Image showing a hand pointing at the SXSW Interactive logo

We’re so excited about this year’s lineup that we’ve already started making our picks for what we think will be the best of the best for marketing professionals and other executives who want to stay ahead of the pack.

Here we offer our top picks of interactive sessions at SXSW 2015 – those we found most valuable and informative for the digitally engaged enterprise.

FRIDAY, MARCH 13

How to Keep Ideas Alive After SXSW
11:30 a.m. – 1:30 p.m.
This session requires advance sign up
Whether you’ve attended SXSW before or this is your first time, get ready to be inspired by a wide range of panels and speakers. But how do you keep the inspiration and new ideas alive after the festival is over? Come to this panel and discover ways that you can share and strategically sell your ideas when you go back home.
Email workshops@sxsw.com if you want to be put on a notification list to register for this event.

#nofilter Pros and Cons of Constant Connection
12:30 p.m. – 1:30 p.m.
In a world increasingly overrun with digital media, discover the true cost of being connected to the online world 24/7. This panel will examine how technology is evolving human behavior in business, education, advertising, pop culture, etc. and how it is changing our ideas of privacy, entertainment and even our own sense of self.

New Social Networks Are Changing Entire Industries
12:30 p.m. – 1:30 p.m.
More than $1 billion has been invested in new social networks connecting buyers and sellers in ways far more direct than Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter. Are these the new face of social? Attend this session and find out.

Applied Improv: Change The Way You Look at Work
3:30 p.m. – 6:00 p.m.
This session requires advance sign up
At its deepest root improv is not just about being funny, but also learning how to work well with others. Fear of the unknown and awkward can cause inefficiencies in the work place. Attend this even and learn how to develop the skills necessary to become a great improviser and transform your workplace for the better. *Email workshops@sxsw.com if you want to be put on a notification list to register for this event.

Chart showing dramatic increase in interactive attendance of SXSW over time.

Don’t Hire Robots: The Human Touch in Social Media
5:00 p.m. – 6:00 p.m.
The world around us is becoming increasingly digital, making it all the more important for companies to be aware of the dangers of automation in its various forms. Attend this session to learn more about why the human element is an obvious necessity when it comes to social media.

SXSW Comedy
Schedule coming soon (March 14-17, March 18-21)
Relax and enjoy showcases, live recordings, improvisations, and late night parties with a diverse line up of rising and established stars. In the past SXSW has brought comedians like Arrested Development’s Jeffrey Tambor, Saturday Night Live’s Sasheer Zamata, and the Mindy Project’s Adam Pally to name a few.

SATURDAY, MARCH 14

Digital Shift: Tomorrow’s Relationships and Ideals
9:30 a.m. – 10:30 a.m.
The fast paced expansion of technological innovation has substantial effect on all of our lives. Attend this discussion and find out how our identities and relationships with others have transformed with the introduction of digital spaces such as chat rooms, blogs, and social media.

All Signs Point to Yes: Predictive is Here
11:00 a.m. – Noon
Stop relying solely on human intuition and start looking at the facts. Come to this panel to find out more about the foretelling features that predictive analytics has to offer and how some companies are using it today to make decisions about tomorrow.

Driving Results Through Culture
12:30 p.m. – 12:50 p.m.
Organization leaders typically spend the majority of their time managing products and services rather than they do managing their company culture. Attend this panel and discover how you can create a high performing culture aligned with your company values.

Consumer Data: The Good, the Bad, the Not-So-Ugly
5:00 p.m. – 6:00 p.m.
Buzz words like innovation and big data sound scary in a world with a constantly developing digital scape. Attend this panel and listen to CEO of TiVo Margret Schmidt discuss the importance of understanding and enriching the consumer experience through data.

SUNDAY, MARCH 15

Advocates vs. Agitators: The Social Influence
9:30 a.m. – 10:30 a.m.
It only takes one good or bad experience for a customer to turn into a viral nightmare or dream. Discover why people lose empathy and loyalty to a brand and why they choose to share their experiences -- both good and bad -- on social media.

