Talking tech since 2003

This is my first SXSW, but just one day into the event I can see why it becomes more massive each and every year.  SXSW isn’t like your traditional conference in a single venue with a big ballroom, a bunch a chairs, and a speaker/panel.  Not at all.  First of all, the span of SXSW is massive, it spans across various hotels and venues, meaning there is a lot of walking involved to get from place to place.  This year, the festival improved the shuttle service, which chauffeurs SXSW-goers to all the different hotels and venues (but still expect to do a lot of walking).

With thousands of people converging on Austin, Texas for the festival, almost every single person walking down the street has a badge around their neck, which is great because suddenly no matter where you are you are in the center of a great networking mecca. That being said, with everyone going their own way to various sessions/panels, parties, and sponsored events at SXSW you need to pick your spots and make the most of it.

So here are a few tips and things I picked up on during my first day at SXSW:

Schedule meetings in advance

If you want to meet with someone or a specific company, definitely reach out early on and try and schedule a meeting at a specific time. Despite the Austin Convention Center and Hilton Austin being packed, you should be able to find some place to sit down and talk.  In the same vein, understand that some meetings may need to be rescheduled–don’t take it personally, SXSW is huge and it happens. This actually already happened to me today and now I’m meeting with the company tomorrow.  Oh, and make sure to have both email and phone number contact information for everyone you plan to meet (this will save you a lot of headaches).

RSVP for everything

If you want to attend a party or event, you must RSVP or you may have trouble getting in. If you’re looking to keep track of all the cool parties, check out @SXSWPartyList and @SXSWparty.

Carry a backpack

Having a backpack is super useful.  They can efficiently carry a lot of stuff you will find yourself needing such as charging cables, water bottles, umbrellas (you don’t want to get caught in the rain), laptops, iPads, cameras, lenses, etc.  Plus, it’s a great way to store anything you accumulate while you are out and about.

Don’t book too many meetings

You will want to leave room in your day to go to events/panels and other interesting things that may pop up. That being said, after speaking with some people trying to do everything at SXSW is literally impossible — so don’t try.  Pick two or three things you definitely want to do each day and work those into your schedule, anything else is just gravy at that point.

Get to popular panels/events early 

This really only applies if you want to take photos or sit up close, some of the rooms can fill up very quickly.

Well those are my tips as a first time SXSW-goer.  Do you have any others?  Feel free to leave a comment, I’d love to learn something new.

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