Once a year, Austin, Texas becomes the epicenter of innovation in technology and entertainment as the world descends on the beautiful capitol of Texas for SXSW. The tech (interactive), music, film, eco, and education communities will spend more than a week away from the cold during one of the most exceptional experiences one can have blending work and pleasure. While party schedules and late nights are on most minds, you have to admit, that needling away in the back of your mind is a simple question, “Is there anywhere besides my hotel room to actually get some work done??”
When considered in the context of networking at SXSW, Elizabeth Quintanilla shared some sage advice at a recent Ticketbud SXSW Happy Hour. The founder and Chief Marketing Gunslinger of EQ Consultants Group, pointed out that one should “never underestimate the value of just hanging out in the halls.” While the Austin Convention Center hosts a few tables throughout the front halls, and she’s right, your best venue to catch a friend or run into someone you’ve been hoping to meet is at the convention center, if your goal is a bit of work, you’ll be hard pressed to find the right spot with the thousands of people in town for the show. You’ll be harder pressed to find the right place for a meeting. So let’s take a walk.
Meeting or Working within a Walk from SXSW
Coffee Shops and Cafes
Let’s start with the coffee shops and cafes as they present the easiest opportunity to find a spot for a quick meeting or hour of work. If you’re willing to bet you can find a table, near the Austin Convention Center are Caffe Medici, HideOut Coffee, Progress Coffee, Vintage Heart Coffee, Cenote, Halcyon is perhaps better for a glass of wine than coffee, Starbucks (considered the downtown Starbucks as there are two on Congress Ave.), or the N. Congress Starbucks, and Austin Java at City Hall.
Of course, you’ll find more than that within hotels or hidden in small restaurants; and with a few more blocks walk from the convention center, you’ll find a dozen more. But the walk will start to wear on you and I’m going to hedge my bets that you’ll be on your feet more than enough throughout the conference. Stay close and press your luck with these popular spots.
Coworking and Meeting Spaces
With the Global Coworking Conference & Unconference in Austin only days before SXSW, the work spaces should really be first on our list. GCUC has chosen Austin as it’s home for the last few years as the community is arguably host to the most shared work spaces per capita. The challenge during SXSW, of course, is that these places are likely to be packed with events, meetups, and Austin’s own community of entrepreneurs spending time within and away from the fray.
GoLab, the most conveniently located coworking space, relative to the convention center, is worth a look, if you can get in. At the 2013 conference, on Saturday, March 9th GoLab is home to South by GoLab (SXGoLab) and The Identity Biegarten. Throughout the day, media representatives from major media outlets and prominent tech bloggers will be spending time with SXGoLab giving you the opportunity to meet and mingle with bootstrapping entrepreneurs, creative and design professionals, and forward-thinking software developers, as well as representatives from local and national media outlets. That evening, from 5-8:30pm, GoLab will feature live music by Ryan DeSiato, fine art from Tina Schweiger, and Cartoonist Benjamin Frisch, as well as some freshly baked pretzels and a few beer kegs from Austin’s best breweries. Learn more and get your ticket here.
Of course, little happens in downtown Austin’s tech community that doesn’t go through Capital Factory, the gorgeous space on the 16th floor of the Omni Hotel caters to internet, software, and tech entrepreneurs looking for the support and experience that will lead them to an incredible start in Austin. Josh Baer’s early stage innovators are hosting a VIP lounge for entrepreneurs as the space is largely closed for members and events. If you’d like to inquire about access to the VIP lounge, let us know.
Hotels Where You Can Meet or Work
There are 3 hotels that really warrant your attention during SXSW. It should go without saying, of course, that there are far more than three hotels hosting meetups and events throughout the week, but in the context of getting some work, or networking, done, the first three to consider are the Hilton, effectively the second home to SXSW, The Driskell Hotel on 6th, where those who can stand the endless social scene consider The Driskell Bar the hottest after party in town, and the Four Seasons, where you might find a little peace and quiet – and certainly an incredible breakfast or lunch on Austin’s Town Lake.
Beyond that triangle, the Hyatt Regency is nearby, the Radisson Hotel gets you closest to the bats (when they’re in town), the Courtyard Austin is your second hotel close to the show, Stephen F Austin adds to The Driskell’s taste of local history, and the Omni tends to have room to breathe.
Wherever you find yourself, if you’re lucky to find yourself with a table or desk with a free chair, your friends might consider you a saint if you give them a heads up before you move on. Space to meet or work during SXSW is not impossible to come by, but it’s certainly a challenge. At the end of the day, Elizabeth’s advice may indeed be the best in town, “never underestimate the value of just hanging out in the halls.”