The Lanyrd Team will be heading to SXSW this year and we're all looking forward to it! This will be the second time I attend and I remember how daunting my first visit was in 2009.
SXSWi is Huge, and it seems to get bigger each year. The event now spreads to over 15 different venues and attracts tens of thousands of attendees each year. If it's your first time it can be overwhelming, but there are some simple things you can do to make sure you get the best out of your time in Austin.
You can get to the conference centre early and pick up your badge on Thursday 8th March from 11am. The queues are shorter if you pick up early, but don't worry if you can't make it. You may have to wait for longer on Friday but it's a great place to meet people and bemoan the hardship of queuing.
With all these venues make sure you're wearing comfortable shoes and a good rucksack, have a map handy and plenty of water. Getting around is like an expedition! I'd say you can probably forget the rope and the crampons though. You will probably also want a handy supply of painkillers; with dehydration, dashing about in the sunshine and inevitable hangovers, you'll need something to stop that pounding headache. If you know you're likely to suffer from hangovers, packing some peppermint tea may also be a sensible plan.
I found that trying to fit in as many talks as possible left me exhausted and feeling like I kept missing out on other interesting things. It's important to remember that SXSW isn't just about listening to talks, but also about the people that you meet and the connections you make. Hanging out in hallways and at parties can be just as important as catching up on talks.
Don't try to fit in too much, pace yourself. Try to let serendipity take you; talk to people, go along to new things; you might find yourself eating free tacos with one of your heros late at night in a carpark with a merry-go-round. If it's all a bit much, go and sit down on the grass and admire the Texas sky or wander along the stream by the Iron Works and go terrapin spotting. You could even take a stroll to under the Congress Bridge and watch the the Mexican Free-Tail bats at dusk.
If you're travelling into Austin from outside the US, don't forget to fill in your ESTA form. You have to do this online now, in advance of your travel.
This year there'll be SXSW comedy - definitely a good plan to help lighten your mood if you're feeling your brain is beginning to collapse with information. You can get in for free with your SXSW pass.
Take lots of business cards with you, and keep a fine Sharpie handy so you can note down important information on the back of each one you take. You're likely to meet lots of people and forget what conversations you had, so little reminders can make all the difference.
Wander around the trade show, there's lots of things to see and people to meet (and schwag to bag). The best time is just after the last sessions when the champagne and nibbles come out, but don't tell anyone I told you so.
There are lots of helpful guides on how to survive out there, and we've pulled out a few to help you on your way. Do come and say hello to us whilst you're there - we'd love to have a chat, and follow @lanyrdSXSW when in Austin as we'll be tweeting tips before and throughout the conference.