50 Essential #SXSW Tips for the International (Digital) Rockstar

Travelling to sxsw by Benjamin Ellis

Here are fifty tips from the mind of SXSW veteran, and Chinwag mastermind, Sam Michel. They are good, and they work - I know because I've personally beta-tested every one of them!

1. Shoes - Wear comfortable shoes. There is lots of walking - the Austin Convention Center (ACC) is so large that it could declare itself a principality and have its own royal family. They'd be on Twitter of course.

2. Pace yourself - You know that think about the candle that burns brightly? You may want to be a bright star, but the days are long, and the nights longer still. Don't over do it too soon.

3. Flexibility - Plan to change your plan. The queues for one session or party might be huge, so look at what else is on. You didn't some here to queue, you can do that back home.

4. Contact - Stay in touch on Twitter, Facebook, FourSquare, but don't forget old skool SMS. It's all about the people. Contact and be contactable.

5. Roaming Data Charges - They can be eye-watering. Lots of venues in Austin have WiFi, and a new EU ruling means you shouldn't get ripped off, well, not too badly anyway. Coverage hasn't been great in previous years, it may be better this year. There again, they say that every year.

6. Eating & Drinking - plan your days well and it's unlikely you'll be buying any food or drinks, virtually for the whole week. Check our our BBQ, the Block Party, the Great British Breakfast and more...

7. Breakfast - This is the most important meal of the day, it will set you up right. For us the kings of breakfasts are Magnolia, & Downtown Jo's on 2nd Street.

8. 6th Street - Get to know it, its choca-block of party venues - very lively during Interactive, absolutely heaving during music. Walk the whole length, but perhaps not every day!

9. BBQ - You you might be in its ancestral home. Good dining options: Iron Works, Stubbs, and Salt Lick.

10. Texas - Austin State Rodeo - Get a cab there, and don't forget to get a number to get a cab back!

11. Texas Part 2 - Get a tour of the State Capitol (the building that looks like the one in Washington at the top of the Hill). It's a bit of culture and an insight into the amazing history of Texas that makes it what it is.

12. Getting there - It's a long-old trip from Europe. There are no direct flights, and an above average chance of missing a connection. But you've probably figured that already!

13. Meetings - You can try, but it's a busy, hectic place, so be flexible about meetings. It sometimes takes longer to get from A to B than expected.

14. ID - Bring it. Always. Even old fogies like me get carded (sometimes), and its 21+ for booze, sadly.

15. Sessions - Try something random. Some of the best sessions are the ones you'll just amble into. Don't worry about sneaking out the back half-way through, if it's not working for you.

16. Promotion - Pimp yourself by asking insightful, relevant questions at sessions, and don't forget to introduce yourself when you're at the mic.

17. Power - There's often a dearth of power sockets. Take a four-way adapter and there's very a good chance you'll make some new friends. Charge everything whenever you have the opportunity!

18. Timings - sessions usually run to time, but like everything else in Texas, the distances between sessions can be big (allow 20 min to walk the length of the ACC when it's busy).

19. Programme - it's your bible to sessions, and worth having a good look through for hidden gems and extra stuff that SXSW is laying on. Download the SXSW app too.

20. Ask - people for advice, about sessions, venues, etc... There's things springing up all over the shop and the word on the street (and Twitter) is usually ahead.

21. Supplies - getting something to eat or drink can get pricey, get a stash (of drinks/snacks) for your room from one of the local Corner stores.

22. Queues - are a great chance to meet new people and chat, some of the best conversation happens while you're waiting. Business deals have been done in queues before now.

23. Business cards - You might be able to bump, bluetooth or whatever, but the trusty old business card still rules.

24. Registration - avoid the busy times to dodge the queues, don't forget a picture is involved, and you'll be wearing it round your neck all week. Just saying...

25. Weather - usually warm, but changeable, evenings can be chilly and when it rains, it rains!

26. Bats - Dusk at Congress Bridge, it's the biggest (what's a bunch of bats called?) in North America. Watch them come home to roost.

