Every March the world makes its way to Austin, Texas, for one of the most jam-packed festivals of the year. South by Southwest® (SXSW®) is a 9-day festival that covers everything from original music to independent films to emerging technologies.
As the social media communications specialist for Esurance, last year I had the exhausting thrill of being a South By newbie and in the process learned a lot about surviving the creative chaos. If you’re on your way to Austin for SXSW 2013 (March 8–17), here are a few survival tips I picked up … I hope they’ll help you make it through in one piece.
- Woah, there’s a lot going on. Take a deep breath and soak it all in.
- Bring at least one pair of very comfortable, stylish, and well-worn shoes for every 2 days you’ll be attending … count on doing miles and miles of walking each day.
- Get to know the basic layout of the city to help you acclimate more quickly. Congress Avenue runs north to south with the hard-to-miss capital building positioned at the northern end. The numbered streets run east and west off of Congress. Be sure to specify East or West 6th Street when telling your friends where to meet you. (Though the majority of action happens on the east side of the Congress, not everything does.)
- Interactive: If there’s a panel or session you just have to see, get there an hour early. Or better yet, sit in on the panel just before the one you want to attend. You should be able to stay in the room before it fills up, and you can grab a good seat. Plus, you’ll get to check out a speaker you weren’t planning to in the pre-session (and this is good for broadening the mind).
- Music and film: The key to getting into the show you want to see is again to get there super early (90+ minutes) or 15 minutes late after the crowd has dissipated. If it’s a big act, get there early.
- Bring sunscreen and apply it frequently. This ginger still has TOMS tan lines from last year. Not pretty.
- Leave the suit at home. Jeans, sun dresses, casual blazers, your favorite t-shirts and relaxed attire will help you fit right in. Take the opportunity to wear whatever makes you feel the most comfortable, casual, and confident. Bonus: There are plenty of free t-shirts to go around if you happen to forget all of yours at home.
- It’s worth it to carve out an hour or so to go through the SXSW schedule and add the sessions you don’t want to miss. There’s a LOT going on and having an idea of what you want to see can help to alleviate some of the anxiety that comes with the fear of missing something. Planning loosely and prioritizing your must-sees lets you be flexible to explore learning/entertainment/networking opportunities when they arise. (And they will arise.)
- Extra bonus: If you don’t have time to sort through the behemoth schedule, Esurance is at SXSW to help you out this year. Just stop by our booth in the Austin Convention Center to get a daily itinerary, customized specifically for you (based on a few questions we’ll ask you). Don’t miss a single networking opportunity, breakfast taco, or legendary keynote presentation.
- Be prepared for rain — pack the Wellies and a rain jacket.
- If you have a Twitter account, follow @sxsw, @esurance, and any other people/brands you know will be attending. You’d be surprised how many appearances, signings, and shows are communicated exclusively through Twitter. This also lets you participate in the many conversations that will be going on surrounding the event.
- Above all, allow yourself to be inspired and have a great time. See you there!
If you’re not going to SXSW, check out the Esurance Facebook page for updates and video from the event.