In the last few days I’ve been seeing a lot of “BlogWorld or SXSW?” type Tweets. Most of them are from folks who can only afford to attend one conference this year and aren’t sure where their money is best spent. While both BlogWorld and South by Southwest are “must attends” for much of the social media world, the two conferences aren’t the same. Comparing is almost like comparing apples to oranges.
Two Different Conferences
To me, the biggest difference is that SXSW isn’t a social media conference. It’s an interactive conference (with a film and music conference also taking place at or around the same time.) To decided whether or not to choose one over another you’ll have to define your purpose for attending first. BlogWorld is more defined, it’s a blogging/social media/new media conference. It’s smaller and more intimate. SXSW is huge. This isn’t a bad thing, again, it depends on what you’re going for.
Each conference provides opportunities to meet and network with creative people. SXSW tends to have more parties and events happening, though there were more “official” BlogWorld events in 2009 than previous years. I’m not a party person. My preference is to enjoy dinner or drinks and conversation with both old and new friends. I don’t like shouting over a crowded room or watching others down too many complimentary drinks. So for me, the nightlife is all about the restaurants and the conversation. Both Las Vegas and Austin have the best of the best.
Sessions and Panels
Both events provide informative classes and discussions, my main reason for attending. If you come to learn, learn you will. Again, BlogWorld is more niche oriented while SXSW runs the gamut. Session titles at BlogWorld 2009 included:
- “Stimulating Brand Conversations with Women in the Social Mediasphere”
- “LinkedIn for Viral Campaigns”
- “Why Blogs are Your Number 1 Social Marketing Tool”
- “How Social Media is Changing the Definition of News”
- “How to Build a Large Loyal Audience with Podcasting.”
The BlogWorld panels more or less touched on blogging – including niches such as mommy blogging, real estate blogging, sports blogging and milblogging. Sessions also discussed community management, affiliate and relationship marketing, podcasting and business.
South by Southwest Interactive does include many social media type topics, but also, anything that appeals to geeks outside of the social media spectrum. Behold some “Southby” sessions for next week:
- “Cooking for Geeks: Science, Hacks and Good Food”
- “Dude, This is My Car!”
- “Web Fonts: The Time Has Come”
- “Are Content Farms Good or Evil”
- “Can You Copyright a Tweet?”
- “My Three Year Old is My Usibility Expert”
In addition to session and panels, South by Southwest also has “Core Conversations.” These aren’t sessions but instead interactive discussions revolving around a certain topic. I led a Core Conversation at last year’s SXSWi and it was an incredibly rewarding experience. I like that it enables the audience to be a part of the entire discussion rather than getting in a few questions at the end.
Something else to consider is that who gets to speak on panels is sort of like a popularity contest at SXSW. Potential speakers submit proposals but they’re put the vote. Though SXSW also has a committee to appoint speakers, if a potential speaker has a huge network to vote for him, he’s a shoo in. At BlogWorld, a committee looks over each panel and decides on which sessions will best serve the BlogWorld community.
Money, Lodging and etcs.
SXSW is a more expensive event for me mostly because the hotels cost more money, especially if you want to stay close to the convention center. The flights cost about the same and meals are about the same. However, the Las Vegas monorail is cheaper than taking cabs around Austin. For the most part, you’ll be able to stay in a hotel close to the Las Vegas Convention Center when you attend BlogWorld. Not so in Austin. Hotels fill up a year in advance and if you don’t book extremely early you may find yourself staying miles away and having to pay a $20 cab ride each way.
When you’re in Las Vegas for BlogWorld, you can take the monorail or a cab to get to the various parties, hotels and activities. Austin’s clubs, pubs and restaurants are usually within walking distance, though some are a brief cab ride away.
Edited to Add: Ooops thought of one more MAJOR difference. South by Southwest is much longer. While Blogworld can last two to three days, expect to spend at least five days in Austin if you which to attend as many sessions and events as possible.
BlogWorld or SXSW?
Again, you can’t compare. Both BlogWorld and SXSW are different events. I enjoy both events and take away something different from each. My preference (and not because I happen to blog here) is for BlogWorld for one reason – it’s more intimate. It’s big enough that it’s a “big event” but not so big you’re overwhelmed. I walk down the hall and know almost everyone I see, even if it’s on a “wave hi” basis. I’m not a party person and I’m not a crowd person. Though both SXSW and BlogWorld are my “never miss” events each year, if I had to choose one place to be it would be Vegas, baby.
How about you? What are some of the differences you see between BlogWorld and Southby …and do you have a preference?
Deb Ng is founder of the Freelance Writing Jobs blog network.