SXSW Unofficial Guide

We wrote this SXSW guide on our 5th Visit. 

We skipped 2016 and might go back in 2017 .

Here are some tips that should be useful.

First Timer

Hopefully these tips will make you feel like a
SXSW Veteran.

SXSW Sign down the Escalators
You will be seeing this sight many times.

I always compare arriving to my first SXSW experience with going to Boot Camp in Fort Knox, Kentucky.

Many veterans and soldiers shared their experiences and gave me ideas of what I would experience. No description was close to the experience of actually being in boot camp.

You might find a few people barking orders and trying to keep such a tight schedule. My advice is be flexible go with the flow and make the best of it.

Have discipline with rest, hydration, and meals. This will help you enjoy your experience and keep energy levels up.

From the Airport to the Convention Center

Depending on what day you arrive there are free shuttle services from the Airport to the Convention Center. If you are arriving once registration is open and want to grab your badge early. Taking those shuttles allows you to start meeting people (that are not exhausted) as you arrive.

Take advantage of the free ride and then hail a cab to your final destination.

Shay Tressa Desimone also recommends the following:

Anyone can catch bus 100 (MetroAirport) downtown for $1.75;  it departs on the hour and half hour.

Smooth lines at SXSW 2014.

Get your Badge Early

To make sure you enjoy the most of the conference. Pick up your badge as early as possible. By register your information on the SXSW.com to link your badge and upload your badge photo.

Don't Forget Your Badge Pickup QuickCode! The past two years the lines have moved quickly. Here is a picture of last year when I went to pickup it took a few minutes.

Getting my Badge on the first day of SXSWi 2014.

Keep your Badge in a Safe Place

Your badge will get you into official SXSW events and will also give you free entrance to other venues throughout Austin.

You only get one badge and SXSW will make you pay for another at FULL price if you happen to lose yours.

Other Guides and Posts for 1st Timers

Planning SXSWi

I plan out my schedule & keep it very flexible.

My friend Shashi Bellamkonda at the Paypal Social Lounge last year.
My friend Shashi Bellamkonda at the Paypal Social Lounge in 2014.

Getting The Best of SXSW Experience

SXSW 2015 will be my fifth SXSWi , and previous experiences have taught me the importance of being flexible when planning, but I still  plan certain things out ahead of time.

This year like last year I have been adding to my schedule  friends who will be participating as speakers and moderators. This allows me to focus on connecting with people while I am at the conference and not browsing around to see which session I want to attend.

For years I have followed C.C. Chapman’s advice on planning ahead of time for the conference and advise you to take a look at his post.

My Version of the Rule of Three

During the 5 days I think I will stick with my version of the Rule of Three that I learned on a post by the Austin Eavesdropper.

I will attend at least one Session, one meet-up, and one Party.  

 Charles Gupton getting a Secret Tutorial from Julien Smith

Monitoring #SXSW Conversations

By looking at the #SXSW hashtag on Twitter and Google+ it has helped me identify who will be there at the conference and ask if they have plans.

Google + Circle and Communities

The past few years I have created a Google+ Circle to track conversations with people and I have confirmed are going to #SXSW.

My friend James Fierce also set-up SXSW 2014 Unofficial Engagers Community a community on Google+ to help attendees get more out of the 2014 SXSW Experience.

SXSW Veterans

Here are some tips from some SXSW veterans &
Austin Locals.

Ewan Spence

@Ewan  |  Edinburgh, Scotland

SXSW Veteran: SXSWi 2015 will be 10th year attending

Bio: A traveller in the Web 2.0 world of media and technology, covering smartphones, gaming, music, Eurovision, wearable tech and more (Find him at Forbes Tech)

Website: ewanspence.co.uk

Favorite Places to Eat at SXSW

Magnolias on South Congress.

What Brings Ewan Back to SXSW?

Tax reasons! (actually it's because you put lots of smart people in a small place and wonderful things happen that drive me forward for 12 months).

Other Advice?

  • Drink water. Lots of water. and if you see fresh fruit, do not hesitate. Eat it asap. Man cannot live on Salt Lick BBQ alone
  • Read SXSWbaby.com

Manuel Torres Kortright

@turboricua

SXSW Veteran: SXSWi 2015 will be 5th year attending

Bio: Interactive Creative Director

Website: turboricua.tumblr.com

Favorite Places to Eat at SXSW

What Brings Manuel Back to SXSW?

I love the energy, the people, and learning a bunch of stuff that I'm always able to organize in a comprehensive way to share with the team back home. I also really enjoy meeting face to face with colleagues, entrepreneurs and authors I follow online.

Other Advice?

