The SXSW Survival Guide


The annual SXSW (South By Southwest) festival in Austin kicks off this week, and we’ll be attending for the first time. Suffice it to say that while we’re very excited, we’ve also heard enough about the event to know it’s quite a chaotic scene. So we tapped into the wealth of information available online for advice on getting the most out of the event. If you’re a first-timer, check out these tips from from veteran attendees:

  • Plan your sessions: There is a seemingly endless number of sessions to attend, and they’re scattered all over the place. Put together a calendar of must-attend sessions and map it out so you know the best route to get from one point to another.
  • But factor in some spontaneity: Commit to a few sessions/events but otherwise be open to the unexpected. Keep an eye on Twitter for realtime activities that crop up.
  • Get to know the layout of the conference center and surrounding area: If you’re arriving early, walk around the conference center and familiarize yourself with the landscape.
  • Cross-pollinate: Don’t settle into groups of people you already know. Get outside of your comfort zone and meet new people. Be outgoing and introduce yourself to strangers. Veteran attendees say that SXSW is the easiest place to meet people.
  • Attend parties: Believe it or not, parties are the best place to network. Good business contacts are often forged at SXSW parties. But if you drink alcohol, pace yourself (for obvious reasons).
  • Bring extra battery juice: Available power outlets are scarce so make sure you have extenders and/or extra batteries for all your gadgets.
  • Get plenty of sleep before and after: The bottom line is that you’re not going to get a lot of sleep while you’re at SXSW. So stock up on sleep before and after.
  • Drink plenty of water: It’s all fun and games until someone gets dehydrated and faints.
  • Bring Tylenol and/or aspirin: This is critical if you plan on imbibing alcohol but a nice-have even if you don’t. The event is loud and crowded; this may be enough to induce a headache.
  • Pack a first-aid kit: If you get a small boo-boo, don’t count on the availability of band-aids.
  • Wear comfortable attire and shoes: During the month of March, Austin is typically warm during the day and cold at night, so wear layers. The vibe is casual, so an outfit of jeans and a t-shirt is perfectly acceptable. Also, since you’ll be walking a lot, wear shoes that won’t give you blisters and sore feet.
  • Pack food and/or plan on going off-site: The conference center does not offer a wide array of food.

Additional information:


Did we miss something critical? Please share your tips for getting the most out of SXSW. We look forward to seeing you in Austin!

About Melody Demel

Melody is Senior Manager, PR for Boingo Wireless, where she is responsible for media relations, brand building and thought leadership initiatives. Melody is a die-hard Nebraska Cornhuskers fan and retired NCAA DI college field hockey player.
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