This will be my 3rd year attending SXW and every year is different experience. There is  just so much information to gain you will be exhausted. If you aren’t exhausted.  You are doing something wrong. Here are some tips I put together to prepare you before heading out to the event. If you find any of these helpfull drop me a note or say hi at the event. I will not bite. I may talk your leg off for a few hours!

SXSW Survival Tips

  • You will be waiting in line for a good 30 minutes + to get your badge on the first day! Arriving early won’t help that much.
  • Be sure to pick up your “GOODY BAG” but have some place to drop it off (Car, etc) It is HEAVY!
  • Walk up to anybody and everybody and say hi! This is especially true when you are waiting in line.
  •  Sit next to people in the panel discussions. You are going to have to anyways because they usually fill up. Say hello and introduce yourself.
  • Exchange business cards at every possible chance
  • Bring a jacket. Some places like the larger keynote speaker areas get cold
  • Lunch is a crazy time and restaurants fill up quick. You may be late for an important panel if you don’t plan accordingly.
  • Bring snacks!
  • IF you have a laptop bring a powerstrip. I will be bringing one with me this year because everyone wants to plugin and there are never enough spots.  What better opener could there be to break the ice then the gift of POWER. If someone plugs on  your power strip introduce yourself and say hi!
  • Attend the mixer events hosted by the companies.  Go to ones where the music is not too loud. Your whole goal is to chat and make friends and it’s hard to do that with music.
  • Try and find people in your field  talk, chat, share ideas, put together a lunch meeting
  • If a panel is full and you can’t get in. Start the panel discussion outside with those who are waiting to get in. You would be surprised the amount of knowledge and ideas that flow in the hallway. It is extremely exciting. One year, we simply started a conversation about the topic in the panel that became so much fun we didn’t even enter the panel when there was space.
  • If you have to park it’s going to run you about $10.00 a day
  • Traffic is busy around the convention center on WORK days. Be sure to leave room for rush hour driving – Even if you are 3 minutes from the convention center.
  • Bring a PDA that has a built-in map and GPS it will help you find restaurants and the sfter parties quicker!
  • If you really need to get into a party (GOOGLE, FROG DESIGN) etc. Be prepared to wait in line. If you want to sample some cuisine get there fast. Food tends to go pretty quick.
  • For most places you can simply walk around. You shouldn’t need to take a  cab around the venue.
  • Last year the PBS party was absolutely AMAZING. The music at the awesome Austin City Limits stage and food and drink was incredible.  I stayed for hours. You will have to catch one of the shuttles going to the events that are outside the convention center area. Last year the shuttles left from the HILTON. They run till about 12:00 p.m. don’t get stuck!
  • Bring hand sanitizer. Trust me on this one you will shake 100’s of hands  a day and it just helps keep everyone healthy
  • Bring cough drops or throat lozenges, and lots of water. You will get a dry throat talking to hundreds of people. This is especially true in the after events.
  • Do not stay out too late at the parties – they can wear you down. Some parties go till 2 in the morning or later and you won’t be very receptive to early morning panels if you are hung-over, tired, or just not awake.
  • If a panel is just boring get up and  go somewhere else. There are usually 3 -4 panels going on at the same time. If you are embarrassed to get up and leave then join the interactive chat rooms. You can hear about things going on in other panels and find another place to go.
  • Turn on twitter be warned you will be flooded with messages, be sure to turn on your SMS messages for SXSW so you will know if your class has changed rooms etc.   Classes can sometimes fill up quick and the SXSW team will do on the spot room changes to account for this.
  • Watch your belongings at all times. Just be aware of your stuff. Last year there was about 5,000 people in attendance.
  • After a panel is over INTRODUCE yourself to panel members that you found awesome. Give your card, your name, and some short information about yourself. They want to hear from you and are excited to know that you loved the panel.
  • Take notes – if you get a great idea write it down. Trust me you will lose track of that idea so fast in all the commotion.
  • The WI-FI is free but usually sucks. You will have spotty connection and it may be tricky to get a good connection. This is especially true when you are in some of the larger keynotes that span multiple rooms. Try to stay in the central area of the convention center to get the best signal.
  • Attend the WEBBY awards! It is a fun event that takes place across the street at the HILTON. Last year I had the honor to sit with some friends I met at SXSW that were nominees. It’s inspiring. Also there usually free food before the event.
  • Collect materials –  There are tons and tons of posters, design ideas, etc. Collect them and add them to your idea bag. Some of the world’s best and talented designers are at SXSW.
  • Visit the trade show.  Talk to people there and pickup the freebies!
  • Arrive early to your favorite panels to get the up front seats
  • Try to avoid panels that just preach to you. The interactive are the best. Not all presenters are awesome.

Above all things talk to people and explore the venue.  The next person could be super awesome cool. You may discover ideas you never even dreamed. As I mentioned before this blog came about because of my own passion inspired by SXSW.  So when you get there look around and become immersed in the atmosphere. The whole time you are in Austin it’s like one great big high being around some of the greatest minds in the industry from around the world!