Why you Need to Attend South by Southwest (SXSW)

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Image Rights: Propomando & SXSW


As Stephen Hawkings has been quoted for famously saying: “Intelligence is the ability to adapt to change.”

The world is moving exponentially fast and our ability to keep up with this change will determine whether we grow or become obsolete. Attended SXSW does its part to keep you on the bleeding-edge.

What is it?

South by Southwest (SXSW): the purest expression of culture, innovation, and creativity. The entire festival is composed of five streams: Interactive (tech. & startups), Film, Music, Gaming, and Comedy. Every year they achieve record-breaking numbers nearing close to 450,000 attendees, and 2000 musical performer  this past March.

I was a latecomer to 2018’s festivities, but the experience goes down as the best festival I have ever attended. If you followed my Instagram, you probably thought I was just partying. Okay, well maybe I was, but from those exciting moments also came very formidable relationships. It’s also a launchpad of leading-edge products and more a gathering of people from different backgrounds you may never meet anywhere else.

Whatever you’re into, SXSW has something for you. It’s a gathering of musical talents, tech gurus, art fanatics, film-savviest, and gamers (to name a few). Each day is jam-packed with so much programming that you are most likely to miss out on something. If you’re an adamant trip planner, you will still experience some form of SXSW F.O.M.O. while getting thrown into an impromptu session that will unwillingly serenade your mind.

SXSW is on par as one of the biggest music, film, and interactive festival in the world. For about a period of two weeks, it’s never a dull moment in Austin, Texas as companies show off their startups, watch bands, talk on panels, premiere their films or play their music. It’s been a dream for me for a while to go, and this year I made it!

Free, free and more free.

Registration badges are super expensive – $1500 + to get in to all the talks, music and films – but, there’s plenty going on in Austin during SXSW for free on the side, so if you don’t want full access (or can’t afford to), there’s more than enough music and events to experience to make your plane ticket worth it.

Another strategy is to pay for your badge upfront and plan your days so that you don’t pay for anything else. Any brand that you can think of has some form of presence in Austin and they are all woo-ing for your attention. From open-bar parties and all the wining-and-dining your heart desires, leave it to the vying businesses to pick-up your tab.

What was nice to see was the brands you digitally-interact with on a daily basis, come to life in physical form. As you walk down 6th or Rainey Street, your senses will be activated with baby goat petting stations put on by Vice Land, technology-inspired theme parks hosted by Mercedes Benz, or Stub Hub’s party house where they host a number of the 2000 musical artists coming into the city to perform that night.

Other notables include the Spotify House – launching the careers of many – and there’s the YouTube Music House, House of Twix, House of Vans – all free to enter, and best of all, free to drink. Each house is trying to outdo the other, and you’re the lucky festivalgoer in the middle, with all the beers.

So what’s the secret sauce?

Simply put, it’s the culture and the connections.

The people of Austin. They are so welcoming and they aren’t afraid to open their community up to strangers. Austin culture is one in a million and there’s a reason they’re the Culture Capital of America.

As I embarked on the city around 10 PM on a Thursday night, I was immediately ushered to the Container Bar for a party hosted by Whurley and the Chaotic Moon team. My friends from Aris MD, Scott and Chandra had a VIP pass waiting for me and the event was open bar.

I also connected with Donald who is Whurley’s right-hand man and helps on the business development. He was a great host. He welcomed us up to their suite in the Marriot and him and Whurley treated a whole bunch of us to drinks on the 7th floor of the hotel. It was epic!

I turned 28 that night and it so happened that the R-ZA from the Wutang clan was performing at the after-party we were attending. IT WAS SO COOL! The next day Scott and Chandra bought me a gaming pass for my birthday, we went out to Gloria’s for Mexican, followed by the Pink Avocado, then to Antown’s for a concert.

This all happened in the span of two days, and I’m sure if I extended my stay, more of these natural synergies would occur. The city has a rich culture of helping others

Why now?

It’s important that as Canadians we look for events like these to attend. They’re interactive. You’re immersed in a new culture in a way that is safe and educational. You’re in situations where you can create relationships with individuals that will last a lifetime. Most importantly, you get inspired. Whatever you’re working on, there is someone at a festival like South by that can help you. Did you know that these musical acts were discovered at SXSW? Or how about companies like Twitter an Foursquare that launched at SXSW?

SXSW has launched the careers of an unimaginable amount of people in the interactive, music and film realms. But whether you have something to promote or you just want to see other people’s creativity and innovation, I’d definitely recommend going.  The festival has over 2,800 sessions, is, predictably, about information. It can give context to developments in our rapidly-changing world, especially as they relate to music, film, startups, and technology.

Our world is moving exponentially fast. We can’t be doing the same things we were doing last year without taking a look in the rearview mirror to see what has changed.

There’s always the 40 hours of volunteering you can do in return for a badge – think I’m going to get on that scheme next year. See you there!


Author: Sahr Saffa, Chief Experience Officer @ C-Tribe Festival

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