Surviving SXSW: 10 Tips From a Pro

February 28, 2014


Surviving the 10 day festival that is South by Southwest (SXSW) is no small feat.  I’m about to head down to Austin for the 5th year in a row, and as a veteran, put a few tips down on paper for newcomers about to embark on their initial journey to the world’s biggest tech and social event. Take or leave what you’d like from the list below, but either way, get ready to experience the very best that SXSW and Austin have to offer.



  1. If you don’t want to eat standing up, make dinner reservations before you get to Austin, as every restaurant will be packed nightly. If crowds are not your style, you might consider room service or leaving downtown to get a bite to eat.
  2. Drink the hotel coffee or visit one of the many hipster coffee shops before you get downtown. Every Starbucks has a mega-long-line until almost noon daily as attendees get their caffeine fix before the day kicks off.
  3. Don’t fall prey to excess just because everywhere you go has an open bar – SXSW is 10 days long, it’s a marathon not a sprint.
  4. Leave your party shoes at home and pack comfy ones. You will be walking and standing a lot! Plus, no one’s looking at your feet unless you have some wearable tech, connected kicks to show off.
  5. Bring cash if you want to experience the Austin pedi-cabs, but don’t expect them to get you to your destination very fast. Cash will also get you some must try concoctions from the local food trucks. Fried mac-and-cheese anyone?
  6. Don’t be afraid of random conversations and be open to new experiences. Most people at SXSW probably share many of the same interests you do. Take time when you’re waiting in line to strike up a conversation. Sometimes these are best networking opportunities.
  7. SWAG – if you play your cards right and act interested you can get away with more free food, drinks and t-shirts than you can handle.
  8. Take business cards.  You know they’re gathering dust in your desk, so take a few for those random conversations that pop up. You may actually want or need to follow up with someone post-event.
  9. Have patience and be prepared to go with the flow – downtown Austin will suddenly be more crowded than the streets of Manhattan.
  10. Bring your “I want to break the rules attitude.” You will be surprised who you can meet, what party/panel you can get into and what you can learn if you occasionally don’t do what someone tells you to.