The South by Southwest conference I’m attending this week is amazing. With 20,000 of my closest friends, we overflow most areas of Austin, TX.
I’m thrilled with the content of the sessions. What is a headache, however, is the fact that Austin is not really equipped to handle an event this size. My experience would be different if I was staying at a downtown hotel within walking distance of the venues, but I’m about five miles south at a hotel that does not have a shuttle and with no reasonable path for me to walk even if I was so inclined to spend a couple hours walking each day. The room I booked this year was the closest hotel possible when the decision was made in January that I would attend.
This morning I was unable to even get an answer on my attempts to call two of the three taxi services, and the one I did reach told me it would be a two-hour wait. Eventually I gave up the for day, stayed in my room, and followed the sessions of interest on Twitter. You can bet that I’ll be an early bird the remaining days.
If I come again to SXSW (and I hope my whole team at work does), I will make hotel reservations far in advance at a hotel near the venues. The cost should be a wash given the $50/day for a round trip of these five miles by taxi.
What could I have done differently? I needed to talk with experienced attendees about hotel arrangements and the daily schedule to get a better idea of what to expect. The city won’t discourage people from coming. The conference organizers want to sell all the tickets they can, so real attendees would be the best source of advice. I’m in several circles of people who attend this, so now I know to dig a little deeper before attending a conference for the first time. I could have done without my contacts’ focus on the social gatherings and party invitations in favor of sound first-timer advice.
I blame myself for not asking. Now I know. Leap year lesson #71 is Do your homework before traveling.