I’ve been around this SXSW Interactive block a few times now, and I feel like each time I attend, I get a little bit smarter on how to prepare for it. Each year, it also gets bigger and bigger and BIGGER. I didn’t know this until last year, but SXSW does not actually sell out of badges – at least not for Interactive. They will sell as many walk-up badges at full price as there are people willing to buy them. This explains why Interactive seems to grow at a limitless pace.
Here’s what you need to bring with you to SXSW Interactive:
1. Smartphone with charger and extra battery (like a Mophie or similar charger). While you’re at it, go ahead and download the SXSW Go app for handy access to the schedule, which you should go online and pick lots of options ahead of time. Between all the social media usage and mapping and other apps, your battery will be put to the test, and that’s where you’ll need chargers to re-juice. Another tip: check your storage capacity on your phone. I recently ran out of space and had to clear a lot of photos/videos. Glad I figured that out this week rather than while I’m trying to capture something cool at South By.
2. Waterproof layer and layers in general. Texas has volatile weather, especially in the non-summer months. We had an ice day in Austin just last week, followed by heavy rain. SXSW week tends to bring the rain, so although it looks like Friday through Monday will be fairly clear, you never know. Don’t get caught without a rain jacket or umbrella to protect your tech. Also, the mornings have been really chilly (50s) and afternoons should warm up to the low 70s.
3. Comfy shoes. REALLY comfy shoes. Flip flops are acceptable footwear in Austin year-round, but they make really lousy walking shoes. You’ll be on your feet a lot during SXSW, so I recommend sneakers or something really supportive. Unless you have on-call car service to drive you everywhere, there’s really no point in wearing cute non-functional shoes.
4. Refillable water bottle. Between the free beer and cocktails at parties and all the walking you’ll be doing, you’ll get thirsty. The Convention Center charges an arm and a leg for bottled water (and food), but there is plenty of free filtered water and fountains at all the venues. Fill up.
5. Healthy snacks. To counter balance the free tacos or free grilled cheese sandwiches. Last year, I managed to miss out on a lot of free food opportunities because I got there too late (I was 35 weeks pregnant and not moving around as swiftly as I normally do!), so I was glad to have snacks in my bag to hold me over until I could find something more substantial.
6. Lots of business cards that have your social media handles printed on them. I’ve found Twitter to be the easiest way to keep in touch with people during SXSW and also a great way to meet new people. Since this is a huge networking event in addition to the learning and the brand experiences, I always have business cards on hand and like to mark on them how we met. Having the Twitter handle printed makes it super easy to actually follow up with people throughout the conference.
7. Cheap sunglasses. When the sun’s out, it’s hot and bright. You’ll have a lot of outdoor time, roaming around and standing in lines. And inevitably, you’ll drop/break your sunglasses. Get some cheap ones to start with. Usually, some company will be handing out free ones, which will come in handy. Texas sun is no joke. Wear some SPF too.
8. Collapsible tote bag. This one is if you like to pick up free stuff, like me. (If my husband is reading this, I promise to only pick up the GOOD free stuff.) I try to pack as light as I can to start with, knowing that I might pick up a few knick knacks here and there. I’m throwing in a collapsible tote bag to handle any extras without weighing me down.
9. A sense of adventure. While I probably live a more scheduled life than most, I’m learning to make room for more exploration and adventure during SXSW. There are so many little nooks and crannies with official and unofficial spaces and events outside of the panels and sessions. The programming is what I look forward to most, but I also enjoy the extras – the lounges, the sideshows, the demonstrations. Interactive isn’t the nerd fest it was a few years ago, but there’s still quite a bit of geek left in it. I’m vowing to myself to not be stuck to what I’m comfortable with and to look up every once in a while. Some of the best SXSW moments I’ve had were completely unplanned.
Two days before the madness begins!!! I’m so excited about the Working Moms Meet up on Friday. I’ve had a few people already reach out to me about it!