SXSW 2023: South By SouthWest Conference – The Ultimate Guide

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SXSW 2023

SXSW 2023: An Insider’s Guide To Maximizing Your Attendance Experience

SXSW 2023 is on the way! In this guide, we break down everything you should know about the event to have the most positive experience.

Barely weeks into 2023, the difficult years of confinements and restrictions are gradually being left behind. This readjustment is affecting all industries and the way they interact with each other. One feature that has re-established itself in 2023 is in-person events. 

Marketing teams now have a wide array of events to choose from. However, they will need to select wisely and use their budgets on events that can provide a positive return on investments and the best opportunities to interact with people and deliver B2B leads.

Some events provide the ideal convergence of multiple industries like tech, music, education, and culture and offer countless opportunities to interact and drive leads. One such event circled in many corporate event marketing strategies is SXSW 2023: South by Southwest.

What Is SXSW 2023?

SXSW 2023, or South by Southwest, is an annual multi-media festival and conference which takes place every March in Austin, Texas. The event lasts for under two weeks and features conference sessions, film and TV screenings, music festival showcases, exhibitions, competitions, ceremonies, and much more. 

SXSW is one of the biggest celebrations of innovative music, tech, gaming, movies, and influencers. It’s also an elite platform to showcase new generational talent. 

SXSW was initially launched as the South by Southwest Music and Media convention in 1987 by the founders of the alt-weekly Austin Chronicle. The event has grown from having just over 700 registrants in the first SXSW to being one of the largest music festivals in the world, driving over $359 million for the city of Austin.  

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, SXSW was canceled in 2020 before returning as a virtual event in 2021, Last year, SXSW 2022 kicked off as a hybrid event, welcoming back thousands of visitors to Austin. 

Who Goes To SXSW 2023?

SXSW draws a wide variety of audiences. The conference is open to a global community of digital creatives seeking cutting-edge ideas. However, the variety in conferences and festivals mean that audiences from multiple sectors and roles, including entrepreneurs, artists, influencers, and technologists, can attend.

Importantly, it’s also a great B2B event for thought leaders and innovators from different sectors to converge, connect, learn, scale companies, and close business deals. 

Where And When Is SXSW 2023 Taking Place?

SXSW 2023 will occur from March 10th to March 19th in Austin, Texas. SXSW venues and events are clustered across downtown Austin. Fortunately, most venues are within walking distance of each other. 

How Much Does It Cost To Register For SXSW?

SXSW 2023 will host multiple events, conference sessions, film and TV festival screenings, music showcases, award ceremonies, world-class exhibitions, and much more. Many global professionals will attend the event, but there are different price ranges for registering, depending on what and how much you want to see. 

Austin will be buzzing with events, some of them free. But the best shows will inevitably be at official SXSW events. The best way to access them is by registering for a badge.

There are four SXSW badge types: Platinum, Interactive, Film & TV, and Music. Here is what you need to know and pay for each badge*

Music Badge: The SXSW music badge costs $795 if you register online and has a walk-up rate of $995. Among some of the benefits, the badge grants you:

  • Primary access to SXSW Conference Music and Convergence Tracks and Music Festival showcases
  • Primary access to Comedy Festival showcases 
  • Secondary access to most interactive film and & TV programming
  • Primary access to hotel rates and booking assistance and SXSW Festival shuttles
  • Primary access to SXSW Keynotes and SXSW Live-streamed and on-demand content
  • Primary access to Networking meetups, Music Mentor Sessions, Workshops and Parties, and the Music Festival Opening party. 

Film & TV Badge: The SXSW Film & TV badge costs $1,195 if you register online and has a walk-up rate of $1,595.Visitors who purchase this badge attend nine days of screenings, including world and U.S premieres, and can also benefit from:

  • The primary entry to all SXSW Conference Film & Convergence Tracks, Film & TV festival screenings,
  • Primary access to Comedy Festival showcases
  • Secondary access to a majority of interactive and Music programming. 
  • Primary access to hotel rates and booking assistance and SXSW Festival shuttles
  • Primary access to SXSW Keynotes and SXSW Live-streamed and on-demand content
  • Primary access to Networking meetups, Film & TV Mentor Sessions, Workshops and Parties, and the Film & TV Festival Opening party.

