I have been going to SXSW Interactive for the last 5 years. It continues to be a great resource for people like me who don’t live in San Francisco or Austin for tech. Every year I have felt welcomed by one area in the convention center. The TechSet Social Media Lounge. This year, it was nothing but awesome!
Nestled on 4th floor, the TechSet Social Media Lounge has everything I need to keep sane during the week. This year, Comcast sponsored the lounge to a large group of weary social media people and artists that don’t have access to press lounges like I do. In fact, I choose this lounge over the press one because of what TechSet and Comcast have to offer.
Run by Stephanie Agresta and Brian Solis, this media lounge had everything you would need to refresh, recharge, and go. Heck, there were times you didn’t even want to leave because the content was so good. It was like SXSW was coming straight to the room at times.
This year we got to see many different greats during the Interactive run (March 11-15). MIT Media Lab’s John Werner, Sprinklr Founder & CEO Ragy Thomas, Girls Lounge founder Shelley Zalis, and even Atari founder Nolan Bushnell himself! Add to that comedians, musicians and celebrities outside the tech world.
With plenty of seating, good food, drinks, a barista, and much more, you could come in, recharge your phones and cameras, pull out laptops and tablets, and get work done quick. Heck, even when President Barak Obama spoke on Friday, the room was packed. Some were even communicating as if they were inside the Palmer Center.
There was some cool swag as well. If you have Comcast XFINITY X1, you could get a free voice remote for your system. If you lived outside the Comcast area you could pick up a USB charger at 2300 mAh. There were also books available including Brian Solis “X: The Experience When Business Meets Design”, B. Bonin Bough “TXT ME (646)759-1837”, and many others.
— Lisbeth Chawes (@LisbethChawes) March 12, 2016
The best part of the lounge is the familiar faces you see from year to year. Wesley Faulkner, Calvin Lee, Ewan Spence, Guy Kawasaki, Robert Scoble, Ken Yeung, Laura Pevehouse Thomas, Lori Randall, Glen Bricker, Sweet John, Elizabeth Quintanilla… The list goes on and on and I know I missed someone in this recollection.
There were other lounges around SXSW, but I was finding they weren’t always available as in years past. One hosted events which you had to stand in line for hours just to get into. Another had private events throughout the week so the hours were really spotty. Many of them didn’t have tables to sit at or places to charge devices and write a quick post. But the centrally located TechSet lounge was easily accessible, warm and friendly. There were no security guards keeping me out of that area…
Here is the slightly sad part: The lounge closes at the end of Interactive (Tuesday). I got to stay longer this year to cover some of the music. While I still had the press room for work, it wasn’t as interactive (pun intended) as the TechSet lounge was. You had to be quiet and the charging plugs were few and far between.
— Comcast (@comcast) March 16, 2016
Keep in mind: a soda or coffee out on the main convention floor is $5 and lunch is $20-$30 a pop. I go to SXSW to work and get contacts. Since I don’t have any big money supporting my travel, I have to watch my finances. I am guessing this lounge saved me $100-$150 or more in my expenses. Additionally, this room gave me more content opportunities to make this the most valuable spot around SXSWi.
I talked with Stephanie Agresta toward the end of the event. She was really happy to see the turnout it produced and has bigger plans for next year. While no contracts have been signed, the group does plan to continue this tradition as a safe haven for weary travelers. I know I am glad it’s here…