Recently I decided I wanted to learn more and get out the office, so I thought I’d go to a conference. I was not lucky enough to get the company I was working with to pay, so price was a big factor – individuals rarely have conference budgets (at least I do not know any that do). A negative factor is that conference companies charge the same rate to companies as they do to individuals.
The first conference I went to was a 2 day Online Retailing Conference in Cape Town (run by Trade Conferences International). Asking price was about R7000.
The second conference I went to was SxSW Interactive in Austin, Texas. The asking price was $795, or about R7900 at today’s very bad rate.
In terms of price, SxSW was R900 more for 3 or 4 additional days, but if I had booked earlier I could have saved $100 making it cheaper.
In terms of speakers, content and experience you can not compare TCI’s Online Retail Conference to SxSW Interactive. It’s chalk and cheese. A 2 day conference with a one-speaker-at-a-time format compared to a 5 or 6 day conference with world class speakers, workshops, more talks than you can physically attend, parties and personal access to the biggest digital brands in the world.
If you want your staff to have a world class learning experience, come back inspired and up to date – send them to SxSW and not a R7000 local conference.
In my mind, apart from the additional time, flights and accommodation (which you’d pay anyway if you went to a local conference in a different city) the question should be why are you NOT sending your staff to SxSW Interactive?
Here are my tips for South African companies thinking about sending their staff to SxSW.
- Think about what your company going to get out of SxSW, given the cost and value of the local conferences available. (A lot if you are already sending staff to conferences)
- You can’t do back to back sessions. Sometimes you need to queue for an hour to get into a talk.
- You can’t do all the sessions. There are multiple talks all happening at the same time.
- You will be upset that you will miss a great talk in order to see another great talk.
- Give staff two separate half days to do their schedule and check what they want to see is inline with your business.
- Don’t wait to organise your schedule.
- Sign up staff as early as possible so they can do a workshop. (And make sure they RSVP through the website otherwise you can’t go)
- The time zone thing sucks. Give your 2 days off. It’s a full time gig, despite being away from work they will need leave afterwards to avoid exhaustion.
- Get your staff to make a presentation to stakeholders in the company with key points you wanted covered on their return.
- Send the person that never misses a day of work, sending someone who is sick would be terrible – you can’t change the name on the ticket.
- Send someone who doesn’t loose stuff- you can’t replace the ticket.
- Send staff with a smartphone with Google maps – it’s a life and time saver for getting around.
- Consider sending someone who has a similar looking person in the office – you can’t change the name on the ticket, but if worst comes to worst, passport photos are old and the young volunteer who signs you in probably won’t notice the difference.
- Rent a bike.
- Do use the Schedule Tool on the SxSW website.
- This one is bad, but do RSVP for every single event on EventbBrite (and similar) which allow you to do so for free. You’ll get in free and get 2 drinks coupons.
And my more personal tips are:
- Prices during SXSW are more expensive than normal, but you can still still find deals.
- If you are single then try and stay for the Music and Film part of SxSW.
- ATM withdrawals are $3-$10 per withdrawal.
- Do a workshop.
- Take a Pedicab.
- Austin is an amazing city.
- If you are a self respecting digital professional, you have to go to SxSW.
More of a ramble than a structured blog post, but that’s my 2c on the whole thing.