Join our newsletter today for free.
Photo by Stuart Seeger

Photo by Stuart Seeger

It’s that time of year again – time for a week of intense learning, networking and content at the SXSW Interactive festival. Whether you’re a first-timer or old hat at the SXSW experience, these survival tips from a few of our SMC Dallas SXSWi veterans will help you get the most out of the conference.

The Basics

Wear comfortable shoes. There is lots of walking involved and you don’t want blisters on Day 1.

– Mike Merrill, ExactTarget

I have found that parking isn’t that bad, as long as you plan to park all day (no in and out privileges) in the parking garages farthest west. You need to arrive fairly early in the morning. In my opinion, the convenience beats paying for the multi-day shuttle ticket.

– Laurie Shook, Verizon

Drink plenty of water. Carry hand sanitizer… and use it.

– Robert Freeman, Michael’s Stores

ABC: Always Be Charging

A lesson from my very SXSW ever and a theme that’s carried through each year is to always be charging your devices. Make sure everything is plugged in overnight, bring extra chargers, battery packs, and charge at every opportunity. Several lounges now offer charging stations. Make use of them, because the days are action-packed and you won’t want to miss the digital side of things while you’re there. 

– Tiffany Monhollon, ReachLocal

Pack your Mophie!

– Robert Freeman, Michael’s Stores

Sessions & Scheduling

Arrive early for sessions you really want to attend. It’s not uncommon for sessions to be standing room only.

– Mike Merrill, ExactTarget

Target 2 or 3 must-dos each day. Don’t stress about the rest. It may be content. It may be networking. It may be spending an afternoon interviewing subject matter experts in the social media lounge. But one thing is for sure: if you don’t have a plan you can easily be carried away by the tide of activity of this large-scale event that literally takes place across an entire city and still leave feeling like you missed out. You can save yourself a lot of worry by just targeting a few pieces of top content (you CAN’T see it all, so don’t worry about that), and at least one networking opportunity (meetup, party, dinner with your network) each day. This is the best advice I have for keeping from wearing yourself ragged and making the most of your time there.

– Tiffany Monhollon, ReachLocal

Don’t miss the trade show! Sunday morning is a good time to go. Be sure to go to the Rackspace booth. They usually have really good SWAG and a creative photo op. Also, sign up for the exclusive lounges in advance. An oasis amidst the chaos, plus a great place to meet up with your contacts.

– Laurie Shook, Verizon

Flexibility

Have a back-up plan. You won’t get into every session, so have a plan B in the same hotel.

– Robert Freeman, Michael’s Stores

Planning for SXSW has to go hand in hand with a flexible attitude. Panels fill up. You may have to travel or walk to a talk you’re dying to hear. That must-attend party could be standing room only once you arrive. Don’t sweat it and know that in Austin during SXSW, there is always somewhere to go, something to hear, or someone to meet. 

– Tiffany Monhollon, ReachLocal

How about you?

Are you a SXSW master? Share your best conference advice in the comments. Not going to SXSW this year? Don’t worry, SMC Dallas will be bringing some of SXSW to you on March 20, so register for our March event.

Teri Guill - PhotoTeri Guill is a marketing professional with a career background from traditional and digital marketing to content and community management. She is currently a digital analyst with Hilton Worldwide, part of an eCommerce team managing web and business analytics for 3,500+ hotels. She is also the 2013-2014 Promotions Chair for SMC Dallas, managing day-to-day social media presence for the organization. Connect with her on Twitter and LinkedIn.