A. Make a realistic schedule considering not only priorities but also the distance between venues, workshops, talks and panels.
Have a plan B and C and don't feel bad if you need to step out of a room once you've realized it wasn't the best choice for that specific time slot. The options are endless. Use the app and try to set up your day before hand so that you don't waste as much time. SXSW can be overwhelming even for veterans of the event.

B. If you are not staying downtown, pay for the shuttle. It is definitely worth the $60 or whatever they decide to charge this year.

C. Take one of those loaner bikes. They are really fun for moving around the main downtown venues.

D. There is always going to be free food (mostly tacos and burritos) and a lot of free booze. Take it easy. You don't want to be too hungover if you want to be able to take full advantage of the experience.

E. If you go with a group from the same company, try to compare favorites so that you can bring back different perspectives.

F. Keynotes from big names can get packed easily. Look for live streaming rooms so that you don't waste too much time in lines.

G. The Hilton Garden Inn has clean and private bathroom stalls for those who went crazy with those free burritos.

H. Rainey Street has more and better sit down bars than 6th Street

I. The Food Truck park usually has a great selection of non traditional street food and it's way faster than waiting at any restaurant. It's also a great place to meet people since it's setup consists of 4 really long tables.

Shay Tressa DeSimone

@escriteur | Austin, TX

SXSW Veteran: SXSWi 2015 will be 7th year attending

Bio: Avid traveler, voracious reader, art lover, white-wine enthusiast, alternative-music buff, lacto-ovo vegetarian. Writer/editor by trade

Favorite Places to Eat at SXSW

  • Food trucks (Chi'lantro & mmmpanadas)
  • Mai Thai (207 San Jacinto)
  • Republic Square Park farmer's market (Saturdays 9am-1pm) has good options, too, including awesome tamales and breakfast tacos.

What Brings Shay Back to SXSW?

I go back for learning & inspiration (SXSWi sessions/workshops), plus fun parties, interesting films, and great music. 🙂

Other Advice?

Must-Have Items

It's so important to carry water and stay hydrated! I often end up missing meals when running from session to session and party to party, so I bring snack packs with nuts/granola (I love Emerald Breakfast on the Go). And an external backup battery is a must (I bring a couple of small, inexpensive ones from Anker); between apps, check-ins, and photos, my iPhone drains really quickly at SXSW. Comfy shoes are essential; I walk several miles a day at SXSW. And I also arrive with about $50 in singles so I have plenty of tip money for all of the free drinks.

Conversation Starter

I always ask people if they've seen any interesting sessions/films/bands that day and what upcoming events they have planned. It's a great way to meet new people and find out about events.

RSVPs

Eventbrite is great for finding/signing up for free events. Do512 -> - is another useful site.

I maintain a twitter list that I check regularly for SXSW news and event listings: https://twitter.com/escriteur/lists/sxsw-news-rsvps

And I've also been posting event RSVP links via a Pinterest board: https://www.pinterest.com/escriteur/sxsw-2016-parties-lounges/

Mike Gerholdt

@MikeGerholdt

SXSW Veteran: SXSWi 2015 will be 4th year attending

Bio: Sales Force Admin Evangelist | Multi-session Dreamforce presenter. Certified Admin/ Developer/ Sales Cloud Consultant.

Website: buttonclickadmin.com

Favorite Places to Eat at SXSW

  • Breakfast: Taco shack
  • Lunch: a food truck, never the same one twice.
  • Dinner: Frank. And then the Gingerman for some Firemans 4

What Brings Mike Back to SXSW?

Because I feel behind on tech & culture if I wasn’t there.

Other Advice?

Bring or find a buddy. Intros are easier & you can bounce ideas off each other . I've done SXSW solo and it's way more productive with a #SXSWBuddy

Joyce Sullivan

@JoyceMSullivan  |  New York, Ny

SXSW Veteran: SXSWi 2015 will be 4th year attending

Bio: Listener Connector Builder

Website: socmediafin.com

Favorite Places to Eat at SXSW

Manuel's Downtown at 310 Congress

What Brings Joyce Back to SXSW?

Networking

Other Advice?

Three fave ways to meet new and interesting folks:
1) stand still in the convention center, any spot will do - though the ones near the charging stations are most popular - and start saying hello to folks and ask where they are from. I did this at my 1st SXSW four years ago and met AMAZING people this way. I'm still in touch with many of them today! Do it! You'll thank me!

