This year, PMG sent a few folks on their way to South by Southwest (SXSW) in Austin, Texas. When Friday came along and some of my colleagues started driving down to Austin for the first day of the conference, and after listening to and reading about all the hype about SXSW, I decided I was going to take my car and drive myself down to Austin, even with no badge. I wanted to check out first-hand what all the hype was about. Also, it’s only a 200 mile drive, and it’s Austin, so you can’t go wrong.
I left work at around 5:30PM, went home, packed a small bag and drove down. I arrived in Austin Friday night around 10:30PM, just in time to attend a vendor’s after party, which luckily I had wristband for. I even ran into a couple of folks from previous jobs, small world, #agencylife. My first “official” day of conferences started the next morning at 8:30AM. PMG rented a house just a few minutes away from the convention center, which made it very convenient for everyone.
When I arrived within a few blocks from the convention center, while trying to find a $20 parking space, I quickly understood all the hype. So many people (I love crowds), so many cool things, exhibition stands from all types of companies, huge companies, start-ups, free car rides, even free Oreos and milk. It doesn’t get better than free Oreos and milk. Since I drove to the convention center with one my colleagues, and he had a session to attend, we walked around for about 15 minutes and went inside.
The Convention Center… No passes needed here.
Even though I didn’t have a badge on me, I could still go inside the convention center, I just wasn’t allowed to attend any of the sessions. While my colleague was attending his session, I sat in one of the many couches in the lobby and caught up on some work and emails for a couple of hours. As I’m sitting in the couch working, I get a text message from him with a picture of James Franco, Zac Efron And McLovin, followed immediately by another text that said “Just ran into Jason Bateman, cool guy” – Yup, I definitely should have pitched for this thing, I thought.
When lunch time came around and his session was over, we went for walk to try to find a good spot to eat. Austin has really amazing food, so needless to say we stayed away from any restaurant chains. We found this little French place called “Crepes”. Not suggestive at all, I know. As expected, the Crepe I ordered was phenomenal, and throughout the entire lunch, I kept starring at a couple of girls on the table directly across from us, who I’m 99% positive were famous, but I didn’t really ask them so I guess I’ll never know.
After lunch, my colleague had a quick one hour session to attend, but after that, we had a few hours to walk around the convention center and check out a lot of the stands and exhibitions. We went to the Cotonelle stand, where I got a much deserved free massage and some refreshments. After that, we met with a couple of other team-mates and went to the next stand, where we saw some smart-cars, a Tesla, and where I got introduced to Cars2Go. Apparently they have been around for 3 years and I had no idea of their existence. In my defense, they are not in Fort Worth yet. It’s a really cool concept; You can basically rent a car by the hour ($0.41 cents a minute) and pick up the car in any of their designated spots around the city and drop it off when you’re done at any of the designated spots. It’s almost like a RedBox for cars. One of their sales girls even told me that they just launched a “Black” Cars2Go in Europe, where you can rent black D class Mercedes Benz vehicles. After enjoying some delicious flavored pop-corn, we were off to another stand.
After visiting at least 10 stands and exhibitions, and walking around for a few hours, we head out to dinner. If there is one thing you have to eat when go to Austin is BBQ, or meat in general. We ended up at this place called Roaring Fork – definitely one of the best steaks and crab-cakes I have ever had. Yes, I said steak and crab-cakes, I went all out #surfandturf. A bit on the pricey side, however, worth it.
With a long day behind us, we went home for a couple hours and headed back out to enjoy Austin’s night scene. At first, we really wanted to check out the BuzzFeed after party, but unfortunately it was a “badge-only” party, and guess who didn’t have badge? This guy writing. So my colleagues were nice enough to pass on it and join me on less fancy parties where badges were not required. At the first place we went to, this very nice roof-top bar in downtown Austin, we met some folks from a start-up company called ParTender. The product is actually pretty interesting. It reduces the amount of time it takes to do a bar liquor inventory with increased accuracy. What a better place to pitch that then Austin.
Cellphones never take good photos in the dark… but this was Samsung’s Lounge area. Free Smoothies!
On Sunday, everyone had a few sessions to attend and it was time to head home in the afternoon. I left a little earlier in the morning since I basically saw everything the day before and I couldn’t really attend any of the sessions. The point I’m trying to make here, if you haven’t already caught on to it, is that even if you don’t officially sign up for the conference and don’t have a badge, just being at SXSW as an “outsider”, still an amazing experience and definitely worth it. You will connect with some awesome people, learn about new companies and products, get some free swag, and who knows, you might even have a story to write about later.