Interactive Badge: The SXSW Interactive Badge costs $1,295 if you register online and has a walk-up rate of $1,695. This badge provides excellent discovery and learning opportunities through multiple sessions and workshops. These include:

  • Primary access to all SXSW Conference Interactive and Convergence Tracks, Exhibitions, and Comedy Showcases. 
  • Primary access to SXSW keynotes, Live streamed and on-demand content, and the Opening Party. 
  • Primary access to hotel rates and booking assistance and SXSW Festival shuttles
  • Secondary access to Film &TV Tracks and Featured Speakers and Film & TV Screenings and events
  • Secondary access to Music Tracks and Featured Speakers and Music Festival Showcases and events
  • Primary access to Networking meetups.

Platinum Badge: The SXSW Platinum Badge is the crème de la crème of SXSW badges. Costing $1,595 if you register online and with a walk-up rate of $1,995, this badge is the key to everything SXSW has to offer.

Whether it’s ground-breaking conference sessions, festivals, online programming, or networking opportunities, the Platinum Badge grants primary access to all official SXSW Conference and Festivals events. This includes:

  • Primary access to all Interactive, Film & TV, Music and Convergence Tracks, Speakers, Keynotes, Sessions, Workshops, and Screenings.
  • Primary access to Live-streamed and on-demand content, as well as the Opening Party
  • Primary access to all exhibitions and SX Xpress passes.
  • Primary access to hotel rates and booking assistance and SXSW Festival shuttles
  • Primary access to Networking meetups
  • Primary access to the closing BBQ and Softball tournament

*Registration rates will increase on February 2nd, 2023 at 11.59pm PT. 

Are There Any Other Alternatives To Badges?

Attendees who buy badges will receive primary access to programming associated with their badge and online programming while also enjoying secondary entry to other SXSW events. However, there are also different rates you may want to consider.

Group Rates: If you are a team of 10 or more, you can save money by enrolling with Group registration rates. Even if you still haven’t decided who will attend, you can purchase registrations using placeholder names. This needs to be done by filling in a Group Registration Form, and then SXSW will contact you. 

Student Discount: Students currently enrolled as college undergraduates, postgraduates, or high school can apply for discounted badge rates. The current student rates are available while supplies last and are as follows:

  • Platinum: $798
  • Interactive: $648
  • Film: $598
  • Music: $398

The Showcasing Artist Wristband: While currently unavailable, SXSW tends to release festival wristbands when the event kick-off date draws nearer. However, the wristband is only available for Austinites with a local billing zip code via the SXSW Wristband Cart. Only two can be bought per customer, and they exclude access to Conference Programming or Film Festival programming, and some music showcases may have limited admission policies. 

Why Should I Attend SXSW 2023? Is It Worth It?

SXSW 2023 is split into sections. This means there are many diverse opportunities to learn, liaise and enjoy yourself, depending on your objectives.

Attendees can find themselves with multiple activities, including international movies spread across cinemas in Austin, Panel members speaking at the Austin Convention Center, startups showcasing their newest products at the SX Trade Show, or bands performing in clubs, hotels, public venues, or even their vehicles. 

Whatever event, venue, or session you want to attend, there is a priceless opportunity to discover new ideas, people, and partners that can drive your business to innovate, grow and succeed. Digital creatives, project managers, and marketers can also converge to share cutting-edge ideas, discover new interests, and network with other professionals. 

Moreover, the SXSW takes place over the whole city. There are hundreds of events and side events you can attend. During SXSW 2023, attendees can enrich their knowledge over multiple fronts, discussions, key sessions, conferences, and workshops.

Six Key Reasons To Attend SXSW 2023

Keynotes And Featured Speakers: Throughout all the Tracks at the SXSW Conference, featured speakers provide knowledge, leadership, and inspiration. SXSW 2023 will have its fair share of influential speakers. To date, these include:

  • Ian Beacraft, CEO and Chief Futurist at Signal and Cipher
  • Ryan Gellert, CEO of Patagonia Works and Patagonia, Inc
  • Tara Hernandez, Writer and co-Executive Producer of The Big Bang Theory, and Damon Lindelof, Emmy Award-winning creator, writer, and Executive Producer of Lost and Watchmen. 
  • Jen Wong, COO of Reddit
  • Boyer Slat, Entrepreneur and CEO of the Ocean Cleanup
  • Ginni Rometty, Former Chairman, President, and CEO of IBM
  • Miranda Kerr, CEO of Kora Organic and celebrated model

And the list keeps growing. 

