In a little less than a week, most of the tech community (~45,000 of us) will converge on Austin and make it the de facto tech hub for five days. Within the thousands that attend, most will probably be developers, designers, entrepreneurs, while the rest are agency and company-specific individuals eager to see the next big thing and/or try and figure out what is said technology good for and how can they use it to help their business.
If you’ve never been you SXSW, then you might find it a bit overwhelming. But even if you’re a veteran, there are some things you might want to be aware of when going there to help you be more productive and efficient with your time. So that’s why I’ve put together a list of five useful applications that one should probably have on their phone or mobile device to help them navigate through the madness that is SXSW.
A safe application to always have on your mobile device is Twitter, especially if you want to catch up on all the news. But with so much happening at SXSW, it’s probably better to get them in a more digestable format. That’s why I would say that if you want a one-time dump on what’s happening in the world and/or in the industry, make sure you download the Flipboard application for your iPad or iPhone. This year, they’re going to have a special section for SXSW (think they had it last year) and you’ll hopefully be able to see photos, stories, and much more. Almost like a Techmeme in a magazine format, you’ll receive all the top stories emerging from the keynotes or product launches right on the device. It’s definitely worth a shot and if you sync it to your Twitter account, you can even push stories/articles you like right to your profile and share it with your friends and followers.
Forget your pen and paper in your hotel room? Don’t worry about it. In fact, you don’t need to bring that stuff with you anymore. Download the Evernote application for your mobile device (Android and iOS available) and you’ll be able to jot down quick notes, keep track of any of your expenses, upload photos for viewing later, and much more. And the best part is that while you’re on the go, you can use Evernote on your mobile device to photograph business cards and jot down notes so you remember how you met that individual (always helpful), or you want to keep track of the schedule of parties and events you need to go to. But if you are in a session and want to make notes of what the speaker is talking about, but hate to type on your phone or iPad for lengthy periods of time, then just have Evernote’s desktop version installed right on your computer and type away. It’s Cloud-based so as soon as you save your information, it will be accessible anywhere as long as you use your Evernote account to log in. If a presenter has a key slide you want to memorize or share with others, take a photo using your mobile device and you can push it to Evernote instantly. Always remember what you’re doing with Evernote.
While it’s still a conference, what’s a technology/interactive event about if you can’t take photos and share them with your friends and followers? The largest mobile social network is probably going to be very helpful when you’re either in sessions or out on the town. Maybe you see that famous celebrity and you get your picture taken or there’s something else worth sharing–Instagram is probably your best application to keep track of it and to share. Plus with the myriad of filters that the service has, you can add a bit of artistic flair to it. Photo sharing? That might have been a bit passe and last year, but Instagram is still around and popular than ever. And if you want to be the person who can navigate through crowds easily without needing to lug a big camera (don’t want to be me?), then you are probably better off using your phone–less stuff to carry, but with the enormous power of a social network and the potential of a real camera.
Let’s face it, being at a large-scale event like SXSW isn’t going to be easy to keep track of our friends. With over 170 parties happening in Austin within the five days of the show, who knows if you’ll actually see your friends or colleagues. Most likely with all the people using their phones and the noise, it might be hard to get in touch with everyone, but that’s why you need to be on Foursquare. This three-year old company first launched at SXSW and has seen its adoption take off. For most people, it’s all about the badges, but if you want to find the most interesting people that you know at a party, know where to go. And pay attention to Foursquare too because you just might unlock some secret prize or event (like Foursquare did last year with the Big Boi concert) or find Gary Vaynerchuk’s “Secret Wine Party” being announced.
Traveling with a large group of your friends? Need to keep track of them without having to send multiple messages to multiple people to try and coordinate? We’ve all been there–you want to try and get five of your friends together in order to hang out and grab a bite to eat before a party, so you call one person and then call another and another and each one has a different schedule or things that they want to do. It’s going to be a pain to try and coordinate and your battery on your phone is dying. Why not have a better way to have people communicate with everyone in real-time instead of you playing the middleman?
That’s why attendees at SXSW should have TextPlus because it’s going to probably be the only real feasible way for people to get in touch with large groups of people to coordinate which parties to go to, what awesome things to check out or to find one another in the madness that is SXSW. The best part is that all texts are free–international people probably don’t need to worry about their minutes being used or being charged for any expensive texts that they send out. Group texting is the way to go when you want to communicate…save the phone calls for when you’re back home.
I know I said that there would be five apps that you should have, but one just appeared to me and I felt that I should mention it…Eventbrite is one of the most prolific and prominent ticket reservation services for the SXSW parties. If you’re going to be at any party, chances are that you had to RSVP through an Eventbrite page. But when we get to the door of the party, we don’t want to have to deal with checking our email confirmation to find the ticket–it’s just not efficient. Their mobile application is supposed to share with you your upcoming events and their locations, give you a barcode so that it can quickly be scanned–getting you into the door sooner, contact the event organizer for any outstanding questions, and much more! Never get lost at SXSW because with Eventbrite’s mobile application, you’re going to know exactly where you should be going.
Photo Credit: Mobile devices via BlogIT