A Newbies Guide to SXSW

I had a conversation with someone today that will be attending SXSW for the first time.  He was looking for what to expect/prepare for, etc.  So below are some of the things I have learned, best practices, etc.

1 – Wear the most comfortable pair of walking shoes you own.  Do NOT go buy a new pair of shoes now – it is too late to break them in and make sure they are comfortable.  Find that ugly old pair of sneakers in the back of your closet if you must.  Comfort is critical.  You will walk miles and be on your feet 18+ hours a day (if you are doing it right!).

2 – Don’t shake hands.  Fist bump if you must, but so many people coming from all over the world bring in flu strains your body won’t be expecting.  Better safe than sorry (and I’ve been sorry more times than safe, I am afraid).  I also don’t recommend using hand sanitizer right after you shake hands with the CEO of that great company you just met – might send the wrong message 🙂

3 – Chapstick rocks.

4 – Don’t carry anything that you can’t fit in your pockets.  You will either regret you did and/or lose it. After 18 hours you will hate that “comfortable” backpack.

5 – Be wary of the weather and pack accordingly.  You will be outside a lot.  And sometimes the weather even comes inside (like it did at our party last year when the roof leaked!). If it is hot, a big floppy hat is a lifesaver. Doubles as an umbrella.

6 – The only thing I carry besides my wallet and iPhone (and the charger) is a bottle of water.

7 – Use FourSquare – that’s how you can find the stuff that isn’t in the official program.

8 – Take advantage of the hallway track.  Some of the best friendships and business deals are made informally in the halls of the convention center.

9 – Party well.  By that I mean have fun, but pace yourself.  There are a lot of parties and a lot of people.  And everyone has a camera phone.  If you end up in a viral video on YouTube, make sure it is for the right reasons!

10 – If you are with others always set a few times and places to meet back up each day in case you get separated.  AT&T did much better with cell coverage/reliability last year than the year before, but relying only on your phone may leave you alone.

BonusSee my session!

Got some more helpful tips?  Add them in the comments!


  1. Wes Bright says:

    Thanks Rob! Huge help. Thanks for your thoughts the other week!

  2. Rob: Long time no talk —- I remember you telling me about Tip #1 — comfortable shoes are a must!

  3. Thanks for the list! I have a question though, if you only carry things that fit in your pocket, do you not take any notes from the sessions you go to?