Top 10 Tips From #SxSW Veterans

Top 10 Tips From #SxSW Veterans

This will be my third year at #SxSW and rather than just give you my advice on how to survive #SxSW, I decided to assemble what I hope is the best advice you’ll ever get on the topic. Thanks to all the contributors – they’ve been hugely helpful to me.

Storified by John Refford· Fri, Jan 25 2013 07:39:12

1. Stay downtown (or have a plan for getting around)

@iamreff SXSW advice: Stay downtown. If you can’t stay downtown hire a limo for the weekend. Avoid the shuttlebus at all costs.Liz Gumbinner
Great advice from Liz. My first year I had a hotel within walking distance of the ACC. It was a dream. Last year I was 4 miles away and stuck on the shuttle bus. It was horrible. It was always at least 60 minutes late; those were 2 hours a day I lost. If you’re not downtown, have a plan to get around.

  Get to know Liz on her blog and follow her at @Mom101.

2. Make a plan

@iamreff Also, if you want to have an important meeting, breakfast is the best time. Rest of the day runs away from you.C.C. Chapman
@iamreff a wise man told me, don’t chase the party. Stick to your schedule. You can’t be everywhere. And device juice is a must!Christine Sierra
Here’s a few tools that will get you where you need to be:
1. Lanyrd – Each year I forget about Lanyrd until it’s too late. At writing, the SxSWi Lanyrd site is sparse but, if I recall, the site will be chock-full by the time the event rolls around. 
2. Eventbrite – Download the app, search for SxSW. You’re welcome.
3. Twitter – Keep your ear out for SxSW updates. Follow accounts like SxSXPartyList to find out what’s going on while you’re in Austin.
4. RSVPster – If you don’t want to invest time into registering for a hundred events that you won’t go to (but don’t know if you’ll want to go to in the moment), pay RSVPster $30. They will get you into all the events during interactive. Note: I haven’t used this service but I have heard good things. 
  Follow CC Chapman on twitter and attend his book reading at SxSWi.
  Follow Christine on twitter for updates on BREW (which I still think should be about craft beer – false advertising)

3. Be ready to abandon your plan

@iamreff top #SXSW advice? Don’t stress about a "plan" – be open to changes in direction and take the time to connect w/everyone you meetLiz Philips
@iamreff don’t overplan. Go with the flow. Prioritize networking over panels.David Armano
@iamreff top 3 tips: a) set up meetings in advance — be clear about where & when. b) pace yourself c) bring a warm sweater & rain jacket JICAaron Strout
@iamreff embrace that you can’t do it all. Easy to get stressed, easier to go with flow.C.C. Chapman
There’s a lot going on at SxSW. You need to have a plan or you’ll find yourself attending sessions you don’t care about – what a waste!  At the same time, you don’t want to be a slave to your plan.  Use the session guides along with the SxSW app to be sure you are where you want to be, but also be willing to go with the flow. Invite a bit of serendipity. Be willing to meet some new people and hear some new ideas. Go with the flow!

  Chances are you already know David Armano, but if you don’t, get to know him here.
  Aaron co-wrote the book on Location Based Marketing and is a helluva MoBro. He also wrote the first SxSW advice post I ever read.
  Marvel at Liz’s social media prowess on twitter.
  Follow CC Chapman on twitter and attend his book reading at SxSWi. CC is one of the nicest guys on the web.

4. Be present

@iamreff Be where you are. FOMO–fear of missing out—distracts from the good presentation or conversation going on right in front of you.Margot Bloomstein
.@iamreff go with the flow. FOMO kills at SXSW if you let it. be as present as you possibly can with the people in your immediate presenceLaura Fitton
FOMO – “the fear of missing out”: It’s a killer.  

Don’t stare at your phone. You won’t find your friends (even if you’re in the same room). Focus on the people in front of you. Have your head up and your mind open or you’ll miss amazing things and awesome people. I’ve met people I really admire in hallways of the ACC because I was looking for opportunities.  Be present in the moment.
  Margo is a featured presenter this year so make sure to put this session on your calendar.
  Laura is on a panel workshop this year so mark that event too!

