In less than two weeks, the world’s leading marketers, advertisers and tech leaders will gather in Austin, TX for South by Southwest (SXSW). What started as a music festival in 1987 with just 700 attendees has grown into a fully integrated music, film and interactive event with a reputation as a breeding ground for new ideas and creative technologies.
The Ad Council has had a presence at SXSW for many years, contributing to the SXgood track which features purpose-driven content. Once again we’ll be hosting several panels: When #LoveWins: How to Sustain a Viral Movement, Beat the Bully: Bring Light to Darkness on the Web and Media: The Key to Driving Social Impact. I hope you’ll check them out!
But I’m new to all this. And while I’m excited by the opportunities to learn from and meet with some amazing folks, I’m also a little overwhelmed by the sheer amount of options. Last week, I asked my AC friends and SXSW veterans for their tips on how to make the most out of the conference. Here are their top recommendations:
1. Don’t leave everything until you get there
You can do a lot to prepare before you get to Austin. Login to your SXsocial account and download the SXSW GO app to check out sessions you want attend, share your schedule, and find/message other attendees. As a reminder, you can just show up to panels, but if you want to attend any workshops you should plan to RSVP ahead of time. If you’re interested, here are my SXSW picks so far. If you still feel like you need more orientation, take a minute to watch the 2015 video below of Tim Ferriss sharing insight on “How to Rock SXSW in 4 Hours.”
2. Pick up your SXSW badge first thing
There’s not much you can do without your badge, so the first priority for Friday morning should be to head to the badge pickup location at Austin Convention Center, Exhibit Hall 5. You can get a quick code through your SXSWsocial account which will help to speed up the process (apparently the lines can get long). And once you have it, hold on to that badge. If you lose it, you have to buy another full price ticket!
3. Don’t try to do too much
The panels and workshops are spread across downtown Austin, so don’t be too ambitious with your scheduling. Pick out two or three panels you really want to see, and check out other events going on around them. If you need a moment to chill or grab a bite to eat, head for the SXgood Hub.
4. Wear comfortable shoes
This was echoed by everyone I asked. Taxis and pedicabs are scarce so you’ll be doing A LOT of walking. Birkenstocks or flats are fine; in general everyone at SXSW is dressed in business casual, with an emphasis on the casual. Once you leave your hotel in the morning you might be out all day (and possibly all night), so bring a bag to carry a water bottle, cash, business cards, phone charger and a rain jacket or umbrella. Austin can get heavy showers this time of year.
Have more words of wisdom for SXSW newbies? Feel free to share in the comments below!