Five tips for SXSW Virgins

Austin, TX

In a little over a week thousands of techies, hipsters and marketing folks will arrive in Austin, Texas for the interactive marketing portion of the 26th Annual South by Southwest Conference for five days of sessions, keynotes, events, networking opportunities and parties. Over those five days there will be a plethora of trends, Tweets and predictions of the next “it” thing in the digital marketing space. The event is something that I am looking forward to and hope to meet some of you at in my second trip to the conference.

Instead of saying what sessions to attend or parties to hit up, I wanted to offer five tips that I picked up while having my Austin cherry popped (as this badge from foursquare points out ) a year ago.SXSW Virgin

Have a schedule…but prepare for it to change – If you’ve logged onto the SXSW homepage and looked at the schedule you’ll see that there is a lot going on. Take an hour or so to look through the list of panels and decide what ones you would like to attend. Then do the same things with the parties that you have already signed up for.  Repeat for any vendors that you plan to meet. Once that’s done put it into a sheet that you can work off of. All of these activities will happen in different areas in the city so each day select something from your schedule as must do and work around that. Also be ready for the unexpected to happen like a lunch meeting or unconference that pops up that will throw off your routine.

Pack comfy shoes – A pair of shoes that are comfortable and made for walking are the most important thing that you can pack for SXSW. You’ll be doing a shit-ton of walking and the last thing you want is aching feet.

A-B-C… always be charging – As you probably know smartphone batteries like to die quickly. Chances are you’ll be using services like foursquare, Twitter, Facebook or Path to be keeping in touch with folks and share some of your knowledge. To make sure that your phone is ready to use when you want it, be sure to keep an eye on the battery meter and an eye out for open outlets wherever you are. Since there will be a ton of folks looking for the same thing you might want to consider packing a small multi-outlet strip (Amazon Affiliate link). My friend Doug Haslam likes to call them instant friend makers and you can see why.

Remember why you are there – if you are attending the conference, there is a really good chance that you were sent by your company. So you probably have goals that your boss has in mind. Since you are there for business in some way shape or form, be sure to keep your goals top of mind. Also remember who you’re representing when chatting with folks at the parties.

Connections are more important than being seen – A lot is made at SXSW about the parties and who is where at what time. Now I love parties as much as the next guy but found more value in having more intimate conversations and get togethers. Not only was it easier on my vocal chords (no yelling needed), but it also helped spark better conversation and led to longer-lasting relationships. Now don’t get me wrong, the parties are worth going to, but take them in moderation.

Explore – the city of Austin is beautiful and has a lot of hidden gems. Many of the hotspots will have long lines to get in or are over-crowded. Take a step off the beaten path and you’re sure to find a place that you’ll fall in love with that wouldn’t have experienced staying on the set map of SXSW approved map.

23 Responses to Five tips for SXSW Virgins
  1. iamreff
    February 29, 2012 | 9:06 am

    Great advice Jeff.  If I may add one. Last year I carried a small battery charger to recharge my phone on the go. It worked so well that I’m carrying two this year – one for an afternoon recharge and another for the evening. That way I can get through the day without an electrical outlet.  They are pretty small and with them I don’t need to carry power adapters or cables. The ones I use, called PowerGens, are ideal for my Droid phone because it comes standard with a microUSB attachment. iPhone users might find something similar but best suited for iPhones. Most people won’t need two, but my phone doubles as a wifi hotspot and that drains the battery pretty quickly.  
     
    You can see the PowerGen along with my other gear, and I won’t be packing all of it with me, on this pinterest board. 
    http://pinterest.com/iamreff/sxsw/
     
    thanks,
    John  @iamreff 

  2. jeffespo
    February 29, 2012 | 9:28 am

     @iamreff Thanks John. I think those might be worth looking at investing in. I have the Droid Razr and its been pretty good lately on battery life but can see how a walking charge would be pretty valuable. How many batteries do they run on?

  3. iamreff
    February 29, 2012 | 9:55 am

     @jeffespo these units have internal, rechargeable batteries, just plug them into a USB at night using a provided cable. In the morning they’re ready to go again.
     
    Last year I used the kind that took 4 AA batteries, but eventually it burned out. Apparently Droid phones can have a relatively high mAH (milli-ampere-hours). The power charger I was using would get SUPER hot and eventually it burned out. So far the Powergen has been great. It has a 2900 mAH which is more than enough for my Droids 1800 mAH.  I haven’t used the Powergen a ton, but it has worked when I’ve used it. SXSW will put it to the test for sure.

