Interesting you say that, Mike. I actually asked on another thread how one could justfiy SXSWi to the bosses. Is there any connection to Higher Ed that I can sell?
I'm definitely on to #heweb11, though, if I can't do SXSW. Austin's my hometown, too. (As in, I grew up there... now I'm braving the winter in Chicago... sigh.)
One connection would be the insight and strategic value you gain for your department or organization. Learning about what's going on with current web trends from some of the smartest and brightest people in the industry. Have a look at the panel discussions. Lots of relevant topics on social media, mobile, web design and development, the list goes on...
I've attended both SXSWi (5+ years) and HighEdWeb (1 year), and I'd say that if your goal is networking with peers and picking up some solid usable info, HighEdWeb.
If your goal is to be where what's happening next is being born as well as hear from heavy industry movers and shakers, SXSWi.
A word of warning - this is a huge conference. Huge. You will walk your feet dead just going from venue to venue IN the conference hall. It will be crammed with people. Every year the conference fixes what was seriously broken last year - I'm expecting more places to power up this year.
In years past we would session surf - if one was not as advertised or they'd presented their 15 mins of solid info, we'd move on. Not possible last year. Some hot sessions filled up 1/2 hour before the start.
Not sure how they'll fix that one this year, but I can let you know along about March 14...