For me, this year seems to be a transitional year for SXSW® Interactive Festival. Last year, I visited and saw that SXSW 2012 had reached a sort of stasis (the four days of rain really didn't help). Still, through the noise, there were a couple of really good SXSW brand activations that turned out to be enhancive to the overall experience.

Rising costs in conference-related expenses, travel, availability of accommodations (I had to book my downtown hotel last October) and its tendency to overwhelm, have caused a lot of people to skip this year in favor of SXSW's new V2V conference, which makes its debut later this year.

But much like every conference, the value of benefit in SXSW is what you make of it and I look at this year as an opportunity for new folks to make an impact – both on stage and off. (First timers – check out a great guide here.)

I'll be heading to the festival for the third time this year, and I'm looking forward to seeing what stands out, both in terms of key speakers and products, but also in brand activations. I will be livetweeting panels from my personal Twitter account and also @aoladvertising for up-to-the-minute highlights, so stay tuned for the latest starting Friday morning. AOL and our brands will also be offering up some great events and speakers to make your SXSW experience that much more fulfilling, and I've included those here as well.

Here's a look at what I recommend (interactive badge required unless otherwise noted.)


Pick a date: March 8th | March 9th | March 10th | March 11th

Friday, March 8th


Saturday, March 9th


Sunday, March 10th

  • 10:00am at Icenhauer's (83 Rainey Street, map) ALTO Brunch - Start your day off right with a stop at our Bloody Mary bar where you can checkout AOL's latest email product, Alto. (No badge required; RSVP here)
  • 11:00am at Cheers Shot Bar (416 East 6th Street, map) – Visit the Starterhouse Hosted by Mapquest - Stop by for product demos, live music, networking and good grub and more, open until 7pm. (No badge required; RSVP here)
  • 11:00am at the Hilton Austin - Airbnb's Brian Chesky Talks with Fortune - Airbnb's CEO Brian Chesky talks with Fortune Magazine Jessi Hempel about the past, present and future of his brand
  • 11:00am at Intercontinental Stephen F. Austin – TechCrunch's John Biggs joins folks from Givit, WeVideo and Magisto, as they talk about The Social Video Race
  • 11:00am at the Hyatt Regency Austin- Is Women's Media Too Girly? Jezebel's founder Anna Holmes, Deborah Schoeneman, Margaret Johnson and Rebecca Fernandez talk how media (websites, TV, books) created by women is often accused of being too girly
  • 11:00am at Courtyard by Marriott – HuffPost's Lisa Belkin and PBS's Sara DeWitt discuss How to Keep Working Parents In & Innovating
  • 3:30pm at the Hyatt Regency Austin - Toddlers & Technology - Huffington Post Executive Lifestyle Editor Lori Leibovich anchors a panel discussing the link between today's toddlers and the technology they have access to
  • 3:30pm at the AT&T Conference Center - The Community Manager: Enter the C-Suite - HuffPost Live Community Manager Tim McDonald joins other leading community managers in this workshop designed to help you learn about Community Management today)
  • 5:00pm at the Omni Downtown – NASA UX designers share what UX design in space is like with @NASA: The User Experience of a Space Station
  • 5:00pm at Long Center - Style Goes Viral: The Future of Fashion explores the future of fashion and social media and features Anne Fulenwider, Editor in Chief of Marie Claire, Nina Garcia, Creative Director at Marie Claire and Randi Zuckerberg
  • 5:00PM at the Sheraton Austin – Join leaders from Simply Measured and Klout as they discuss Social Media Was Fun. Has Measurement Killed It?

Monday, March 11th


I'm excited to help bring SXSW to you – so stay tuned! And if you're heading down and would like to meet up, just send me a tweet at @matthewknell.