2018 was my 6th annual trip to Austin for #SxSW. There's quite a few things I've learned in past years that made this year a success. Here is a round up of advice I've heard in the past, and how it helped me this year.
1. Bring an Extra Pair of Shoes because you do a LOT of walking. Very true! The first year of SXSW involved so much walking that I actually wore through the soles of my sneakers. This year, I averaged 12,043 steps/day.
2. Bring / Rent a Bike. If you checked out the #SxSW map, you noticed that many of the events are downtown, but separated by a few blocks. Bringing a bike has been extremely valuable during my trips. Not only does it make commuting to/from home base a breeze, but also helps you with Tip #1 because you don't have to walk so dang much. If you can't bring a bike to Austin, rent a bCycle for the week!
3. Prepare for ALL Weather. During my short week at #SxSW, I experienced a freeze (literally wore gloves 1 day), followed by beaming heat the next day. I caught a pretty nice farmer's tan from waiting in line so long. Bring a spray bottle, umbrella, and sunscreen for when it's way too hot. Bring an extra sweater, gloves, and scarf for when it gets too cold. Be prepared for just about anything: rain, snow, sleet, sun, etc.
4. Go analog as much as possible. SXSW was filled with technology and made for tech nerds like you and me. However, spending all day and all week in a digital world is exhausting. Instead of spending your time waiting in line staring at your phone, start up a conversation. If you visit talks and get distracted on your laptop, put it away and take analog notes. SXSW is so much about networking and making connections. Don't miss the opportunity because you're staring at your phone!
5. Stock up on FREE things! It's easy to find free things at SXSW including Tshirts, Koozies, Hankerchiefs, Protein Bars, Energy Drinks, and much more. Whenever you find something free that you might like, grab it. Vendors give away so much free stuff and want people to actually use it. Think about your friends, coworkers, family back home that don't get to go to SXSW. Bring them back a little something, especially if there's no cost to you.
6. Be prepared to abort. Is the line way too long and you don't think you can get in? Abort. Is the speaker or talk less exciting than you thought it would be? Abort. Are you hungry and can't pay attention to the talk? Abort. Are you just following friends and not making your own plan? Abort. There's too much going on at SXSW to just sit around and wait. Create your own destiny, and don't be afraid to get up during a talk.
7. Find a place to relax. Mental breaks are a great way to charge during the day. Find some place where you can take some time to review your notes, drop your new friends a message, or do some yoga. SXSW moves pretty fast, but it's great to find time to take care of yourself amongst the mayhem.
8. Monitor your drinking. Every event at SXSW seems to give away free booze. There were talks in the morning that included beer with breakfast. This always seems great at the time, but remember a lot of the great connections happen early in the morning. Having a wild night on Saturday usually leads to a very slow Sunday. It's ok to have fun, but don't have so much fun that you ruin the rest of your trip!
9. Bring a Portable Phone Charger. Even though I mentioned going analog as much as possible, there will be opportunities where you'd like to use your phone. Some days at SXSW are very long and you don't have enough time to run home for a quick nap. For those days, make sure you have a spare phone charger. Even if you don't use it, a friend of yours might seriously thank you for thinking ahead!
10. Bring business cards and make connections. Austin is full of out of towners during SXSW, looking to make genuine connections. Be better prepared by having a 10 second elevator pitch and updated business cards ready for whenever you meet someone who's first question is always, "so, what do you do?". Make it interesting so they remember you!