Late this week kicks off arguably the largest tech conference in the US, SXSW Interactive. SXSW is a trio of conferences held in mid-March in Austin, Texas focused on Film, Interactive and Music.
This is my seventh year attending SXSW (third time attending Interactive, the rest were Music), so I feel obligated to give a little advice to other attendees each year. A good place to start is arming yourself with the tools to tackle the often overwhelming schedule of events and masses of people.
Here are must-have’s for this year:
This is my absolute favorite scheduling tool there is for SXSW. Not only does it include all of the official panels, sessions and parties but the unofficial ones as well. Information how you’d like it? Not a problem with their easy and compact printable view and very friendly mobile site. It couldn’t be easier to update – check the box next to what you’re interested in attending. Attending SXSW with a group? You can see your friend’s schedules to plan your jaunts and cab rides with others.
Following my favorite tool with my least favorite though highly informative tool. Plancast is another calendaring service that keeps track of events (and some sessions, as added by speakers). This is basically the Plaxo (circa 2008) of the event world. Import your events into Plancast from your social event services (Facebook, Eventbrite, Meetup) and be a little overwhelmed by your strategic reflexes attempting to determine whether you can really make it to everything you’re trying attend.
Log in with your Twitter handle and check into panels you’re attending to see who else is in attendance and network with others in the room. The only mobile app I recommend under the burden of SXSW’s cell coverage weight. Bonus points: Check in on the far more reliable wifi connection!
4 & 5. Foursquare & Gowalla
Battle of the location-based services! LBS’s: Foursquare first, followed by Austin-based Gowalla are key to keeping up with friends, coworkers and contacts. Foursquare has already announced eighteen new badges for SXSW this year. If you really want to talk game mechanics, I have a hunch Gowalla may release a handful of new items only available to pick up at SXSW events this year.
Group texting is no doubt the “thing” at this year’s SXSW. It couldn’t be a better conference for a group texting service to launch either with the aforementioned spotty cell coverage. No smartphone required. Beluga was recently picked up by Facebook so it should be interesting to see how it integrates into their infrastructure in the coming months. Other notable mention: GroupMe.
This app makes it very easy to keep track of who you’re meeting. Use a hashtag to indicate how you met someone along with either their Twitter handle or email address. Your meeting is then logged on your account for later reference and tweeted if you’ve chosen to do so.
Contxts provides text message-based business cards. After two years of usage, I still find them highly efficient and use often. Did I mention it’s green? Create a free profile and allow others to text your shortcode to 50500 to receive your contact information via SMS.
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