World’s best interactive: Pusher reports live from SXSW 2013, Austin Texas

SXSW Interactive rides into Austin, Texas today bringing with it five days of compelling talks and expos showcasing the latest innovations in digital and social communications, applications and game design. Now in it’s 20th year, the interactive, music and film festival has embedded itself into professional digital sub-culture. Mike Crebar, co-founder of Sydney and Brisbane based digital agency, Pusher, sets the scene as he departs for one of the biggest digital festivals in the world. Stay with us over the next six days as Mike gives us the run-down on what ‘South-by’ is really all about.

 

South By Southwest (better known as SXSW) this year again attracts some of the biggest names of the web to the stage. In past years we’ve been privy to one-on-one interviews and marketing insights from the likes of Mark Zuckerberg, Steven Johnson (FEED mag), Jane McGonigal (Superbetter), Ray Kurzweil (DeepBlue), Tony Heish (Zappos), Chris Anderson (curator of TED), Guy Kawasaki (Apple), Gary Vaynerchuk (Wine Library TV), Charlene Li (author of Groundswell) and Pinterest co-founder Ben Silbermann. If you don’t know your mega-geeks, let me tell you, these guys are superstars.

This year Elon Musk, the CEO/CTO of SpaceX is on the featured speakers list (Elon also held the position of editor-of-chief at Wired from 2001 until 2012). As too is Tina Roth Eisenberg (aka SwissMiss) who writes one of the world’s top design blogs. Shaquille O’Neal, the second most followed US athlete and fourth most followed athlete worldwide will also take centre stage. He’ll be sharing his three points to social media success. Not many people know it but Shaq helped launch the start-up video platform Tout via his innovative NBA retirement announcement and his Comedy Shaq YouTube Channel has amounted over 6.5 million views. Along with Wikipedia’s A-list, the panel discussions also feature insights and case studies presented by digital marketing VP’s, technologists and leaders in digital innovation from a variety of world-leading agencies and organisations.

It’s not all about the panel discussions and keynotes, there’s also information architecture and user experience prototyping and coding workshops, tutorials for start-ups, and about a zillion side parties and networking events worth mentioning. Sponsored by your favourite corporate internet memes these events include free booze, barbecues and a take-home doggy-bags full of promotional paraphernalia (Google velcro wallet anyone?)

First timers can also head to the SXSW Startup Village for the SXSW Ping Pong Tournament, or check out finalists in the SXSW Interactive Awards. Planning to go to the Best Tacos in Austin opening night? Sorry, that event sold out months ago!

SXSW 2013

Spread across 10 venues, featuring over 300 exhibitors and expecting close to 50,000 punters for SXSW interactive, music and film combined, SXSW® 2013 has the potential to be overwhelming if you’re not prepared.

Here’s my Handy-7 Survival Tips to help you make the most of every day.

1. Get the SXSW App 

The quintessential tool for learning more about daily speakers, for networking, for sharing schedules and finding your way from event to event. Search SXSW in the app store.

2.  ABC (Always Be Charging)

OK, so you’ve just learnt the very latest YouTube technique that will guarantee your video will go viral. You’re about to Tweet it, post it, blog it, Skype your client… and you’ve got no battery. World ends. So carry your charger everywhere. Carry a US-to-Australian power plug converter. Be prepared to wait in line to plug in.

3.  Don’t roam, go pre-paid

Data is cheap in the USA, but not if it’s coming to your tablet via global roaming. Turn all data off and go WiFi only by grabbing a T-mobile 4G dongle at LA airport on the way in. Or get your phone unlocked before you leave and buy a pre-paid sim. Most cafes in Austin and the SXSW event itself have free WiFi but with 20,000 people sharing the network you’re better off going solo for your data.

4. Pack light, eat light

Austin has very unpredictable weather this time of year so wear layers, pack an umbrella, don’t wear thongs out at night. Don’t geek-out in your fashion too much either. There’s always a few too many ‘5 million people read my blog’ t-shirts. The food, it’s American. Salad comes with fries. An up-sized soda barely fits into the back of a monster truck. The Texas-style BBQ is awesome.

5. Say g’day to strangers

Texas is a long way west of Down Under and the friendly yanks love meeting outrageous Aussies. Say g’day and be proud to be an Aussie in the thick of the digital entrepreneurial spirit.

6. Party underground

Following on from ‘g’day!’ ask lots of questions to find out about what parties are going to rock that evening. Sites like sxshhh.com are handy as they RSVP for a whole bunch of events at once for $5. Apps like Eventbrite‘s also come in very useful. However, just like every party-hound knows, it’s the parties you don’t see advertised that have the best music and strongest cocktails.

7. On your bike

Taxis are expensive and because downtown Austin is really flat riding a bicycle is the best way to get around. You can even hire a bike for free just by ‘checking in’ to the rental place and by leaving a small deposit. Bikes must be brought back each night or you incur a fee.

A few of us Pusher folk are flying over today (Sydney to LA to Austin) so if you’re on the plane please say g’day! If you’re staying local you can catch the daily reports via this Marketing mag or Pusher blog or get loads of streaming goodness via the SXSW Live Channel. There’s also an Official SXSW Flickr Group, Facebook page, Pinterest collections, Tumbler, HangOut, MeetUp, Blog etc etc. Did I mention the SXSW app?

Hope to see you at South-by soon.

Mike

Video courtesy of official SXSW YouTube Channel:

 

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Mike Crebar
BY Mike Crebar ON 8 March 2013
Mike Crebar is strategy director and co-founder of Sydney and Brisbane based digital agency, Pusher.