5. Be Interesting

@iamreff don’t say "I’ve a unique startup idea that I can’t tell you about." You become instantly uninteresting. #sxswtipsMick Darling
Have a plan to start a conversation and don’t be afraid to be bold. My first year I wore a hat with my twitter name. I asked everyone I met to add their name to the hat with a Sharpie.  (Truism: people love Sharpies) It turned out to be a great ice breaker and people still ask me about the hat.
 If you’re not comfortable with such a stunt, be prepared with a few worthy conversation starters. My favorite is “what’s your passion?”
  I have no idea what Mick is doing at SxSW but follow him to learn how to magically appear everywhere at the perfect moment.

6. Take Breaks

@iamreff you can hang out in the Hilton lobby nearly 24/7 and I have even caught an hour nap in a comfy chair midday there. #sxswtipsMick Darling
@iamreff More #SXSW advice: Don’t get sick (Water > Beer, Sleep is key) and eat a lot of BBQLiz Philips
@iamreff 4. It’s okay to step away – Last year I spent a whole day away from the convention center with a group of angels and VCs. Best day!Mike Langford
It’s like the advice Jeremiah Owyang gave me, “The best events at Interactive happen in the city, not at the conference hall. Badges are optional.”  SxSW runs 18 hours a day. If you run hot five days in a row, you’ll burn out. Take breaks. Get off your feet. Recharge your batteries. Connect with the downtown scene.

  I have no idea what Mick is doing at SxSW but follow him to learn how to magically appear everywhere at the perfect moment.
  Marvel at Liz’s social media prowess on twitter.
  Mike is another Boston –> Austin transplant. He’s one of the good guys. Follow him @MikeLangford. Dibs on his couch.

7. Gear Up (and then dial it down a notch)

@iamreff 1. ABC Always Be Charging: Keep your phone charged an keep and have your charger on you. Be on the look out for an outlet.Mike Langford
@iamreff don’t carry too much gear and don’t over-commit to sessions, parties and events. Enjoy the whole experience.Jeff Cutler
@iamreff 3. Hydrate like a mofo – Drinking, eating, walking and talking in the Austin air can really dry you out. Drink some water.Mike Langford
There’s a tendency to bring too much crap with you. I’m always tempted to bring: laptop, iPad, phones, chargers, jacket, DLSR with multiple lenses along with the associated assessories.  But you need to streamline. 
If you’re able, find a way to stow your day gear for evening networking events and, in general, travel as light as you can.
  Mike is another Boston –> Austin transplant. He’s one of the good guys. Follow him @MikeLangford. Dibs on his couch.
  Jeff is a content maelstrom. Keep up if you can at

8. Prioritize

@iamreff if you really want to get in a session get there early. Talk to anyone and everyone. Make friends, it’s fun!Jen Dowd
Thank you @iamreff: Have a goal; prioritize sessions to as few as 2 must sees/day; portable chargers; mingle! #SXSW Kurtzman
Obviously, you can only be in one place at a time and SxSW is HUGE and very spread out. If you try and jump from session to session, you may find yourself late to the session you really wanted to see.  Here’s the point: Decide on which are your “must see” sessions and plan around them. Get to those sessions 15 minutes early so you won’t be locked out.

  Jen is a fellow fiend in the #finserv biz and PA native. Follow her @JenEDowd.
  Wayne has a great SxSW advice post of his own. I totally agree with tip #6.

9. Start a tradition

The Boston crew seems to end most evenings at a specific watering hole.  It gives us a chance to recount the day, who we met, what we saw, what surprised us and plan the next days events. It’s become a tradition.  Think about what traditions you can start at SxSW.

10. Stay sober

@iamreff – stay sober.Chris Brogan
No joke. Too many treat SxSW as “spring break for nerds.” Don’t be that guy. HAVE FUN! But keep it together and take in all that SxSW and Austin has to offer.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.