This week a plethora of people descend upon Austin for the 30th South by Southwest Film Music and Interactive Festival (aka SXSW or “South By”). It’s an event bursting at the seams with music, film, food, alcohol, and geekdom of all levels. And it’s the one time of the year li’l ol’ Austin feels like it’s at the center of the universe.
Food Banjo is no stranger to the strangeness of SXSW. Over the years we’ve learned a thing or two we’d like to pass on to our Banjo-eestas. So if you are planning on attending, or just here to soak up the atmosphere/alcohol these are our tips for making it out alive and happy.
Tips from Josh:
RSVP to Everything
No matter how full your schedule is there will be moments you’ll find you have some free time, or just want to grab a free bite or drink on your way to something else. This is where RSVPing to events helps fill you schedule and your belly. Here’s a good resource of events up for RSVPs: http://balleratx.com/category/sxsw-rsvps/. And don’t feel bad for drinking on the go…you’re busy with important people to meet!
Don’t Pay for It If You Can Get It for Free
The Austin Convention Center and hotels are convenient for grabbing food, but there’s likely a sponsored something or other literally across the street. There’s always some business that’s eager to trade some good food for a moment of your eyeballs on their marketing. You might have to stand in line, but that’s when you double-check your schedule, meet someone from another country, or find out where the next free thing is on Twitter – start with @thefreenoms.
Remember The Alamo
At some point during SXSW you’ll be tired and hungry but don’t want to miss out on anything. In those moments I duck into the Alamo Drafthouse Cinema and watch one of the films showing during the festival. They serve a full menu and bar and deliver to your theater seat during the show…and it’s all reasonably priced. If you don’t have a film badge you can still buy a ticket to any show that is not sold out.
Be Curious. Act Clueless.
There are thousands of concurrent events during SXSW. How can anyone keep them straight in their head? Sometimes the best way to experience SXSW is to pretend you belong everywhere you go. Wander, wide-eyed through the alley entrance, and blend in. I’ve done it, sometimes on purpose, most of the time I’m just clueless, but haven’t been thrown out yet!
Don’t Be Tethered
When your phone dies, don’t be one of those losers sitting on the floor of the hotel lobby waiting while their phone charges at an ankle-level outlet. The Convention Center has a few different charging lockers where you can securely leave your phone. They even have charging cords for just about every phone.
The Floor is Lava
Remember this is an event with billions of international visitors…and by that I mean bacteria, viruses, germs. With that in mind, pretend that every public space is covered in goo…because it probably is. Wash your hands often and carry around a small bottle of sanitizer. Don’t worry, you will blend in with the other dorks that are doing the same thing. Believe me, in the future you will thank me.
Tips from Aimee:
All the Noms
As Josh stated above, there is a ton of free food at SXSW! I like to make a game of it and try to see if I can get away with not paying for any meals. I will take a break from this game if I head over to SouthBites Trailer Park. It brings together not only delicious food trailers from Austin, but also ones from other cities. It’s a great way to try different food.
If you need a place to get away during the interactive conference, the lounges are a great place to do this. They provide a space away from the crowds to just relax and regroup. Every once in awhile, one of the is serving free food or drinks. An added bonus!
Do not forget your power cord to charge your devices. You WILL be using your phone constantly to check where your friends are, where the free food is, or to take notes on. Charge well, charge often.
Hashtags are your Friend
If you’re attending the interactive conference, you may realize there are several sessions you want to see at once. Or you may not get into your preferred session. What do do?! Well, on the SX schedule, you may notice there is a hashtag associated with each session. Go to Twitter, search for that hashtag, and you’ll see what others tweeted about the session. A great way to get some key takeaways!
Step Away from the Free Stuff
Okay, I know we’ve both said free stuff is great. But.. when it comes to swag, you don’t want to be lugging around a bunch of koozies, papers, booklets, pens, notepads, etc. if you don’t have to. Only take the free swag you really like, and leave the rest.