<strong><a href="http://sxsw.com/interactive" target="_blank">SXSW Interactive</a></strong> is one of the largest interactive conferences in the country and from March 9-13, 2012 there will be 20,000 people converging on Austin, Texas. SXSW is a gathering of techies, entrepreneurs, journalist, startups, social media advocates and marketers. The discussion will include the latest mobile apps, tech startups launching, new technology products/gadgets being released and authors releasing new books. To help you maximize your experience at SXSW Interactive here are six tips to get the most out of your trip. <em>—Hajj Flemings</em>
<strong>Checkout Startup Village:</strong> A new addition to the conference this year is <strong><a href="http://sxsw.com/interactive/startupvillage" target="_blank">Startup Village</a></strong>, which is focused on bringing startups, investors and digital tastemakers into one location. Some of the activities that will be included are panels, pitch events, meet ups and mentoring. As the startup economy continues to grow, it’s impact and presence at conferences like SXSW will continue to expand.
<strong>“Always Be Charging:”</strong> SXSW is a very intense conference with long days and nights. The most valuable tip that I can share is a phrase that was created by <strong><a href="https://twitter.com/#!/waynesutton" target="_blank">Wayne Sutton</a></strong>, “Always Be Charging.” Whenever you are close to an outlet, near a charging station or in one of the interactive lounges, plug up your Smartphone, laptop or mobile device regardless of how many bars you have. Trust me, you will need it.
<strong>Hangout In the SXSW Interactive Lounges:</strong> One of the purposes of attending SXSW is networking. Yes, there are many great sessions and you should identify the ones that you want to attend. For me, the most important part of the SXSW experience is meeting influencers and digital tastemakers in the real world that I am connected to online. Remember, nothing beats face-to-face. The best place to connect with the influencers/tastemakers is in the blogger lounges (officially known as the “<strong><a href="http://sxsw.com/interactive/parties" target="_blank">Interactive Lounges</a></strong>”).
<strong>Go Mobile:</strong> Download the <strong><a href="http://sxsw.com/SXSW-GO" target="_blank">SXSW GO</a></strong> mobile app that is available on iPhone, iPad, Android, Windows Phone 7 and Blackberry. This app enables you to manage your schedule from your mobile device. The use of a location-based app like Foursquare is mandatory to create an immersive experience at an events like SXSW. You will be surprised at how this opens up a lot of networking opportunities. So check-in at the events and locations you visit and start connecting.
<strong>Baratunde Thurston Keynote:</strong> The SXSW Interactive keynote will be given by <strong><a href="http://www.baratunde.com/" target="_blank">Baratunde Thurston</a></strong> on Saturday, March 10th at 2pm, entitled, “How to Read the World.” He is the Director of Digital at the Onion and author of the recently released book, <em><strong><a href="http://www.amazon.com/How-Be-Black-Baratunde-Thurston/dp/0062003216" target="_blank">How to be Black</a></strong></em>. He is a super-smart, political minded techie that was listed on the Fast Company’s <strong><a href="http://www.fastcompany.com/most-creative-people/2011/baratunde-thurston-onion" target="_blank">100 Most Creative People in Business 2011</a></strong>.
<strong>RSVP for Events:</strong> There are a boatload of events to attend outside of the panel and speaker sessions. You can search on <strong><a href="http://sxsw.com/interactive" target="_blank">SXSW.com</a></strong> for events/sessions or use <strong><a href="http://www.eventbrite.com/" target="_blank">Eventbrite</a></strong> and search for SXSW related parties/networking events. All the events will require you to RSVP so try to plan your schedule in advance and RSVP as soon as possible because these tend to fill up fast.
Closing thoughts: Don’t try to attend everything because you will be overwhelmed. Enjoy your experience at SXSW Interactive. When you return home I guarantee you will want a break from all the tech to talk with people without mobile devices, video cameras and laptops pecking away while they sit in groups texting and tweeting, making you feel like you are “alone together.” Have fun!!!
<b><em>Follow BlackEnterprise.com's coverage of 2012 South by Southwest (SXSW) at <a href="http://www.blackenterprise.com/technology/" target="_blank">blackenterprise.com/technology</a></b></em>