At South by Southwest Interactive, having an event badge is a right of passage. But for some, itâ€™s just an unnecessary accessory that isÂ costly.
The tech world descends on Austin for five days during the interactive portion of the festival, which started Friday. And for some San Antonians, the trek up Interstate 35 is worth the trip, but the more than $700 needed to register is steep. Still, they donâ€™t let that stop them. Many are able to party-hop, network and grab loads of free handouts without having to put a dent into theirÂ wallets.
Jennifer Navarrete, the chapter founder of the San Antonio Social Media Club, has attended the festival five times, sometimes with a pass and other times without. This year, Navarrete and her husband decided to forego the pricey badge. They were still able to meet people and attend events they had plannedÂ for.
â€œWhatever we wanted to get into we went to,â€ she said. â€œI ran into everyone I wanted to see, and the parties werenâ€™t hard to get into. Some of it is serendipity, but I connected with people I only get to see a few times aÂ year.â€
As a whole, SXSW draws about 200,000 registrants and panelists to the nine-day event. Itâ€™s hard to say how many people attend the event without a badge, but several companion events have emerged around the major ones, said Navarrete, who went to various parties and attended panels at the Capitol and at the Social Media Club house near the Austin ConventionÂ Center.
â€œIf you donâ€™t have the budget, you can still get a lot of value without a badge,â€ she added. â€œPersonally, I donâ€™t see anyÂ value.â€
For the past five years, San Antonio native Veronica Morales has attended the tech portion of SXSW and has never purchased a badge. The social media specialist, who is starting her own company called The Social Being, said thereâ€™s a lot of planning involved before she makes the trip to theÂ festival.
â€œI do my homework,â€ she said. â€œIt has a lot to do with your research beforehand. If you just show up, you wonâ€™t get a lot out of theÂ visit.â€
She utilizes sites such as Foursquare and Plancast to meet people and to find out what events are popular. Plus, she added, those that stay up with social media can direct people to free giveaways andÂ contests.
â€œI have two shopping bags full of things,â€ sheÂ said.
First timer Lisa Baehr said the cost was the main reason she didnâ€™t get a badge. The tech enthusiast wanted to be a part of the event to learn about new, emerging ideas. But, she added that because she didnâ€™t have a badge she didnâ€™t feel like she got to experienceÂ enough.
â€œI need to get a taste of it,â€ she said about the festival. â€œItâ€™s an energizing event with a lot of new ideas. Iâ€™m considering getting a badge next year because I think Iâ€™ll get more out of myÂ visit.â€
With a lanyard around his neck, Choco Valdez just fits in with the crowd of badge holders. The architecture student takes full advantage of all the free food and drinks that sponsors provide throughout the event. This year was the second year Valdez has attended the interactive portion without a badge. The planning process for him started about five months ago and even included him creating business cards that he could use to enter contests. So far, he won a pair of concert tickets, heÂ said.
He doesnâ€™t spend money on a hotel because he stays with family. And last year, the Northwest Vista College student said he took $100 with him to the festival and that he made it home spending about $40. This time around his goal is to cut his spending inÂ half.
â€œIâ€™m definitely getting my moneyâ€™s worth,â€ heÂ said.