Last year a group of data center guys and I went to SXSW for the first time. CNET News has a post on their recommendation which I'll highlight and then give you a different way.
How to win at SXSW -- and live to brag about it
We did things a different way, and had a blast going to great parties, meeting great people, seeing some good bands. Oh yeh, and had some great data center discussions.
First we rented a house 3 miles out of town. We didn't register for the conference. We contacted people and said hey were in town for SXSW want to come over to our house to chat. People came over, relaxed in the backyard. They told us parties we should go to and they'll get us in. Invited a few other people who had been at the conference, let them give us an update of what was interesting. Heard about more parties. Went out for the evening. Stayed out late. Slept in, then did the same thing the next day.
Didn't wait in lines. Which means we missed talking to random people standing in line. That was kind of fine for us given we had very low expectations of running into data center people randomly.
How does this work? You have to have the right people in the house that people want to come over and chat with. Oh yeh, and two of the guys were Texan natives who now live on the coasts which means they know a lot of people in Texas that helped the networking.
We wanted to go again this year, but we're all too busy now. People were disappointed we weren't going back this year. We'll try to go next year.