How to make it through SXSW in one piece
Welcome to Austin! Thousands of people have already descended on my home here in Texas for South by Southwest (SXSW), otherwise known as Southby.
The 30th annual SXSW conference officially begins on Friday. It encompasses Interactive, Film, Music, and so much more. It can be a little overwhelming. With thousands of visitors, Austin turns from an already bustling city into a throbbing mass of people and music.
I’ve experienced SXSW both as an attendee as well as an Austinite watching from the outside. As you head out to the panels and shows, here are some of the things I’ve learned along the way.
What to Wear
Austin’s style is casual and “come as you are.” We can’t wait to see the personal styles visitors bring to town. Don’t be afraid to express who you are through your clothes.
That said, you’re about to walk — A LOT. So dress comfortably! You might want to think twice about trekking around downtown Austin in high heels. Your feet will thank you.
Also, Austin’s March weather can fluctuate pretty dramatically between hot and cold, dry and wet. I always hated carrying around a coat, but a sweater and an umbrella are pretty easy throw in a bag.
What to Carry
Speaking of bags, I recommend traveling light. Leave everything you can at home or locked away. Bring your phone, a charger, and whatever you need for taking notes. I preferred a journal and pen, but I know most people like tablets and laptops.
I used to carry a shoulder bag and purse, but both became uncomfortable as I walked all over downtown. These days I prefer a simple backpack. It’s so much easier to carry, And then I only have one bag to keep track of and protect.
Where to Eat
I think the question here is — where not to eat!
Food — especially free food — is abundant. My personal preference is to carry a few snacks and eat away from the Austin Convention Center. Lines can be really long at lunch time, so I usually either eat early or later. But don’t forget to eat. Alcohol is even more abundant than free food, so make sure you take care of yourself.
Austin has dozens of great places to eat, from barbecue to Tex-Mex. Check out Eater Austin for good restaurants to try.
How to Travel
Austin is growing more and more pedestrian and bike friendly. The best way to travel to and from the various conference locations is on foot. Shuttles are available for conference attendees to get to the locations that are farther away.
Austin now has bike rentals at several locations around downtown. And if you don’t want to provide your own power, a pedicab is likely nearby and ready to take you where you want to go. Be sure to check out the Downtown Austin Alliance website for information on transportation.
How to Network
SXSW has set up lounges, meetups and an online networking tool to connect with others. But it really comes down to you. I see a lot of attendees staring at their phones or grouping with people they already know. If you want to network, make sure you look up and say hello to the person next to you. And be open to blowing off your schedule to grab a coffee or beer with someone new. The best experiences are the ones you don’t necessarily plan.
This year, for the first time, I’m volunteering my time to help direct and guide visitors. I’m looking forward to experiencing SXSW from a different angle. See you there!
Also published on Medium.