The SxSW sessions have limited educational value for me, but at $950 a ticket it will not have the return I need for the money. The large parties really aren't my thing either and not worth almost $1,000 just to attend (and I usually have to buy my own drinks). Last year I had more drinks spilled on my and more people knocking into me trying to get to some Internet superstar than I care to think about. Not my scene…. maybe I'm just too old!

Of course my goal is to have more intimate meetings/dinners pre-stacked before going, but that's not happening for me. I am not currently connected to the types of people I need to be connected to in order to make that happen. I don't have a long line of invites to this type of thing. Best I can hope for is a rogue invite when I'm down there, but that is about as likely as getting snow at SxSW.

So, what do I want out of SxSW? I want to connect with people & companies that can work with me to develop content and sponsorship for the projects I have going on. I see Google+ celebraties getting flown in and put up and given all sorts of stages and perks at SxSW. I don't have any of that – I say this because I have gotten numerous emails assuming 'someone' is paying my way and giving me big bucks to attend because they see me an Internet celebrity. I'm not, trust me. If I were I'd have a sponsor!

If SxSW is supposed to be a place – a festival – for PEOPLE to get together for movies, music & tech then SxSW has made it financially impossible for those very people to attend. If I priced it all out and got the super early bird pricing, I would be out of pocket $4,000 (hotel, food, airfare, badge). How is that financially responsible as a solopreneur? It's not. Right now only big brands and agencies can afford to flip the bill – and then those of us that do scrape together two nickels to attend feel the place is overrun by 'suits'. It's a fail-fail.

Complaining aside, I'm going even if it's not in the manner I'd like (I have no badge). What I would like is to find people in positions at agencies that I can meet and get to know that may benefit from myself and my 'brand' online. SxSW is supposed to be the place to get that done.

I just don't know if it's worth not paying all my bills for the month to have that happen…..

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SXSW Interactive – bigger than a conference

I, like many thousands of people will be heading to Austin this weekend for SXSW Interactive.
There are two groups of people who arrive in Austin for SXSWi badged and unbadged.
I have attended the past five years and I've done a mix of both. Last year I went with a badge because I was a speaker. This year I am going unbadged.
A lot of the corporate events at SXSW require you to have a badge to attend – mostly because to get the space they have to agree to SXSW rules and they pretty much exclude anyone from organizing anything in Austin without it being part of the official SXSW event during those few weeks. I get that, it makes sense for them as an organization trying to make money.

However, there are some events that don't require a badge and I'd honestly like to see more of these. Given the economy at the moment, it is harder and harder for individuals who aren't being bankrolled by their company or a brand sponsorship to attend conferences like SXSW – I have heard of hotels who have raised their prices from around $80 per night to $600+ per night because of the shortage of rooms. Add to that the $950 price tag for a badge for Interactive and you are looking at some serious cash outlay. I really think that businesses could learn a lot from companies who are partnering with others to put on smaller events around the main conference that act as catalyst points for attendees of both types.

If you want people to talk about your brand at SXSW what better way than to be "that place" where so and so met and started the next big web thing!

Much of the value for attendees doesn't come from the sessions to be honest. They come from the random meetings, the quiet corners at parties.
I'll be setting up shop in hotel lobbies over the weekend in the day time (or the Google Village if it isn't a badged venue) and attending the unbadged parties at night. Because what I am going for is not more Pinterest for business 101 but conversations with individuals who are doing cool stuff, people who will make me think and spark ideas in me.

I'm going to run some hangouts while I'm there too, mostly just to let people know where I am. So if you are attending badged or unbadged I'd love you to swing by and say hi, not just to me but to anyone who happens to be hanging out.

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