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Guide to the Hotel Lobby Scene at SXSW

March 17, 2010 at 2:15 PM | by | ()

Holy growth spurt. HotelChatter had not graced the halls of the Austin Convention Center for SXSWi in six years, but when the opportunity knocked to head to Austin for 36 hours of south by madness we jumped on a plane, and my has the interactive portion grown. No longer confined to the closets of the convention center the 2010 gathering was spread out over three hotels and the convention center. Of course, this made for a crazy hotel scene, the bell of the ball, Foursquare, even offered a "hookup" badge if you hit enough hotels late at night.

As far as price, let's get this out of the way up front, any hotel on this list is going to cost you 2 or 3 times the usual rate if you try to book during SXSW.

Here is our guide to the who and what of this years SXSW Austin hotel lobby scene. Who we spotted where, and what lobbies registered the highest signal to noise ratio. Oh, and don't think just because SXSWi is over you can't use this for the Music and Film portion of the festival, which starts today.

Hilton Austin Where To See & Be Seen
Still the epicenter of SXSWi. The lobby is crazy, the bar is a madhouse, and the upper levels are constantly screeching with the sound of lapel mikes not playing nice with mobile devices. Wifi is not an issue, plenty of signals, including the official conference free one. Outlets are not abundant, but you can usually find some floor space and an outlet to plug into, especially if you head up the escalators towards the panel rooms.

The bar here is constantly filled with people meeting and greeting, don't go in if you don't want to network. Oh, and don't think you get a reprieve if you step outside the bar and lobby to the park across the street. Sobe and other sponsors made sure you their tents constantly bombarded you with messaging.

Spotted @ijustine, @aplusk, @pud

Hotel San Jose / Hotel St. Cecilia Where to chill
We combine these two because not only do they have the same owner, but they are also both over the bridge on South Congress Street and share the same hotelier. Both hotels are a 15-20 minute walk from the action of SXSW and that can be a good thing. Schmoozing is exhausting and these two hotels provide a respite from the tech talk in distance as well as mood.

Both hotels provide mostly outdoor lobby areas, St. Cecilia's on beautiful grounds and San Jose on a stucco style porch. There is an absolutely chill vibe at these places that you will not find anywhere across the Colorado at the convention hub hotels. While these hotels are well known by the music and film crews, the web folks still aren't quite as likely to be found out here, but if you do make it out here you will find those with an appreciation for hotel design as well as those who are looking for a bit of a break from the action.

Spotted @anamariecox, @hotelchatter, @luckymag, @newyorkerdotcom, @punkave

Residence InnCourtyard By Marriott Where to refuel your digital brain
These two hotels are connected and are a nice shortcut to cut through on your way between panels and the Hilton. There is also plenty of seating in both lobbies and a nice abundance of outlets so recharging your phone, laptop, and other devices is easy. Oh, and if you need to recharge the device in your skull, there is a Starbucks in here where the line moves swiftly enough for you to grab a latte before hitting the power up phase of your break.

Spotted NY Times legend @carr2N in line for a much needed mid afternoon jolt of caffeine after @ev's keynote.

Four Seasons Where to Pitch and Be Pitched
Want to pitch Mashable, TechCrunch on your new business? Then grab a table at the Four Seasons lobby. Looking to pitch VCs or ad agencies? You could try to corner them as they come out of the elevator as this is where the ad power brokers and venture elite tend to stay.

However, don't expect free wifi to be your pitch savior here. $11.99 for WiFi and 3G really seemed to be lagging in the lobby. We saw a couple tech folks resorting to pen and paper to get their point across to their respective pitchees.

Spotted A gaggle of media planners, ad agency founders and tech blog journalists.

Radisson Austin Where The Code Monkeys Are
This large lobbied Radisson is a couple blocks from the Austin Convention Center and most of the action, but close enough that the every expanding SXSWi decided to put some of the outlying sessions here. Think: HTML5, Hackathons, and sessions like "How We Built The SXSW Mobile App".

The lobby, while lacking in power outlets does have a strong free wifi signal and a Starbucks on site. This is a great place to start your day, as the lines and crowds here are smaller than the hotel lobbies closer to the ACC.

Spotted Hardcore geeks and we mean that in the most endearing way possible -- these folks are super smart world changers.

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