Your Anti- SXSW Weekend Guide


Rick Liebling

March 12, 2015 6 min read

Updated on May 2, 2017

Not going to SxSW this year? Good for you. The annual event has turned into an over-indulgent slog of bacchanalian debauchery, a veritable technological den of iniquity, that no right-minded marketer would bother with anymore (full disclosure – I can’t wait; I’m probably mid-flight to Austin as you read this).

But just because you won’t be rubbing elbows with the cognoscenti in Austin doesn’t mean you can’t get some real value out of this weekend. In fact, if you play your cards right, you can probably generate a better ROI on your time than most of the folks who’ll be in Texas. So today, for you dear non-SxSW attendee, we present the Anti-SxSW Weekend Guide.

Here’s how the savvy, modern marketer can fill the next couple of days while her friends and colleagues are otherwise occupied eating BBQ, listening to bands, etc.


Saturday Morning: Read these

While the SxSW crew groggily stumbles about looking for a hang-over cure, you can start the day with these insightful pieces:

Saturday Afternoon: Sign up for a Coursera Course

I’ve taken several online MOOCs via Coursera and in general I’ve been impressed. Their course catalog continues to expand, so there’s something for just about anybody. Here’s a couple I recommend:

  • Marketing in a Digital World – Starting April 1, this course from University of Illinois will examine how digital tools, such as the Internet, smartphones, and 3D printing, are revolutionizing the world of marketing by shifting the balance of power from firms to consumers.”

  • Digital Analytics for Marketing Professionals – Starting May 1, University of Illinois has this course which promises an intro to the theory and strategy behind marketing analytics that provides marketers with the foundation needed to apply data analytics to real-world challenges they confront daily in their professional lives.”

  • Design Thinking for Business Innovation – This course from the University of Virginia has already started, but you can catch up. The Design Thinking movement has been gaining momentum for a while now, so get “an overview of the Design Thinking process and tools used for business innovation.”   

Saturday Night: Movie Night!

[This is what you’ve been telling yourself when someone tweets that they’re going to be at SxSW]

Fire up some microwave popcorn (Pro Tip: add a dash of Cholula Chipotle hot sauce on top for a spicy kick!) and check out one of these essential films:

  • Will Success Spoil Rock Hunter? (1957) – TV ad writer Rockwell Hunter (Tony Randall) finds the perfect model (Jayne Mansfield) for his new campaign but must feign a romance with her to make her boyfriend jealous.

  • Lost In America (1985) – Albert Brooks co-wrote, directed and starred in this razor-sharp comedy about the perils of quitting your day job in advertising for life on the open road.

Check out Adweek’s Entire list of Top 25 Best Advertising Movies. Or, why not just binge watch last year’s first half of Mad Men’s last season (!?), before the second half of the last season kicks off on April 5th

Sunday Morning: Build your marketing stack

Because you were smart enough to stop after your first adult beverage last night, you’re clear-headed and ready to go this morning. Time to get serious and think about your marketing stack. Today’s CMO is evolving into a CMTO (Chief Marketing Technology Officer) and having the right tools and platforms for your team is critical. But it’s no easy task, here are some essential reads before you start:

My intention with this graphic is to visually demonstrate four points:

  1. Marketing has unquestionably become a technology-powered discipline.

  2. The quantity of martech ventures is a barometer of how much marketing is evolving.

  3. The marketing technology field is heterogenous, with a very broad range of products.

  4. To thrive in this environment, marketing should steadily develop its technical talent.

In Say Hello to the Content Marketing Stack Altimeter Group analyst Rebecca Lieb provides an overview of what marketers need to be moving towards in this era of content marketing.  

Sunday Afternoon: Learn to Build Something


Ever checked out Stack Social? It’s pretty amazing. You can find top quality programs that will teach you the basics of coding, design and other useful things at massively discounted costs. Some are even ‘pay what you want.’ Here’s a couple of examples:

  • UI/UX Designer Bundle – $34 (Regular Price $692) Six courses in this bundle to help you understand the essential of User Interface and User Experience design. All for the price of lunch in Manhattan.

  • Learn iPhone App Interface Design from Scratch Course

  • User Experience by The Numbers

  • Optimize Your Digital Products with User Testing

  • Put Your Customers First: Be A UX Champion Course

  • Build Habit-Forming Products Course

  • User Experience Design Fundamentals Course

  • Learn to Code Bundle – Pay What You Want (Pay avg. price [$15.05] to unlock all 8 courses). This incredible offer get you all the basics for Java, HTML & CSS, Python and more. Pretty amazing.

    • The Ultimate Java Tutorial Course

    • PSD to HTML5/CSS3: Hand-Code a Beautiful Website in 4-Hour

    • Become a Web Developer from Scratch! (Complete Course)

    • Responsive Web Design Course

    • Build a Website from Scratch with HTML & CSS

    • Dynamic Website Design: PHP, MySQL & JavaScript Course

    • IOS & Mac OS X Programming Tutorial: Objective C & Xcode

    • Web Programming with Python Course

Sunday Evening: TED Talks


It’s Sunday evening and harsh reality begins to set in: You’ll be going in to the office tomorrow. Well, if that’s the case, at least you can do so with inspiration in your heart!  Watch these TED Talks and walk into that Monday Morning Status Meeting with the type of fresh ideas that would really impress the boss if she were there (She’s not. She’s in Austin.).  I suggest the following:

  • What Physics Taught me About MarketingPhysics and marketing don’t seem to have much in common, but Dan Cobley is passionate about both. He brings these unlikely bedfellows together using Newton’s second law, Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle, the scientific method and the second law of thermodynamics to explain the fundamental theories of branding.

  • Life Lessons From an Ad ManAdvertising adds value to a product by changing our perception, rather than the product itself. Rory Sutherland makes the daring assertion that a change in perceived value can be just as satisfying as what we consider “real” value — and his conclusion has interesting consequences for how we look at life.

  • The Rise of Human-Computer CooperationBrute computing force alone can’t solve the world’s problems. Data mining innovator Shyam Sankar explains why solving big problems (like catching terrorists or identifying huge hidden trends) is not a question of finding the right algorithm, but rather the right symbiotic relationship between computation and human creativity.


So, while your colleagues and friends return from SxSW with fuzzy memories, higher cholesterol levels and cheap t-shirts (they should have gotten one of these from us instead), you’ll be armed with enough information to get ahead.

Enjoy the weekend!

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