27. Tradeshow - absolutely worth touring round to see who is touting what, usually some interesting freebies to be had.

28. Block Party - did someone say free drink & food? Pop down to the Tradeshow on Tuesday when lots of stands will be laying on a big spread.

29. Variety - as well as SXSW Music, there's also Games, Film, Comedy and all sorts of other fringe events. Dive in.

30. Overwhelmed? - Just leafing through the programme can do it - it's OK to take in a keynote, amble round the Tradeshow and take in a couple of extra sessions, don't feel you should have to cram your schedule or your brain.

31. Casual - Austin isn't a corporate town. Suits are out, comfy clothes are in. Get dolled up in the evenings if you fancy it, but stick to flats (or have them stashed in your bag). Most venues are on the casual side of casual, including the conference centre itself.

32. Always Missing Out - with so much always a danger of this, throw yourself into whatever event you're at and you'll get more out of it. This is a time to be in the moment, not rueing the tweets from the party/session/hotel down the road that you didn't make it in to.

33. Leaving Austin - allow a little extra time at peak periods. Austin airport is quite small and when the SXSW exodus begins, the queues can be loooong.

34. Rest time - not just the feet, the voice too. It's a marathon not a sprint, so try a mid-afternoon sit down with a cup of tea, coffee or something stronger. Remember to stay hydrated even if it's just preparation for the evenings.

35. Parties - there are too many to count. It's not like back home though, people flit between them, don't be surprised if you're bouncing between 3-4 or more every night.

36. Party Venues - Downtown Austin is pretty small, so have a wonder about outside the ACC, 6th Street and the area in general to get your bearings before the mayhem begins.

37. Food - there are lots of great places to go, including the obvious Tex-Mex and BBQ mentioned earlier. Food at the ACC probably won't win any awards, but there are plenty of places nearby which might spark your palette.

38. Cabs - plentiful except during rush hour when it's hard to find one. Also, traffic can be awful during peak periods.

39. Sun Block - for delicate types the sun can be extremely strong. It's easy to forget how quickly you can turn into a lobster, when you've just emerged from an air conditioned conference room.

40. SXSW Recovery - there's a good chance you'll come back with some lurgi (nothing too serious) and a little tired (and possibly emotional). Allow yourself some time to recover, and digest it all, don't rush back to work!

41. The official guide is comprehensive, but it is worth checking the unofficial versions, and there's lots of 'em, check out SXSW Baby, Plancast, and Lanyrd for starters.

42. Networking - the SXsocial tool can be useful to see who is attending, but don't rely on being able to find them, it's a big conference!

43. Serendipity - you're just as likely to make contacts at bars as in conference sessions, so sample plenty of both.

44. Laptop/Phone Charging - batteries aren't what they used to be, remember to charge every night and make full use of the facilities. Geek conferences take their toll on smartphones and laptops, so extra batteries are often a good call.

45. Laptops - lugging them round can be a pain after a while, are you really going to take notes? Or answer those emails? I mean, really?

46. SXSW Buddies - hanging with your countryfolk is a good way to meet people en masse, but don't speak to them exclusively. Mix things up a little, and introduce folks that you know that don't know each other.

47. Linkedin & Follow-up - When they're interested, the Americans tend to be much more efficient than other countries. Don't leave it until you get home, you'll be busy with work by then. Or sleeping.

48. Maps - Yes there's Google, Bing, Ovi & Yahoo, but a paper version doesn't need a battery, and can be easier to read than a screen. GPS doesn't always see eye to eye with Austin's tall buildings.

49. Taking Notes - don't feel under pressure to always be tapping. Sometimes it's good to listen and take it all in. Many sessions are filmed for broadcast, and there's more than a handful of bloggers in town.

50. Press - Lots of them make the journey to Austin. It can be easier to make press contacts with your local press when there's fewer people hitting them up for stories and you have an accent in common. They're srangers in a strange land, too!

Oh, and remember to always have your pass with you - Being shut out of a session or party isn't very rock star!

Photo (cc) Benjamin Ellis.