South by Southwest has been the festival in Austin, Texas, since the late 1980s. The first festival, held in 1987, expected about 150 people. More than 700 showed up. This year? Over 72,000 people are expected to attend!
From startup pitches to movie premiers to once-in-a-lifetime concert opportunities, SXSW 2018 is already set to be a whirlwind experience. This year seems to have a tech focus, with multiple session on AI, America's relationship with coding, and a robust startup scene.
We've selected some of the best events, films and speakers for you to take in this year, from the first day to the last. Let's start by breaking down the schedule.
SXSW begins on March 9, 2018. The festival has four distinct tracks: Interactive, Film, Music and Convergence. Each track has a multitude of offerings, and the tracks sometimes overlap. Interactive and film kicks off the festival on March 9, followed by convergence on March 12 and music on March 13.
This is good to know so you can plan your schedule. If you're a music buff, the first few days of the festival don't matter so much.
Austin expands each year during SXSW. The city hums from morning to night, and there's always something to do. Prices skyrocket on everything from hotels to food to cab rides.
What You Need to Know
I've be to SXSW five times, so this year is by no means my first rodeo. Here are my top three veteran tips to help you make it through the whole festival:
Stay hydrated. Austin can get into the high 80's in early March, and you'll be doing a lot of walking.
Bring a portable phone charger. Outlets become prime real estate, and having a portable charger can save your sanity.
Eat well. I don't just mean eat like you're on vacation. Make sure to take in some vegetables and not just fried food. SXSW really does call for some physical endurance!
What You Need to See and Do
Our top must-see-and-do conference recommendations:
Keynote Speakers: Every day, the conference features an hour-long keynote from a prominent person from a different arena. You can check out the full list here, but our recommendations are Ta-Nehisi Coates and Melinda Gates.
SXSW Marketplace: Get there if you want to connect with brands and score free swag. The Marketplace is the heartbeat of the entire festival. Held at the Austin Convention Center (which is centrally located), it runs March 15 – 17, and it features local Austin brands as well as global brands.
SXSW Accelerator Pitch event: SXSW was the place where Twitter became Twitter. This event could be your chance to find the next big thing in start-ups. Companies will pitch their ideas in industries ranging from virtual reality to heath tech to financial tech. This event runs for three days, from March 10 – 12.
Musical performances: No matter what your tastes, there's a band for you at SXSW. There will be more than 2,000 performances during the festival, including appearances by English rock group Lion and rapper Princess Nokia.
Film: Tens of movies will have their world premier at SXSW 2018. You'll also have the chance to hear from directors, actors and production teams. I recommend seeing “Jinn,” “The World Before Your Feet” and “Write When You Get Work.”
Other Austin Highlights
If you're here for SXSW, don't forget to experience the rest of Austin. SXSW is a unique experience, and the city has other gems to offer. If you need a break from the festival, or plan to extend your trip a little bit, check out:
Barton Springs pool: Austin weather routinely climbs into the 80s in March, which is warm enough to take a dip in this natural pool. It's near downtown, just a cab ride away.
Donn's Depot: This is a two-step honky-tonk where you can find a dance partner in minutes.
*All content provided in this blog is supplied by Kara Perez and is for informational purposes only. Barclaycard makes no representations as to the accuracy or completeness of any information contained in the blog or found by following any link within this blog.