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For the past 2 years, I’ve attended Microsoft’s MIX conference and SXSWi. This year is no different, except for the fact that they are back to back. I’ve found that conferences can either be a great opportunity to learn and network or a massive expense with minimal benefit. To help out those that are going to either of these events for the first time, I thought it would be a good idea to give some recommendations on how to get the most out of them.


Of the 2 events, MIX is more like a typical conference. The main focus is the sessions and keynotes and everything is Microsoft centric. One thing to keep in mind about MIX is that most of the content gets posted online, so my recommendation would be to attend topics with interesting speakers. Many of the Building Apps with Silverlight and Adding [insert MS Live Service] into your site are good, but can easily be followed up with online. Many of the MIX UX speakers, such as Lou Carbonne, are very inspiring to listen to and would likely have more impact live than through a web page.

Posting the sessions online also makes it OK to skip a few of them. This is great because Microsoft provides some nice areas to relax and talk with other attendees. Meeting new people and finding new connections is one of the most beneficial parts of any conference, so make time to check out the Sandbox and other discussion areas.


South by Southwest Interactive is the complete opposite of MIX. At SXSW, the events that go on around the conference are as fun (and important) as the sessions and content. It’s tough to recommend any specific sessions, because there are so many, so I’ll focus more on some of the other aspects of SXSWi.

Speaking at SXSW

While the sessions are already scheduled, there are plenty of opportunities to have your voice heard at SXSW. As always, BarCampAustin is coinciding with SXSW just down the street, which is a great place to network and is open for anybody to present. At SXSW, there are 2 opportunities to speak. The Core Conversations are discussion groups led by some of the panel speakers and OpenFormat is an un-conference inside of SXSW; both will provide a way for you to share your ideas and innovations.

Satellite Events

Almost every major web company sponsors some party or event at SXSW, here are a few of my recommendations:

This post is getting long…

Hopefully that’s enough to get you started with either event. If anybody is interested in getting together at SXSW, post a comment here. I would be happy to organize a friends of Sitepoint dinner/lunch if there are a few of us going.

Ian MuirIan Muir
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