Your SXSW 2012 Interactive Top 10 Tips for Survival

February 21, 2012

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SXSW Interactive is one of, if not THE biggest, interactive marketing and web conference, and is a valuable resource for our team here at Schipul.  SXSW Interactive offers education and the latest and greatest for all things related to web marketing and digital advertising.

I’m excited to be able to give back to my profession this year as a presenter on a panel: Spacepoints – Space Outreach at Ludicrous Speed! If you’re going to be in Austin in March for SXSW 2012, come check out my panel or just hang out with the team from Schipul attending.  {shameless plug!}

SXSW has a Guide for First Timers that can give you some tips on navigating the conference.  Their guide can get you to the sessions, but when I attend SXSW, I am also looking to connect with other Interactive Agencies to build relationships and identify the latest technology innovations and software tools to help our clients improve their online marketing results.  This results in a 24/7 week-long agenda of AM networking breakfast, blogger’s lounge, panels, afternoon networking, party, party, party, 4 hours of sleep, repeat.  Over the past few years, I’ve developed my own tips for surviving the extended-version of SXSW Interactive.

Here are my Top 10 Tips for Doing SXSW Interactive Hardcore:

1) Say Yes to the Free Caffeine; Say No to the Free Booze.

You’ll find that every party will have plenty of free sugar free red bull, monster energy drinks, vodka or some other kind of alcohol to mix.  Then my Caffeine Hero: Starbucks always comes to the rescue the next morning with plenty of free coffee.  Skip the booze if you want to make it through the entire week, and stock your hotel with fresh fruit and healthy snacks because you’ll be hard pressed to find any food, let alone free food at SXSW.

2) Keep Your Smartphone Charger on You at All Times.

You will be on the go running from panel to panel during the day, and then party to party each night. Carry your phone charger with you, take a spare that you keep in your hotel room (in case you lose your first one), and if you have the option – get a spare battery too. If you see an outlet near you – don’t be ashamed to plugin and juice up your phone. Tweeting, foursquaring, and texting is power-intensive and you don’t want to have a dead battery at 2am when you are trying to find directions back to your hotel.

3) Bookmark http://austin2012.sched.org/ and use it to create your personalized SXSW schedule before you get to Austin.

SXSW’s event schedule on their website is pretty good – however I’ve been using sched.org’s unofficial SXSW guide to find EVERY party, panel, and must attend event possible.  The best places to connect with people at SXSW aren’t always “official” parties.

Sched also offers a new feature this year that enables you to sync your Eventbrite RSVPs and the platform is available for all the major mobile platforms: iphone, Droid and Blackberry. When you get to Austin, you’ll love how easy sched makes it to find your next session on the go.

4) Pack a Swimsuit.

Austin weather is fickle, and it may be 60 degrees in early March or 90. Regardless – all the hotels have swimming pools and hot tubs and if you are doing it right, you’ll be invited to at least one pool party.  I don’t recommend skinny dipping at SXSW – everyone has a camera in their smartphone and you what happens at SXSW definitely does NOT stay at SXSW.  So take your favorite swim trunks or bikini when you pack for Austin.

5) Pack a Cowboy Hat and Cowboy Boots.

There will be at least 2 parties with a Texas country theme. If you don’t have western attire – no worries, Austin has some great shops where you can purchase what you need.  I’ve gotten great Cowgirl boots at Allen’s Boots and the HatBox has Cowboy hats in every style plus tons of other fun and funky headwear.

6) Pack a Backpack and Leave Your Briefcase at Home.

Have I already mentioned you’ll be on the move for a week? Take a compact backpack with a laptop-padded section for your trip and spare your back and shoulders the strain of running around all day carrying your briefcase. You don’t have to take your laptop or tablet PC – but you’ll definitely want to have something with you for taking notes in the sessions, even if you prefer traditional pen and paper.  If you are going to any of the developer or design sessions then your laptop will be heavily used. Bloggers will find the Bloggers lounge a great resource for power and snacks while updating your audience with all the latest happenings online too.

7) Talk to Strangers.

The panels are great for professional development but it’s the people at the conference that are the core of the experience so don’t be shy – say Hi to everyone you meet. SXSW Interactive hosts the largest single gathering of “Connectors” you’ll ever find so strike up a conversation and get connected with new people who will help you grow your business, launch your start-up, or make an introduction to that big prospect or thought leader.

8) Take More Business Cards Than You Think You’ll Need – and Stickers Too!

I probably go through 200-300 mini-moos each SXSW. I order cards JUST for SXSW that have my contact information while at the conference. I include a headshot so people recognize me throughout the week, my mobile so people can text me about any “pop-up” parties, my email address for following up later, and this year my panel information so people will know when and where I’ll be presenting. I recommend moo.com’s mini-moos if you are going to order cards just for the event. Here’s my cards for this year:

9)  Make Time to Visit the Exhibitions, Showcases, and Lounges.

One of the best places to find out about innovations in online technology is SXSW’s Interactive.  The only place I personally can imagine being cooler for a tech-geek like me is the Consumer Electronics Show in Vegas.  SXSW has several different Trade Shows and Showcase Lounges featuring an array of products and services that your business may want to utilize for growing online and offline next year.  You definitely want to make your rounds to the SXSW Start-up Village Showcase featuring new technology start-ups, plus you can snag some really fun Swag!

10) Don’t Try to Do Everything.

You can’t.  I tried one year and came back with no voice left and a dazed and confused fog that took 2 more weeks to dissipate.  Until cloning techniques advance, I’ll have to settle with missing about 2/3rds of everything because so much is going on all at once.

Schedule at least 4 to 6 hours of sleep each night.  Make time in your schedule to get away from the convention center to walk around the lake one morning or take a couple of hours one afternoon and take a nap in your hotel.  SXSW, when done right, is both grueling and an amazing experience.  Definitely dive right into the throng of digital tech madness, but be sure to turn off your phone every so often…

And remember: Don’t Drink the Free Booze!


Comments on Your SXSW 2012 Interactive Top 10 Tips for Survival

  1. 1

    From JamesBradshawIV:

    So where do I find the parties with the free Drinks????

    LOL…..JK

  2. 2

    From ShearCreativity:

    Thank you for sharing these great tips, Sarah! We had a couple of team members that were new to SxSW 

  3. 3

    From ShearCreativity:

    Thank you for sharing these great tips, Sarah! Since we had a couple of team members that were new to SxSW last year, we shared a few tips for first-timers as well. We’ll add a comment linking to Schipul’s tips on our blog post. You know, for maximum preparedness. http://theblacksheepagency.com/blog/index.php/site/deets/sxsw-amateur-hour-is-over#i