. If you're spending a lot of money, you're doing it wrong.
If there's one thing that's in abundance at SX (other than skinny jeans and the word "innovate"), it's free stuff. From shirts to phone chargers to pedicabs rides, you can get all sorts of things for free just by filling out your name and email, dropping your business card or just plain asking.
Of course, the best two best free things you can get that will really save you some cash are food and drinks. See a venue or party being sponsored by a company? Chances are there's free and drinks to be had inside. Don't be afraid to explore local bars or wait in lines at food trucks when you stomach starts to rumble. The money you save by doing a little searching or waiting in line is worth its weight in dollars...literally. And once you find that place with the free tacos and tequila, go back to it again and again and again and again and again and...you get the idea.
2. Organization is key.
Take it from a company that has hosted and provided registration and online ticketing for SXSW events; organization is the key to a successful event (both as a "go-er" and a "throw-er") and it's easier to maintain than you might think. Now let's be realistic here; there's only so much organization you can have at South By. With that being said, taking the time to organize your line, plan out your RSVP process and manage the check-in process pays huge dividends in the amount of time and goodwill it saves.
For our events, utilizing our scanner app to check guests in quickly and seamlessly shortened "waiting time" in line significantly and prevented any ill will from upset or impatient guests. In fact, we found that a positive experience just waiting to get into the event significantly influenced the sentiment of how the event was overall. The moral of the story here? Make the right first impression at the start of your event with a smooth check in process or you may never get another chance.
3. Follow the right people on Twitter.
There's is so much to see and do at SXSW and a lot of it happens on the spur of the moment. A surprise show is going on at this venue, an open bar happening now at that pub, free food for the first 30 guests at this food truck. Unless you get incredibly lucky and randomly wander into one of these surprises, the best way to find out about cool stuff almost instantaneously is by following SXSW focused Twitter users that are in the know. Typically these users will retweet new developments ("free tacos at the corner of X and Y for the next 30 minutes!") or interesting rumors ("X band might be playing a secret show at Y venue in 5!") that you can capitalize on.
Ticketbud tweets throughout SXSW with helpful hints and tips on the events to attend and places to check out in Austin so be sure to follow us on Twitter!
4. Know before you go.
Being from Austin makes SXSW a little bit easier to manage but we saw utter complete & utter chaos from out-of-towners new to the Capital city. Austin is a relatively easy city to navigate but if you're first attempt at it is with your cell phone in the middle of the pandemonium of 6th street, you're more than likely to just confuse yourself and get hopelessly lost. Our advice is simple: check out not only a list of SXSW events beforehand but a map of downtown Austin as well. A better understanding of the streets and venue locations will go a long way to orienting yourself and making sure you don't spend the majority of your time wandering aimlessly looking for that one bar whose name you can't remember. It's a simple piece of advice, but it's one that can save you valuable time and energy.
5. No expectations = pleasant surprises
As SXSW has grown and the bands, films and emerging tech companies that attend have gotten bigger and more popular, many people have started to come with the expectation of seeing a world-famous musician or exclusive film premiere. While it's always good to have big plans, if you come with the expectations of getting into the most popular events at SXSW, you're setting yourself up for a disappointing festival. Everyone and their mother are trying to see the the big acts (most of which are at tiny venues) so basing the success of your festival around attending the most popular performances, parties and premieres is a recipe for not only frustration but also for missing out on tons of other great stuff.
Our advice? Set your expectations low and you will be pleasantly surprised at the experiences you encounter throughout the festival. Sure, waiting in line for 3 hours to possibly see Justin Timberlake is fun and all but in those three hours you could have bar hopped, gone to different companies parties, seen a ton of great smaller bands you'd never otherwise see and more. Be spontaneous and random; that's the best way to do SXSW!
We learned way more than 5 things at SXSW this year but a list of the "2,127 Thing We Learned At SXSW!" doesn't have quite the same ring. Whether you're a SX Rookie or a season vet, you always learn something new every year so we wanted share a few of our discoveries with you to help your SX experience next year. You can learn more about Ticketbud and our event ticketing platform here or by going to our Facebook and Twitter pages.