I have lived in Austin for just shy of 9 years, moving here on Easter in 2010. Working in tech and an avid music lover, I always attended as many free events as possible during SXSW – but this was the first year I attended as a badged attendee. These are my tips for newbie SXSW attendees!

  1. Plan ahead/make a schedule: I planned out my SXSW days by creating a master spreadsheet of panels, keynotes, exhibits and events I wanted to attend. I then shared this sheet with my friends and colleagues and asked them to add events that were important for me to attend. Ultimately my schedule helped keep me organized and optimized the number of events I could attend. The SXSW panel picker/schedule tool was also extremely helpful, as was the SXSW Go app.
  2. Wear comfy shoes: the first day of SXSW I traversed the downtown area at least five times between walking from parking garages, sessions, happy hours and networking events. When I got home that night my feet were killing me, so the next day I strapped on my neon blue running shoes for the remainder of the conference.
  3. Carry as little as possible: on my first day I carried around my backpack and laptop erroneously thinking that I’d take notes and post social media between sessions. Turns out carrying a heavy bag while you’re walking miles around during the day isn’t fun, AND ultimately, I didn’t need anything in my bag – I could do everything I needed from my mobile. Pro tip: carry your phone charger or a mobile power bank to recharge during the day.
  4. Hydrate and layer! The temps ranged from 45 to 85 over the course of the day, so I got into the habit of taking a sweater that I could keep in my tote bag during the day. I also stayed hydrated by filling up my lightweight foldable water bottle at every water station I could find.
  5. Last but not least: Try a few fun things: I attended as many civic-tech-startup-government panels as I could, but also took time out to see a few fun things! Keeping a balance of personal interests plus panels and events that were more career-focused helped to energize me over the days and gave me many things to look forward to. For example, I visited Cheeselandia and saw a film, The Inventor: Out for Blood in Silicon Valley.

What are you tips for attending SXSW? Let us know and we’ll publish your suggestions prior to SXSW next year!