5 Tips to Surviving SXSW

How to roll in Austin

Social media maven Mary Pryor displays her go-to gadgets at SXSW (Image: Mary Pryor)

With the South by Southwest (SXSW) Interactive conference in full swing, there’s little time for rest, well-balanced meals or tech hiccups—keep a back-up battery ready in case live-tweeting and swapping contact information drains your smartphone’s juice.

Austin’s annual interactive, film and music festival is full of must-attend panels and networking functions; it’s the place to be in March. Whether you saved your money and convinced your company to invest in your trip, you will greatly benefit when you hit the convention center grounds.

As you approach your hotel, unpack, and head over to pick up your badge, please take note of a few things you will need to last during your SXSW adventure.  As a four-year vet that has spent a total of ten or more days covering the festivals in past years, take it from me, this short list is very important for your health, wellbeing, and overall experience:

Stay Hydrated – Water is bountiful at this festival. Every sponsor and/or activation is giving out water or some type of sports beverage to help you last out your day.  I’m not saying to pass on the free (and bountiful) bubbly, but you’ll want to drink as much water as possible in order to keep your system in check.  You will be tempted to just go, go, go but staying hydrated will help as you hit as many panels as possible.

Stay Plugged In – Recharge stations are rather popular inside the convention center, but, once you leave, you are on your own.  Invest in a Mophie or bring the chargers that you need with you.  Most places in Austin are very understanding during this time, but you will find yourself on the phone way more than usual and that battery life can only go for so long when you are using Foursquare, Uber, SXSW Go App, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and email at the same darn time.

Eat Real Food, Not Snacks – Snacks are a way of life when it comes to SXSW.  Many brands are active giving away free samples of everything under the sun from yogurt to granola bars.  That is not enough.  If you are lucky, try to RSVP early for some of the complimentary brunches and breakfast events.  Most importantly, make time to eat something that will hold you.  Austin has numerous eateries, not to mention some of the best barbeque in the south.

Don’t Forget Your Business Cards – Bring enough to shell out throughout your time at the conference.  If you are not a card hound, try using CardMunch, an app that allows you to take pictures of business cards on the spot and connect via LinkedIn with just one tap. I use this app often because losing an important business connect can be a big loss when it comes to a future job or new opportunity.

Have Fun, But Don’t “Go In” – Every event has a discounted happy hour or open bar option that will definitely leave you happy.  This allows a great way to break the ice with some key tech founders, digital marketing executives, and savvy innovators, but be weary. While deals are still made over cocktails, you won’t secure any opportunities if you’re giving off the lush vibe. You never know who you’re standing next to in Austin, whether it’s Mario Armstrong, or B. Bonin Bough.

It sounds pretty simple, but these are essential when it comes to surviving SXSW without an incident.  Make sure to pack fruit, take Emergen-C, and rest. It is all about pacing yourself.  With these steps in mind, you’re guaranteed to make some serious connects and/or bank as a company exec, small business owner, or future tech enthusiast.

Follow BlackEnterprise.com’s coverage of 2013 South by Southwest (SXSW) at blackenterprise.com/technology.

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