Lucky you! You’re off to SXSW in sunny Austin in a few weeks, to meet other geeks, ogle the internet-famous, and generally get whipped into an interactive froth. Here’s your top 10 tips from a seasoned South By’er to make your webby whirlwind a little more user friendly.
1. Pack your Havaianas
Austin is in Texas. Texas is sweat-inducing even in March. You might still sport jeans and an evening cardi, but you’ll appreciate the built-in air conditioning that accompanies a bare foot. And get a pedi. You’re going to be walking a lot, so decallus and beautify in advance.
2. Pre-pimp your iPhone
Thanks to ubiquitous wifi, in ’08 I got away with carrying only my iPod Touch for internet access! You gotta have:
- SXSW iPhone app
- View/build your schedule
- Map conference and festival events each hour
- Exchange contact info with people you meet
- Read news, and search attendees, events, and venues
- I’m not kidding, this lets you find where your friends are sitting at each panel. I haven’t used it, but this little piece of Star Trekkian-futurama sounds so useful.
- Tweetie 2
- It costs $2.99, but you’ll save at least that much, what with the free beer (see #9). And it’s worth it, because Tweetie 2 has the works: lists, retweets, multiple accounts.
- You’ll drink the Kool-Aid by the end of SX, so you might as well go prepared.
- So you can let your mom know your flight landed safely.
- Blogging apps
3. Beg, borrow or steal a netbook
If you ain’t iPhone-enabled, you’ll want a connected device, but for God’s sake bring a netbook. I wept at the weight of my server-sized laptop more than once. There’s beautiful wifi everywhere in the conference centre, but don’t sit outside in the hot Texas sun to blog (however tempting it might be). I did this in ’09. overheated my motherboard, and spent a fortune on a long distance, roaming-charges fraught tech support call that ultimately left me lugging a blue-screened brick. Because they hung up on me.
4. Don’t get the Big Bag
As a marketer I know this is poor sportsmanship, and I get that sponsorship keeps costs down, but you don’t need the Big Bag. It’s a canvas tote with a groovy Adobe logo on it (and makes a dope grocery bag later), but it’s jam-packed with flyers and weighs a ton. Whatever one good freebie it may or may not contain is not worth lugging that thing around the entire first day, or the environmental guilt you’ll suffer tossing all that paper.
5. Carry ye olde school paper business cards
There’s nothing like the personal touch of trading cards with new contacts, especially if you’re traveling solo and looking for some nerd love. Take this opportunity to spiff up your blog or anything else you’ll be herding people towards with said cards. And check out Bump, a cute iPhone app that lets you bump your phone into the phones of cute boys and exchange contact info.
6. Ditch the dSLR
Unless you work for the Big Picture and are really married to depth of field, use a point ‘n’ shoot or your iPhone. dSlrs have 3 strikes against them: they`re expensive if you break or lose them, they’re heavy, and you can never whip them out and focus when the action’s going down. I’ve lugged a full-size professional video camera around that damn conference, and, I mean, just don’t.
7. The early bird gets good seats
8. Travel toothbrush + Colgate = your purse’s new BFF
You’ll have serious coffee breath at some point. Carry a mini bottle of Scope, too.
9. Don’t go pregnant
Beer is a fundamental component of both Austin & SX, and having to pass it up (sometimes it’s FREE!) is a drag. On the flip side, you may find the prevalence of hops revolting. Blogger Dooce was 5 months pregnant at the ’09 extravaganza, & she said the beer stench that passes for air in Austin made her physically ill. So try not to be conferencing for two if you can help it.
10. Schedule your bliss
Follow your gut and attend things that sound cool to you. Don’t bore yourself with technology or industry-specific talks, if your eyes light up when you see something about community-building. I’ll never regret deciding on the fly to go see something that sounded funny and getting to experience the madness that is Eric Nakagawa, original pre-Ben Huh creator of I Can Haz Cheezburger. Or attending a talk with Hugh MacLeod and having a genuine Gaping Void cartoon on the back of a business card thrown at me, now framed in my studio.
SXSW is about the culture of the web, so go to panels that define that for you. Trends and technology will leak into everything that happens, so focus on what gets you stoked. And have a blast for me