2) sit at one of the charging stations and talk to the person on your left and on your right. You're both going to be there for awhile while your device gets juiced up so you might at well connect. Another fabulous way to meet interesting folks from all over the world at that moment while they are sitting next to you. Remember, you're fabulous too, so give the folks on your left and right the chance to say, "Hey, guess who I met at SXSW ---fill in your name!---"

3) I've stolen this one from Joanna Belbey (please give her credit in your write-up - I'll cc'ing her on this note, too so she can add her own in addition to the ones I have here) is to bring your own power strip. You may think, why? there are plenty of charging stations. Well, around the convention center, there will be lone outlets with folks sitting on the floor charging their device. Sit down, and say "Can we share?" meaning the outlet. You pull out your power strip (having one with USB ports is especially popular) you both charge, get acquainted AND find some other new friends along the way who see the oppty to charge their device. Remember, everyone at SXSW is someone - including you - so make the most of your networking.

4) The lobby of the Hilton Hotel - another great place to connect and have impromptu meetings. It's right next to the convention center, so it's an ideal place to meet and have a fairly sane conversation with someone. You'll also see and be seen by everyone traipsing through which triples your 'get seen' time!

Nick Westergard

@NickWestergaard

SXSW Veteran: SXSWi 2015 will be 3rd year attending

Bio: Chief Brand Strategist of Brand Driven Digital / Speaker / Educator / Host of the #OnBrand podcast http://bit.ly/OnBrandPodcast and the Social Brand Forum

Website: branddrivendigital.com

Favorite Places to Eat at SXSW

  • I love Frank because their fancy hot dogs, brats, and sausages are just the best.
  • I also like to make sure I have one sit down meal with friends at Sullivan's.

What Brings Nick Back to SXSW?

I come back because despite all the haters gripes, it's still a great event for connecting with the innovators in my industry.

Other Advice?

I'll be simple and effective: make sure you have some good portable charging solutions (ABC - Always Be Charging!) and some comfortable shoes for walking. My FitBit blows up during SXSW!

Paul Terry Walhus

@springnet  |  Austin, TX

SXSW Veteran: Attending SXSWi since 1987

Bio: Austin TX web developer, videographer, land developer, fitness trainer, podcaster

Website: socmediafin.com

Favorite Places to Eat at SXSW

Koriente is my current favorite restaurant near SXSW, also Iron Cactus (for sports), Campions (for sports), Moonshine Patio, Vince Young Steakhouse, Sullivan's Steakhouse, and the Iron Works.
And there are a whole bunch of good eatin' and drinkin' places along Rainey Street (eg. Container Bar, Bangers, Icenhauers, G'Raj Mahal).

What Brings Paul Back to SXSW?

I'm local and my condo is within walking distance, so coming back to Southby is a no brainer.

Other Advice?

If you like to party there are numerous services like rsvpster that will auto-rsvp you.

Tyler Presley

@TylerJPresley

SXSW Veteran: SXSWi 2015 will be 4th year attending

Bio: Custom Desktop/Mobile/Web Application Developer.

Website: tjpresley.com

Favorite Places to Eat at SXSW

  • Salt Lick
  • I can't render the pizza place
  • Iron Cactus

What Brings Tyler Back to SXSW?

Talking with startups, discovering trends, friends, networking, etc...

Other Advice?

Plan early and throw it away the first day. I load everything I'm interested in into Google calendar then go with the flow.

Must Have apps for SXSW?

Some of these apps will enhance your
SXSWi Experience

Paypal Lounge at SXSW

Last year I created a 11 #SXSW App Recommendations for Owners specifically for #SXSW 2014 I did not want to leave out some other apps that I consider critical for SXSW such as the ones I have in the lists below.

About two years ago I found a pretty awesome list via Google Plus by Barry Teoh  where some well known tech bloggers like Robert Scoble chipped in ideas and suggestions.

Here is the G+ post (updated) and below is the list of the new apps I found interesting (see the full list here).

11 Apps I recommend

If you want to find out why I recommend them feel free to visit the full post and links:

    • Trip Saver
    • Jelly
    • Viber
    • Instaupload
    • Over
    • Freshbooks
    • Paypal
    • Dropbox
    • Foursquare
    • Feedly
    • Mailchimp

    Social Sharing/Discovery

    Utilities

    See Full list curated by Barry Teoh (post was started in 2012)

    Arriving at SXSWi

    Hit the Ground Running,
    and get a taco while you are at it.e.

    Arriving at SXSW

    What to do if arriving Early?

    I always arrive early and this year I will get there three days before Interactive begins.

    It also allows me to get some rest from my long flight, get lost in Downtown Austin, and meet up with early arrivers.

    There is one event that I will assist the day before the SXSW Interactive starts:

    • SXSW Startup Crawl 2015 presented HipChat - You can jump into the energy and intensity of the next few days and it's a great opportunity to start watching for new projects, companies, apps, and making new friends.

    There are usually many other events that happen the day before. If you want to share any events reach out to us on Twitter or contact us directly.