Music Festival: The music at SXSW offers key industry insider access, trade shows, and expositions. Over 300 showcasing artists from around the world will be performing at the 2023 SXSW Music Festival.

This is a chance to listen to some of your favorite bands and discover the talent you may need to become acquainted with. The 2023 lineup includes The Zombies, Sunflower Bean, the Lemon Twigs, Ambré, or Paraísos. Also, there are hundreds of free shows around the city during the festival.

Film Festival: The SXSW film festival showcases emerging and innovative talent in cinema. This can range from dramas, documentaries, comedies, horror, and more. The diversity within the program opens doors for attendees to connect with industry experts and witness award ceremonies for the best films in different categories. SXSW Film ultimately brings together visionaries from the entertainment and media industry to share stories and ideas that can shape the future of filmmaking.

Exhibitions: SXSW exhibitions allow attendees to discover interactive installations, technology demos, art exhibits, performances, and more. Visitors can embark on a unique space that cultivates collaboration.

Technology: Beyond the music and the films, SXSW also provides panel sessions led by some of the brightest minds in emerging technologies. Professors, developers, industry leaders, and global experts will deliver hands-on instructional workshops and one-on-one mentor opportunities. 

Networking and Parties: Austin will buzz with special events and parties. These constitute a significant component of SXSW. While the opening and closing ceremony, along with the music, film, and intermission parties, draws hundreds of fans and industry experts, there are also side parties and events in the city to ensure the parties and networking opportunities don’t stop.

Can SXSW 2023 Improve Business Plans?

Apart from the cultural insights and the sheer fun this event can provide, special attention should be given to the networking opportunities at SXSW 2023. Between gigs, festivals, and sessions, the event is a hub for making business deals, agreements, and partnerships. Austin provides multiple locations and venues where these deals can be made. 

Whether you work in Marketing, Sales, or any of the industries represented in the event, SXSW can help you discover innovations that can transform your business and find new ways to target customers. This confluence of diverse talent over different industry verticals creates the ideal scenario for making connections that can improve your business. 

Can SXSW 2023 Help Drive Sales?

Companies will send representatives to SXSW 2023 to showcase new products, ideas, and creations. Other businesses will also leverage this event to drive relationships and sales. SXSW can help enterprise representatives meet potential clients, customers, partners, and investors. However, to do this proficiently and obtain positive ROIs, businesses need to have a clear plan that can drive sales. 

With Austin packed to the brim with visitors, you can meet numerous potential clients simply by chance when attending key sessions or workshops. However, businesses that deploy event intelligence will ensure they get more benefits. This requires incorporating a data-driven approach to event marketing strategies. 

Marketers are tied to KPIs and the need to provide a positive ROI and must measure the success of their campaigns to justify their budget spending.

Event intelligence requires combining first-party data from past events with real-time monitoring and AI-predictive modeling to forecast who will attend or sponsor future events. These attendees can skip SXSW 2023 and participate in side events in Austin. That way, marketing teams can know who will be where and use data to plan what events to follow and attend to reach their KPIs and find their ideal prospects. 

Where To Stay When Traveling To SXSW 2023

Multiple hotels and Airbnb accommodations are available during this event, with all of Austin prepped up for SXSW. However, it’s essential to be quick because there is high demand. 

Additionally, SXSW Housing and Travel offer badge owners a wide selection of Austin hotels at the best available rates. Once you have registered, you can access the housing and travel section of the SXSW website to receive the lowest rates on SXSW-partnered hotels that are all within a few miles of the Austin Convention Center (ACC). 

Along with providing hotels at low rates, SXSW offers full-time staff available to help you and your team navigate your hotel needs. Some of the hotels that are partnered with SXSW include:

  • Hilton Austin: $299-$949. Located 0.04 miles from ACC
  • Fairmount Austin: $329-904. Located 0.05 miles from ACC
  • Marriot Austin Downtown: $326-692. Located 0.05 miles from ACC
  • Courtyard Marriot Downtown: $272- $429. Located 0.06 miles from ACC
  • Residence Inn: $277-$634. Located 0.07 miles from ACC

Most downtown hotels will require a 3-4 night minimum stay during peak events.

How Do I Travel Around Austin During SXSW 2023?