  4. jeffespo
    February 29, 2012 | 9:56 am

     @iamreff OK you sold me hombre. Do you have an amazon affiliate link so I can make you a sale 😉

  5. iamreff
    February 29, 2012 | 10:08 am

     @jeffespo I didn’t have one but I just signed up.  You can try this link. 

  6. iamreff
    February 29, 2012 | 10:09 am

     @jeffespo I didn’t have one. Been meaning to. I have one now. Never used it so abandon it if it gives you a hard time. 
    http://rcm.amazon.com/e/cm?t=markettechno-20&o=1&p=8&l=as1&asins=B004UP491W&ref=tf_til&fc1=000000&IS2=1&lt1=_blank&m=amazon&lc1=0000FF&bc1=000000&bg1=FFFFFF&f=ifr

  7. jeffespo
    February 29, 2012 | 10:54 am

    @mpace101 will you be there? Becayse we should make a party together

  8. mpace101
    February 29, 2012 | 10:56 am

    @jeffespo are you asking me out? Sorry unemployment & SXSW don’t mix super well

  9. MSGiro
    February 29, 2012 | 11:04 am

    @peplau AND purple Crocs = what @jeffespo is wearing. #SXSWi

  10. DerekPeplau
    February 29, 2012 | 11:08 am

    Great advice, Jeff.  I stepped it up on the charging front as well this year.  Packing two of these: http://www.amazon.com/New-Trent-IMP500-External-Blackberry/dp/B0013G8PTS/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1330527805&sr=8-2
    They take a long time to charge apparently, but you get 3 full charges for the iPhone.  Will bring one with while the other charges.  Hopefully that will mean less time spent hunched over an outlet.  Extreme power management can also boost your battery life as well (e.g. turning off WiFi when not needed, dimming the display brightness to the lowest readable level, ‘closing’ apps you’re not using so they aren’t running in the background etc.).  Disabling location services also helps improve battery life, but I think that particular feature counts as indispensable when at this particular conference.

  11. DerekPeplau
    February 29, 2012 | 11:10 am

    Great advice, Jeff.  I stepped it up on the charging front as well this year.  Packing two of these: http://amzn.to/y43IeY
    They take a long time to charge apparently, but you get 3 full charges for the iPhone.  Will bring one with while the other charges.  Hopefully that will mean less time spent hunched over an outlet.  Extreme power management can also boost your battery life as well (e.g. turning off WiFi when not needed, dimming the display brightness to the lowest readable level, ‘closing’ apps you’re not using so they aren’t running in the background etc.).  Disabling location services also helps improve battery life, but I think that particular feature counts as indispensable when at this particular conference.

  12. jeffespo
    February 29, 2012 | 11:27 am

    @MSGiro @peplau Still waiting for you to get me them Marc

  13. jeffespo
    February 29, 2012 | 11:27 am

    @mpace101 Lunch soon then?

  14. MSGiro
    February 29, 2012 | 11:35 am

    @jeffespo I can only get you light up @StrideRite sneakers, which might just be your thing.

  15. mpace101
    February 29, 2012 | 11:38 am

    @jeffespo sounds good – when are you free next week?

  16. jeffespo
    February 29, 2012 | 11:48 am

    @mpace101 travel next week. How about Friday of this week?

  17. jeffespo
    February 29, 2012 | 11:49 am

    @yoliworth thanks!

  18. mpace101
    February 29, 2012 | 11:55 am

    @jeffespo I think Fri will work. I’ll come up to you, you name the place and time (since my sched is wide open)

  19. jeffespo
    February 29, 2012 | 11:55 am

    @mpace101 I’ll be in Boston (mental health day) so let’s chat offline on deets

  20. jeffespo
    February 29, 2012 | 1:15 pm

     @DerekPeplau Will peep that as well D. Hopefully we can catch up out there. 

  21. allenmireles
    March 2, 2012 | 12:41 am

    @karimacatherine Oh are you going to SXSW? Good for you! I am completely envious but very happy for you. 🙂

  22. Moofaces
    March 4, 2012 | 2:35 pm

    @ShellyKramer @jeffespo Join us http://t.co/LfmM16Pr creative people connect based on profession and interest ! #SXSW

  23. jeffespo
    March 4, 2012 | 3:03 pm

    @Moofaces are you offering @ShellyKramer and me free food and booze?

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