New and Improved 101 Tips for SXSW
We tried. We really tried to get to 101 because it sounds cool, but some of the tips we needed to bulk up the project were just silly. So “Almost 101” is the new 101. Click on the more and you’ll get the full list – and feel free to add your own in!
Why? You do know why you’re going to SXSW, yes? Answer that, and your SXSW will be far better.
Making the most of your time
If your timetable has a lull in the afternoon, consider a power-nap/siesta to get you through the day (and the week). Stock up on sleep before the event, and expect to be sleep deprived by the end of it. Any quality time you can get in bed is worth it.
Memory cards and USB sticks are great for making on the go back-ups of important pictures and videos you take. When you stop to charge, back-up and sync your devices as well.
What happens at SXSW does not stay on SXSW. It’ll be online, tagged, pictured, status updated and indexed within seconds for the world to see.
Mac users, bring the VGA dongle for your Mac so you can easily hook into a projector.
Pack smart, lots of layers so you can cope with both the heat in the day, and the cold at night.
Consider not drinking any coffee between now and the start of SXSW. Once you get to Austin and start back, you’ll feel the full effects just when you need it the most.
This truly is a marathon and not a sprint (especially if you are doing the full Platinum SXSW experience) so pace yourself, especially on the first day.
Have a least one “smart” outfit in case you get invited to something a bit more upmarket than The Salt Lick
Make room on your Hard Drive before you leave so you can back-up without worrying about the space requirements
Carry some screen wipes for your laptop.
If you’re at SXSW on your own, at least have a buddy that knows to check out for you each day. It’s not a paradise out there, be safe, especially at the night-time parties.
On the run but still need that breakfast experience? Just sit down and order the house “Breakfast Taco” no matter where you are.
Your first time at SXSW?
You cannot “wing” SXSW, don;t believe anyone who says you can. By all means leave a lot of time to serendipity, but have the outline of a plan and use the online scheduler.
Who’s your BFF for SXSW? Sharing the experience with one other person, even over a quiet coffee once a day is a great way to decompress and take stock of your time in Austin
Check out the SXSW Baby Pub Crawl on Thursday March 7th to learn about the local beer scene.
SXSW is a very casual conference – shirt and tie is not needed, even if you;re having a big meeting. Try to avoid BBQ stains though.
Check out “How to Rawk SXSW” to get a grip of the basics of South By.
Need a break? Try the top floor of the Holiday Inn Garden for a fantastic view and a little oasis of calm.
Living in Austin
Need a taxi? Call 512-452-9999 (Yellow Cab), 512-478-2222 (Austin Cab) or 512-836-4900 (Lone Star).
Cash is king, and cash points are in short supply, even if all you;re going to use cash for is to tip the wait staff.
Bookmark the Austin-Bergstrom Airport homepage, you might need it with travel disruption (http://www.ci.austin.tx.us/austinairport/).
Every one needs a picture of the bats in Austin, so head to the Town lake, by the Radisson, and get your cameras ready at dusk.
From the airport to downtown for one dollar? The Airport Flyer bus runs frequently and has lots of luggage space (http://www.capmetro.org/riding/airport.asp)
You’re more likely to find a taxi out the front of the major hotels than waving one down on the street. The Hilton by the Convention Center is a prime spot, even if you’re not a guest.
Remember the clocks go forward an hour for Summer Time at 2am on Sunday 10th March
Surviving the Conference
Ask on Twitter and Facebook “Who’s going to SXSW” so you can start with a little mental network of people you know, or need to meet
It might be a party, but keep the right side of the law in terms of drink driving, drugs, and everything else. Especially for those flying in from abroad because you may want to get back in to America!
Tag the business card you’ve just been given with a few key words about the meeting or what needs followed up. You’ll have a lot to get through when you get home and the aide memoire will help.
If you must schedule meetings, schedule them over Breakfast – the rest of the day is far too hectic.
Don’t go to parties expecting to be able to network, they are always packed and too loud. Use the quiet time right before a session starts to chat up those seated around you, they obviously have a common interest since they are in the same session.
Follow through. It’s unlikely you’ll seal a deal in the halls of the Convention Centre, but you’ve got a name, a connection and a business card. Use them in April
If you know everything about “Social media and the ROI for banana sellers”, then why are you attending that panel instead of “Squirrel herding for talent spotters?” Step outside your comfort zone and learn something new.
Not sure what you should be doing? Introduce two of your friends (new at SXSW or old established ones, it doesn’t matter) and bask in the karma of helping SXSW be the best mixer on the planet.
Get your badge picked up as soon as possible. Registration is on the ground floor.
You have a silent mode on your mobile. Use it when you’re in any panel!
Want to get in to the keynotes? Get there early and start queuing. There will be overspill rooms streaming them as well, but as with everything, balance a well prepared keynote to meeting new people, and the smaller sessions scheduled opposite the latest Web 2.0 “hero”
Stuck for what to do? Ask the person next to you what they’ve seen / who they’ve heard / what new app they have. It’s far nicer than Google.
The most important search term on any network? #sxsw Just be aware it’ll be very busy, so consider doing #sxsw AND #somethingelse
Bring a book when you’re picking up your badge, The queue could be horrendous.
It’s natural to hang out “in a group” during SXSW, but you’re there for more than one day. Think about creating a new posse every morning over breakfast or in the queue to the first session
In need of a decent meal? Take in any film at the Alamo chain of restaurants and get a great meal delivered to your seat as you watch.