SXSW collaborates with numerous transportation services to provide a selection of transportation options to help you commute to SXSW events within your budget and needs 

Most SXSW events are clustered across Downtown Austin. These venues are mostly walkable and within a few minutes of each other. However, alternative transportation options exist if you want to avoid walking. Driving is the least recommended option, as many streets will be closed, and finding a parking space can take time and effort. 

SXSW provides a free circulating shuttle route between Trinity Street at the Austin Convention Center and most SXSW venues during the event. 

When traveling from the airport, Supershuttle Austin is also the preferred airport transportation for SXSW. 

How To Prepare For SXSW 2023

Deciding to attend SXSW 2023 already requires planning. But once that first step has been made, further preparation plans are still needed to make the most of the event. Firstly don’t forget these main factors:

Plan Well In Advance For The Event

Once you know you are attending SXSW 2023, you should start planning. This includes preparing necessary documents and equipment, organizing meetings, and booking your hotels early. Another important early step is knowing who will be attending what event and having your pitch ready for when it comes to networking.

Bring Your Business Cards

Attending SXSW 2023 will be an excellent opportunity to meet peers and colleagues. Don’t forget to bring business cards and plenty of them, so you can share them with as many potential clients and networking peers as you want. 

Pick A Suitable Place For Your Meetings

All of Austin will be ready for this event, and the city has many cafes and restaurants to connect and build networks. Another alternative is to invest in reliable private meeting places, like suites, if you have the resources available. It can give a stronger and more professional impression. 

Don’t Miss Out On The Side Events

There will be plenty of chances to build your network at SXSW 2023. However, it’s wise to leverage the fact that the whole city will be a hub for multiple meetings and side events. By having a clear idea of your target audience and carefully elaborating a plan with the help of event intelligence, you can attend smaller, more focused gatherings, where it’s a perfect opportunity to meet exactly the kind of people you want to liaise with. 

Consider drawing up a shortlist of 2-3 people you would like to build a relationship with and turn into a potential lead. This could be someone you would usually have difficulty meeting if it wasn’t for this event. This is your opportunity to connect with them.  

Leverage SXSW Attendee Data: Discover Who Is Attending An Event And Prepare For It

Vendelux already has SXSW 2023 attendee data, with thousands of attendees, exhibitors, and sponsors going to Austin for the event. This information lets you analyze the kind of audience who will be attending the conference. For now, the audience includes 43% of peers with professional seniority, 34% are C-suite executives, and 23% are VPs and Directors.

If done with preparation and attention to detail, attending SXSW 2023 can provide you with leads and partnership opportunities that can deliver a positive ROI.

Summary: Having Fun And Driving Leads At SXSW 2023 Can Be Easy If You Plan Ahead

SXSW is a standout event for businesses in diverse industries, and the SXSW Conference is where most of the top deals take place. The stats from 2022 speak for themselves. Nearly 43,000 people attended the conference at the Austin Convention Center from over 110 countries.

The SXSW Conference featured 15 diverse Tracks and nine summits and included 1,446 Conference sessions. These comprised ten keynotes, 128 feature sessions, 518-panel sessions, 191 presentations, 40 workshops, 359 mentor sessions, 68 meetups, nine-pitch events, 18 podcasts, and much more. 

145 official parties and special events comprised official partners for specific brands, cities, states, and nations, along with Special Events like happy hours, coffee breaks, lounges, and parties.

The unique convergence of communities provides many opportunities for businesses to coincide and build connections. SXSW 2023 will follow in the footsteps of last year’s event and deliver new partnerships, technologies, and experiences that can transform businesses. 

However, attending these events requires investments and support from C-suite executives. Managers will also need positive ROIs to justify these investments.

Businesses should consequently make the most of the face-to-face opportunities during the conference in and outside the Austin Convention Center. 

Along with the events taking place at the Convention center, attendees should also prepare and organize themselves for the multiple after-parties that will be taking place in the city.

To fully leverage them, they should scope out the sessions that interest their business and identify all the possible networking opportunities inside SXSW 2023. Once a plan has been created, companies can gather all the necessary SXSW 2023 attendee data and leverage any insights they may get regarding the attendees they want to network with.

Therefore, with careful planning and insights, attendees can enjoy themselves at SXSW 2023 while delivering optimal results and lead-generation opportunities that can be reflected as positive ROIs for their businesses.

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