Written by Megan Fleming
SXSW Interactive is one heck of a ride… 5 days packed with amazing speakers, insightful panels, innovative people and ridiculous parties. This year was my first SXSW experience, and I spent the first 3 days completely overwhelmed and looking, I’m sure, like a deer caught in the headlights. When I had finally begun to work out a survival strategy for the conference, it was beginning to wind down! I know a survival guide would have helped me, so I thought I’d share what I learned with all of you future SXSW newbies. Here are my top 5 tips:
1. Plan ahead:
Save money by buying your pass and booking a hotel room early. As a last-minute attendee, I cannot stress this enough. Spend some time researching before you leave for Austin and bookmark the panels and keynotes you want to see. RSVP’ing for the parties you want to attend in advance will also cut down the time you spend waiting in lines and ensure you actually get in. And finally, pick up your badge the day before the conference starts – the picture below shows only a small portion of the 2 hour line many got stuck in on day one – it’s worth the extra trip!
2. Be selective and accept the fact that you won’t make it to every event:
It’s easy to feel overwhelmed by the sheer number of great panels and events going on, but try to get over that feeling as soon as possible. Curb your ‘missing out’ anxiety by accepting early on that it is humanly impossible to experience everything at SXSW. Do yourself a favor and pick out 2-5 events you want to attend each day and just enjoy them.
3. Don’t be shy:
Everyone is in the same boat. The majority of people at SXSW Interactive are there for work, and most of the time they’re wandering around Austin lost just like you. Don’t be afraid to sit down at a table of random people, say hi, start a conversation, and hand out those business cards. Take advantage of the designated hashtags at sessions and parties to jump into the online conversation too. The thousands of people who flock to SXSW Interactive are some of the most innovative and creative in the world. Get to know them!
4. Take care of yourself:
Don’t miss out by getting yourself sick. There is a smorgasbord of free food and drinks available everywhere at SXSW—enjoy it, but don’t skip out on sleep. Be sure to give your body time to rest and recover from all the late nights and over-indulgence. Drink water between all those free drinks, find some time to relax, and choose carrots over chips once in a while!
5. Get the Tools:
It’s time to pack. Don’t leave home without:
- Business cards – hand those suckers out!
- Phone charger – trust me, your phone/tablet is not ready for the amount of calling, texting, tweeting, emailing and Google mapping you’re going to put it through.
- The SXSW app – This handy app allows you to bookmark sessions and links directly to your social properties.
- Twitter – follow the #SXSWi hashtag and specific event hashtags to join online conversations and meet people who are in the same room.
- Pen and paper – yes, I’m totally serious. With so many people plugged into the wireless network, you’re not always guaranteed to have a fast/working connection. And remember what I said about batteries? It’s better to be safe than sorry.
- Comfy shoes – the amount of time you’re going to be on your feet is definitely worth an investment in some good shoes.
- A water bottle – Between the heat, the drinks, and all the caffeinated beverages you’ll be consuming, it’s important to keep drinking water.
I hope these tips help you out when you make the trip to your first SXSW. If you’ve been before, chime in and share your tips in the comments!