SXSW Film always runs to time, you can set your watch by it (unless they’re waiting for Mel Gibson)
Always take a trip to the rest room ten minutes before your film starts.
Add thirty minutes to the film running time the first time the film is screened at SXSW as there’s every chance of a lengthy Q and A with the cast and crew.
Always, ALWAYS, turn your phone OFF during a screening, or you may get stoned (and not in a good way).
Check out SXXpress each morning for a “first in line” pass to the film or music event you MUST see. There are a limited number so get there early then nap afterwards.
Consider setting up a Twitter list of your close friends who are at SXSW, and use that “saved list” to quickly see what’s going in your circle. Far easier than searching on tags!
RSVP to every party you are remotely interested in. Unlike music, where people are happy to spread out over venues, everyone is going to try to get into the major Interactive parties. RSVP, be prepared to queue, and have an alternative in mind for every night.
Stuck in line for a party? Grab the people around you in the queue, walk away, and find a bar, a corner, or a revolving door. Call it #queueparty2013 or something else funky, twitter it out, and just put on your own party right there and then.
Carry a map. A paper map. It won’t break down, run out of charge, and is always there.
In the time you spend queuing for a headline band you could take in four or five newer bands at smaller venues. Personally I’d take the risk on the smaller bands every time.
Rip all the countless promo CD’s, samplers and albums to your computer to save space in your suitcase for the flight home.
Make sure you can enjoy the music on the Saturday of SXSW by using your ear plugs once you arrive at your first gig on Wednesday.
Found a good bar or club? Don’t forget it. If you’re having a rough night then heading to your comfort location will always work out.
If you’re in a group on a night out, think of choosing a “rally point” if you get split up. Be here at 11 is a great rule.
Consider skipping the big parties – sure Digg, Google and Mashable are noted names, but there’s more to SXSW than your favourite website?
Need people to have lunch with? Stop four people in the halls at random and say “Shall we get lunch and introduce ourselves on the way?”
If the party is open, and the line has stopped moving, you aren’t getting in. Move on to your next choice.
Keep your eyes peeled for the magic word “in-store event” – you just found another free event
Take care of yourself
Yes SXSW is a long event, but that doesn’t mean tak it easy on Day 1. Hit the ground running, but at a pace you know will let you still be standing (just) as you get on the plane to leave Austin.
Suntan lotion. Lots. Especially if you’re from more northerly latitudes, you’re going to burn faster than a Salt Lick BBQ disappears.
Forgot your medicine, or need more Ibuprofen and Pro Plus to get over your hangover? CVS Pharmacy, 500 Congress Avenue is the nearest to the Convention Center.
The illness everyone blogs about hen they get back, SX-Sars, isn’t a bug, it’s not taking care of yourself. Listen to what your body is telling you during SXSW.
Pop some fruit in your day bag and snack on that for tiffin’ and afternoon tea.
Don’t skip breakfast, get a good mix of food and be set up for the day.
Get some sleep. If you haven’t got that, you haven’t got anything.
Lots of people, lots of shaking hands, lots of potential bugs. Carry tissues with you for sneezes, and a little hand sanitizer never fails.
Sleep the night before you leave – as much as you can. Pack two nights before and make sure you are rested.
Carry some non-drowsy allergy medicine. You are travelling, and Austin has a lot of pollen in the air this time of year.
Keep drinking water. Drink some more. Then refill a water bottle and drink more. Otherwise you will dehydrate.
Free BBQ at every meal is not good for your body. Just saying.
The time you take to walk between venues might be good socialising time, but it’s also great “down time”. Those of you in Hotels more than ten minutes walk from the Convention Centre, this is a wonderful time just to zone out and enjoy the world.
Rob Lagesse nails it… chapsticks rock
A handful of band aids take up very little room in your bag, and will doubtless be used (even if it’s just for blisters)
What to carry with you?
The weather in Austin can turn very quickly, pack a little umbrella and if you feel entrepreneurial, sell it on when the rain pummels down.
You want to leave with as many different business cards as possible. Think of it as a big game of swap.
Spare ear plugs? Use them at night to avoid the room parties, and to get some sleep on the plane home.
There’s an easy way to double the battery life on your phone (or laptop) without relying on finding a plug… buy a second battery.
Do you really need your laptop? It’s heavy, demands you be near a plug, and stops you meeting people apart from those sharing a power strip with you? Leave it at home for at least one day and see what happens.
Rechargeable battery packs for your smartphones and PDA’s are wonderful inventions Lots of them abound but I personally would recommend PowerMonkey (https://www.powertraveller.com/iwantsome/primatepower/000239/)
Bring a second pair of shoes to give your feet a break – it’s close to half a mile between the furthest rooms in the Convention Center. Cushioned in-soles are worth considering as well.
One addition to your bed time routine. Put everything you own on charge, no matter if they say they are full. Get in the habit.
Someone wearing converse trainer isn’t a hipster, they just know how much walking is involved.
The longer the week goes on, the more that dark sunglasses are your friend.
Got the chance to charge up your smartphone, laptop or netbook? Take it. Whenever you get the chance to charge something, be charging something.
If you want to be the most popular attendee, bring a power strip of plugs for people to share.
Have a comfortable bag that’s good for you and your back to carry everything for the day. Assume you’ll have it on your back, with laptop, water and snacks for six days without a break.
Some Final Thoughts
Say yes to everything, get every experience, and just go crazy. This is a roller coaster that you’ll want to stay on as long as possible.
Even if there is something better around the corner, enjoy the moment you are in – that’s the best one.