Adapt or Die: Building a Brand in 2015 and Beyond
11:10 a.m. – 11:15 a.m. (could this be the quickest presentation ever, or is it a typo? At SXSW, you never know…)
We live in a world where quickly evolving tech companies are rapidly gaining market share once held by established brands. Discover what the changes are in evolving a brand today. This panel will walk you through the key things brands today must do to stay flexible, retain loyal customers, and remain relevant.

2015 SXSW Interactive Session Spotlight: Building a Culture of Learning
11:15 a.m. – 11:30 a.m.
Are you interested in sparking and supporting product innovation efforts in your company? This session will help to bring clarity to how to structure an organization to maximize the chances of success for both product development and innovation efforts.

Next Wave: Technology and the Way We Drink
11:00 a.m. – Noon
Calling all coffee lovers! Find out what the most important innovations in coffee brewing have been over the past three years and discover the future of home brewed coffee. This panel will walk you through the next wave of innovative coffee gear.

When Algorithms Attack
12:30 p.m. – 1:30 p.m.
Content recommendations and ad placement algorithms are guilty of making inappropriate associations. Join this discussion to find out the best way to deal with and respond to the risks associated with changing algorithms

Are You Smarter Than Your Brain?
3:30 p.m. – 4:30 p.m.
Do you ever wonder how your brain works? Join the host of National Geographic Channel’s Emmy-nominated series “Brain Games” Jason Silva and other special guests as they walk you through a panel filled with fun experiments, demos, and videos geared toward helping you understand the inner workings of your brain.

Rehearsing a Crisis Breaking on Social Media
3:30 p.m. – 6:00 p.m.
Find out what the current best practices are for managing a crisis break on social media. This is a fully interactive workshop that will take attendees through a social media simulator allowing them to manage a “live crisis” that has broken and spread.
This session requires advance sign up

MONDAY, MARCH 16

Crash Course: Measuring Digital Marketing
9:30 a.m. – 1:30 p.m.
Proving ROI and creating measurable business outcomes in today’s digital landscape can be challenging. This panel discusses ways to successfully demonstrate how your efforts are driving business results.

Beyond the Cloud: Big Data in the Off-Planet Era
11:00 a.m. – Noon
Although data is a gold mine for marketers, customers often feel like their digital privacy is being invaded. Join this panel and discover the potential benefits and threats that come with big data collection and its effects on personal freedoms.

Humanizing Digital
12:30 p.m. – 1:30 p.m.
It has become increasingly important to be able to successfully apply human characteristics and naturally engage with customers online. This panel will cover the challenges in humanizing the digital space and how to overcome them.

Content is King, But Expertise Rules
12:30 p.m. – 1:30 p.m.
Great content can grab your audience’s attention, but how do you keep them around for the rest of the conversation? Find out what it takes for brands to shape lasting relationships and become an authentic source for their target audiences.

IBM and Twitter – The Future of Digital Engagement
3:30 p.m. – 4:30 p.m.
To cut through the noise of competing messages in today’s world, brands need to provide meaningful, personalized experiences for their customers. This panel will discuss the transformation of social and digital engagement as it moves forward to deeper relationship building.

TUESDAY, MARCH 17

Lean Invention: Idea to Product Launch in 4 Hours!
9:30 a.m. – 1:30 p.m.
This session requires advance sign up
Have you ever come up with an idea that you wanted to crowdfund and develop? Come to this panel and find out how you can pursue your idea without quitting or taking away from your day job.
*Email workshops@sxsw.com if you want to be put on a notification list to register for this event.

Learn to Program: Your First Lines of Code
9:30 a.m. – 1:30 p.m.
This session requires advance sign up
Become more technically proficient and learn the basics of coding and software development. Come discover how programmers solve real world problems using code. *Email workshops@sxsw.com if you want to be put on a notification list to register for this event.

Better and Faster: Predict Opportunity & Win in 2015
11:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m.
Discover the secret to spotting overlooked trends faster than your competitors. This panel will introduce six patterns of opportunity that come up in the interactive space as well as a few neurological roadblocks that might be hindering you from realizing new opportunities.

Russell Brand’s Revolution Will Be Televised
12:30 p.m. – 1:30 p.m.
Russell Brand is setting out to disrupt the media business space. Join Digital Analyst Brian Solis and well-known actor and comedian Russell Brand himself, as they walk you through Brand’s new YouTube show Trews, his book titled Revolution and his plans to use them both to spark a revolution. This panel is open to all badges and is likely to fill up quickly so get there early!

