People used to call me the queen of SXSW. I just called it research and pure luck.
One of my favorite memories of the annual conference was meeting Rupert Grint. I was carrying heavy equipment since I had just finished working a red carpet. For some reason, I decided to take 6th Street to meet my friends at a bar. I see a lot of people standing around the Ritz when I realized that Rupert’s film was supposed to be premiering that night.
Then I see him. A crowd of people began to surround him and I find myself being extremely close to him, which worked out since I managed to get a selfie with him. I literally sent that selfie to all my friends.
Everyone’s response was either “Are you crying?” or “OMG you would!” Yes, I was crying by the way.
I don’t do much SXSW now. As an undergrad, I had all the energy and free time to find myself lost in open bars and free food. Now, I am either working or doing homework. Every single year though, I manage to get a few messages from people asking if I can give them tips on how to do SXSW. That prompted me to write a post about how I did SXSW.
So from a SXSW veteran, here are my tips on doing SXSW like an Austinite.
Should you spend any
People say to not spend money on a badge and wristband. I have to say that there are pros and cons to either. While I did SXSW for free, I would have loved a badge. If you do invest in one, you can sometimes skip the line (depending on how large the event is) since you have priority. The con is the steep price. Wristbands could be useful for small shows, but if you’re trying to get into bigger shows, it might be useless.
Try to see if your company will pay for your badge, and if you are a student, you get a discount!
If you’re on a tighter budget, I highly recommend RSVPster. The price has gone up, but this used to be one of my primary sources of where to party for free. If you are interested, open up a new email account and sign up to avoid filling up your primary account with spam. You can also do some research to find cheaper resources, and I also recommend using Eventbrite if you’re on a budget.
SXSW does have some cool, free stuff going on. For this year, you can check out the Wellness Expo, Marketplace, and the Outdoor Stage. SXSW also has some free stuff that you can check out here.
Do you need Twitter?
Most of the parties I went to were found on Twitter. If you don’t have a Twitter, you are definitely going to miss out. Here’s my recommendation of who to follow:
Do you need to do some research?
If you want to take a selfie with your favorite celebrity, check out the SXSW to see where they might end up. I used to camp out in front of the Paramount to see some of my favorites walk the red carpet. A few celebrities will take photos with you before taking interviews so get there early if the star is pretty big.
Also, check the weather before you head out. If you don’t, you might find yourself stuck inside a boring bar without an umbrella. I also recommend taking your charger, a portable battery, sunblock, and a water bottle.
Plan ahead for traffic. Use public transportation as it is your cheapest option.
Should you take care of yourself?
Dress comfortably. You will be walking around a lot. Please wear something you are comfortable in, such as tennis shoes, and cotton t-shirts. While looking cute is always good, you don’t want to be miserable.
Use the Austin Convention Center. I used to fill up my water bottles here, stay cool, charge my phone and use the bathrooms. You can also find some cool stuff, and there are always people around to invite you to unofficial SXSW parties.
Also, make sure you eat plenty and drink a lot of water especially if you’re drinking. Take a reusable water bottle, and some energy bars at least. You don’t want to pass out in the middle of the day.
Be Patient. Downtown Austin will be EXTREMELY crowded. Keep your cool and remember that lines will be EVERYWHERE.
Anything can happen at SXSW. You might not end up seeing your favorite artist at Stubb’s, but you might find the next best thing at a small pop-up bar on 4th Street. SXSW is an adventure, and you never know what can happen.
In the End…
I hope my tips can help you have a fun SXSW experience. Take care of yourself, and welcome to Austin!