Beyond what to pack for SXSW, there are quite a few things to keep in mind, as SXSW is a conference unlike any other.
Here are a few of Tessa's tips I want to specifically call out (with commentary)
- Austin weather is usually HOT but can be very RAINY (and COLD). Bring layers and pack water resistant items accordingly. At a minimum: walkable boots and a small umbrella.
- Sunscreen / sunblock - pack it, bring it. No one likes (having a) lobster-face.
- RSVP for everything and assume you'll make nothing. So true, best laid plans and all that. Instead, team up with a few friends (mix new and familiar) each night and hit-up what looks like the best option at any given time. No matter what, you'll at least be hanging out together and getting to know each other better.
- Sites to get on and check out in advance:
- Foursquare.com - this will be essential for seeing which of your friends are where in realtime. More than Twitter or anything else. Add me on Foursquare.
- Plancast.com for SXSW - you can keep track of my recommended events by following me on plancast.
- Sched.org for SXSW 2011 - also t on there (haven't added much yet).
- sitby.us - share where you're sitting in panels.
- Breakfast events are less crazy - two words: breakfast tacos. some of my best memories from SXSW are from spontaneous/serendipitous brunch meetups.
- Carry energy bars, dried fruit, trail mix - whatever healthy snacks you can dip into whenever you feel hunger coming on. Keep your blood glucose even. Avoid spiking it (and inevitably crashing) with anything with corn-syrup or high in sugar / processed "foods", and you'll be happier and more alert throughout the day.
- Pick sessions based on who you want to see more than the what - particularly challenging as none of the above tools show events by speaker.
- Arrive early for sessions you really want to get into - popular sessions are standing room only by the time they start. plan to arrive 15-20 minutes early.
- Consistent clear profile photos. Make sure your Twitter, Facebook, etc. profiles have a consistent, clear photo of your face. I need to get on this. Ditch the 8-bit avatars, cartoons, pets, babies, QR codes. They're not that clever, really they're not. You and everyone else are going to meet tons of new people, and if you want a chance of them remembering you and connecting, look the same online as you do in person.
There were only a few tips for which I have alternate suggestions:
- Bring Moo mini-cards, not normal business cards. Seasoned SXSWers frown upon anything traditionally business-like: suits, ties, sales pitches, and business cards. Leave your business cards at home and order Moo mini-cards instead:
- front: simple design with your name, personal URL, Twitter, maybe Flickr, and of course a clear photo of your face per previous tip.
- back: a variety of photos from your Flickr that reflect your personality.
- delivered to directly your hotel. too late to ship home.
- Speed-walk instead of pedi-cab. I'm not a fan of the pedi-cabs. They're great in concept but my experience(s) have left something to be desired. Due to frequent traffic jams, they're not that much faster than speed-walking or jogging, and quite expensive. Instead, between now and next Friday, practice speed-walking everywhere you go, and if you're up for it, jog/run 1-2 miles a day. It will make a difference. Exception: 10+ blocks are worth pedi-cabbing it.
- Carry a rechargeable USB battery instead of phone charger. Everyone has a smart phone that dies in the evening, and rushes to use the scarce outlets in bars/restaurants. Don't expect to plug-in when you're out. Get a rechargeable USB battery pack like the Trent Super-pack IMP500 5000mAh External Battery and use it to recharge your iPhone/BlackBerry/Android on the go.
All her good suggestions sparked a few more in my head:
- Sharpie your name + URL + twitter on your stuff.
Use an ultra fine Sharpie pen (if you want to stand out pick a signature color from this 24-pack of 80's glam colored sharpie markers) to write your name, URL, handle on all your gadgets, cables, extension cords, power supplies etc. In all the hustle and bustle that is SXSW you might easily forget something somewhere, or drop something. By clearly visibly labeling your stuff you make it easier for/to:
- someone to return your lost stuff
- people to say hi and remember your name in sessions
- conduct your own honesty experiment, deliberately "forgetting" stuff to see who returns it
- Recharge everything at night. Before taking your clothes off, empty your pockets of devices and plug everything in:
- camera battery
- USB battery
- Carry a small laptop power adapter and a couple of USB cables with you so that if you do end up away from your base of operations for the night, you can at least recharge your laptop, USB battery, and phone by connecting them all together.
- Carry a water bottle with you. You will dehydrate quickly in the warm weather outside / air-conditioning inside, and from all the speed-walking across town. Stay hydrated and you'll be happier and last longer.
- Start days with breakfast tacos and coffee. Nothing like a solid dose of protein (eggs) and caffeine to get into gear. Breakfast might be your only proper big solid meal of the day, so make it count.
I hope you find Tessa's SXSW 101 intro and these additional tips useful in your SXSW adventures.