    Welcome to SXSW 2014

    Pace Yourself

    The excitement of arriving in Austin will take over you. Please keep in mind it will be many long days once everything officially starts. Enjoy yourself but make sure you don't run out of energy early in the conference. Take it light on the drinking (something difficult to do when there is free beer almost everywhere).

    Last year I was able to enjoy my experience even more because I took it easy on the drinking and went to bed earlier than most people.

    Making Connections

    Austin during SXSW is a place where
    even introverts become extroverts.

    Aj Leon and Mirko Spinella at SXSW

    Connect with Those In Austin

    As I mentioned in the planning section, there are many ways to monitor conversations and find people that are in Austin for SxSw.

    Wayne Kurtzman and Raúl Colón

    I met the great & always helpful Wayne Kurtzman at 2011 SXSW GoWalla (RIP) Party.

    Google Plus

    One of my closest friends and strategic business partners, Nando Caban, I met through the Google+ Circle I created of individuals going to SXSWi in Austin.  If you are going feel free to comment with your Google + profile link so I can include you.

    This year another close friend, James Fierce, who I also met through Google+, created SXSW 2014 Unofficial Engagers Community. A community where everyone can make the best of their SXSW 2014 experience.

    Twitter Advanced Search

    Twitter took off when it was initially used at #SXSW. The first year I got some great advice on creating a query of people around the SXSW Venues Zip Code to keep track of conversations of those chatting about #SXSW.

    Advanced Twitter

    If you click the image above you can easily get a link to the twitter advanced search with the Hashtag #SXSW, you will find people tweeting within 10 miles of Austin. Once you have it save it in your twitter profile so you can easily access it on twitter.

    If you want to customize it a bit more feel free to go to Twitter’s Advanced Search and choose the options that fit your needs.

    Twitter Lists

    Another option is creating a list of people that you want to connect with at SXSW. I try to update that list once I meet someone so I can connect with them again during the conference.

    If you know of any lists feel free to add me and share with me via twitter.

    Here is a list of  people I have met during the SXSWi conference.

    Here is the 2014 @rj_c list:

    HIRL’s

    There will be various HIRLs (Hangout in Real Life) these are meet-ups where instead of hanging out via Google Plus you will meet people who mainly use the Google+ platform in real life

    Lanyrd

    Lanyrd will help find twitter contacts that will be at the conference attending and/or speaking. Might be a great opportunity to get to know any twitter contacts you have not met in real life yet.

    • lanyrd.com

    Stop and jump into the conversation

    Over the years I have seen of the importance of just jumping into a conversation and more importantly being helpful.

    One of my favorite places to meet people was the Samsung Bloggers Lounge now the Paypal Social Lounge.  The list of people I have met sitting in that lounge is extensive and most of them I keep in touch with still.

    Focus on Each Person

    When you talk to people focus on them not all the 30K+ people walking behind you. Last year I had the experience to bump into people I had met the previously and the fact that I kept in touch with them and took my time to get to know them paid off because out of all the people they probably met the year before they remembered me.

    Places to Eat at SXSW

    If you're not a vegan like me there will be plenty of places to eat.

    Here are a few inexpensive options if you will be on the go.

    What to eat at SXSW

    At Limonade Inc. we are fans of Food Trucks and we have a partner that owns one. One of my favorite Austin Food Trucks to eat at is Naan Sense I have made it a tradition to stop by and have some tasty bite size samosas with some delicious Indian street food.

    Here are a few more resources and guides to find where to eat.

    Drink Lots of Water

    I bring my own water bottle and if any of the trade show floor vendors wanted to give something out that would be useful they would hand out cool water bottles which you can refill throughout water coolers around the venue.

    I carry my water bottle in my Runnur, a Handsfree mini-backpack which I bought on the SXSW trade show floor from a local Austin company.

    Coffee Lovers

    Other than Tacos which you can find in every shape and form. Austin is full of really cool coffee bars. No need to step into a Starbucks while you're in austin.

    Last year I made a trip to Jo's Coffee with my good friend Nando and I visited Cafe Medici's which is close to the convention center. In both I was in for a treat!

    Here are a list of places and what to order when it comes to coffee while your in Austin.

    Don't Skip Meals

    Not only is it not healthy to skip meals but you are going to need the energy in the high intensity environment SXSW brings.

    Most of the venues have snacks and some of the lounges have continental breakfast and drinks.

    Do Skip the Long Lines

    One thing to avoid is long lines near the convention center. I rather walk a little bit more and get a quick bite to eat. By skipping the long lines I don't skip on my meals.

    Vegan and Vegetarian Options

    If you are Vegan and Vegetarian like me these might be helpful.

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