what i’m going to quickly touch on★ why SXSW is not like any other conference you have ever been to or will ever go to★ what to pack + some cool tools to use★ panels, sessions and other content, oh my!★ networking & parties★ must do’s & dont’s + additional tips & tricks★ questions?
why sxsw is like no other conference★ *nobody* is in a suit or tie. unless it’s a hipster and they are trying to ironic. button up shirt is the dressiest it gets. t-shirts are the norm.★ the conference is all over the place. events are in every nook and cranny around the city. in addition to the convention center: bars, clubs, clothing stores, restaurants, sidewalks, fields, offices, balconies, hotels, their lobbies... you get the point.★ quality. there’s follow-through. there’s product launches. ideas challenged. rules broken.
what to pack★ the weather is usually HOT but can be VERY RAINY. constantly indoor then outdoor then indoor again. bring sufficient layers. and extra socks. don’t forget: this is texas we’re talking about.★ power strips are not only helpful for borrowing taken power outlets but making new contacts and friends.★ extra chargers and batteries. yes, it is sort of like camping. portable chargers = bonus points.★ good shoes. how good that looks is up to you. you will be standing and walking A TON.★ sunglasses, camera, card reader/usb, low tech (paper/pen), chapstick, sunscreen, swimsuit.★ energy bars, dried fruit... portable snacks. again with the camping. if you’re taking full advantage of the sxsw experience, it is likely you will forget to eat. don’t pass out.★ business cards. duh.
some of the cool tools to use★ sched.org - the absolute best scheduling tool there is for sxsw. printable, mobile-friendly, easy to update, can see your schedule on top of others’ in seconds.★ Plancast - keep track of events (and some sessions). not my favorite service but it’s there.★ Sitby.us - check into panels you’re attending and network with others in the room!★ Foursquare & Gowalla - typically Foursquare is more popular but Gowalla is Austin-based so it’s a bit of a wash. try using both.★ Beluga - group texting ftw. no smartphone required.★ Hashable - keep track of who you’re meeting. other neat features too. dig in.★ Contxts - text message business cards = highly efficient. and green!
panels, sessions & other content★ there are literally thousands of speakers at sxsw interactive. they aren’t all the bees knees. (sorry kids!) choose panels and sessions to attend based on who is speaking first and the topic of discussion secondary. the keynotes usually rock.★ have multiple sessions you’re interested in at the same time? panel hop! it’s perfectly acceptable just be sure you are sitting/standing in the back of the room and on the edge as to not disturb others.★ they can fill up so if there’s something you really want to hit, get there 15 to 20 minutes early.
networking & parties★ lines are *always* long. be patient. don’t cut. be kind.★ most events during sxsw interactive require an interactive, gold or platinum badge.★ business cards are still prominent but as you’re not likely to be carrying a whole box. have a backup way to keep track if who you are meeting.★ don’t try to sell. try to build relationships. these are parties. take it easy on the hardball. make new friends.★ take advantage of location-based apps to see who else is in attendance!★ breakfast events are highly underestimated and less crazy. take advantage of these.
must do’s & dont’s★ be organized. have some idea of what is going on which day, however you prefer to organize it.★ make sure your twitter, facebook, and linkedin profiles have a clear and recent photo of you. be consistent cross-platform.★ have a link and updated bio on your twitter profile. (beginners: make sure you have a twitter profile!)
must do’s & dont’s★ BE OPEN. half the internet will be there. there will be differing opinions and greatly varied experiences. listen to others’ stories more than you talk. do not judge.★ TRY NEW THINGS. not drugs. ;)★ don’t just stick with those you know. MEET NEW PEOPLE. they’re friendly.★ take breaks. it’s easy to get wrapped into running around. don’t get SXSW SARS. though austin does have a lovely hospital.★ BALANCE parties and panels. the socializing is just as valuable, if not more.
additional tips & tricks★ pedicabs are your best friend. don’t expect to get a cab. they’re all taken. and roads will be closed. pedicabs are bicycle rickshaws. tip them!★ carry your phone charger with you at all times. your phone will die, if not from usage, from trying to connect to the impossible-to-connect-to service.★ on that note, don’t rely on your phone or wifi for anything. plan ahead and be flexible. manage expectations accordingly.★ RSVP for everything and assume you’ll make nothing. lines, capacity, travel time, meeting other cool new people who are heading elsewhere. again: be flexible.