Let me start by saying I am writing this from a fifth floor pool deck overlooking downtown Austin, Texas. Sounds great right? Well it is all that and more, but for all the greatness that is SXSW there can be equal tribulation and frustration if not planned properly, or at all.
In this brief article I am going to go over a few points that might help the SXSW Interactive newbie get through these five days of utter chaos and equal awesomeness. Mind you this is not, nor do I believe there is any foolproof plan for attacking SXSW. There is such an immense amount of things going on here that the experience will vary greatly from person to person. But here are just a few tips I think can apply to most:
First and foremost, don’t forget your badge
While this may seem like a duh moment let me tell you that you will be busy, you will run late, and sometimes you will even be early, you may be tired, hungover, or even in a bbq coma. With all there is to absorb, learn, see, do, anticipate, and experience it is very easy to forget that all powerful lanyard back at the house three miles up seventh street. My own personal experience involved waking up extra early (like the responsible planned person I am, wink wink) and leaving the house two hours before my first session with plans on getting a jump on this blog post. Well two blocks from the ACC, sitting at a red light, it hit me… where’s my pass. Doh!
I would say this was my best thought out utility over the course of the past four days. Had it not been for this battery pack I would have been stranded, misguided, and on the edge of a panic attack at least three times a day. You will be on your device more than you ever have been, whether you are checking mail, social media, texting coworkers, calling family, or in my case spending hours in the SXSW app adjusting and re-adjusting your schedule. Things are constantly moving and changing, sessions will be full, some canceled, some may even be nothing like what you thought they were going to be. All this this time spent on your device is going to put your battery through an endurance marathon. A portable, reliable form of powering your arsenal of devices is essential!
I was going to originally title this bicycle, however, I understand that riding a bike in a city crowded with 50,000+ people is not everyone’s cup of tea. So have a plan in place for getting from your front door to the city, session to session, or better yet party to party. Cabs are nearly useless once you enter center city as most of the streets are shut down, and if you do happen to find one it’s going to move slower than molasses through hoards of SXSW attendees. A good alternative to riding a bike yourself is to have someone else ride it for you! There are copious amounts of pedi-bikes in Austin, seriously they’re everywhere.
It is a hot hot city here in Austin, and whether you’re riding, walking, and sometimes even running from session to session you’ve got to stay hydrated. Oh you had one too many jack & cokes last night? Your head’s pounding while you’re hauling butt in sixth gear down fourth street for your twelve o clock? Another duh moment, but water is essential to survival, and while you’re probably more worried about your schedule for the day and making it places on time you can easily fry yourself out if you don’t remember to drink lots of h2o.
So we’ve gone over just a few essentials, naturally you’re going to need somewhere to put all this stuff. Whatever your choice of item containment, it should be large enough to fit all that and more. On a typical day I left the house with this stuff in my bookbag:
These are just a few, everyone has their own choice of must haves and I’ve learned it’s better having them on me than having to ride all the way back to the house between sessions just to grab an SD card.
On a more exciting note – take into account all the free stuff you’re going to attain over the course of your time here. Everyone and anyone is trying to hand/give you something. Juan will tell you from experience you can acquire a wardrobe for a month in the course of a day. All of those t-shirts have to go somewhere!
A few things to remember when attacking SXSW Interactive, and yes some of this may be common sense, but in my own experience common sense sometimes was drowned out by the excitement of the day.
As my time at SXSW wraps up I’m finding more of these brief moments to finally stop and collect my thoughts. Wrapping up this post sitting on the floor of the hotel hallway with my headphones on, watching hundreds of people buzzing by, it’s all beginning to really sink in.
Day two I felt frustrated, overwhelmed, and quite upset that I knew I wasn’t going to be able to literally do EVERYTHING. Now, I’m already anticipating SXSW 2016. I am satisfied with my experience as a whole, satisfied with this convention, this collection of like minded individuals. If I can guarantee you one thing, it’s that you will, without a doubt, leave this place feeling fulfilled. You will be excited about the digital community, and the leaps and bounds of progression made every day.
This has been one of the all time best experiences of my life, and I invite, no I insist, regardless of your profession or interest, coming to SXSW at least once in your lifetime. In the very least, it will really put into perspective how huge the digital community is, and how many amazing people doing astonishing things are out there.
To sum it all up would sound something like:
Never stop moving, exploring, learning, and most of all never stop progressing. There are no limits on what you can do.