The thing about South by Southwest is that it’s huge. Like, mind-bogglingly huge. And, despite all of the best research and top-notch planning, it’s just impossible to be in the thick of the action all the time. As the festival goes into full swing Friday, SXSW’s Director of Tech, Scott Wilcox, says that there’s plenty to look forward to.
“This year we expect to produce 6,000 events at 600 distinct locations when you add it all up. A big part of what makes South by Southwest special,” he told TNW.
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But there are ways to take advantage of SXSW and make sure you get the best of what this year has to offer. You might not get to see everything, but you’ll be able to employ a strategy that maximizes your time.
Alongside tools that SXSW provides to help festival-goers best take advantage of that daunting schedule, there is also an updated mobile guide, SXSW GO, for Apple and Android, developed by Eventbase. Wilcox and Eventbase co-founder Jeff Sinclair agreed that the app’s most important change is it’s new real-time recommendations based on location (thanks to the positioning of thousands of iBeacons around the SXSW limits) and social traction.
“This year, we’re taking it to a whole new level, extending attendee matching to session matches,” Sinclair adds. “We have an algorithm that will bring personalized recommendations to users that make sense.”
Of course, they also agree there are landmark trends this year that are must-sees. Wilcox says that he’s most excited for this year’s long look into civic tech, bookended by talks from both President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama. He’s also particularly excited about the emergence of health tech. For Sinclair, he’s all about VR and AR, which consume a large portion of the Interactive “future tech” track and are just emerging as consumer technologies.
But don’t get too married to your schedule.
“The key to having a great SXSW is to build your schedule, plan, connect with people in advance, and sort of wing it, too,” Wilcox says. “You have to see who you meet, or what SXSW recommends.”
Sinclair says that the recommendation engine found within the app is designed to create the serendipity normally experienced when you’re at the event. You won’t be stuck with looking at the same 5 panels or events the whole day.
“Your recommendations change throughout the day, and that’s part of going with the flow,” Sinclair added. “You’ll have a better event experience when you try to do new things as well as the staples you try to plan ahead for.”
So, you know, don’t sweat it so much.
“Going with the flow of it, you get the most out of it,” Sinclair said. “I’ve given up trying to plan years ago.”