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Getting the Most out of (and Surviving) SXSW

By Allison Park | Posted on March 06, 2014

The big event is drawing near, and we are en route for five days or networking, engaging, collaborating, and trying in vain to catch a cab in downtown Austin. SXSW Interactive is the premiere venue for exploring emerging technologies, cutting-edge innovation and interactive trends, but it can often be overwhelming. With 200+ events each day, how do you choose which to attend? Are there better parties to go to than others? Where IS the best place for a breakfast taco? These questions are important, and merit some serious consideration. Lucky for you, we have some seasoned SXSW attendees in our midst, and we’ve compiled Janrain’s very own top 10 tips on not only surviving, but getting the most out of your SXSW experience.

1. Explore Austin!

There’s more to keeping Austin weird than exploring the convention center. Make sure to venture out into the city, have an avocado margarita, authentic queso, buy some cowboy (or -girl) boots and experience the live music. Happily, you’ll have a handy tool at your fingertips: the Austin360 app, available to download starting Saturday, March 8th.

2. BYOS(upplies)

Bring your own powerstrip, an extra phone and computer charger with you, and charge whenever you can. You’ll always have your electronics properly juiced, and you may make a few friends (and prospects) along the way.

3. Get value where there is value

Webvisions made a great point that should be reiterated: you (or your company) are paying a lot of money to attend this event, so ensure that you get the most bang for your buck and leave a session that is not providing you value. Yes, it is rude to leave while a speaker is presenting, but sometimes you need to be a little selfish and get value where it is best offered.

4. It’s hard being popular

Celebrity sessions drive the most attendee traffic, so make sure to plan ahead and get to these coveted sessions early. If the event is overcrowded or sold out, chin up and go to your backup event. Sometimes the lesser known (or unknown) speaker can be the surprising genesis of inspiration.

5. Go to the keynotes

With thousands of people at the keynotes, it sometimes feels like you are just going with the crowd, but the keynotes are actually some of the most cutting-edge digital people in the world. Don’t skip them just to get some free tacos from a vendor (though we appreciate why that might be tempting).

6. Hashtags are #Friends

If you can’t make it to every session you want to attend, here’s a way you can be in two places at once: session hashtags. In addition to #sxsw, each session has its own dedicated hashtag so you can track conversations and not miss those important nuggets of information. Use a social media manager, like Hootsuite, to streamline various hashtags simultaneously and save conversations.

7. Mark your sessions using the SXSW mobile app

Do your homework and note the various sessions you would like to attend. Using the SXSW app, you can favorite the events are most important to you and your company so you don’t forget. Are there multiple events happening simultaneously (do we even need to ask that question?)? Ask your colleagues to split up and report back their findings.

8. Relax

We know your head is spinning with all the events, innovation, attendees, to dos/eats/drinks, but it’s important to remember to take a deep breath and relax. Take a 5-10 minute break here and there to walk away from the wonderful chaos, collect your thoughts, and process what you have absorbed. Often the time you are away from downloading information is the time you have to produce your best ideas.

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9. Pack some Vitamin C

Long days of brewing ideas and even longer evenings making new friends can take a toll. In addition to keeping hydrated, throw back a periodic dose of Emergen-C or another preferred vitamin pack to stave off sickness during and after SXSW (your significant others and family members will undoubtedly thank you for your consideration).

10 . Hydrate

While it’s true there is water in beer and cocktails, it’s important to keep untainted water flowing through your system. There’s a lot of brain power and vocal distress happening, so keep yourself hydrated. Your body will thank you.

Look for our charming faces in the crowd, and don’t be afraid to say “Howdy”! We’ll be tweeting from @Janrain and chatting with other #sxsw conversations.

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Tom Kirk

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Jamie Beckland

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Reggie Wideman

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Brad Cohen

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Alex Larralde

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Michael Olson

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Allison Park

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Sheree Sinda

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Heidi Spotten

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About the author

Allison Park

Marketing Programs Manager

Allison Park manages Janrain's social persona and event marketing programs, aiming to connect industry leaders with resources to improve customer relationships. With her experience in customer stewardship, social media strategy, and campaign management, Allison brings a wealth of knowledge to driving user engagement, brand awareness and advocacy.

View all posts by Allison Park