Every year, South By Southwest (SXSW) draws in the most innovative musicians, business leaders, entrepreneurs and investors to rendezvous in San Antonio, Texas. Now in its 30th year, SXSW has grown exponentially into a 10-day multi-industry affair with 5,000 events, 30,000 people, 15 official venues and countless unofficial parties. The whirlwind of thousands of activities, inspiring ideas and tumultuous crowds is dizzying. Here’s a roundup of the top tips from veteran attendees for keeping your head straight amidst the chaos.
- Focus your vision. First, before grappling with the schedule, you want to be grounded and focused. As one seasoned attendee put it, “You will miss out on more fascinating and amazing things than you will actually attend, so just accept it.” Identify your core three goals to accomplish at SXSW. Note that most talks will likely be available online—so think experiential. It could be finding your future business partner, connecting with a certain panelist, surveying the startups, or simply sharing ideas with as many different individuals in your sphere as possible.
- Develop a game plan. Don’t even dream about back to back sessions. In fact, one former attended recommended selecting a few must-go events and then scheduling quarter-day blocks of time using the “sort by venue” function, rather than scurrying across downtown only to stand at the tail of a long line.
- Keep a margin of serendipity. SXSW old-timers maintain that the best parts of their experience largely took place outside of the official events—and they’re not all referring to the raging popup parties. Jay Bae, author and speaker, advised looking for “shadow conferences,” while others remember serendipitous encounters on the free shuttle. Embrace the grassroots spirit that this event originally began with, checking out unofficial acts and parallel programming. Go with the flow and enjoy some spontaneity at the so-called “Techie’s Spring Break.”
- Pack the essentials. It’s a short list: An abundance of business cards. The most comfortable pair of shoes ever owned. A fully-charged power bank. Mobile apps downloaded into your phone, such as SXSW Go, where you can check seat availability and line status.
Follow these four simple steps to make the most out of your time and return home feeling fulfilled and eager to cultivate the meaningful relationships and ideas gathered at SXSW.
Be sure to check out Austin’s legendary late-night food options from pizza to Indian to escargot, to keep you nourished throughout the trip.