This will be my first year heading to SXSW and I have little clue of what to expect. I’m fortunate in that I have a few friends who are veterans of the sport and willing to let me tag along. Even with that network it’s certainly an intimidating event – everyone seems to be “in the know” or the “who’s who” of tech.
In full disclaimer, I probably couldn’t care less about the music or film festival aspect of it. I’ve been to three concerts in my life and the last movie I saw in the theatre was probably Titanic. That’s not a joke – the joke is that my concerts were the Lemonheads (twice) and Tori Amos.
Everyone posts “First Timers Guides” but they all seem a bit cryptic or simply too esoteric to learn much from. I’ve found a few (listed below) that have some good, digestible advice.
While it may be the anti-culture of SXSW, many threads seem to ignore, or even shun, the topic of illustrating an ROI of SXSW. Most companies will have a hard time justifying an expensive trip to Austin in the name of ‘personal branding’ or ‘networking’. To offset this (and my own concern that the party:work emphasis is off) is to create a Google Doc of events. I’ve color coded the events to make sure I have a mix of sessions, events, and parties. I don’t expect I’ll be able to maintain the schedule once I get there but, so far, it has helped in keeping me focused on what I should be looking out for.
Here’s the best practical advice I’ve been told or found out;
- Book your hotel early and get it as close to the Austin Convention Center as possible – most hotel review sites(Like TripAdvisor or Kayak) allow you to sort by proximity to the center. Also check out VRBO.com. If you’re going with a group, this might be a great bet, even though pricing increases 2-3x for the duration of SXSW.
- Cell phone reception is spotty as AT&T’s network gets crushed by the tech mob.
- Connect with your friends on Foursquare and/or Gowalla.
- Buy a cell phone battery extended. Jim Storer mentioned he uses the $22 Kensington Mini Battery Extender, which I also ended up buying after some comparison shopping.
If you’re looking for more details, also check out;
- Aaron Strout’s Field Guide to SXSW
- Quora thread on “Must Do” SXSW Activities
The single best advice I’ve read yet was Dave Delaney (via Aaron Strout). It’s quick and concise and has some great information. I particularly like the idea of saving a #sxsw Twitter search within 15 miles of Austin. The full slide show is available here: