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SXSW Primer – Top 6 Things to Pack for SXSW Interactive 2011

by Ricky Lam on February 16, 2011

SXSW Interactive 2011It is less then a month away from South By Southwest Interactive, the annual Austin festival that combines the best and brightest minds in one big bash. The festival is home to over 10,000 industry representatives ranging from wide eye social media types, caffeine addicted developer types and trophy wife addicted startup CEO types. This will be our third year at the festival and as a self professed veteran, I have come up with a short and reader friendly list of six things you should pack to SXSW if this is your first time attending.

6. Important things on pen and paper
There are thousands of high usage smart phone users all going crazy in a 3 square mile area. Do you really trust AT&T? Me neither. Have some important data in a good moleskine and you will always get to important information quickly. I also recommend having some random maps of places you will frequent. This might be the difference between you getting into a party or you having to lineup for an hour.

5. Good point and shoot camera.
As much as I love SLR photography, moments are fleeting and point and shoot cameras are arguably the best camera that treads the line between speed and quality. There are a lot of celebrities (since the film festival is at the same time) in Austin during the week, and you don’t want to waste the precious time you meet some really famous person trying to set up for soft focus night time shot on your Canon D5. Just take a quick snap and be on your way.

4. Business card with your Twitter account
Here is the exact conversation you are going to have with everyone you meet at SXSW:

You: “Hey! How’s it going? This is pretty crazy isn’t it!”
Them: “Yeah! is this your first time here? what do you do/what are you here for?”
Them: “That’s awesome, here is what I do/am here for!…*describe*”
*you, feigning interest* “oh that’s really cool! I’ll look into that”
Them: “AWESOME! Let’s exchange information!”
*exchange business cards*
You: “Are you going to this party?”
Them: “yeah maybe, are you?”
You: “I’m not sure, there’s also this party! but maybe if you are there we can meet up again! what’s your twitter account? I’ll add you”
*both add twitter accounts*
Them: “Awesome, well I gotta run, have a good day!”

So you should make sure you have a business card with your Twitter account on it, so that they can get the spelling of it correctly.

3. Extension cord/Extra Battery
You will soon learn that electrical outlets at the Austin Convention Center are pretty much equivalent to watering holes in the Savanna – rare, and fiercely defended. Sometimes by cougars. I know that cougars don’t live in Savannas. Everyone brings their laptops to each talk, so that they can live tweet or micro blog everything that someone says. You will do the same thing, so make sure your laptop can survive a day of extreme use if you don’t bring a charge pack/extra battery.

2. Two Pairs of comfortable, yet stylish shoes.
Since the Austin Convention Center is a large concrete myriad of confusing hallways and wayward staircases, you will often find yourself walking attempting to walk from point A to point B, but somehow end up visiting point D, K and J as well. Combine that with all the walking you will be doing after the talks, from one party to another party, in that endless search for free beer and food and you find yourself with rather sore feet by the end of the day. Bring two pairs of shoes and alternate them every day and you will find yourself with one less thing to worry about.

1. Ibuprofen and Gatorade.
To put it bluntly, SXSW is an orgy of alcohol. As light as Texas beers like Lone Star and Shiner are, you will inevitably be drinking multiples of these beers starting at around 3pm each afternoon. By the time the night time hits, you will be well over ten beers and depending on the party you are going to, you will soon feel desires to up the ante and hit up heavier liquors. The next thing you know, you will be dancing on a bar at the Microsoft Silverlight party, holding a Windows 7 phone while hundreds of polo shirted nerds cheer you on. Ibuprofen and Gatorade are two methods I use to minimize the damage the next day. There is nothing worse then attending a 9:30 am lecture about interface workflow with a raging headache.

I’ll conclude this article the two best intangible things to bring to South By Southwest is an open mind and a desire to communicate. Everyone at SXSW has an idea or opinion on everything ranging from current issues, ongoing trends to what future holds. The people who have the best times are the people who are willing to talk to everyone everywhere, make a few new friends and take note of their ideas and steal it apply it for their own use.

With that in mind, if you would like to hit us up in Austin, feel free to send us a message on twitter. Our account is @myhosting

See you in Texas

Related posts:

  1. 5 Things I learned from SXSW Interactive 2011
  2. SXSW Interactive Day 1: WordPress
  3. South By Southwest Interactive 2009
  4. SXSW Interactive Day 2: Eye Tracking
  5. South By Southwest Interactive (SXSWI) Highlights and Tech Trends


Randy5 February 16, 2011 at 3:02 PM

Thanks for providing that conversation. I’m going to print it out and read my lines off the paper whenever I talk to anyone at any conventions from now on.

Rusher February 16, 2011 at 3:04 PM

I’ve had nightmares where polo-shirted nerds cheer me on, only to turn on me and try to rip me to shreds. Reading this brought back all of that trauma.

Stoddard February 16, 2011 at 3:06 PM

This soudns liek a great event. Wish I could make it; I’ve always wanted to go to Texas, and the alcohol really seals the deal.

Arie Rich February 18, 2011 at 12:12 PM

Awesome article my friend. I read it from beginning to end and now i’m about to share it with a few people going to SXSW with me. This will be my first year attending the conference and I am excited! So much to do so much to see so many people to meet. I just added you on twitter. Feel free to follow me back: @ArieRich

Have a great weekend!


Stoddard July 21, 2011 at 4:15 PM

Hope you had a great time, Arie. Are you planning a return trip next year?

OhDonna October 5, 2011 at 12:59 PM

Bring a pen and paper to write things down, too. You want to be able to take down important people’s names and numbers even if your technology fails.

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