Tips and Tricks: Volunteering for SXSW

It’s the start to a new year which means the anticipation for SXSW begins. I am going to write about how to survive volunteering for the best festival in the world.

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SXSW, for all those who do not know, stands for South by Southwest. It is the biggest film, music and interactive festival in the world. With their world-wide movie premieres, intimate chart topping performances, and launches of the best apps yet to hit market (Hello Twitter launched there) it appeals to a mass amount of people.  It is hosted in the lovely Austin, TX and happens every year in March.

The best way to jump into this festival, when you are on a budget, is volunteering. Every festival, for the most part, gives the opportunity for people to volunteer which then gives you the chance to experience the festival in the best way.


When some friends asked me if I wanted to volunteer in Austin 5 years ago, I jumped on it. I had no idea that by saying yes and investing those 4 days in 2011, that my life would change forever.

I became obsessed with SXSW and the head members of my volunteer team noticed. After 2 years with the festival I got the chance to be a Crew Chief. A Crew Chief in SXSW terms means that you are essentially one step below staff. You are still a volunteer but in charge of an entire crew of people. It’s a great way to be 100% involved with the festival from beginning to end. I feel very privileged that I have been asked back each year, it’s my favorite thing to do!

So now as a pro of the festival I am here to offer some tips and tricks. So AA-ers get out your pens and paper, or the notepad app on your phone — let’s get going:

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First and foremost VOLUNTEER!

If you want to really experience the festival (and without spending money your first year) I highly recommend volunteering! I have volunteered for many festivals over the years and hands down SXSW takes the best care of their volunteers, and I mean REALLY takes care of them.

Meals, badges, energy drinks, and SWAG! The swag is just amazing. Plus the SXSW Volunteer Coordinators and staff are the best of the best. From start to finish they make being a volunteer not really feel like volunteering. Which is really amazing.

So Volunteer Calls are this weekend:

Here’s the link go register:

The biggest perk of being a volunteer is getting your badge. There are different types:

  • Interactive Badge
  • Film Badge
  • Music Badge
  • Gold Badge
  • Platinum Badge

Depending on how many hours or shifts you work gets you one of these badges. What you invest into the festival comes right back to ya in the form of a really awesome perk. Badges (depending on which one you get) can get you into conferences, films, shows, events and SO MUCH MORE!

So now go and register for the best crew in the world: ARTIST PARKING OPS! We are in charge of all Artist Parking during the entire festival. We talk with bands, and people on the street constantly. It’s a really fun and easy way to get your badge and live the festival the best way, on the street! (Shameless plug for my team, but you get to hang with the coolest people and you need to come. Just come.You know you want to. Plus you get to hang with the Awkward Adult trio. COME ON!)


SECOND: RSVP for all the parties. Every. Single. One.

You need to RSVP for all the parties that are going on throughout the city during SXSW. I made the rookie mistake one of the first years I went by not doing this.

So I advise you go to RSVPster or Eventbrite look up all the parties and RSVP for everything! Most parties have free drinks or food, special performances, and the chance to experience something up and coming! Some party sponsors in the past include: Tumblr, Yahoo!, Samsung and the city of Vegas. GUYZ. The city of Vegas sponsored a bar at a party last year, if that doesn’t reel you in, what could?!

Third: Plan Ahead.

Look up the bands, movies, conferences, panels before you go. Listen, learn, and love them so you can see it all in the most intimate setting with other music/film/interactive lovers.

SXSW has an amazing app that helps with all your planning needs!

Download the app here:

What I love is that it helps you build your schedule for the entire festival. Just click the star and it adds it to your schedule. It helps with prioritizing what you want to see and when you want to see it.

I suggest making this schedule weeks before coming out there so you know where venues are, how long it will take you to get to each show, etc. I have become a victim to running from one side of downtown to the other to see Hanson in years past, and let me tell you, it was rough. Don’t make the same mistake!

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Fourth: Dress Accordingly.

Okay all you festival fashionistas, let me enlighten you on something. Even though this festival is in March, in Texas, 99% of the time it will be raining. Or freezing. Or blazing hot. Or windy. Every possible weather condition you could think of, happens over the course of the 9 days. So dress to accommodate the weather, not to impress. Or if you still have the urge to impress the hundreds of thousands of people in the city, be smart.

I promise you will regret wearing sandals in the rain or pants in 90 degree weather.

Personal opinion, of course.

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Fifth: See anything and everything.

Walking down the street if you hear a band playing in a bar, go inside. If you see that there is a comedy show playing at Esther’s Follies, stand in line. Paramount is playing an Indie Film with not as well known actors? Go see it. EXPERIENCE IT ALL!  I would have never seen Ellie Goulding do an acoustic show or appreciated Joseph Gordon-Levitts awesome-ness if I didn’t just go. Soak in all that you can. You never know who you are going to see, or what you can be apart of. Don’t sit back and watch everyone else.

That was just a little snippet of the Top 5 tips when it comes to SXSW. There are a million more that I could list but I felt this would do.

Now go on and head down to the Austin Convention Center tomorrow if you live in Austin, or if you don’t live in Austin, reach out and you can still help out! SXSW would love to have you.

So go forth and conquer SXSW 2016 my lovely AA-ers, you won’t regret it!



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