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10 Things We Learned at SXSW

This year, SXSW was a crazy whirlwind (even more than usual) because Ed and I were in Austin for less than 48 hours. We were in it to win it, though.

Here are 10 things we learned at SXSW 2016 this year:

1. Biodegradable swag is cool swag.

SXSW loved our radish seed packets (you can check out our design process, here). We wanted to give attendees something that they could take home and actually use instead of just toss in the trash while in a drunken stupor. @jamesfurbush shared a great Instagram post about the power of experiential marketing, our seed packets and USA Network’s handouts. We thought it was super on point.

Instagram post

2. Bring sunscreen (and sunglasses!)

It’s hot in Austin and it’s easy to forget how much of the conference you spend wandering around and exploring the city, in sweltering mid-day. We paid for sunny wanderings with some sunburn souvenirs and this is on trip, especially when we took advantage of Austin’s bike share and toured around. While it was worth it, we’re SPFing it next time.

Alana and popsicle

3. The SXGood presence gets bigger every year.

This was Ed’s third time at the conference, and each year there’s been more people trying to make the world a better place through the SWGood convergence track. It’s amazing to see such momentum around a movement. Being able to experience music, film and interactive events that all support the greater good and social impact is inspiring.

4. Get off the beaten path.

During SXSW, Austin is a recipe for overstimulation. There’s so many choices and so much free stuff. I mean, lots of free stuff. Free booze, free tacos, free stickers. We tried to bop around and find things (by things, I mean food) that were authentically Austin. Our most memorable meal this trip was at Launderette. Their sustainably sourced share plates on their shaded patio were exactly what we needed after a long day traipsing around in the sun.


5. Austin is way cooler than Austin during SXSW.

We can’t wait to go back and do Austin things with Austin people. We won’t miss the crowds, the free swag or the garbage created by all the unwanted free swag.

6. You don’t always need to buy the badge.

As a speaker, I had a Gold badge and was able to assign Ed a day pass, which was included with my admission. The rest of the time, the fact that Ed didn’t have a badge was nearly undetectable from an experience perspective. There’s a lot you can do at the conference without paying the hefty $1200 admission tag. That said, if all-day sessions are your thing, the badge is probably worth it.

7. Find your chill spot.

A big part of SXSW for us is the chance to get to hang with friends colleagues we don’t get to see often. Our best afternoons weren’t always spent in hotel ballrooms. We found some time to escape the buzz and catch up with people who inspire us professionally and personally. We like the rooftop pool on the JW Marriott, and Takoba, which has a great patio and even better margaritas.


8. Your panel isn’t real unless it has a hashtag.

Our panel on data visualizations with Climate Central was chock full of useful information, but we didn’t know everyone was going to want to tweet and ‘gram everything we said. (You gotta market yourself!) Next year we’re coming back with a catchy-as-heck hashtag and slapping that thing on every slide in our presentation.

Alana/Brian Panel

9. AirBnb it for a more authentic stay.

This year we rented this chic guest house with a couple of friends. It was a 45 minute walk from the convention center, or a quick (and cheap!) Uber ride home. We loved staying in a real neighborhood, away from the hubbub, and having a backyard where we could enjoy a cup of coffee in the morning.

10. Try getting up early.

SXSW is all about the parties. But with so little time and a hectic schedule, we skipped the night time ragers, and kept our New York schedule, getting up early. Austin mornings are chilly and dewy, and during the conference, there’s all sorts of fun things going on for early birds. From yoga classes, to free breakfasts, to great paths for a morning jog, we didn’t miss the night time shenanigans (as much) with these great starts to our day.