I have a Badge…so now what?
by Traci Marie Mondragon
I’d like to thank everyone who read Vol 1 of my SXSW 2016 Advice Column. So, if you took my advice and signed up to volunteer, then you are going to earn a badge! Or maybe you’re just made of money and you purchased a badge. Either way… if this is your first time with that coveted plastic-encased-paper-holy-grail-on-a-lanyard beauty, or you just need some helpful info on how to ROCK that badge, then this column is for you.
Keep in mind, I have been attending SXSW for nearly ten years, so I speak from experience. Also keep in mind that I’ve only ever attended because I’ve volunteered for that long as well…so I may not cover everything a paid registrant would know about. But I’ll do my best!
What you get into is dependent on what type of badge you will have.
Interactive = Interactive panels/sessions/workshops and events
Film = Film screenings, panels/sessions/workshops, and events
Music = Music showcases, panels/sessions/workshops, and events
Gold = Interactive AND Film
Platinum = Interactive, Film, AND Music
Create a Schedule with a Plan A, B, C, and D.
SXSW has SO much to offer, and it can definitely be overwhelming. There are several different types of events, from morning till the wee hours of the night! But planning is key. And backup planning is crucial.
If you haven’t already, create an account at schedule.sxsw.com. There, you can search events you’re interested in, and add events to your custom schedule. There’s also an app!
Use the day/type filters to search only the types of events you want, or by conference type. For example, if you JUST want to see all the parties for the Interactive portion of SXSW, Select Interactive, Events, All Days, then for Event Type, select Party. Play with the filters, or use the search field at the top right to search for specific bands, films, or speakers you’re interested in.
Best Kept Secrets
There are a few insider tricks I’ve learned over many years of SXSW’ing, through trial and error, and some by pure happy accident!
Interactive parties tend to be overlooked by those who still think SXSW is just all about music. Often, these are great networking events with loads of free booze and food. Some of the best parties I’ve been to are Interactive parties. Those nerds know how to go hard! The Interactive closing party is always at Stubb’s, and has always featured some HUGE acts (Ludacris, Deadmau5), not to mention an open bar. At Stubb’s! Those drinks are usually like $7 or more a pop!
Film panels often highlight specific films, and will feature the filmmakers and entire casts. These are often intimate settings with Q&A portions, so you can get up close to pick the brains of your favorite filmmakers.
Some films that may be music or tech related will allow Music or Interactive Registrants, respectively, into screenings, in addition to Film, Gold, and Platinum Registrants. Often this will be highlighted in the program/directory you receive at Registration, or color-coded in the online schedule.
ACC Day Stages. Inside the Austin Convention Center, in the 4th Floor ballrooms, are the music day stages. Super intimate settings feature artists both well-known and up-and-coming. These shows are a great way to see that band you love, but maybe conflicts with another band you love later in the week! The shows are never full, and you can always get a great spot up front, out of the elements, and the sound is always fantastic.
Some day parties and events offer priority entrance to badgeholders, over non-badgeholders who have just RSVP’d. These include Fader Fort (must also have Fort wristband), Hype Hotel, and the Spotify House. This means you’ll get in to get those free drinks faster than your non-badgeholder friends!
Not specific to badge type…the Registrant’s Lounge is open all week, and is a chill place to get a free drink, mingle, and get ready for all those evening parties, films, and showcases! Note: Volunteers are NOT allowed into the Registrant’s Lounge. Sorry, guys. We can’t get ALL the perks. The Registrant’s Lounge is located in Brush Square Park, just across 4th street from the Convention Center. Speaking of Brush Square, there are parties going on at both the East side tent and West side tent ALL week! These usually feature free drinks, snacks/food, and bands.
In the past few years, SXSW has introduced new concepts to compliment the big three conference areas. These include SXstyle, SXsports, SXgood, and SXSW Comedy. Many of these Convergence events are open to all Registrants, no matter your type of badge.
Always remember to have several back-up plans. Even with that badge, there may still be long lines, or they might run out of food or drinks, or the band you thought was playing that party may have cancelled. Always have a backup plan.
Enjoy that badge! You’ve earned (or paid for) it!