Eqtr @ SxSW 2015, Day 5 - Time to go home, but was it worth it?

As SxSW 2015 draws to a close, Martin considers the return on spending top dollar to attend the biggest digital show on earth.

What I’ve talked about over the last four days of posts is but a smidgen of the total SxSW experience, a few grains of sand on a beach of knowledge and experience.

One cannot underestimate the sheer size and scale of SxSW Interactive. There are literally thousands of talks, panels, workshops, meetups, parties and hackathons every single day. At certain points in the day, you will have the choice of over 100 different events you could attend. It is simply a mind-boggling and somewhat overwhelming experience.

But the big question is – is it still worth it?

Well, let’s not kid ourselves, it’s not a cheap thing to come to SxSW. Tickets for the interactive part of SxSW are at least $825 (when you buy early) and if you fancied access to SxSW Music and SxSW Film too, a badge can set you back $1645. And the costs just begin there.

Every hotel for miles around will be charging their maximum rate for every single night. Getting a room for anything less than $200 a night is a challenge (unless you’re hostelling), and if you don’t want to have to get a bus to town, treble that! And then there’s flights, food, drink, tips and so on.

So what you need to do is ask yourself “What is the value for me?”. Well I tend to believe you can be one of three different people whilst at SxSW – the Learner, the Networker and the Party Animal.

The Learner (me mostly!) comes to SxSW to soak up as many sessions, interactives, panels and talks as their brain (and their footwear) will allow. Meticulously planning target talks, mapping out journeys between the 30 plus locations spread across SxSW and hitting as many of them as possible.

The Networker is here based on SxSW first principles. Likely a startup, a small business owner or someone who just believes they have a great idea, they are here to find people to buy their idea or invest in them. Whilst no longer the principle use of the event, there is still a LOT of this going on and it’s a great place to incubate your idea or discover someone else has already done it!

The Party Animal is here just to enjoy all that Austin during SxSW has to offer. And there’s a lot. There’s free parties, barbecues, bars and gigs all over the place almost 24-hours a day. If you’re relentless and shameless, you could probably make it through the week without spending a penny on food or drink, casually crashing the Facebook party or the Google meetup or whatever.

What’s hard to do is be all three. Quite simply because, unless you are superhuman, there’s not enough hours in the day to do all three and there’s not enough beats in your heart to manage it, even if you are 21 and fuelled by Red Bull.

Whatever person you think you may be, I can only say that SxSW IS worth it for every single person. There is no convention like it on earth. And even when you add up all the costs of attending, it still represents outstanding value. No other business conference or expo or event comes even close to offering the quality and the quantity that SxSW does. And Austin does its level best to welcome you and make sure you have a good time regardless.

Yes, SxSW may have lost some of its entrepreneurial spirit, but it still is the best Interactive / Digital event on earth – by a country mile!