SXSW Interactive is such an awesome experience, from the amazing sessions – no matter your department there are so many take aways – to the infinite networking opportunities. This year, Pyxl will be making its appearance once again, with the majority of the group being first timers. Your first time is going to be overwhelming and there’s no way around that :), but I’ve put together a few tips to help make it a little smoother.
Before you leave
Pack comfy shoes! You will be walking a lot. Blisters, ain’t nobody got time for that.
Be prepared to be away from your hotel all day. Have a bag or backpack that can carry all you need to get you through your day.
Determine a couple of goals for your time there – Why are you going? What do you hope to achieve?”
Bring at least one nice outfit…just in case. There are cocktail events, VIP parties. It’s nice to be prepared with an outfit that would be appropriate. Keep in mind that this group, in general, is laid back. The nicest a thing a guy will have to wear is a sports coat and jeans, in my opinion.
The line to get badges is going to be horrendous, expect it. I suggest bringing some sort of entertainment, such as a book or a game.
Most of your day will be on foot. All of the sessions are spread around downtown Austin but all within walking distance.
Depending on where you’re staying you may have to get a ride into town. There is a Shuttle pass they will be selling at booths outside the convention center, that transports you between your hotel and downtown. Last year this was not worth the cost. The wait time was so long that we often just called cabs, despite paying $90 for a shuttle pass. I would suggest cabbing it the first day and asking around to see if people are happy with the shuttle before making the commitment.
Pedicabs are a great way to get around once you’re downtown and no longer want to walk. But be carful; some have set rates, some will negotiate a fare before riding and some just work for tips. Don’t let them screw you, ask before you ride. But if your feet hurt its worth it, if you can get a good fare.
Last year they had “Catch a Chevy” which was awesome. Basically, Chevy did a promo where they had hundreds of cars driving through town. Someone could just flag them down, like a cab, and they would get a ride anywhere in downtown Austin for FREE! It looks like they will be running this promo again for 2013, I highly suggest trying to catch a chevy.
Day to Day
I don’t suggest schlepping around your computer all day. An ipad or tablet is highly recommended. Sometimes a paper and pen is still the easiest :). I also suggest getting a Bluetooth keyboard for your ipad or tablet for easy note taking.
Don’t forget your chargers!
Ladies: Get an across the chest strap purse. This way it won’t get in your way, and you won’t have to worry about leaving it somewhere.
Always have a notebook and pen; you will get ideas. Be sure to write them down. (Moleskines are my favorite!)
It will be overwhelming; there are so many sessions. Use the SXSW scheduler and have 1st and 2nd choices in the same building. You will find yourself at a session that either was not what you expected or just plain sucks. Have a back up plan! You probably wont have time to trek from the Convention Center to the Sheraton with time to enjoy the session, so try to find backups nearby or in the same building.
Don’t forget to schedule in lunch. :) You might laugh, but this is an important one! Your day can get booked up fast so be sure to plan some time to eat. This is also a great time to share a table with strangers and make new friends.
Be prepared to talk about your favorite session. It’s the best way to connect with people.
Make notes on business cards; how you met them, thoughts, whether they interested in a service. You will meet a lot of people and by the time you get back home it will be hard to remember who was who. Right when you get back, go through them and connect with them on LinkedIn, with a reminder of how you met. Ex. “It was great sharing a table with you and Jim at The Creperie!”
You will meet lots of people! Take some time to separate from those you came with and branch out. Most of us will be taking completely different sessions. Embrace it and talk to people sitting near you.
Are you a SXSW regular? Please share your tips in the comments!