If you have never been to SXSW before, it can be hard to wrap your head around the experience that you are about to have. Don’t worry, we’ve created a list of helpful hints to guide anyone who might be feeling a bit overwhelmed.
Don’t try to see everything: SXSW has a lot of amazing content that you will never get to see. And that’s OK. Trying to attend 6-8 talks in a day is going to burn you out mentally and physically. Instead, each day pick 4 lectures that you think are going to be really interesting. Have a couple backups just in case and structure your day so you can enjoy other aspects of the conference too.
Get to things early: Space is limited at everything at SXSW. If you need to see something or attend an event, do yourself a favor and show up early. Like 30 minutes early.
Always know your options: Whether it’s a second choice for a talk, panel, party or event, make sure you have a fallback plan. Everything fills up fast so you might not get your first choice.
Make quick decisions: If you see that what you’re trying to attend looks too crowded, bail pronto and head to your backup.
Be aware of where things are: The conference is large and some buildings take time to travel between. When planning to attend sessions, be mindful of how far you have to walk.
Make a plan, and then break it: You can try to plan out your time at the conference, but no matter what, things will change. Have a general idea of what you want to see each day and then wing it. You are going to meet really interesting people and be told about amazing events. Be open to changing your plans in the name of following what is fun and interesting.
Stretch your brain! Make it your prerogative to go to really random stuff. You’re going to an epicenter of innovation. If you can read it in an article, don’t go. Don’t waste your time by attending lectures on the obvious. You will get more out of the talk on how a 21 year old is dissolving the Pacific Ocean garbage drift than you will from attending another talk on how to get great ROI from your social media campaign.
Go to sessions outside of your own industry: I realize this one is a bit controversial, but let’s be honest, we already know a lot about our industry. A goal of going to SXSW is to bring fresh thinking into your world. Do your homework when selecting lectures from each track. If a session doesn’t sound really exciting and the speakers are not known for pushing the boundaries of your industry, then skip it.
Learn, but also party: SXSW is all about making random connections. This is true for the ideas that you will hear as well as the people you will meet. The networking potential at SXSW is boundless and you won’t get that much time to do it during the day when people are rushing to and from lectures. Most networking is done over several drinks after 6 p.m.
Always be charging: This goes for your devices and your body. Drink water. Pack a Mophie. Bring snacks.
Workshops: Sign up ASAP. They fill up weeks before the actual conference starts.
Dress for comfort: This is not the time to show off your new business duds. Dress for comfort. Tanks, tees and sneakers are all that is required.
Use RSVPster: It will feel like there are more happy hours and events than there are lectures. For $30, RSVPster will put you on the list for the majority of the events. It saves you time and gives you more last minute options.
And remember: Sleep is for the plane ride home 🙂