6 tips for South by Southwest newbies

Are you going to the interactive, film and music conference for the first time this year? Pack extra chargers, make friends and have a plan.

This year will be my third at South by Southwest (SXSW), and my first as an Austinite.

I wanted to share a few tips I learned from the two times I attended this awesome conference. Here are six tips for SXSW newbies:

1. Have a plan.

SXSW can be overwhelming for anyone, let alone someone who has never attended or isn’t familiar with Austin. Panels will be spread out across the convention center and several downtown hotels, and the parties can spread out even farther.

It’s best to have a general game plan before you go, or you may find yourself sprinting between the AT&T Conference Center Hotel and the Convention Center in 15 minutes. I don’t recommend this.

2. Be spontaneous.

I know this may seem counterintuitive to my first point, and it kind of is.

One of the best things about the five days of SXSW is the serendipity that occurs in the streets of downtown Austin. You’re pretty much guaranteed to run into people you know on- and off-line. Don’t be afraid to throw your plans out the window to grab a breakfast taco or beer with a Twitter buddy. It’s all a part of what makes this conference unique and great.

3. Reach out to other attendees.

I have a now semi-annual Twitter list of people I know who will be in Austin for SXSW. It makes it incredibly easy to open up one stream on Twitter to connect and make plans with people during the conference.

4. Carry your charger(s) with you.

You will use your smartphone and/or tablet more than you thought possible, and your battery will likely die faster, too. Have a charger on you to ensure you stay connected throughout the experience.

If you want to be really nice, bring a power supply or small extension cord. Power outlets are a huge commodity, and this is a guaranteed way to make fast friends with other attendees.

5. Embrace the chaos and late nights.

You are guaranteed to have long days, late nights and probably too-little sleep. You may even lose your voice—I did on the second day last year. Just embrace it.

6. Pack for all kinds of weather.

Out-of-towners, make sure to check the weather before you arrive. It will probably be 65 or 70 degrees while you’re here, but it can be cold in early March. It also occasionally rains, so pack that umbrella. Everyone who went last year can attest to this!

What are your SXSW tips? Please share them below.

Jessica Malnik is a PR/marketing coordinator, social media specialist, videographer and an avid Gen Y blogger. A version of this article originally appeared on her blog.

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