For those of you in the startup, film, and music industry who are coming to SXSW in Austin, I have some basic tips that will help you get ready and set so you can have the best experience possible.
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Get your hotel immediately.
Book your flight.
If you find flights are no longer available or are off the charts in terms of price, consider flying into San Antonio, which is 80 miles south.
Don’t rent a car
I would not rent a car unless you really think you need to or will be staying more than 10 miles either to the north or south of Austin.
Build your SXSW profile
SXSW is a place to connect, discover and be discovered by people who want to meet you.
Casual is an understatement. Bring comfy clothes and more than anything, bring two pairs of good walking shoes. You will walk, walk, and walk. Don’t wear fancy loafers and ladies, don’t even think about heels, except if you are going to go partying at night.
Mid-March in Austin is generally the best time of year, but bring a sweater or hoodie just in case. Last year it did rain a couple of days, and three years ago, there were three days of incredibly wet and cold weather.
Plan, but allow for random.
This is the hardest part to get about SXSW.
Go through the programming, make sure you plan on filling your days with hearing great speakers and panels, but allow for random collisions of meeting people en route to or from a talk.
I can’t explain it, but somehow, at SXSW this just happens. I generally plan my days to the max, but then I run into someone, I recognized someone I always wanted to meet and just connect, and have a conversation.
Bring new — SXSW specific business cards.
Me? I love the cards you can get from Moo.com. Have something special made that reminds people that you met at SXSW 2016. Something like: We met at #SXSW2016.
Party down. Have fun. But take it easy.
There’s tons of events, lots of parties, and lots of drinking going on. Depending on your tolerance and lifestyle for whatever your definition of fun is, make sure you have enough energy to get up early in the morning to go to the sessions.
– RSVPstr (paid service to get you RSVPs)
If you have time and budget, come in a few days early.
Austin is an awesome place to enjoy. It does get a bit crowded and crazy during SXSW, and many of the great Mexican and BBQ restaurants are hard to get into due. If you can, come a few days early and chill out.
Use the social web to do your homework.
Twitter was actually launched at SXSW and used as a communications and social discovery platform. No matter if you are into Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, SnapChat, or any other social platform, use it to do your research, build content, share your stories and meet new people.
My experience and needs are different than yours. Are you doing business development, looking for a career change, going to see what might be next for your company or your role in what you do in your work and life?
Build a framework around this premise and go digging into the sessions.
If you’re into startups, then focus on the Startup Village
Yes. There is a village of sorts within the SXSW Interactive experience. Hang out, meet, and connect with people in the startup world at Startup Village.
SXSW is a fun and enlightening experience. Many call it Spring Break for adults. Yes, it can and should be fun. You will enjoy not only SXSW, but Austin.
Hope to see you in Austin!