Advice for First Timers Going to SXSW

Only a few days until the start of SXSW 2012. For everyone going for the first time, these are the lessons that I learned from last year:

  1. Wear comfortable shoes. If you’ve ever attended a large university, the campus for SXSW is as large and vast as that. Yes, there are buses but I found they are pretty useless going from place to place (well, unless you have a lot of time between sessions).  Plus, if you’re attending any of the many parties each night, you’re going to be on your feet for a very long time.  Remember, interactive alone is  5 days.
  2. Don’t try to schedule out your whole week. Stick to just one key session that you really want to go to each day (or maybe one in the morning and one in the afternoon).  As you realize how spread out the different venues are, you’ll rearrange what sessions you can actually make it to.  They’re going to hand you a bag when you get your badge on the first day that has a pocket schedule to keep with you.
  3. Try to recap the details of all the sessions you attended that same day/night. It’s a lot of information you’ll be absorbing over 5 days and unless you do it each night, you’ll most likely forget a lot of useful details.
  4. Bring a jacket or sweater.  Yes, it’s Texas and it will get into the 70’s during the day (which is a blessing for those of us coming from up North), but the convention center gets cold and it’s a little cooler in the morning and at nights so best come prepared.
  5. Take your charger with you.  Whatever it is you’re going to be carrying with you: smartphone, iPad, laptop or all of the above, you’re going to need your charger after live tweeting and taking notes on your iPad all day.  They have charging stations at the convention center and you can use the outlets in the various hotel conference rooms.
  6. If you don’t have a twitter account already, get one.  You’ll use twitter to communicate even more than you have ever done before at SXSW.  Each session will have a special hashtag which they will tell you before the session or you can find them in the booklets.  Plus, sometimes you’ll use twitter to find lunch (there are going to be various food trucks roaming around).
  7. RSVP to as many parties as you can.  You can pick and choose which ones you’ll actually attend when you’re there but it’s better safe than sorry to just RSVP now.
  8. Download the SXSW and Eventbrite apps.  The SXSW app will let you keep track of some of the sessions you may have favorited.  Most parties are using Eventbrite to handle their RSVPs so this is an easy way to keep track of all the tickets so you don’t have to print them out.

It’s an overwhelming conference of sheer information overload but it’s worth it.  Have fun and see you there!



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