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5 Tips to Make the Most out of SXSW 2017

5 MINUTE READ | March 13, 2017

5 Tips to Make the Most out of SXSW 2017

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Amanda Presley

Amanda Presley has written this article. More details coming soon.

Many of you out here at SXSW Interactive 2017 in Austin are first-timers to this conference like I am. In my first three days in the sunshine, rain and unexpectedly cold start to SXSW I have learned a few things. Here are my basic tips to make the most out of SXSW and avoid being overwhelmed by the buzz.

1. Plan Ahead. SXSW is a world famous conference for a reason, and it continues to elevate the surprise and excite factor. The reason why this conference is held in such high esteem pulling in celebrities and the best and boldest from around the world is because of the top notch level of content. But, that means there is A LOT of content at SXSW.

So how do you manage the overload of content, sessions, lounges and events during SXSW?

Simply put – organize. If you are going with a team from your company, map out the sessions you each want to attend. Then divide and conquer to cover more content for yourself and your company. As you’re picking out your sessions, make sure to use the SXSW app to curate the sessions that interest you. Keep in mind that not all sessions are in the same building and you may be making a trek to get to each session so factor in walking times.

Choose more than less because you can always pare back your schedule later. Additionally, plans change, so it’s nice to have a backup plan.

2. RSVPing matters. Planning goes beyond just ‘favorite-ing’ your top sessions, but you also need to keep in mind the networking you want to accomplish for evening events, lounges, and in-depth exclusive sessions. Start compiling the events that pique your interest and get moving on RSVPing for these events. The more RSVPs, the better.

Once you get the confirmation, add it to your calendar, so you start building a roadmap of your SXSW week. Again, RSVP to everything because it is always preferred (in this conference setting) to be busy rather than bored. Plus you have a backup plan if one event doesn’t shake out.

*With so many parties and events, keep in mind you are at a conference – so keep it professional. Don’t drink too much. Hydrate. Hydrate. Hydrate. And don’t be shy to meet some new people. You probably are not the only newbie here. Also, remember this conference is long, so pace yourself.

3. Be Adaptable. Now that you have a plan for the next seven days, both day and night keeping you busy from sunrise to sunset – take a step back. Don’t throw the schedule out the window but also don’t feel married to this calendar. You have to remember that it is a long conference and you cannot do it all – I promise you can’t. If you can get in 2-3 solid sessions and some happy hour time in a day then you are winning. Plus this is a slow and steady way to keep up your energy throughout the entire interactive conference.

Once you actually start mingling and walking around, you’ll find sessions or outside events that may pull you in. Just go with it and enjoy breaking away from your neatly laid out calendar – because you can always come back to your schedule.

4. On time = early. Kicking off the sessions and events, you’ll start to notice that SXSW is busy. We know this. But what you don’t always realize is that this busy translates to long lines and sometimes hitting capacity for sessions, meaning you don’t get to go. So if there is a big session or event you REALLY want to experience get there ~30 minutes early. This tip ties together the element of planning and being flexible. If you arrive at a neverending line that you don’t think is worth it, pull up your app and pivot. With 1,000s of sessions, I am sure you will find something just as interesting around the corner. 

5. Take Care of Yourself. This is the most important piece, and without this, SXSW is a bust. Pack a backpack (guy or girl) with some essentials listed out below. There is food everywhere. Literally everywhere. However, I got so caught up on my first day thinking I needed to hit every session that by my last session I was fighting to hear the speakers over the growling of my stomach. Remember to take the time to eat, hydrate and especially rest. Also, accept the snacks and drinks being passed out at the events; even if you aren’t hungry, save them for later when you realize you are starving.

It sounds basic, but my message is to say that there is a ton to keep you busy at SXSW but you cannot do it all. So before you get caught up and tied to your calendar, remember to take it as it comes to you, learn from all of the amazing content you can get to, but also don’t forget to enjoy the sights, tastes, and sounds of the city. Plus some of the best networking happens when your standing in line waiting for a breakfast taco.

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PMG’s SXSW Backpack Essentials:1. Get a backpack2. Phone Charger3. Notepad + Pen4. Mints5. Business Cards6. Jacket/Umbrella

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