Know Thyself: Introspective Personal Data Mining
12:30 p.m. – 1:30 p.m.
Wearable technology has changed the way we monitor our personal data. This panel, lead by statistician Talithia Williams, will help you understand the importance of recording simple data about our bodies every day.

Can Media Save Us From Disaster?
3:30 p.m. – 4:30 p.m.
Learn how to shape up your approach to disaster preparedness and rebuilding. Attend this panel and find out what role media plays in better preparing and training individuals to be focused ahead of emergency situations.

SXSW Survival Guide

Transportation Options

Capital Metro will be operating their MetroAirport bus service that travels along Congress Avenue and offers access to hotels in the downtown area.

Capital Metro will also be running their MetroRail Extended bus service schedule throughout the festival. Late night options such as the Night Owl and E-Bus will be running for those planning on staying out late.

South by Southwest Shuttle service is offered every year at a fixed cost for SXSW Registrants. Shuttles are scheduled to run early in the morning to late at night throughout the festival. If you’re staying at one of the 53 hotels listed on the Texas Management Systems shuttle route, the shuttle system might be for you!

Shuttle passes are available at the following rates:

  • Nine-day pass - $120
  • Five-day pass - $80
  • Single day pass - $20

Pedicabs are a very common sight in downtown Austin. During SXSW, they are most often used for shorter trips between venues. Most pedicabs in Austin operate on a pre-negotiated tip.

Uber or Lyft are transportation networks allowing users to request rides via apps on their smartphones. Download free of charge and request a ride without having to step foot outside your event.

Wear Comfortable Shoes

Regardless of the grand list of transportation options that Austin has to offer during SXSW be prepared to do a significant amount of walking. Sometimes it really is the best and easiest way to get to and from SXSW venues.

Know Where the Music Is

The SXSW Music Festival doesn’t begin until March 17, but this is Austin, the live music capital of the world, so you won’t be lacking in ear candy during the week prior. Check out The Austin Chronicle’s music listings for artists and venues that suit your interests.

Things to Do Around Austin

If you feel like getting out and doing a bit of exploring, here are some of our top picks for things to do around town that aren’t too far away from the SXSW action.

SXSW points of interest

  1. South Congress 
    Are you ready to immerse yourself in a culture that only Austin can offer? South Congress is the easiest way for any visitor to shop, eat, drink and dance like a local.  South Congress, or SoCo, is a neighborhood located exactly where the name suggestes – on and around South Congress Ave. Cross the river from downtown and you will find music venues, local shops, restaurants, and some of Austin’s most popular food trucks.
     
  2. Rainey Street District
    Looking for a charming lounge or a chic bar after a busy day of interactive events? Rainey Street is the place to go! The Rainey Street District in downtown Austin is a former residential road filled with historic homes, most of which have been repurposed into bars, cocktail lounges and restaurants. Local food trucks line the side of Rainey Street as well offering a taste of some of Austin’s most popular mobile food vendors.
     
  3. Franklin Barbecue
    Are you hungry for some authentic Texas style barbecue? Franklin Barbecue is a must stop destination for foodies everywhere. Keep in mind there is always a long line to get in, but don’t let that deter you from trying some of the best barbeque in Texas. If lines aren’t your thing, hire a local TaskRabbit to do the waiting for you!
     
  4. Juan in a Million
    Juan in a Million, on Austin’s East Cesar Chavez may not look like much, but don’t be deceived. This family owned taco joint has been around since 1980 and is famous for its “Don Juan” taco, which was featured on Travel Channel’s Man vs. Food (The taco? Huge. The recipe? Secret).
     
  5. Lady Bird Lake Hike and Bike Trail
    The weather in Austin is pretty amazing in March, excepting the occasional cold snap, so get outdoors and work off some of that barbecue, beer, tacos and margaritas you’ll surely be consuming. For land lovers, there are 10 miles of trails for running, walking and cycling. For water lovers, there’s paddle boarding, rowing, kayaking, canoeing, water biking and more. Get out there and get some sun!

PulsePoint Group intern K.C. Munoz contributed to this compilation.